Wild Rice & Kale Salad (Cubby’s Copycat)
Wild Rice & Kale Salad – This tasty main dish salad is a copycat from Cubby’s! It’s loaded with goodies and topped off with a tangy lemon balsamic cilantro dressing you’re bound to love! (Gluten Free & Dairy Free)
Do you ever try to recreate restaurant recipes at home? I don’t very often (I’d rather enjoy it at the restaurant!), but sometimes, there’s something I just can’t stop thinking about and I *have* to try making it at home. This Wild Rice Kale Salad with Chicken is one of those recipes. I tried it a couple years ago at the popular chain Cubby’s when I was visiting family in Utah, and basically haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
Now, whenever I’m in town, I always make a trip over to get the big version of this Wild Rice Kale Salad. It’s packed with good-for-you goodies and topped with the most amazing lemon balsamic cilantro dressing that’s light and fresh, and somehow makes all the other goodies taste even better.
It’s the perfect recipe to roll into your New Year recipe rotation! Here’s what’s in it…
HERE’S WHAT I PUT IN MY WILD RICE & KALE SALAD WITH CHICKEN:
KALE. If you haven’t been a kale person in the past, this salad might change your mind. It’s the perfect power-packed base for this wild rice kale salad, and it gets the perfect texture thanks to a little trick I share in the FAQ below!
WILD RICE BLEND. You can use plain wild rice or a wild rice blend for this salad. I like wild rice blends, because they’re easy to find and seem to cook a little faster. This one’s my favorite.
COOKED CHICKEN. This salad is the perfect way to use leftover chicken, whether grilled, roasted, poached, or rotisserie chicken. (Vegetarian? You can totally skip the chicken–see the FAQ!)
DICED APPLES. Fresh, sweet, crunchy apples make such a nice contrast in this salad. My favorites are Honeycrisp, but you can use whatever apples you love best.
DICED AVOCADO. I’ll put it in or on anything. Creamy avocado is delicious here.
TOASTED ALMONDS. If you can, don’t skip the toasting part! Toasted almonds have a deeper flavor that’s fabulous in this wild rice kale salad. (I put them in a dry pan on medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring regularly till they’re toasted.)
DRIED CRANBERRIES. Dried cranberries are like little sweet jewels in this salad! (Whole Foods sells unsweetened ones!) You can also swap in dried cherries or raisins.
LEMON BALSAMIC CILANTRO DRESSING. If that dressing sounds like a mouthful, it is. A mouthful of DELICIOUS! The fresh, bright dressing is light and bright and brings all the other flavors together beautifully.
(IF YOU WANT:) GOAT CHEESE. The original Cubby’s wild rice kale salad is finished with a few crumbles of goat cheese. I’m dairy free, so I’ve never had it with cheese, but if you want to stay true to the original, feel free to add it!)
HERE’S WHAT TO SERVE WITH THIS WILD RICE KALE SALAD:
Since this wild rice kale salad has chicken and all sorts of other goodies, it’s largely a main dish salad that can stand on its own. If you want to fill out the meal a bit, we love pairing it with:
A CUP OF SOUP. Soup and salad are the perfect classic combo. Some of our faves are:
- Carrot Ginger Soup (another Cubby’s copycat!)
- Vegan Creamy Tomato Basil Soup
- Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
CORNBREAD OR CORN MUFFINS. An easy little side! My kids love cornbread anything. This salad plays especially nicely with our Maple Cornbread and Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins
GLUTEN-FREE ROSEMARY FOCACCIA. I’ll eat this gluten-free rosemary focaccia with just about anything, let’s be honest here.
FAQ + TIPS & TRICKS FOR PERFECT WILD RICE KALE SALAD WITH CHICKEN.
GIVE IT A MASSAGE. REALLY. I’ll be honest, I rolled my eyes a LOT at the idea of massaging a kale salad (1. Who has the time? 2. Isn’t that kind of fussy?), but I’ve really come around. It helps break down the kale a bit so it has a much nicer texture, and also mellows out the flavor a bit. If you’ve got 30-60 seconds (that’s really all it takes), I highly recommend it. (Plus, it majorly reduces the volume – I get 4 cups massaged kale out of 8 cups raw)
HOW DO YOU COOK WILD RICE? I recommend following the directions on your package for best results, but for a wild rice/brown rice blend, I typically use 1/3 cup dry rice (rinsed) + 2/3 cup water, bring to a simmer and cook 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and steam a few minutes before fluffing with a fork. You can also make wild rice in the Instant Pot and freeze extras for later!
CAN I USE SOMETHING BESIDES WILD RICE? Sure! I’ve done quinoa lots of times with great results. (Here’s a great tutorial about how to cook quinoa.) It’s a great way to save a little time since it cooks so much faster.
DON’T LIKE KALE? No worries. Any good leafy green base will do. Feel free to toss in a spring mix, spinach, etc. if that’s what you prefer. I don’t recommend iceberg or romaine for this salad since they don’t hold up very well longer-term.
VEGETARIAN? TRY THIS! You can absolutely leave off the chicken (which is what I do when I don’t have any leftovers to toss in). If you want to fill out the salad with a replacement, I usually add more wild rice + avocado, but you could totally go with another veggie or even some white beans.
MORE AMAZING SALADS TO LOVE:
HELPFUL FOR THIS RECIPE:
Wild Rice & Kale Salad With Chicken (Cubby’s Copycat)
- Total Time: About 20 minutes
- Yield: 8 Cups Salad (4-5 Servings) 1x
Wild Rice Kale Salad – This tasty main dish salad is a copycat of my favorite from Cubby’s! It’s loaded with goodies and topped off with a tangy dressing you’re bound to love! (Gluten Free & Dairy Free)
FOR THE WILD RICE KALE SALAD:
- 8 cups shredded kale (tough center ribs removed)
- 8 oz. cooked chicken, diced or shredded (about 1 1/2–2 cups)
- 1 cup cooked wild rice or wild rice blend (from 1/3 cup dry)
- 1 apple, diced
- 1 avocado, diced
- 1/4 cup toasted almonds
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
FOR THE LEMON BALSAMIC CILANTRO DRESSING:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
- 1 tsp. dijon mustard
- 2 tsp. honey or pure maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1/4–1/2 cup fresh cilantro (mince if using a jar to mix. Feel free to leave whole if using a blender)
FOR THE WILD RICE KALE SALAD:
- Mix up the dressing first (see below).
- Place kale in a large bowl and add 1-2 Tbsp. of the dressing and a pinch of salt to the kale. Massage with your fingers for 30-30 seconds to combine well and break down the kale a bit.
- Add chicken, wild rice, apple, avocado, almonds, and cranberries to the kale.
- Drizzle with a little more dressing and stir to combine well, adding more dressing, to taste. (You may not need all the dressing)
FOR THE LEMON BALSAMIC CILANTRO DRESSING:
- Place all ingredients in a jar with a lid or in an immersion blender cup.
- Seal the jar and shake well to combine or pulse with an immersion blender to combine well.
- Store in a jar or airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use (dressing will keep 1 week)
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Main Dish, Salad
- Method: No Cook
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: wild rice kale salad, wild rice salad, kale salad, wild rice kale chicken salad
This looks amazing! We’re huge Cubby fans in our house!
Right!? Everything I’ve tried there has been great. I’m really hoping they come to AZ!
Ok, I ate this yesterday for the first time! I thought this is so good but so pricey for a little salad. Now I can make it myself…I seriously am going to make it today because I think I have everything!
Jamie – I hope it was a huge hit! (I LOVE theirs so much, and it’s totally scratched the itch since I can’t get it where I live!)
Could I leave the mustard out of the dressing? I’m not a fan of mustard. 😬
You probably can! My mom isn’t a Dijon fan and she made it without. 🙂
Not many ‘copies’’ are as good (or better!) than the original. This one surely is! I made it with Quinoa instead of the wild rice (personal preference) and we loved it!
THANK YOU so much for leaving a review! It means so much. I’m so glad you enjoyed it as much as we do!
Made this tonight because I love this salad from cubby’s but something about their salad is too heavy for me and makes me feel sick.
We loved this recipe at our house! It has the same taste that we love but is fresher (and, I agree with the above comment, better)! Honestly, I never need to go to Cubby’s again now that I have this recipe! So happy you shared it!
Alyssa – I’m SO GLAD it was a winner for you! It’s one of my absolute favorite dinners! 🙂
Amazed that this exists. Is even better than the one you get from Cubby’s. Thank you!
That’s SO NICE of you! I absolutely love it!
I visited Utah this past summer and went to Cubby’s and fell in love with this salad. I am SO HAPPY to have found this replica recipe while I was searching for a dressing to try to recreate myself. THANK YOU! 😊
Oh good! I’m so glad!!!
Loved it! Doubled the salad ingredients and wish I had tripled the dressing (especially for the non-kale lovers) 🙂
SO glad it was a win for you Sarah!
This was super delicious!! I left out the cilantro, avocado and chicken. Next time I may triple the amount of wild rice, as I really love it. It was the PERFECT balance of flavors!! My mom was sceptical at first, but then she tried it and kept coming back for more!!
Isn’t the rice so good!? I love it! (THANK YOU again for an amazing review Oona–I appreciate you so much!)