Dear Life, after our (almost) 30 years together, your wry sense of humor still continues to impress me. As I write this post, an island-appropriate recipe for Caribbean Chicken Salad with Mango Dressing, I can see April snow falling outside of my office window. Bring me a rum punch and my fuzzy slippers, please.
Actually, make that a double rum punch, earmuffs, and extra mango dressing on the Caribbean chicken salad, pretty please.
Although it seems illogical to be telling you about this Caribbean chicken salad when my front yard is covered in snow, the inspiration for the recipe actually came from Wisconsin.
Inspiration Behind This Caribbean Chicken Salad Recipe
A few weeks ago when my friend Laura came to visit, we went to check out the Milwaukee Public Market, a large, airy building that permanently houses row upon row of food vendors and market stalls. Whether you are looking to take home lobster tails, wrap your hands around a gyro, indulge in a slice of cheesecake, or sip a margarita, the Public Market has something to satisfy your craving.
After a hefty serving of blueberry coconut French toast earlier that morning, I was in the mood for something lighter (like this Avocado Grapefruit Couscous Salad), so I stopped at a custom salad stand and ordered the feature of the day, Caribbean chicken salad. It was perfect.
A mixture of crisp romaine lettuce, juicy grilled chicken, black beans, sweet oranges, and red peppers, the Caribbean chicken salad I tried at the market was packed with goodies, flavorful, and filling. It was topped with a lightly spiced, citrusy mango dressing that gave the salad a tropical twist. The overall combination was so tasty and unique, I found myself craving another round of it a few days later.
This recipe is my at-home recreation of the salad, and it hits the spot on any day, even a snowy one (as does this Three Bean Salad with Wild Rice).
Caribbean Salad – Quick and Easy Prep
- For the Chicken. For max flavor and easy grilling, I recommend using thinly sliced chicken breast, because it quickly absorbs the Caribbean marinade—a 30-minute “bath” was all my chicken needed to soak up some serious flavor. Thinner chicken also means faster, more even grilling. Once I had the ingredients prepped, this salad came together in fewer than 10 minutes!
- For the Dressing. For the mango dressing, you can use fresh or frozen mango. I’m fairly addicted and have made the dressing both ways. Both are delicious, but I’m giving the edge to the frozen mango. Not only did I not have to wait for the mango to ripen (a painful process when one is craving Caribbean chicken salad rightthissecond), but also, I didn’t need to fuss with slicing it, a process that, no matter how easy it looks on YouTube, I cannot seem to master
Tools Used to Make This Recipe
- Food Processor. For perfectly smooth and creamy dressing every time.
- Cast Iron Grill Pan. Ideal for simple indoor grilling when you don’t feel like firing up the grill—or are waiting for the snow to melt. I’ve also been using it for this Grilled Steak Salad with Roasted Rainbow Veggies.
Caribbean Chicken Salad with Mango Dressing
For the Caribbean Chicken Salad:
- 4 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar light or dark
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 4 thin cut chicken breasts* about 12 ounces
- 1/2 small red onion thinly sliced
- 18 ounces chopped romaine lettuce leafy greens and hearts
- 2 red bell peppers cored and diced
- 1 cup canned reduced-sodium black beans rinsed and drained
- 15 ounces mandarin oranges in light syrup drained (or substitute other juicy tropical fruits, such as diced mango or diced pineapple)
- Fresh cilantro for serving
For the Mango Dressing:
- 1 large mango* peeled, pitted and roughly chopped or 1 1/4 cups frozen and thawed mango chunks
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2 medium size limes, though you may need additional if the limes are not very juicy)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Place the soy sauce, olive oil, brown sugar, and ginger in a gallon-sized ziptop bag, seal tightly pressing out all of the air, and "squish" to combine. Add the chicken, firmly seal the bag again, and move the chicken around gently so that all sides are coated and it lays flat when the bag is on its side. Let marinade for 30 minutes or refrigerate overnight. (If refrigerating overnight, let the chicken stand at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to grilling.) Meanwhile, prepare the dressing and other ingredients.
- Place the sliced red onions in a small bowl with water. Let sit while you prepare the rest of the salad (this mellows the red onions' bite, while maintaining their flavor; if you like the taste of raw red onion as is, you can feel free to skip this step).
- Make the dressing: Puree the mango, lime juice, honey, cumin, coriander, and cayenne in your food processor until smooth. With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil and blend to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Use for salad, then store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Shake well before using.
- Cook the chicken: Heat a grill pan or an outdoor grill over medium heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade, lightly shake off the excess, and grill for about 2 minutes per side, until cooked through (see ingredient notes for more information about length of cooking time). Remove to plate and let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the romaine, red bell pepper, black beans, and red onion. Add the chicken, drizzle with the mango lime dressing. Toss to coat. Scatter the oranges and cilantro over the top, then serve.
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