Chick-fil-A Lemon Kale Caesar Salad Recipe (Copycat)

Now you can make the famous Chick-fil- A seasonal salad anytime at home.  This salad is healthy, cost effective and fantastic for meal prep.

The brightness of lemon, crunch of the parmesan-panko, filling chicken and tangy dressing make this a great option for entertaining or an everyday meal. 

We’re going to explain all the tips and tricks to creating this delicious and healthy salad. This salad is quick and simple to prepare or easily premade for meal prep. 

You can use leftover chicken from a previous meal or pre-cooked chicken from the store for an even faster version. You can easily substitute other protein ingredients. This delicious salad will be put on repeat of your favorites.

Easily make this salad anytime of the year from home. It is a healthy and tasty copycat version of the famous Chick-fil-A seasonal salad. 

Prep Time:  25 MINUTES

Cook Time: 20 MINUTES

Total Time: 45 MINUTES

Serving: 2

What You’ll Need 

Marinade

½ cup dill pickle juice (strained)

½ cup whole milk

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts (pounded thin)

2T olive oil or nonstick spray oil (grilling the chicken)

Spice Mix

1T powdered sugar

½ t salt

1t pepper

¼ t onion powder

¼ t garlic powder

1/4t paprika

1T lemon zest

Vinaigrette

½ cup E.V.O.O.

3T white balsamic vinegar

3T sugar

1/2t salt

1/2t pepper

½ lemon (zest)

1T lemon Juice

1/4t garlic powder

1/4t dry mustard (or Dijon)

1/4t onion powder

Salad

4 cups romaine lettuce (rinsed, dried, and cut into bite sized pieces)

½ cup curly Kale (ribs removed and torn into small pieces)

Panko Parmesan Crisps

1/4cup panko breadcrumbs

½ cup parmesan Cheese

1T olive oil

½ lemon (zest)

Garnish

4 lemon wedges

Parmesan (optional)

Ingredient Notes

Pickle Juice and Milk 

This is the secret mixture to making the famous Chick-Fil-A chicken. The marinade helps impart the flavors resulting in a tender and flavorful chicken. You can easily skip this step and use premade chicken. 

Chicken Breast

This is a healthy protein option and part of the original Chick-Fil-A salad. You can prepare your chicken breasts a variety of different ways. To achieve the true CFA flavor, I suggest using a stovetop grill. This will impart grill marks for texture and flavor.  

Spices & Powdered Sugar

We use this spice mix to impart extra flavor. It is a mild mixture of staple spices.  The powdered sugar is the secret ingredient to the CFA spice mixture for the grilled nuggets. If you’re making this as close to the recipe you can follow this. I don’t suggest trying regular or brown sugar. If you’re avoiding sugar, you can skip this ingredient all together.

Panko & Parmesan

In my opinion this is what makes this a true Chick-Fil-A recipe. The crunch of the panko and the savory parmesan cheese together elevate this salad. They add texture and impart a twist of flavor. We choose to save time and use premade parmesan crisps. The Trader Joe’s brand still has a crunch.

Kale

This might be my favorite way to eat kale. The benefits include fiber, vitamins C & K, iron, antioxidants, and calcium. This provides texture and crunch to the salad.

Lemon

This ingredient makes this dish with the brightness it imparts in the dressing. Lemon has several health benefits and nutrients. Its citrus flavor makes the dish taste fresh and bright. Squeeze on extra for more lemon flavor. 

How to Make It

Step 1: Gather the ingredients for the marinade 

Pound with the smooth side of the mallet two large boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Add the strained pickled juice and milk to a zip lock bag. Place in the fridge for 1-24 hours. 

Step 2: Make the vinaigrette  

Combine the vinaigrette ingredients with a whisk thoroughly or shake vigorously if making in a glass jar. Store in a mason jar or tight fitted lid container. Place in the fridge until ready to use. Be sure to shake before using, as the oil will settle.

Step 3: Make the panko-parmesan breadcrumbs 

Combine the panko and parmesan in a bowl add zest of ½ lemon and 1T olive oil. Add a Tablespoon amount to parchment paper on a baking sheet. Cook at 350°F for 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown. You should end up with about 10 crisps. (Skip this step if using premade parmesan crisps like we are)

We wanted to include the recipe for making it as close CFA, however buying premade parmesan crisps at the store can save time. Trader Joe’s makes a great premade parmesan crisp that is inexpensive and tasty. 

Step 4: Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator about twenty minutes before cooking. This allows the chicken to warm up to room temperature making for better cooking. Be sure to remove any extra marinade liquid with a paper towel.  

Step 5: Make the spice mixture 

Measure the spices and combine. Add the spices to the chicken. (You can skip this step if using plain or pre prepared chicken)

Step 6: Cook the chicken

In a cast iron grill pan spray with nonstick spray or coat with 2 T E.V.O.O. Allow the pan to heat, about 2-3 minutes. Grill the chicken 5-6 minutes to allow grill marks to form. Flip the chicken.

Cook another 5 minutes per side. A total of 15-20 minutes. Be sure to check the internal temperature of the chicken with a thermometer. The internal temperature should reach 165°F.  Remove the chicken from pan and allow to cool. 

Step 7: Cut the chicken

Once the chicken has cooled cut the chicken into bite size pieces. You should have 10 pieces per chicken breast.

Step 8: Gather the ingredients for the salad

Gather the kale, romaine, chicken, vinaigrette, lemons, and panko-parmesan breadcrumbs and optional (parmesan cheese).

Step 9: Make the salad

Assemble the salad with a base of romaine lettuce sprinkled with kale, panko-parmesan breadcrumbs, 10 chicken pieces and 2 lemon wedges.

Step 10: Dress the salad

Just before serving pour the vinaigrette evenly over the salad.

Substitutions and Alternative Ingredients

Can I Substitute Alternative Proteins?

Depending on your diet and preference you can use turkey, steak, fish, or tofu. Get creative and find your favorite protein.

Do I Need to Use Panko Breadcrumbs? 

You can use TVP, (textured vegetable protein) or regular breadcrumbs if you’d prefer. TVP is a great alternate to gluten free. If you want to save time you can buy premade parmesan crisps.

You can also purchase Chick-Fil-A brand premade Lemon Panko Parmesan Crisps at participating stores. You can also skip any kind of breadcrumb in general and use almonds for a crunch. If you are avoiding dairy the almonds can be a good alternative or a dairy-free cheese. 

We suggest buying premade parmesan crisps to save time and money.

Need the Salad to be More Calorie Friendly?

You can skip the breadcrumbs, cheese and vinaigrette and just squeeze fresh lemon.

Can I Make This Ahead of Time?

You can make and prepare all components ahead of time. This is great for meal prep on weeknights or entertaining. Guests will go crazy for this delicious salad and ask for the recipe. 

How Long Do These Items Store For?

Raw chicken lasts for 1-2 days in the fridge. Cooked chicken lasts 3-4 days in the refrigerator. The salad dressing as well is best up to 3-4 days for optimum freshness.

The crisps can be made a day ahead of time and stored in an airtight container. I do recommend making these right before serving since they cook up so quick. Salad and Kale can last up to 7 days in the fridge is properly stored. 

You might like our Chick-fil-A Polynesian Sauce Substitutes.

Tips and Tricks 

  • Marinate the chicken for at least 3-4 hours. Overnight is best
  • Be sure to pat dry. Moisture won’t allow those great grill marks
  • When cooking the chicken make sure to use a meat thermometer to check internal temperature of 165°F 
  • Wash produce and remove ribs and stems from kale
  • Keep an eye on the breadcrumbs when cooking, 350°F for 5-7 minutes. (Or until golden)
  • Buy premade parmesan Crisps to save time and money
  • Use a peeler to shave shards of parmesan onto the salad
  • Assemble the salad right before eating for maximum results and freshness 

You may be interested in our post about healthy salads at Habit Burger

Chick-Fil-A Lemon Caesar Salad (Copycat)

Chick-Fil-A Lemon Caesar Salad (Copycat)

Yield: 2 Servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Make your favorite takeout salad at home for weeknight dinners or to impress your guests. With the ease of make ahead components this salad can simply be prepared. It is full of healthy and fresh ingredients sure to brighten any day.

Ingredients

  • For the Marinade
  • ½ cup dill pickle juice (strained)
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts (pounded thin)
  • 2T olive oil or nonstick spray oil (grilling the chicken)
  • The Spice Rub
  • 1T powdered sugar
  • ½ t salt
  • 1t pepper
  • ¼ t onion powder
  • ¼ t garlic powder
  • 1/4t paprika
  • 1T lemon zest
  • Vinaigrette
  • ½ cup E.V.O.O.
  • 3T white balsamic vinegar
  • 3T sugar
  • 1/2t salt
  • 1/2t pepper
  • ½ lemon (zest)
  • 1T lemon Juice
  • 1/4t garlic powder
  • 1/4t dry mustard (or Dijon)
  • 1/4t onion powder
  • Salad
  • 4 cups romaine lettuce (rinsed, dried, and cut into bite sized pieces)
  • ½ cup curly Kale (ribs removed and torn into small pieces)
  • Panko Parmesan Crisps
  • 1/4cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup parmesan Cheese
  • 1T olive oil
  • ½ lemon (zest)

Instructions

Marinating the Chicken

  1. Pound your chicken breast with the soft side of the mallet to thin out the chicken
  2. Prepare the marinade and pour into the Ziplock bag 
  3. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight 

Make The Vinaigrette

  1. Combine the vinaigrette ingredients with a whisk thoroughly or shake vigorously in glass jar
  2. Store in a mason jar or tight fitted lid container
  3. Place in the fridge until ready to use. Be sure to shake before using, as the oil will settle

Make The Panko-Parmesan Breadcrumbs

  1. Combine the panko and parmesan in a bowl add zest of ½ lemon and 1T olive oil
  2. Add a Tablespoon amount to parchment paper on a baking sheet. Cook at 350°F for 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown. (Keep an eye on them)
  3. Skip this step if using premade parmesan crisps 

Remove the Chicken from the Refrigerator

  1. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator about twenty minutes before cooking
  2. Be sure to remove any extra marinade liquid with a paper towel 

Making the Spice Rub

  1. Measure and mix the spices
  2. Add the spices to the chicken. (You can skip this step if using plain or pre prepared chicken) 

Cook the Chicken

  1. In a cast iron grill pan spray with nonstick spray or coat with 2 T E.V.O.O. Allow the pan to heat, about 2-3 minutes
  2. Grill the chicken 5-6 minutes to allow grill marks to form. Flip the chicken. Cook another 5 minutes per side. A total of 15-20 minutes. Be sure to check the internal temperature of the chicken with a thermometer. The internal temperature should reach 165°F.
  3. Remove the chicken from pan and allow to cool

Cut the Chicken

  1. Once the chicken has cooled cut the chicken into bite size pieces. You should have 10 pieces per chicken breast.

Gather the Ingredients for the Salad

  1. Gather the kale, romaine, chicken, vinaigrette, lemons, and panko-parmesan breadcrumbs.

Make the Salad

  1. Assemble the salad with a base of romaine lettuce sprinkled with kale, panko-parmesan breadcrumbs, 10 chicken pieces and 2 lemon wedges.

Dress The Salad

  1. Just before serving add the vinaigrette to the salad, distributing evenly. 

Notes

*You can easily use a peeler to create parmesan shards from a block of parmesan cheese

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1963Total Fat: 130gSaturated Fat: 22gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 102gCholesterol: 132mgSodium: 6039mgCarbohydrates: 145gFiber: 8gSugar: 98gProtein: 59g
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