This crispy chicken salad with pineapple pico de gallo is full of fresh, vibrant ingredients to brighten up your winter. Plus, it’s paleo and Whole30 compliant!
Crispy chicken: I’m starting to worry I talk about it too much. The thing is, it just doesn’t get much better. And it definitely doesn’t get ANY better when we’re talking about a Whole30-compliant salad. This crispy chicken salad with pineapple pico is the stuff dreams are made of!
While my usual method for crisping up chicken is to use skin-on chicken thighs (see exhibits A, B, and C), this time I wanted crispy breaded chicken. I didn’t want to use bread, of course, and almond flour doesn’t quite produce the requisite level of crunch. I was planning to try crushed up plantain chips, but I couldn’t find any that were made with Whole30-friendly oil. It was in my search for plantain chips that I laid eyes on EPIC’s sea salt & pepper pork rinds.
The ingredients are Whole30-compliant, and I confirmed on the forums that if pork rinds are used in the context of a nutritious recipe and not just for mindless snacking, they’re fine. In this case, I eliminated any (convenient) snacking possibilities by smashing the rinds to smithereens while they were still in the bag.
Anyway, they make a wonderfully flavorful breading for crispy chicken, which then graces the top of this salad that’s already packed with just the right combination of sweet, spicy, crunchy, peppery, juicy, and creamy bites.
If you’re not sold on this recipe already, let’s chat about the pineapple pico. It’s like a typical restaurant-style pico de gallo with red onion, tomato, cilantro, lime juice, and hint of jalapeño. Then a whole bunch of pineapple gets thrown in, which takes things to a whole new level. I love walking the line between sweet and savory, and this pineapple pico is one of the best ways to do it. If I weren’t making this for the blog, I might have eaten that whole bowl of pico on my own without giving salad a second thought.
I’m glad I didn’t skip the salad, though, because it’s got some good things going for it. The base is a mix of lettuce and arugula, and there are thinly sliced radishes and avocado on top. The creamy dressing is made with more avocado, a little mayo, olive oil, cilantro, and lime. And of course, there’s plenty of sliced crispy chicken and dollops of pineapple pico on top, too.
On an unrelated note, don’t the colors of this meal just scream spring? Here’s hoping it comes soon. In the meantime, would you like some crispy chicken salad to tide you over?
- ¼ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro
- ¼ cup avocado oil mayo (I use Primal Kitchen)*
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 small Hass avocado, pitted and peeled
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ½ small red onion, finely chopped
- Juice of half a lime
- 1 small tomato, cored, deseeded, and finely chopped
- ½ pound pineapple chunks, finely chopped
- ½ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, chopped
- ½ jalapeño (or the whole thing if you want more heat), deseeded and minced
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 cups loosely packed lettuce and/or arugula (I used half and half)
- 4 radishes, thinly sliced
- 1 medium Hass avocado, thinly sliced
- To make the dressing, process all ingredients with an immersion blender or regular blender until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve. I like to re-blend the dressing right before serving so it’s nice and creamy.
- To make the pineapple pico, toss all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Taste and add salt, pepper, and lime juice if desired. Set aside at room temperature until ready to use.
- To assemble the salad, line a large platter or four salad plates with greens. Scatter on the sliced radishes and avocado.
- To make the crispy chicken, crush the pork rinds until finely ground. I did this right in the bag: cut a slit in the bag and press the air out, then use a meat mallet or heavy skillet to crush the pork rinds. Pour the contents of the bag out onto a large plate.
- Pound the chicken breasts between two pieces of parchment or in a ziptop bag until about half an inch thick. Heat the cooking fat in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Dip one piece of chicken into the beaten egg to coat on both sides, then press each side into the pork rinds, making sure the chicken is well coated. Add the chicken to the pan and cook for about 3 minutes per side, until nicely browned. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook for 2-3 more minutes per side, or until the chicken is fully cooked (it should measure 160-165 on a meat thermometer). Transfer the chicken to a plate lined with paper towels, and repeat with the second piece of chicken. Allow the chicken to rest for five minutes, then slice into strips.
- Top the salad with the chicken, add spoonfuls of pineapple pico, and drizzle the dressing on top. Serve right away.
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