Romaine Salad with Chicken, Cheddar, Apples, Spiced Pecans and Cranberry Vinaigrette

How’s that for longest recipe name of the century? I wanted you to be instantly aware of what you would be getting into with this salad. I promise the unusual combination of ingredients works. And works mighty well. The glorious dried cranberries, tart apples, creamy and sharp cheese, pungent onions, tender and juicy chicken,  sweet and spicy crunchy pecans, and deliciously silky and flavorful cranberry vinaigrette make for one of the tastiest main dish salads I’ve had in ages.

Romaine Salad with Chicken, Cheddar, Apples, Spiced Pecans and Cranberry Vinaigrette

With a warm streak of temps in the upper-70’s last week, the boys and I wanted to soak up every bit of sun since we know full well the impending doom of winter that will be coming in no time. This quick weeknight salad for dinner was absolutely delicious and just what I needed to simplify and healthify our meal regime. Both the vinaigrette and pecans can be made in advance, as well as the poached chicken, if you so desire, so by the time you want to make the salad, it comes together in a snap.

I loved that each bite of salad holds a different flavor combination. And each bite was equally delightful. I have a feeling I’ll be making this well into winter season, too.

If you haven’t entered the Bosch giveaway yet, you can do so here.

What To ServeIf you are stressed about serving a main dish salad to kids, my tactic is to serve the salad with a platter of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as a crusty roll (or other type of heavily sought after carb) and often cottage cheese on the side. 

One Year Ago: Chicken Enchilada Pasta
Two Years Ago: Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Romaine Salad with Chicken, Cheddar, Apples, Spiced Pecans and Cranberry Vinaigrette

Yield: Serves 4-6

Romaine Salad with Chicken, Cheddar, Apples, Spiced Pecans and Cranberry Vinaigrette


  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3-4 medium)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 large head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces (about 8-10 cups)
  • 8 ounces sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped or sliced thin
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup spiced pecans, store-bought or following the simple recipe below
  • Dried Cranberry Vinaigrette:
  • 1/4 cup cranberry juice or water
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup red wine or raspberry vinegar
  • 1 shallot, peeled and quartered
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Quick Spiced Pecans:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 1 tablespoon sugar


  1. For the chicken and salad, pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season both sides with the salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until the oil is shimmering and hot. Add the chicken and cook until it is nicely browned on one side, about 3 minutes. Flip the chicken over, add the water, and cover the skillet. Cook the chicken, letting it poach, until it is cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it cool slightly before carving.
  2. Toss the lettuce, cheese, apple, pecans, onion and dried cranberries together. Divide the salad among the serving plates. Slice the chicken on a diagonal and arrange over the salad. Serve with the vinaigrette. I prefer to let everyone douse their own salad with dressing, but you could toss the salad with 1/2 cup or so of the vinaigrette before assembling it on the plates and serve the extra dressing on the side.
  3. For the pecans, melt the butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the spices and then the pecans. Toast the nuts, stirring often, until the color deepens slightly and they are lightly toasted, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a bowl and toss with the sugar. Let them cool completely before tossing with the salad.
  4. For the dressing, combine the cranberry juice (or water) and cranberries in a small microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for one minute until hot. Process the hot cranberry mixture, vinegar, shallot, garlic, thyme, mustard, salt and pepper in a blender until the shallot and garlic are finely chopped. With the blender running, add the oil and continue to blend until the dressing is smooth and well-combined. Thin the dressing, if needed, with additional cranberry juice. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Recipe Source: adapted from The Best 30-Minute Recipe

30 Responses to Romaine Salad with Chicken, Cheddar, Apples, and Cranberry Vinaigrette

  1. Emily says:

    This is one of my favorite salads of all time. I’ve made it multiple times and my husband loves it too.

  2. Melissa says:

    Hi Mel,

    Just wondered about the spiced pecans. I am the only one that eats salads in my family, will the spiced pecans be better stored in the freezer or fridge or should I just discard after I am done with the salad? I don’t like to waste food, but just am unsure of how to store them. Thank you!

    • Mel says:

      I usually just keep them in a sealed bag in the pantry but if you think you’ll take a while to eat them, I’d pop them in the fridge or freezer.

  3. Melanie Otto says:

    This looks so tasty – the only problem is I don’t have a blender for the dressing! If you were me, would you A) make a
    Poppy seed dressing for the salad or B) buy a berry dressing of some kind?

  4. Meghan says:

    Tried this salad last night for dinner, and it met rave reviews from the whole family! The weird thing is, this morning when I opened the fridge, I noticed that the dressing had sort of congealed. It looked like lumpy jelly, when it was a perfect consistency last night. Any ideas?

    • Mel says:

      Meghan – I’ve had that happen with other types of dressings. I usually just warm it up for a few seconds (5-10) in the microwave and the oil loosens up a bit.

  5. Julie says:

    This was delicious! Loved it! Especially the pecans. MMMMM!

  6. Vanessa says:

    Delicious! Any thoughts on how long the dressing will keep? I’m pretty much the only one in my family who uses the dressing so I’m wondering if it will be good in a few days when I have some friends over.

  7. Dustin says:

    Came across this recipe randomly last night and decided to give it a try today (even though it was my cheat day). This salad was incredibly delicious and fresh. Every ingredient goes well with one another. Just had another bowl for dinner! Definite recommendation

  8. […] actually pretty busy.  We had story time at the library all morning.  Then Mom and I made this salad with butternut squash soup.  And believe me you all want the butternut squash soup recipe because […]

  9. Clarissa Meegan says:

    We made this yesterday for lunch and it was a hit with the parents and kids. We substituted walnuts for the pecans since I didn’t have any on hand, and threw in some crumbled gargonzola. It turned out great. Thanks again Mel!

  10. Deb says:

    You would not believe the compliments I got on this salad! Served it at our Christmas party – made the pecans and vinaigrette per the recipe, only thing I did different was skip the chicken because we were using this as a side to the Slow Cooker Maple Brown Sugar ham (which incidentally is the bomb!). It’s a great combo of flavors and textures. The leftovers made for a great lunch the next day. Yum.

  11. […] source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe Rate this: Share this:PrintEmailFacebookTwitterMoreRedditStumbleUponDiggLike this:LikeBe the first […]

  12. Veronica says:

    It only took me like a year, but I made this a couple weeks ago finally! We loved it! It seems a bit out of season b/c of the cranberries, but we didn’t mind that. Delicious has no season!

  13. ann says:

    I made this last night. It worked for my family because even though I can’t get my boys to eat salad, I could give them the chicken, nuts, cheese, and apples and call it their meal while my husband and I had the whole salad.

    Only complaint is that I didn’t like the thyme in the dressing–just a personal preference.

    But I will make this again–especially the spiced nuts.

    • Mel says:

      Ann – that is exactly the same reason it worked for my family, too. Hope you can tailor the dressing to your preference next time! Thanks for checking in on this one.

  14. Fabulous salad, I make one similar! Love the vinaigrette!

  15. Yummy Mel! I just read a study today which showed that eating leafy greens decreases progression to diabetes. It motivated me to make more salads. So perfect timing!

  16. Sara says:

    My computer went funny, and I accidently posted two comments on the giveaway. The two that say Sara and that are about Summer holiday are mine. I’m sorry. Also,I thought I’d let you know I’m getting ready to make your bran muffins…my sister-in-law says they are soo yummy. Thanks for all of your recipes!

  17. Kelsi says:

    This looks so amazing. Unfortunately, I would be the only one to eat it at my house since my husband does not do green salads. I wonder if you could tweak it to a pasta salad…

  18. what a great dressing idea!

  19. StephenC says:

    “Healthify,” is a better invention than even Sarah Palin could come up with. We have a few heads of romaine in the garden from a second planting in August. I’ll probably go with Caesar with plenty of anchovies.

  20. Lisa says:

    This sounds like an excellent combination of flavors and textures. Not to mention, it’s so pretty on the plate.

  21. I have always wondered if you could toast nuts stovetop! Thanks for the quick and easy recipe. The salad looks fabulous!

  22. KimL says:

    MMM, sounds yummy! I love salad recipes like this and will be making this soon 🙂 Homemade salad dressings are just the best too!

  23. This looks so delicious! Very “Channeling Panera” which I love! It is light and refreshing but still capturing fall 🙂 It also is very close to the Apple Gorganzola salad I always get at Buca Di Beppo….one of my often craved faves. I think I will make exactly the same except add gorganzola or feta.

  24. Cathy Heckman says:

    Going to have to try this one, it looks amazing! Mine never looks the same, but gotta say your recipes are amazing!

  25. Kim in MD says:

    What a gorgeous salad! Perfect for Fall, and like you mentioned, would be great to serve during the Winter, too (because of the cranberries). As usual, your photo is stunning! I think this salad will be on my Christmas dinner menu! 😉

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