This chicken tender salad features perfectly crispy parmesan-crusted chicken tenders, massaged kale and green leaf lettuce, juicy tomatoes, shaved parmesan and a tangy parmesan vinaigrette. You can kiss boring salads goodbye because this simple chicken salad will be your new fave.

chicken tender salad in a white bowl with green lettuce, kale, tomatoes, fried chicken tenders, shaved parmesan and parmesan vinaigrette

Erica’s ramblings:

I have a question, do you order salads at restaurants? Everyone assumes that because I’m a registered dietitian I’m going to order the salad. Heck no techno. I swear, I’ve been burned by that a few too many times. Most of the time you pay $17 for sad greens, not near enough toppings and a mediocre, generic dressing. No thanks.

Especially when you can make a like THIS. A satisfying Hugh Jass salad with a flavorful crunchy texture at a fraction of the cost of a restaurant? Yes please. Also don’t come for me for fried chicken on a salad- when it’s a bed of kale we can do whatever we want right? Crispy fried chicken salad. We’re doing it.

close up look at the crispy chicken and white meat center in a bowl of chicken tender salad

I’ve been enjoying this salad for lunch every day for the past week and I legit look forward to it. Even though the chicken isn’t as crispy on subsequent days, it’s still just SO GOOD. The parmesan flavor is pervasive throughout since it is incorporated in the chicken coating, vinaigrette and on top of the salad. I strongly recommend getting a real, good parmesan here friends. I buy the one from Costco because it’s 1) delicious and 2) the best bang for your buck.

This chicken and kale salad is balanced with high-quality protein (chicken), some satisfying carbs (the yummy coating), satiating fats (parmesan and dressing) and lots of phytonutrient-rich veggies (kale, lettuce, tomatoes). It is equal parts nutritious and delicious and I’m so here for it. It’s an easy weeknight dinner or an amazing meal prep lunch.

What you will need to make chicken tender salad:

picture of ingredients needed to make chicken tender salad

Salad greens: for this recipe we use kale and green leaf lettuce. Grab any kind of kale you like- curly kale, dinosaur kale or purple kale! I like to use a couple different salad greens like a hearty kale and more crisp lettuce like green leaf or romaine!

Crispy chicken tenders: all-purpose flour, eggs, seasoned breadcrumbs, panko breadcrumbs, finely grated parmesan cheese, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper all make up the coating for chicken tenderloins.

Salad toppings: cherry tomatoes (or any other fresh veggies that you love), shaved parmesan cheese and fresh cracked black pepper!

Vinaigrette: this simple parmesan dressing features parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and honey.

How to make:

Blend the vinaigrette:

In a blender or small food processor blitz together the garlic, parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, vinegar, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning and honey. Add the olive oil and blend until creamy and emulsified.

vinaigrette ingredients in a food processor

Massage the kale:

Thinly slice the kale into ribbons. Drizzle with just a touch of oil, a squeeze of lemon and pinch of salt. Use your hands to massage the kale until it’s glossy and soft, about three minutes. Set aside.

side by side of a bowl of kale. Left side is not massaged and right side is massaged with oil, lemon and salt

Set up a dredging station:

Pat the chicken tenders dry with a paper towel and season the chicken with pinches of salt and pepper on all sides. You will need three shallow dishes. To the first shallow bowl, add flour. To another, add the whisked eggs and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. In the final dish stir together the seasoned breadcrumbs, panko breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

side by side picture of the dredging station. Left side features a bowl of the ingredients for the parmesan coating and right side features three bowls: one with flour, one with eggs and one with parmesan breadcrumbs

Coat each tender in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess. Place the tenders in whisked egg, letting excess drip off before adding them to the parmesan panko mixture. Press the parmesan breadcrumbs into the chicken tenders until well coated.

chicken tenders being coated in flour, then egg and finally parmesan breadcrumbs

Cook the chicken:

In a nonstick frying pan add the oil over medium high heat. Friends, WAIT until the oil is hot before adding the chicken. Add the chicken in a single layer, you will likely need to work in two batches to avoid crowding the pan. Cook for three minutes, flip and cook another three minutes (or until your chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees on a meat thermometer). Remove the chicken to a paper-towel-lined plate.

crispy parmesan-crusted chicken tenders cooking in a large skillet in some olive oil

Assemble:

Add some kale and green leaf lettuce to a large bowl and toss with a drizzle of dressing. Slice the chicken. Top salad with crispy chicken tenders, shaved parmesan cheese, tomatoes and another crack of pepper. Drizzle the salad with more dressing and DIG IN.

white bowl of crispy chicken tender salad with green lettuce, kale, tomatoes, fried chicken tenders, shaved parmesan and parmesan vinaigrette

Expert tips and variations:

  • Please buy a block of parmesan to grate into the coating and dressing and shave into the salad. It really does make all the difference. Use a microplane to grate the cheese and a vegetable peeler to shave off thin pieces.
  • Do not forget to massage the kale! All kale needs is a little love my friends. Massaging it with a little oil, lemon and salt breaks down the tough fibers and makes it tender, flavorful and more enjoyable. It will make this chicken and kale salad even more irresistible.
  • For perfectly crispy chicken strips, do not add the chicken until the oil is hotIf you add the chicken tender when the oil is cold or room temperature, the breading will soak up the oil instead of cooking in it, leading to soggy results.
  • Although I really love this parmesan vinaigrette, you can use your favorite dressing for this salad. Honey mustard dressing, ranch dressing, raspberry vinaigrette or nearly any salad dressing would be super yummy!
  • Feel free to switch up the bed of greens. You can use romaine lettuce, red cabbage, coleslaw mix or green cabbage, butter lettuce, spinach or arugula. Also, you know me, fresh herbs are always a great idea.
  • You will miss out on some yummy herby parmesan flavor but of course you can use store-bought chicken tenders for an easy shortcut.

FAQs

How should I store the leftovers?

I like to store the leftovers in an airtight container. I place a mix of kale and lettuce, some tomatoes, parmesan and 2-3 sliced chicken tenders. I store the dressing separately in either a jar or small dressing container. Note that the chicken will not remain as crispy as when it is just cooked but for what it’s worth, I still think it is delicious as leftovers.

What could I use instead of white wine vinegar?

I’d recommend subbing apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar or white vinegar. Alternatively, you could use lemon juice instead of vinegar.

Can I use a different cut of chicken?

If you don’t have chicken tenders, you can slice skinless chicken breasts into 3-4 pieces lengthwise to get the same effect. You can also use boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

Can I make the chicken in an air fryer?

I have not tested this for this specific recipe but based on my cooking experience this is what I would do. Prepare chicken tenders as directed. Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees. Place the chicken in an even layer in the air fryer basket and spray with avocado oil spray. Air fry for 3-4 minutes, flip the tenders and air fry another 3-4 minutes.

crispy chicken tender salad

If you love this chicken tender salad you’ll love my other fresh salad ideas:

Watch how to make chicken tender salad:

If you try and like this recipe please don’t forget to leave a comment and star rating down below! If you love more lifestyle, behind the scenes and ‘eating in real life’ type of content come find me over on Instagram, @itsaflavorfullife, I love connecting with you all there!

Gimme a bite. 😋

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bowl with kale, tomatoes, parmesan, fried parmesan chicken

Crispy Chicken Tender Salad with Parmesan Vinaigrette

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 4 reviews
  • Author: Erica
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 6 minutes
  • Total Time: 26 minutes
  • Yield: 4 big salads 1x
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Pan Fry
  • Cuisine: American

Description

We’re eating fried chicken on salad and now I’m not sure I can eat kale salad any other way. This chicken tender salad is perfect for a light lunch, balanced dinner or for your next dinner party!


Ingredients

Units Scale

Chicken tenders

  • 1lb chicken tenderloins
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 1/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs (like these)
  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated (I like to use a microplane)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper (plus a few pinches more)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or avocado oil

Salad

  • 1 bunch kale, ribs removed and thinly sliced
  • squeeze of lemon, pinch of salt, drizzle of olive oil (for the kale)
  • 4 cups green leaf lettuce, roughly chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • extra parmesan cheese, shaved (with a vegetable peeler)

Vinaigrette

  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

Make the vinaigrette: In a blender or small food processor blitz together the garlic, parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, vinegar and honey. Add the olive oil and blend until creamy and emulsified.

Massage the kale: thinly slice the kale into ribbons. Drizzle with just a touch of oil, a squeeze of lemon and pinch of salt. Use your hands to massage the kale until it’s glossy and soft, about three minutes. Set aside.

Set up a dredging station: pat the chicken tenders dry with a paper towel and season the chicken with pinches of salt and pepper on all sides. You will need three shallow dishes. To the first shallow dish, add flour. To another, whisk the eggs and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. In the final dish stir together the seasoned breadcrumbs, panko breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

Coat each tender in some flour, shaking off the excess. Submerge chicken pieces in whisked egg, letting excess drip off before adding them to the parmesan breadcrumb mixture. Coat the tenders in breadcrumbs and use your fingers to really press the mixture into the chicken so that it adheres nicely and the chicken pieces are fully coated.

Cook the chicken: in a ceramic-coated nonstick skillet add the oil over medium-high heat. Friends, WAIT until the oil is hot before adding the chicken. Add the chicken in a single layer, you will likely need to work in two batches to avoid crowding the pan. Cook for three minutes until golden brown, flip and cook another three minutes (or until your chicken registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer). Remove chicken to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Assemble baybay: add some kale and green leaf lettuce to a serving bowl and toss with a drizzle of dressing. Slice the crispy chicken tenders and top the salad with chicken, shaved parmesan cheese, tomatoes and another crack of pepper. Drizzle with more dressing and DIG IN.


Notes

Because there is not a traditional “emulsifier” like egg yolks or mustard in this recipe it may separate after a few hours. Just give it a vigorous shake or whisk before serving!

Refer to the above blog post for expert tips, answers to frequently asked questions and ingredient substitution ideas.

Nutrition information is an estimate and may vary slightly.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/4 recipe
  • Calories: 548
  • Sugar: 5.1 g
  • Sodium: 1218.6 mg
  • Fat: 29.9 g
  • Carbohydrates: 30 g
  • Fiber: 3.5 g
  • Protein: 40.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 143.7 mg

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