If you’re a fan of chicken, we’ll bet you’ve had your fair share of Buffalo chicken. Whether on a sports bar menu, at a fast-food restaurant or at a backyard gathering, Buffalo chicken is one of the most iconic finger-licking staple foods. While you won’t find Buffalo chicken at the top of anyone’s list of “healthy” food choices, That Salad Lady’s put together a recipe that certainly kicks its nutritional value up a notch – and now we’re bringing it and all its deliciousness to you.
A veggie-packed spin on the traditional recipe, our “Buffalo Chicken Salad” is tangy, spicy and loaded with that irresistible Buffalo flavor. The recipe itself is gluten-free, keto-friendly and perfect for your next game party, movie night or Foodie Friday.
THE BALANCING ACT
So, what is Buffalo chicken anyway? Well, rumor has it that Buffalo chicken was born in 1964 at a family-owned bar and restaurant in Buffalo, New York where co-owner Teressa Bellissimo was known for tossing deep-fried chicken wings in a tangy mix of butter and cayenne pepper sauce, which we now know as “Buffalo” sauce.
By now you’re probably thinking how is it even possible to put a “healthy spin” on something like that, right? We get it – but we have our ways.
For starters, we’ve swapped out the wings (and their skins) for boneless skinless chicken breast. Of all cuts, chicken breast adds the biggest dose of high-quality protein and other nutrients. Instead of a deep-fry, our recipe calls for shallow frying the chicken to lessen the amount of oil absorbed.
Then there’s our version of the Buffalo sauce, which is a blend of Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce, fresh garlic and other seasonings along with ghee. Ghee is pure butter fat without water or milk solids, which gives it a more favorable fat profile than regular butter. It also gives the sauce richer flavor, so you won’t need to use as much.
Loaded with colorful garden veggies and topped with That Salad Lady’s homemade croutons and ranch dressing, our Buffalo Chicken Salad is chock-full of fresh flavors and unbelievably satisfying. You won’t even believe it’s just a salad.
Let’s talk more about all we’ve put in the salad bowl and why?
“Buffaloized” Chicken Breast
It’s no mystery that our Buffalo Chicken Salad recipe includes “chicken” – and it packs a powerful protein punch. In addition to protein, chicken is an excellent source of B vitamins and health-promoting antioxidants. Though you can use whichever cut of chicken you like, again, we suggest using boneless skinless chicken breast, as you’ll get the most nutritional bang for your buck (study up in our Nutrition Glossary to learn more).
Our recipe calls for lightly seasoning the chicken, marinating it in Buffalo sauce, shallow frying it in a good quality oil and then completely “Buffaloizing” by adding more Buffalo sauce. Besides packing in flavorful, spicy punch, the collective ingredients in the Buffalo sauce contain a natural chemical called capsaicin, which has powerful thermogenic effects. Thermogenic foods cause brief spikes in metabolism, which inherently help boost your body’s ability to burn fat.
Below we include ingredients and instructions for making our Buffalo sauce. As mentioned before, we suggest using Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce. Made only with cayenne peppers, vinegar and other natural ingredients, it’s one of the best brands on the market. However, feel free to use your favorite bottled Buffalo sauce. Either way, the end result is a juicy, tender, tangy breast that can spice up practically any bowl recipe, not just this one.
A Colorful Mix of Fresh Layers
Here at That Salad Lady, we believe every single bowl is an opportunity to get tons of fresh layers into a single meal – and we didn’t hold back with this one. Our Buffalo Chicken Salad recipe packs in plenty of red cabbage, red onion, cucumber, tomatoes and carrot, which each deliver a multitude of great flavors, unique textures and hefty doses of phytonutrient antioxidants.
We base the salad with a combination of romaine lettuce and red kale. Mixed together, these leafy veggies bring good hearty crunch and superior nutrition to the bowl. The vitamin C and beta-carotene content of both make them disease-fighting functional foods. They’re also rich in vitamin K, an underrated but incredibly beneficial fat-soluble vitamins that supports heart and bone health (study up in our Nutrition Glossary to learn more).
Now, you don’t have to use the leafy veggies we suggest, or any of the other fresh layers. Feel free to choose your own combination of veggies. It’s all about building your bowl, your way. We do, however, suggest choosing deeply colored veggies. The deeper the colors the more nutrients the layers house.
Some “Optional” Flavor-Enhancers
We’ve included a tasty variety of “optional” ingredients to make our Buffalo Chicken Salad bowl recipe more interesting. These include blue cheese, a classic pairing for Buffalo chicken, bacon and eggs for scrumptious, smoky flavors and an added protein boost, and homemade croutons for craveable crispy crunch.
You might be surprised that our recipe includes these particular add-ins, as many consider them to be dietary devils. Despite widespread belief, there’s nothing wrong with including these types of ingredients in a salad. It’s all about how you use them.
Here at That Salad Lady, we use ingredients like bacon and croutons as flavor-enhancers. We treat them as condiments and use them sparingly. Below we suggest sensible portions of all the optional ingredients, just enough to complement the wide range of flavors in the rest of the bowl. We also include recipes for making them, specifically the bacon bits, hard-boiled eggs and homemade croutons.
If you’re following a particular diet and choose to leave them out, you’ll still have an enjoyable eating experience. We promise! However, if your diet is more all-inclusive, by all means, leave them in.
Authentically Flavored Homemade Ranch
For most true fans, Buffalo chicken and ranch dressing go hand in hand. Ask our founder Nina, and she’ll tell you it’s one of the only times she’ll even use ranch. To bring out the best in our bowl recipe, we include That Salad Lady’s homemade ranch recipe. A combination of Greek-style yogurt and the deeply savory flavors of parsley, dill, chives, onion, garlic and other clever additions, it’s full of authentic ranch flavor and only takes about five minutes to make.
Of all ingredients in our Buffalo Chicken Salad recipe, cooking is required for the: (1) chicken breasts and (2) buffalo sauce, as well as the optional (3) eggs, (4) bacon and (5) croutons if you choose to make them.
Marinating the Chicken
We recommend making the Buffalo sauce first as you’ll be using it to marinate the chicken. You’ll need a small saucepan to do this. Simply add all the ingredients to your saucepan and begin heating the mixture over medium heat. From there, you’ll continue to heat the mixture while stirring it until all the ghee melts and the sauce starts to bubble. Refer to the recipe card below for step-by-step instructions on how to prepare the sauce.
Once the sauce is prepared, tenderize the chicken breasts using a meat-tenderizing mallet and then season them up with kosher salt and pepper, or even a spicy dry rub for even more flavor and good zing (see recipe card). Add the seasoned chicken breasts to a freezer safe plastic bag along with half the prepared Buffalo sauce and let them marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (or up to two hours).
Frying the Chicken
The recipe calls for shallow or pan frying the chicken. To do this, you’ll need a 10-12-inch cast iron skillet or another heavy bottomed pan with sides that go up at least two inches. If you don’t have a suitable skillet or pan, a large pot with a wide opening will also get the job done.
Shallow frying the chicken is a straightforward process – just add oil, heat it up and add the chicken. Our recipe calls for using avocado oil, a high-quality, neutral-flavored oil pressed from the pulp of the avocado fruit. Avocado oil is as nutritious as avocados themselves (visit our Nutrition Glossary to learn more). Other neutral-flavored oils like vegetable, canola or pure olive oil also work.
We suggest frying the chicken covered for 5-7 minutes on each side for a total cooking time of 10-14 minutes. Your cooking time may vary a bit depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts. When done, brush the chicken breasts with the remaining Buffalo sauce and let them rest until you’re ready to build your bowl.
Preparing the Extras
Our recipe calls for using hard-boiled eggs in whole form – that’s with the yolks. Despite the constant shunning of yolks, they’re a very healthy inclusion to a well-balanced diet (as always, visit our Nutrition Glossary to learn why). For the bacon, we suggest making crumbles or bits, which will take about 10-12 minutes using our recipe. We chose pork bacon for our recipe, but you can experiment with other types and see what you like.
Finally, we include our “No-Hassle Homemade Croutons” in the recipe. For a keto or gluten-free salad, simply make them with your favorite gluten-free or keto bread.
GET YOUR CHOP ON
As we mentioned earlier, there’s a good amount of fresh ingredients in our recipe so a bit of chopping is needed. But chopping is always great practice for building up your culinary skills! Using a high-quality chef’s knife will make the process a whole lot easier.
Start with the cabbage, onion, cucumber, tomatoes and carrot. You can either combine these layers or keep them separate until you’re ready to build your bowl. You can then chop up and combine the romaine and kale. It’s best to keep these leafy layers separate and add them on a bowl-by-bowl basis as they tend to get soggy when they sit for too long.
If chopping veggies isn’t convenient for you, feel free to use a pre-cut fresh veggie mix instead. What’s great is that these versions typically retain most of their nutritional value. There are tons of bright-colored blends on the market so build your bowl with whatever combination works best for you.
Once the fresh and cooked ingredients are all prepped, all that’s left is the ranch dressing. If using a blender or food processor, just add all your ingredients and start mixing. With variable speed units, start with a low speed and then gradually increase it to a higher speed until the mixture is perfectly smooth. If you don’t have a blender or a food processor, just combine and whisk all your ingredients together in a bowl.
If you choose not to make our dressing, you can go with a good quality bottled ranch or even your favorite balsamic vinaigrette. Full-fat dressings are generally best (study up in our Nutrition Glossary to learn why).
BUILD YOUR SALAD BOWL
All put together, our Buffalo Chicken Salad recipe is large enough for 2-4 generous servings. As a point of reference, our founder, Nina, typically eats this salad in two divided portions, as she generally eats one large meal a day. But it’s all about building a bowl that works best for YOU.
This is one of those recipes where it’s best not to build your bowl until you’re actually ready to eat or serve the salad – or no more than a few hours prior. The leafy veggies in particular tend to get soggy with prolonged storage. When you’re ready to build your bowl, simply divide the leafy layers evenly between 2-4 salad bowls or plates, drizzle on your dressing and stir until everything’s well blended (see the recipe video).
From there, divide and pile on the remaining fresh layers and add more dressing if you wish. Leftover dressing will last in the fridge for up to a week so long as it’s kept in an airtight container. Slice or dice the chicken breasts, divide them evenly and add them to the mixture. Finally, top off the mixture with cheese, bacon, eggs and crushed croutons – or whatever combination of optional ingredients you choose. Leftovers are best enjoyed within 2-3 days.
SHOW US YOUR BOWL
That Salad Lady wants to see your bowl! If you like it, which we are sure you will, drop a comment below and tag pics on Instagram with @thatsaladlady, #thatsaladlady and #buildyourbowl. If you love it, pin it on Pinterest and share it on Facebook and Twitter using #thatsaladlady.
This information is provided as a courtesy and is only an estimate. Please review our full disclaimer to get a clear understanding of the nutrition and health information and resources presented and written on our website.