Chicken Arugula Rice Salad with red peppers, almonds, and a sesame dressing is a protein-packed POWERHOUSE salad, you’ll want to pack up for lunches and enjoy all week long!
I hope you have diced and cubed Baked Lemon Pepper Chicken or Blackened Blackened Chicken Breasts in your freezer…or any leftover chicken at all. If so, this healthy, gorgeous and delicious salad is ready in under 30 minutes! It’s a quick and easy dinner or it’s lunch for the next 4 days!
And, you won’t get sick and tired of it either! There is something addictive about the crunchy, nutty and peppery flavor paired with the light sesame dressing.
Ingredients in Chicken Arugula Salad
The truth is I had some difficulty giving this recipe a name because there are so many super healthy ingredients to highlight. I’ll let you be the judge of whether or not this could become your POWERHOUSE salad! (Yep! This name was under consideration too!)
Here are the main ingredients in the salad:
- Brown rice – cooks in 10 minutes when parboiled or instant brown rice is used. Regular brown rice is fantastic too and if I have the time or some already prepared, we use this type instead. Either way, I always choose brown rice over white!
- Arugula – is a cruciferous vegetable, similar to cabbage, broccoli, and collard greens. (Did you think it was a salad green?!) We used baby arugula leaves.
- Red peppers – are full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are green peppers that have fully ripened on the vine. So they are sweeter and pack a little more nutritional punch than the green variety.
- Almonds – give this salad crunch and add healthy fat, fiber, and protein.
- Green onion – use the green and white parts!
- Chicken – Keep a bag of diced chicken in the freezer and a protein-packed dinner is never difficult.
Ingredients in Sesame Dressing
Sesame dressing can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. The ingredients are:
- Rice Wine Vinegar – apple cider vinegar may be substituted
- Canola Oil – or any oil with a non-distinctive taste
- Soy Sauce, low sodium – or use coconut aminos for soy-free, gluten-free diets
- Sesame Oil – a small amount of this oil adds big flavor
- Honey – or sweetener of choice
This dressing is very similar to the one used for delicious Chinese Napa Cabbage Salad.
Make Ahead Lunches using Cold Chicken Arugula Rice Salad
Break the salad into 4 portions for quick lunches or dinners. Normally, the salad dressing would need to be added just before serving, or strategically placed at the bottom of a container as we did for Layered Taco Salad in a Jar.
However, hearty arugula holds up well and tastes great marinating in dressing for a few days.
Variations and Serving Ideas for Chicken Arugula Rice Salad
Make this salad your own:
- Leave out the chicken and serve as a festive side salad! It’s perfect for the holidays.
- Add a different protein, like leftover turkey or tofu to keep it vegan.
- Substitute a different grain like farro or use quinoa instead of rice.
- Top with cashews instead of almonds.
- Add pepitas or sunflower seeds to give more crunch.
- Add dried cranberries to add a fruity punch.
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Chicken Arugula Rice Salad with Sesame Dressing
- 2 cups brown rice parboiled or instant rice
- 3 cups Baked Lemon Pepper Chicken cooked and diced; or any cooked chicken
- 2 cups baby arugula leaves
- 1 cup red pepper diced, 1 large pepper
- 1/2 cup green onion sliced about 1 bunch
- 1/2 cup almonds sliced or slivered
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons canola oil
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, low-sodium coconut aminos for gluten-free, soy-free
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon honey or sweetener of choice
- Cook rice according to instructions and transfer to serving bowl when done.
- Toss rice with chicken, arugula and red pepper.
- Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and pour over rice and chicken mixture. Toss salad to coat with dressing.
- Top with almonds and green onions.
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