Healthy Substitutions: Lemon Basil Chicken Salad

You probably know by now that I love The Pioneer Woman. She seems like a fun person to know, and she makes absolutely delicious food. I owe a lot of my cooking success to her step-by-step directions and helpful pictures.

But after all of my gushing and adoration of PW, I’ll admit that I have one tiny thing against her. I’m pretty sure I would gain 50 pounds if I ate her food every day. They would be really happy, delicious pounds, but lots of them nonetheless. Her recipes tend towards ample use of butter and cheese (two of my favorite ingredients, don’t get me wrong).

So imagine my glee when I found this delicious recipe on her site that’s healthy, too. I wanted to cook that sucker up right away and enjoy the awesomeness that I knew was inevitable.

Pioneer Woman's photographic genius, not mine
Pioneer Woman’s photographic genius, not mine

Cook I did, and it was every bit as awesome as I had hoped. I did make a few adjustments though, and I wanted to share them with you.

Here’s the original recipe from The Pioneer Woman:


3 cups Cooked Chicken
2 whole Lemons, Juiced And Zested
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
Salt And Pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon Prepared Pesto
1/2 cup Green Peas
12 whole Basil Leaves, Chiffonade (more to taste)
1/4 cup Pine Nuts, Toasted

Preparation Instructions

Mix together lemon juice, olive oil, mayonnaise, salt & pepper, and pesto until creamy and smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as you’d like. Combine chicken, peas, basil, and pine nuts in a bowl and stir together. Pour on dressing to taste and toss to combine. Add 1 tablespoon lemon zest and squeeze in lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve over lettuce with grapes on the side!

And here are the changes I made:

  1. Instead of 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, I used Greek yogurt.
  2. I dumped in at least 2 cups of green peas to amp up the veggie content.
  3. I cheaped out on the pine nuts and used slivered almonds instead. I’m sure pine nuts would be better, but almonds were just fine and definitely easier on the budget.
  4. I added an avocado or two for good measure–healthy fats and creamy texture to boot.
  5. I served the salad over a huge bed of spinach.  Healthier than ever!

And the result? I would readily declare this the tastiest chicken salad I’ve ever had.  I didn’t feel like I was being deprived for the sake of health or anything.  Mmm.

Thank you, PW, for adding recipes that cater to people who don’t wrangle cattle every day.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. suebthefoodie says:

    I love chiffonades of basil. Enjoyed your post. -Cheers

    1. Chiffonades are a recent addition to my life, and I think they’re lovely–very sophisticated compared to my previous “one chop fits all” strategy. Thanks for the kind words.

      1. suebthefoodie says:

        Perhaps you’d like another reason to chiffonade…I recently discovered a light and easy prep in the local paper that makes use of the chiffonade…you can find it under my entry Basil. Enjoy the day.

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