This Mediterranean chicken salad is full of delicious spices and flavors. Its star is tender grilled chicken that’s marinated in a Greek yogurt and ras el hanout spice mix. The salad is finished with feta, fresh vegetables and a delicious lemon sumac dressing.
If you like chicken salads, you might also enjoy this chicken pasta salad. It’s dressed with a light and summer-fresh buttermilk and oregano dressing.
- What is a Mediterranean chicken salad?
- Why use a spiced yogurt marinade:
- What is ras el hanout made of?
- What does ras el hanout taste like?
- How do I make ras el hanout?
- Can I use a ras el hanout spice blend from the store?
- How to make the salad:
- How to serve the salad:
- How to store leftovers:
- More light chicken dishes you’ll love:
- Full Printable Recipe
What is a Mediterranean chicken salad?
A Mediterranean chicken salad centers around spices, fruits and vegetables that are typically used in the Mediterranean cuisine. That includes sumac, cumin, coriander, tomatoes, olives and more. In addition, the dressing for a Mediterranean chicken salad uses olive oil rather than mayonnaise.
My recipe here includes delicious Mediterranean ingredients, such as olives and feta, and a dressing made with lemon juice, sumac, cumin and olive oil.
The chicken is marinated in yogurt flavored with ras el hanout, a spice blend that includes many of the spices typically used in Mediterranean cuisine.
Why use a spiced yogurt marinade:
The most important component of this salad (aside from the dressing) is the yogurt/ras el hanout marinade for the chicken. The ras el hanout spices infuse the meat and give it a delicious and complex flavor. The yogurt does two important things in this marinade:
- It gently tenderizes the chicken without making it rubbery.
- It gives the chicken a velvety, flavorful and slightly tangy coating. That coating not only tastes delicious, it also protects the meat during grilling and keeps it from getting dry or tough.
What is ras el hanout made of?
Ras el hanout is a north African spice blend and, loosely translated, the term means “the best spices on offer.” That means that there is no hard and fast rule as to what all can go into a ras el hanout blend. But, some spices are common among the different ras el hanout versions, including cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, coriander and clove.
The spices I use in my ras el hanout blend are:
- fennel seeds
- black peppercorns
What does ras el hanout taste like?
Ras el hanout has an earthy flavor that is balanced with citrus from cardamom and a hint of sweetness from cinnamon and clove. The blend works great with chicken.
How do I make ras el hanout?
From spice seeds:
If you enjoy grinding your own spices, you can make ras el hanout from whole seeds (plus ground cinnamon).
From already ground spices:
Alternatively, you can get all spices already ground and mix those together instead. The amounts of ground spice you need will differ slightly from those of whole seeds and are listed in the recipe card below. Here is a good resource if you’re interested in learning more about how to convert whole spice to ground spice.
Can I use a ras el hanout spice blend from the store?
Absolutely. But, as always, I recommend that you get the blend from a designated spice shop to ensure freshness and quality.
How to make the salad:
For the chicken:
Step 1. Whisk 1 ½ teaspoons of ras el hanout together with ½ cup plain, whole milk Greek yogurt, ½ teaspoon lemon juice and ½ teaspoon salt.
Step 2. Mix in 8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut up into bite-sized pieces.
RECIPE NOTE: Having the chicken in small pieces like that (rather than marinating whole chicken breasts) ensures that the marinade can really infuse the meat well. It also makes for a really short grilling time (about 10 minutes).
Step 3. Cover and marinate the chicken in the fridge for at least 2 hours or up to 10 hours.
Take the chicken out and lightly shake off excess marinade. (You can also use a paper towel to lightly dab off excess marinade.)
RECIPE NOTE: You want to keep a thin coating of marinade on. It will taste delicious after the chicken is grilled and it also protects the meat during the cooking process and keeps it from getting tough.
Grill the chicken on a grill or a grill pan.
For the dressing:
The bright, lemony sumac dressing is the second most important component of this chicken salad. It is full of intense savory and tangy flavor. It takes only a minute to whisk together, so you can make it right before serving.
Whisk together 2 teaspoons ground sumac, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil and ¼ teaspoon salt.
By itself the dressing tastes quite intense but with the grilled chicken and vegetables it works beautifully.
How to serve the salad:
To serve the salad, add fresh salad greens onto plates. Top the greens with tomato, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives and cucumber. Sprinkle crumbled feta cheese and finely chopped fresh parsley on top. Distribute the grilled chicken chunks between the plates, then spoon the sumac dressing onto the salad. Serve immediately.
How to store leftovers:
You can store the individual components of the salad (the vegetables, the chicken and the dressing) in separate, airtight containers in the fridge for up to a day. Once you’ve spooned the dressing onto the salad you can’t store it any more because it would get soggy.
More light chicken dishes you’ll love:
Made this recipe? It would be awesome if you could leave a rating. Either tap or click the stars in the recipe card or leave a comment below. Thanks!
Full Printable Recipe
Mediterranean Chicken Salad with Sumac Dressing
For the ras el hanout spice blend (makes ~ 2 tablespoons):*
- 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds (or 1 teaspoon ground cardamom)
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds (or ½ teaspoon ground coriander)
- ½ teaspoon whole cloves (or ⅜ teaspoon ground clove)
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds (or ¾ teaspoon ground fennel seeds)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (or ¾ teaspoon ground cumin)
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (or ¾ teaspoon ground fenugreek)
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns (or 1 teaspoon ground black pepper)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the salad:
- 1 ½ teaspoons ras el hanout
- ½ cup plain, whole milk Greek yogurt
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- 8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized cubes
- 2 cups salad greens
- 4 canned artichoke hearts
- half a cucumber, sliced and quartered
- 12 kalamata olives
- 1 large tomato, diced
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
For the dressing:
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons ground sumac
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon salt
For the ras el hanout spice blend:
- If you're using spice seeds, grind all seeds in a spice grinder or in a mortar with a pestle, then mix in the cinnamon. If you're using ground spices, mix all spices together.
For the salad:
- Whisk ras el hanout, yogurt, salt and lemon juice together in a bowl. Mix in the chicken, cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to 10 hours.
- Shake excess marinade off the chicken or dab the chicken lightly with a paper towel to remove excess marinade.
- Grill the chicken either on the grill or on a grill pan. (Heat the grill pan on the stovetop on high heat or heat in the oven at 450 degrees F.)The chicken is ready when its internal temperature registers 165 degrees F. and that should take about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool a bit.
- Assemble the salad: start with the salad greens, then add artichoke hearts, cucumber, olives and tomato. Sprinkle feta and parsley on top, then add the chicken.
For the dressing:
- Whisk all ingredients together, then spoon the dressing onto the salad. Serve immediately.