This Mediterranean chicken salad is full of delicious spices and flavors. It’s made with tender grilled chicken marinated in a yogurt and homemade ras el hanout spice mix and served with fresh vegetables and a lemon sumac dressing.
What is a Mediterranean chicken salad?
A Mediterranean chicken salad centers around spices, fruits and vegetables that are typically used in the Mediterranean cuisine, such as sumac, cumin, coriander, tomatoes and olives. In addition, the dressing for a Mediterranean chicken salad uses olive oil rather than mayonnaise.
How to make it:
The most important component of this salad (aside from the dressing) is the yogurt/ras el hanout marinade for the chicken. It not only flavors the chicken but the yogurt also tenderizes it and gives it a delicious, velvety, flavorful and slightly tangy coating.
What is ras el hanout?
Ras el hanout is a north African spice blend and I have actually used it before in a few recipes, such as this Marinated Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad.
Loosely translated, the term ras el hanout means “the best spices on offer,” which means that there is no hard and fast rule as to what all should go into a ras el hanout blend. The spices I use in my version are cardamom, coriander, clove, fennel seeds, cumin, fenugreek seeds, black peppercorns and cinnamon.
To make the blend, grind all the spice seeds into a powder, then mix in the ground cinnamon.
RECIPE NOTE: I like to make ras el hanout from whole seeds (plus ground cinnamon) because I enjoy grinding spices but if you’d rather mix together already ground spices, that will work fine as well.
How to make the chicken:
Step 1. Once you have the ras el hanout spice blend, whisk 1 ½ teaspoons of it together with ½ cup plain 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 breasts) ensures that the marinade can really infuse the meat well and it also makes for a really short grilling time (about ten minutes).
Step 3. Marinate the chicken for at least two hours or up to ten hours.
Take the pieces out of the marinade and lightly shake off the excess (or use a paper towel to lightly dab off excess marinade) but do 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.
How to make the dressing:
The sumac dressing is the second most important component for this chicken salad and it is full of intense savory and tangy flavor from 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 sharp but drizzled onto the salad with the grilled chicken, kalamata olives, cucumber, tomato and salad greens it works beautifully.
The dressing takes only a minute to whisk together, so you can make it right before serving.
More light chicken dishes you’ll love:
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Mediterranean Chicken Salad
For the ras el hanout spice blend (makes ~ 2 ½ tablespoons):*
- 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- ½ teaspoon whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the salad:
- 1 ½ teaspoons ras el hanout
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- 8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast (2 medium-sized breast halves) cut into bite-sized cubes
- 4 canned artichoke hearts
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- half a cucumber, sliced and quartered
- 12 kalamata olives
- 1 large tomato, sliced and quartered
- 2 cups salad greens
- ¼ cup 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:
- Grind all ingredients except for the cinnamon in a spice grinder or in a mortar with a pestle.
- Mix the cinnamon into the spice blend.
For the salad:
- Whisk ras el hanout, yogurt, salt and lemon juice together in a bowl, then marinate the chicken in it 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 it in the oven at 450 degrees F.)The chicken is ready when its internal temperature registers 165 degrees F. and that should take about ten minutes.
- Assemble the salad.
For the dressing:
- Whisk all ingredients together and drizzle over the salad.