If you’re looking for salad ideas for dinner, then I’ve got a salad for you!  This Basil Pesto Chicken Salad is a simple mix of cooked shredded chicken, arugula (also called rocket), celery, onion and cherry tomatoes all tossed in a delicious basil pesto dressing. It’s a delicious protein packed chicken arugula salad that’s perfect for summer gatherings, potlucks and picnics.

bowl of basil pesto chicken salad

I can’t begin to tell you how easy this chicken arugula salad is to throw together, especially if you use store-bought rotisserie chicken. It’s one of those great salad ideas for dinner that you’ll especially love to make during the warm summer months!

bowls of vegetables and chicken for salad ideas for dinner

For this salad, you can either use poached chicken, leftover grilled or roasted chicken, or even store-bought rotisserie chicken if you in a pinch for time. It takes just a few minutes to make the pesto dressing and slice a few ingredients, then it’s all tossed together and ready to serve in under 20 minutes.

Pesto Chicken Salad Recipe

  • Cooked chicken, chopped or shredded 
  • Baby arugula
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Purple onion
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Basil pesto dressing

Variations

  • Use baby spinach instead of arugula
  • Add 6-8 basil leaves, sliced into thin ribbons
  • Add chopped sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil) to the salad in addition to or instead of the cherry tomatoes 
  • Toss in toasted pine nuts, almond slices or Pistashios

How to Make Basil Pesto Chicken Salad

  1. Chicken. Add the chopped or shredded chicken to a large bowl. Toss in vinaigrette and Parmesan cheese.
  2. Arugula. Toss in the arugula, celery, tomatoes and onion with the chicken and gently mix. 
  3. Add-ins. Add more Parmesan cheese, some pine nuts or almonds and fresh basil leaves if you like.

Basil Pesto Dressing

  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Parmesan cheese (or Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • Garlic cloves
  • Pine nuts (or almonds, walnuts, cashews or pistachios) (optional)
  • Cracked pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil 
  • Juice of 1 lemon (2-3 tablespoons)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

How to Make Basil Pesto Dressing

  1. Mince Garlic. Peel and chop garlic cloves.
  2. Grate Cheese. Finely grate the cheese.  I use a fine grater typically used for Parmesan cheese, rather than a box grater, so there are no larger pieces of cheese that might remain in the pesto.
  3. Prep Basil. Remove the thick ends of the stems and discard using only the leaves and finer stems. 
  4. Add Basil and Garlic to Food Processor. Add the basil, garlic and nuts to a food processor (or blender if you don’t have a processor) and process until finely chopped.
  5. Add Olive Oil and Cheese. While processor is still running, pour olive oil in a stead stream through the feed tube. Turn the processor off and remove the lid to add your cheese and lemon juice.  Pulse a few times to incorporate the cheese into the sauce. 
  6. Season. Season with freshly cracked black pepper and adjust taste adding more Parmesan cheese and lemon juice if desired.

bowl of chicken arugula salad

Tips for Making this Chicken Arugula Salad

  • Be sure to use a salad spinner to dry the rocket leaves before tossing in this basil pesto chicken salad. 
  • Use a good quality Parmesan cheese for the salad, not the dried powdery Parmesan that gets sprinkled on pizza.
  • Don’t toss the salad with the pesto dressing until you’re ready to serve.

salad ideas for dinner

I love to add sun-dried tomatoes to this Basil Pesto Chicken Salad.

bowl of salad ideas for dinner

What is Arugula

Arugula is a peppery tasting nutrient-dense leafy green Cruciferous vegetable which is related to broccoli, cauliflower and kale. It’s rich with antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber and anti-inflammatory properties. 

Arugula can replace lettuce in sandwiches and wraps, and you can swap out basil and use arugula when making pesto like I did for this delicious Arugula Pesto Potato Salad.

The flavor of arugula compliments fruit, berry and root salads like this  Mango Arugula Quinoa Salad (which is an amazing side to serve with grilled salmon), Immune Boosting Arugula Berry Salad, Quinoa Beet Salad (which is tossed in an addictive light curry dressing) and this Colorful Beet Salad.

bowl of basil pesto chicken and arugula

More Salad Ideas for Dinner

bowl of basil pesto chicken salad
Yield: 4 - 6 servings

Basil Pesto Chicken Salad

Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

If you're looking for salad ideas for dinner, then I've got a salad for you!  This Basil Pesto Chicken Salad is a simple mix of cooked shredded chicken, arugula (also called rocket), celery, onion and cherry tomatoes all tossed in a delicious basil pesto dressing. It's a delicious protein packed chicken arugula salad that's perfect for summer gatherings, potlucks and picnics.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cooked chopped or shredded chicken 
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/2 cup celery, sliced
  • 1/4 cup onion, cut in quarters and sliced
  • 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup basil dressing

Basil Pesto Dressing

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 tablespoons pine nuts (or almonds, walnuts, cashews or pistachios) (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Add the chopped or shredded chicken to a large bowl. Toss in vinaigrette and Parmesan cheese.
  2. Toss in the arugula, celery, tomatoes and onion with the chicken and gently mix. 
  3. Add more Parmesan cheese, some pine nuts or almonds and fresh basil leaves if you like.

Basil Pesto Dressing

  1. Peel and chop garlic cloves.
  2. Finely grate the cheese.  I use a fine grater typically used for Parmesan cheese, rather than a box grater, so there are no larger pieces of cheese that might remain in the pesto.
  3. Remove the thick ends of the stems and discard using only the leaves and finer stems. 
  4. Add the basil, garlic and nuts to a food processor (or blender if you don’t have a processor) and process until finely chopped.
  5. While processor is still running, pour olive oil in a stead stream through the feed tube. Turn the processor off and remove the lid to add your cheese and lemon juice.  Pulse a few times to incorporate the cheese into the sauce. 
  6. Season with freshly cracked black pepper and adjust taste adding more Parmesan cheese and lemon juice if desired.

Notes

  • Use baby spinach instead of arugula
  • Add 6-8 basil leaves, sliced into thin ribbons
  • Add chopped sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil) to the salad in addition to or instead of the cherry tomatoes 
  • Toss in toasted pine nuts, almond slices or Pistashios

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 813Total Fat: 66gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 48gCholesterol: 128mgSodium: 717mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 45g

theharvestkitchen.com attempts to provide accurate information, however, this nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. The nutritional information provided comes from online sources and calculations.