This recipe marked a pretty big moment in my culinary journey, seeing as it was the first time I ever put effort toward making (drum roll please) A SALAD! And a fancy strawberry caprese salad at that.
Although, truth be told, there’s a good reason for this.
I’m not the big salad-eater in my house.
an old friend of mine is.
He’s the type who orders a salad off the drive-through menu while I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for my big mac and large fries.
A big bowl of greens is just not normally “my thing”, but when I do decide to take the plunge, the salad needs to be nice. Like, fancy restaurant quality kind of nice.
I will take perfection or nothing else when it comes to eating greenery.
So, needless to say, I was a bit timid to try my hand at making my own “real” salad – you know, something more legit than just lettuce, cheese, and ranch. And it’s not like a salad is all that complicated – because how hard can some chopped up veggies and fruit possibly be? – but my own standards for what’s good were already pretty high. Maybe too high. Would I need to come up with something super special in order to make a simple salad good enough for my picky palate?
Suddenly I felt sympathy for my mother for those years in the trenches of my childhood, trying figure out what in the world to feed me just to keep me alive each day.
I got to brainstorming. I mulled over my options for a few weeks, then dragged my feet a little, but as the weather warmed up and BBQ season was upon us, I finally decided to just go for it and piece together the best salad I could think up.
And you know what?
I think I nailed it.
I’ve been so in love with the idea of strawberry caprese lately, so I made sure to include it in the salad. I also knew I wanted the salad to have some substance, and with my new appreciation of the miracle worker that balsamic is to chicken, a marinated tender chicken breast seemed like my best bet.
And I wanted to make sure the balsamic taste was really present (for, you know, a true caprese experience) so I reduced some balsamic vinegar to create a homemade glaze to drizzle on top. Then to top it all off, I placed all of the ingredients on a bed of baby spinach.
Because everything is fancier with baby spinach.
The end result? Voilà, a super fancy (and tasty) salad!
I absolutely loved this salad, but I think the best part of it was an old friend of mine’s reaction.
He eats so many salads that I sort of see him as an expert on them at this point, so after he took a few bites I eyed him carefully and asked if it was any good. He responded with a quick “yeah” in between bites, then went back to eating – and because I’ve known him for more than a decade, I could tell what really meant by that was “yeah, this salad is freaking delicious, you are an amazing cook and you’re beautiful.”
Or, you know, something along those lines.
When his plate was cleared (which he did in half the time it took me) he turned to me and elaborated further, saying that the salad was “really tasty. No matter what piece I’m eating, whether it’s the chicken or the strawberries or the cheese, no matter how I eat it it’s just interestingly good.”
And I have to admit, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
This is definitely the kind of dinner salad my picky palate can appreciate.
What is caprese?
Traditional caprese (pronounced “ka-prey-zey”) is made with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella. Balsamic glaze is a common addition, and it’s sometimes served with prosciutto.
For this recipe, fresh strawberries take the place of the tomatoes and marinated chicken is used instead of prosciutto.
Do you have to marinate the chicken?
This is one of the most common questions I get when it comes to preparing meat, and I have to say, I do recommend marinating the chicken when you can. I know it takes extra planning and effort for something as simple as a salad, but trust me, the end result is more than worth it. The additional flavor and tenderness of the chicken cannot be beat.
As for this recipe, I suggest marinating the chicken for at least 30 minutes or ideally up to five hours.
Notes & tips for this balsamic chicken salad
- This recipe has instructions for making a homemade balsamic reduction, but you could easily use store-bought balsamic glaze instead.
More great chicken recipes
More Easy Caprese Recipes
This post was originally posted on June 8th, 2015. It was updated on February 2nd, 2018.
Strawberry Caprese Chicken Salad
Liven up your salad routine with a strawberry caprese salad served with tender balsamic chicken, sweet fruit, and fresh mozzarella on a bed of baby spinach and drizzled with homemade balsamic glaze.
For the Balsamic Glaze
- In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup of balsamic vinegar to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and let balsamic simmer for at least 20 minutes or until vinegar has reduced by 1/2 to create a balsamic glaze. Use a spoon to test the glaze - it should leave a film on the back of the spoon when ready. Glaze will thicken more once removed from heat.
- Place glaze in the refrigerator until ready to use. If glaze thickens too much while resting, stir in 1/4 tsp of water at a time until desired consistency is reached.
For the Balsamic Chicken
Add chicken to a Ziploc bag (quart sized). Pour a few tablespoons (2-3) of the prepared balsamic glaze in the bag with the chicken. Squeeze out excess air and seal bag. Massage chicken through the bag to coat them in glaze.
- Let chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. For best results, marinate for 5 hours.
When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400 F.
Remove chicken from Ziploc bag. Discard bag and balsamic glaze that chicken rested in. Place chicken in a small baking dish and pour a few tablespoons (2-3) of fresh balsamic glaze on top. Note: Be sure you still have enough balsamic glaze left over for drizzling over the prepared salad at the end.
Bake chicken for 30 minutes or until it is no longer pink in the middle.
For the Strawberry Caprese Salad
While chicken cooks, prepare and chop strawberries, mozzarella, and basil. Add ingredients to a medium bowl and toss with a spoon.
Putting It All Together
When ready to serve, arrange 1 cup of baby spinach in each serving bowl. Place cooked chicken on top and garnish with prepared strawberry caprese. Drizzle remaining balsamic glaze on top.
Serve salads immediately.