Thursday, September 8, 2011

Coconut Curry Chicken Salad

I don't usually like the lettuce/bun substitution, but here it works.
Chicken salad is one of those dishes that's always the same, but always different. On paper, chicken salad is pretty much always chopped chicken, some sort of fat, some spices, and a few add-ins. In the real world, the possible variations on the theme mean that you never get the same chicken salad twice. For this recipe, I decided to take the idea of a coconut curry dish and use it to make a chicken salad recipe that's one notch more exotic than average.

The thing that keeps most chicken salad recipes from being paleo is actually the mayonnaise. Store-bought mayonnaise is almost always made with some sort of highly processed franken-fat that your body can't handle properly. I've side-stepped the mayonnaise problem here by using coconut oil as the fat in this recipe. The curry powder doesn't exactly give this dish an authentic curry flavor, but it does put it in the same general category of flavors that you can expect from your average local Indian buffet.

Nutritionally, this dish is all protein and fat. I'm not sure that a reasonable portion of it has even one whole gram of carbohydrates, so if you're looking for a dish that will help you make room in your diet for that square of dark chocolate, this might help you out.

I swear that raw chicken was not actually touching any of the other ingredients.
It just looks like it might be because of the angle of the picture.


4 chicken breasts
1 small onion
1 cup fresh cilantro
1 lime
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp dried ginger
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup walnut pieces
salt and pepper to taste
a few tablespoons of additional coconut oil for frying


Food Processor
Large Bowl

Start by cooking the chicken. In a large pan, heat a few tablespoons of coconut oil over medium-high heat. When the pan gets hot, cook the chicken breasts for about 5-6 minutes per side. Depending on the thickness of the meat, you'll need to adjust the cooking time to make sure that the chicken is completely done. Check the inside of the meat by using a knife to make a small slice into the thickest part of the breast.
Don't crowd the breasts together too much or they'll just kind of stew.
I could only get three at a time into my pan.

After the chicken is cooked, set it aside and let it cool while you prepare the other ingredients. In a food processor, chop the onion and cilantro. The onion should be finely chopped before you add the next set of ingredients.

I love using the food processor to chop things. It's so much faster than doing it by hand.

After chopping the onion and cilantro, add the zest and juice from the lime, the coconut oil, the curry powder, the ginger, and the garlic powder to the food processor.

I generally prefer fresh ginger over dried,
but it can be a little fibrous if you're making something smooth like this.

Process everything until it's smooth.
This will be thicker than mayonnaise. It's more like a cream cheese consistency.

Add the mixture to a large bowl. Chop the chicken into small pieces (I did it by pulsing the chicken in the food processor a few times, but you could do it with a knife) and add it to the bowl as well. Add the walnuts to the bowl, and mix everything together evenly.

I like my chicken finely chopped, which is why I do it in the food processor.
Using a knife will give you a chunkier chicken salad.

Taste the chicken salad and add salt and pepper as necessary.

  • I served this on the leaves from some hearts of romaine. The ridge on the back of a romaine lettuce leaf provides some structure and allows you to hold the lettuce and chicken salad like a hot dog without everything falling out.
  • The amount of salt and pepper you add is up to you. Every brand of curry powder is slightly different, and some of them have salt added already. That's why I recommend tasting the chicken salad before you decide how much salt it needs.
  • There's no reason not to do this recipe with leftover chicken. Unless you have a lot of leftover chicken, though, you'll probably need to adjust the quantities of the other ingredients.