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bowl of lemon kale Caesar salad with a fork

Chick-fil-A Lemon Kale Caesar Salad Copycat

  • Author: Brooke
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Marinating Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
  • Yield: 2 servings 1x


Forget takeout and make our copycat Chick-fil-A lemon kale Caesar instead!  It has grilled chicken nuggets served on a bed of crispy greens with Parmesan shards and lemon wedges, and everything's drizzled with a mouthwatering lemon Caesar vinaigrette.  This is gluten free and keto friendly.



For the Marinade

  • 1/2 cup dill pickle juice, strained (120 ml)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (120 ml)
  • 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin

For the Spice Rub

  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (18g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, for grilling the chicken breasts

For the Lemon Caesar Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup soybean oil (60 ml)
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil (10 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar (15 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (15 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, from one lemon (15 ml)
  • 2 teaspoons distilled vinegar (10 ml)
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, from one lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon frozen concentrated lemonade
  • 1/2 teaspoon frozen concentrated orange juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice, from half a lime
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder

For the Salad

  • 8 cups romaine lettuce, rinsed, dried, and cut into bite-sized pieces (275g)
  • 1/3 cup curly kale, ribs removed and torn into small pieces (24g)
  • 0.7 oz Parmesan cheese shards (20g)
  • 4 lemon wedges, seeds removed
  • 1 oz Parmesan crisps, broken into small pieces (28g)
  • 20 chicken nuggets, from the two grilled chicken breasts


Marinating the Chicken

  1. Pound: Place one large boneless, skinless chicken breast into a zip top bag.  Keep the bag open to let the air escape and pound it thin using the flat end of the meat mallet.  Repeat with the other breast.
  2. Whisk: Combine the pickle juice and milk in a 2-cup measuring cup.
  3. Marinate: Pour the marinade into the bag of chicken breast, then seal it.  Massage the marinade into the meat with your hand, then refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.

Making the Spice Rub

  1. Combine: Mix together all the dry ingredients with a spoon, then add the lemon zest.  Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Making the Lemon Caesar Vinaigrette

  1. Shake: Pour all the dressing ingredients except the two oils into a small mason jar.  Tightly screw on a lid and shake well, then add the oils and shake again until well combined.  Store in the fridge for up to 1 week.  Makes 1/2 cup.

Grilling the Chicken

  1. Warm Up: Take the chicken out of the fridge and allow it to warm up to room temperature before grilling, about 30 minutes.
  2. Blot Dry: Use paper towel to pat dry both sides of each chicken breast.
  3. Rub: Sprinkle the rub on the meat, then rub it on both sides of each breast.
  4. Grill: Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a 10-inch cast iron grill pan and allow it to heat up for 2 minutes over medium high heat.  Carefully place one chicken breast on the grill.  Cook for 1 minute, then reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 4 minutes.  Use a pair of tongs to flip the chicken, then cook for 4 minutes on the other side, or until it has an internal temperature of 165 F on a meat thermometer.  Repeat with the other breast.
  5. Rest: Place the grilled chicken breast on a clean plate, cover loosely with foil, and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.  During this time, the chicken will continue to cook and will release its juices.
  6. Cut: Use a sharp knife to cut the cooled chicken breasts into nugget-sized pieces, making sure to slice against the grain of the meat.  You should have 40 to 45 nuggets.

Finishing the Salad

  1. Assemble: Fill a plate with the romaine lettuce, then sprinkle on the kale and Parmesan cheese chards.  Place 10 grilled chicken nuggets on each salad.  Sprinkle on the Parmesan crisps, and place two lemon wedges on the edge of the plate.  Just before eating, drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of the lemon Caesar vinaigrette on top.  Make sure that each guest squeezes both lemon wedges over the salad right before eating for the best flavor.


  • Marinate the meat for at least 4 hours for the best flavor, but 24 hours is even better.  Don't go beyond 24 hours, as the marinade will start to break down the proteins in the meat too much.
  • For the maximum lemon flavor, don't skip the zest in the spice rub.
  • Have patience when grilling; flip the chicken when it doesn't stick to the pan.
  • Assemble the salad right before eating for maximum freshness and crunch.
  • To make the lemon Parmesan panko topping: toss plain panko bread crumbs, lemon zest, olive oil, grated Parmesan cheese, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread on baking sheet and bake at 350 F for 8 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Grilled
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: caesar salad, recipe, salad dressing



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