This Grilled Pesto Chicken Cobb Salad is ridiculously delicious. The pesto marinade has only four ingredients, making it one of the easiest meals - perfect for a weeknight dinner!
Plans for the upcoming Labor Day holiday? This Grilled Pesto Chicken Cobb Salad needs to be added to your weekend meal plan.
The chicken needs a bit of marinating time, reserve at least two hours (up to 12) so the chicken can soak up the fresh basil pesto and rice vinegar flavor.
While fabulous on its own, I added the tender, juicy, grilled chicken to my version of a grilled cobb salad. Use a variety of peak-of-season grilled vegetables – cherry tomatoes, asparagus, mini sweet peppers, avocado (yep-grilled), and favorite salad toppings like bacon, pickled fennel, hard-boiled egg, and gorgonzola crumbles.
Toss with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette and you have a meal-in-a-salad!
Did I mention it is ridiculously flavorful? If not, let me say it again - Flavor, Flavor, Flavor!
IN THIS POST, YOU WILL LEARN:
- WHAT’S IN THIS GRILLED PESTO CHICKEN COBB SALAD
- WHAT MAKES A SALAD A COBB SALAD
- HOW TO MAKE A SOFT OR HARD-COOKED EGG
- HOW TO MAKE AND STORE HOMEMADE PESTO
- HOW TO MAKE BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE
WHAT’S IN THIS GRILLED PESTO CHICKEN COBB SALAD?
Grilled Pesto Chicken – Use boneless, skinless chicken breasts and butterfly the breasts, allowing the marinade to soak into the meat and encourage even cooking (See photo below).
Tip: The chicken needs a bit of marinating time, reserve at least two hours (up to 12) so the chicken can soak up the fresh basil pesto and rice vinegar flavor.
Fresh Basil Pesto Marinade – Four ingredients make the marinade – pesto (store-bought or homemade), rice vinegar, sugar, and salt – that’s it!
If your basil plants are ready to be harvested, consider making a batch of pesto. See the HOW TO MAKE AND STORE HOMEMADE PESTO section. If time is an issue, a store-bought pesto works just fine.
Romaine Hearts – Slicing the romaine hearts in half lengthwise, creates a bed of leaves on which to top the Cobb Ingredients. But any green leaf lettuce can work.
Grilled Vegetables – My grill-favorites are asparagus, sweet peppers, avocados and cherry tomatoes. Toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper, and place in a grilling basket with the exception of the avocados. They will need only 3-4 minutes to be perfectly charred and ready to be added to your salad. (See photo below).
Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit. Rub the cut face with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill the cut side down until charred in spots, about 2 minutes.
Salad Toppings - I like to include traditional cobb salad toppings along with some of my favorites.
- Crumbled Bacon
- Hard Boiled Eggs
- Gorgonzola Crumbles
- Red Onion or Chives
- Pickled Fennel (optional): Click on the green text to get the recipe.
WHAT MAKES A SALAD A COBB SALAD?
There are various stories about the origins of the Cobb Salad.
My favorite version recounts that in 1938 the owner of the Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant, Robert Howard Cobb had not had dinner and found himself in the kitchen scrounging around for something to eat. Legend says he mixed together leftovers, had the line cook fry up some bacon, and tossed it with the restaurant’s French dressing.
This salad became the signature dish named after the owner and possible creator, Robert Cobb.
Another version is that the owner Bob Cobb created this salad from left-overs for showman and theater owner Sid Grauman (Grauman’s Chinese Theater). It was chopped fine, because Grauman had dental work done and was not able to chew.
The authentic versions of the Cobb salad are prepared using four chopped varieties of salad greens such as iceberg lettuce, watercress, endive and romaine lettuce. The other ingredients typically included are tomatoes, crisp bacon, fried chicken breast, hard boiled eggs, avocado, chives, blue cheese and a red-wine vinaigrette.
All the ingredients are laid out on a plate in neat rows.
You will see I have kept most of the cornerstone ingredients, but made them a bit healthier (grilled chicken instead of fried chicken) and added or swapped in a few of my favorite salad ingredients.
HOW TO MAKE A SOFT OR HARD-COOKED EGG
Cooking a soft-cooked or a hard-cooked eggs used to be hit or miss for me. However, I have found a method that delivers a set white and a somewhat fluid yolk (not runny, more like something between being hard and soft) which I will mix into the salad adding a creaminess throughout the salad.
Here’s what I do:
- Use large eggs that are cold from the refrigerator. Check for cracks so you won’t have whites oozing out of the shell when placed in the boiling water.
- Bring ½ inch water to boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Gently lower the eggs into the boiling water without cracking the shell. Using a large spoon or tongs makes lowering the eggs much easier. You will note that the eggs are not fully submerged – that’s okay, if you want a softer yolk center. If you prefer a hard yolk center, then make sure the water covers the egg.
- Cover the pan and cook for 7 minutes, for a hard outside yolk and soft center. 10 minutes if you want the entire yolk to be hard.
- Remove from the heat and place the saucepan (with the eggs) in the sink and run cold water into the pan for about 30 seconds. We are trying to stop the cooking. I wait until the eggs are cool enough to handle and then peel them, slice them in half and add them to the salad.
I love warm soft-hard cooked eggs on my Cobb salad! This is a great article by Cooks Illustrated that shares how to make a foolproof soft-boiled egg.
HOW TO MAKE AND STORE HOMEMADE PESTO
Basil pesto is so good over warm pasta, but can also be added to potatoes, spread on a sandwich, used as a pizza sauce or as a marinade for grilled chicken.
It’s easiest to make using a food processor.
Place the basil, garlic, salt, pine nuts, Parmesan and some of the oil in the food processor. Pulse until it is nicely blended, adding gradually the remaining oil in a stream until you get the consistency you want.
If you’re storing the pesto in the refrigerator rather than using it immediately, drizzle some olive oil on the top so that the pesto retains its bright green color.
Pesto can be frozen! I usually make a big batch and then use a 2-tablespoon to measure out and place on parchment or wax paper lined baking sheet. Place in the freezer for about 20 minutes, long enough so it will hold its shape, once frozen, seal the perfectly portioned pesto servings in a sealable plastic bag. Store in freezer for future use.
Now you can have homemade basil pesto ready to use even in the cold winter months.
HOW TO MAKE BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE
The balsamic dressing is what carries this Cobb salad. The flavor is zesty and bright, tangy from the balsamic vinegar and balanced with a touch of maple syrup. Making balsamic dressing is easy, but it can be a challenge to get the perfect emulsion: that’s when the oil and vinegar combine into a creamy texture instead of separating.
Over the years, I’ve found a few tips for making a perfect emulsion:
- Use a medium-sized bowl to allow for enough movement of the whisk. Trust me on this one, I’ve done it in small bowls or jars and it’s almost impossible to get the oil and vinegar to meld and not separate.
- Whisk the ingredients by hand or use a hand blender. Start with the balsamic, Dijon mustard, and maple syrup.
- Add the olive oil slowly and gradually: I typically add it tablespoon by tablespoon and whisk in between until the oil fully incorporates. If using a hand-blender you can add slowly a steady stream of oil.
Grilled Pesto Chicken Cobb Salad
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For Homemade Pesto:
- 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
- 1-4 garlic cloves peeled
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup pine nuts or any other nut you like
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ - ½ cup olive oil
For the Pesto Marinade
- 2 6- to 8-ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and butterflied open to encourage even cooking.
- ⅓ cup pesto store-bought or homemade
- 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
For the Balsamic Vinaigrette
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon maple syrup
- Salt and pepper to taste
Other Salad Ingredients:
- 1 ounce gorgonzola crumbles or blue cheese
- 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 romaine lettuce hearts 6 ounces each, halved lengthwise
- 1 avocado halved and pitted
- 4 ounces cherry tomatoes halved
- ½ a bunch of asparagus, about 10 stems, trim a ½ inch off the bottom of each stem.
- 8 mini sweet peppers
- 2 soft or hard-cooked eggs halved (see section on How to Soft or Hard-cook Eggs)
- pickled fennel (optional) to taste, Pickled Fennel Recipe
- red onion thinly sliced
- 3 slices cooked bacon
Make the Pesto (or use store bought and skip this step)
- Place basil, garlic, salt, nuts, cheese and about half of the oil in a food processor. Pulse until it’s nicely blended. Add additional oil in a stream until you have the consistency you want.
Marinate the Chicken
- Place the chicken in a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag. Pour in the pesto, rice vinegar, salt and sugar. Seal the bag and using your hands rub the marinade until the chicken is well coated. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours.
Make the Balsamic Vinaigrette
- See the section above: How To Make Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing. Combine gorgonzola cheese with the Balsamic Vinaigrette and set aside.
Grill the Chicken and Vegetables
- Toss the Asparagus, peppers, and tomatoes in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the asparagus, peppers and tomatoes in a grilling basket or a sheet pan. They will need only 3-4 minutes to be perfectly charred and ready to be added to your salad.Rub the cut face of the avocado with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill cut side down until charred in spots, about 2 minutes. Remove from grill. When cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop avocado flesh from the skin.
- Remove the chicken from the pesto marinade and grill on a hot fire until browned and meat registers 160 degrees, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and tent with aluminum foil.
Assemble the Salad
- Cut lettuce in half lengthwise. Slice chicken in ½ inch think slices. Arrange lettuce, eggs and avocado halves on individual plates or serving platter. Layer chicken, tomatoes, and peppers on top of the lettuce. Top salad with bacon, pickled fennel (if using), red onions and drizzle with dressing. Serve.
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Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
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