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5 from 6 votes

Panzanella Salad Recipe with Grilled Chicken

We're grilling crusty bread, chicken and peppers for this Panzanella salad recipe. Then combining them with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, herbs and a zesty dressing to create a beautiful tasty bread salad. What a perfect spring/summer meal or potluck dish.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Rest time10 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Servings (change as needed): 3 main dishes
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 1 pound (450g) chicken thighs or breasts boneless, skinless
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil (or mayonnaise)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried thyme to sprinkle on chicken

Bread

  • 4 ounce (114g) crusty bread, cut lengthwise into wedges or slices Tuscan bread, ciabatta, baguette, multigrain
  • oil spray (or 2 tsp olive oil)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder

Salad (Note 1)

  • 1 cup (200g) tomatoes, cut into 1 inch/2.5cm pieces (or cut cherry tomatoes in half)
  • 1 cup (120g) cucumbers, peeled, seeded (if needed) and sliced 1/4 inch/0.6 cm (I use Japanese or English cucumbers - no need to take out seeds)
  • 1 red pepper, cut in 5-6 pieces, seeds removed
  • 3 small green onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or shredded basil leaves (or other herbs)
  • 1/2 cup bocconcini or mozzarella, torn into pieces optional

Vinaigrette Dressing (Note 2)

  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic 1 small clove
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or white or red wine vinegar or lemon juice)
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper or more to taste

Instructions

  • HEAT GRILL: Clean grill and wipe with a cloth or paper towel dipped in oil (or spray with oil before heating). Heat to medium high heat (about 425-450F/230C).
  • MAKE VINAIGRETTE DRESSING: Combine all ingredients and whisk vigorously to combine. Or place in lock-and-seal container and shake. Taste and adjust as needed. If too tangy, add a teaspoon of maple syrup.
  • PREPARE BREAD CUBES: Brush or spray bread slices/wedges with oil. Lightly sprinkle on salt, pepper and garlic powder.
  • PREPARE CHICKEN: Flatten the chicken on a cutting board with the bottom of a saucepan, mallet or heel of your hand. This will allow for even grilling. Rub oil on chicken. Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, thyme and garlic powder.
  • GRILL CHICKEN, BREAD, PEPPERS: Place chicken and peppers on grill. Grill 3-4 minutes (depending on size of chicken pieces. Turn over. Grill another 3 minutes. Add bread and grill on cut side and crust side for a total of 3 minutes or until grill marks are showing. Check if chicken is cooked - instant thermometer will read 160F/71C (temp will rise with resting). Let chicken rest for 10 minutes. Cut bread into 1 inch/2.5cm cubes. Cut chicken and peppers into bite size pieces. Note 3 for no grilling.
  • ASSEMBLE: Add to bowl the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, chopped green onions, bread, chicken and fresh basil or parsley (and cheese if using). Pour on dressing and toss to coat bread salad well. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt if needed or a squeeze of lemon or zest. Transfer to a serving bowl if desired. Let set for 10 minutes to allow bread to absorb dressing and flavors to meld.

Notes

  1. Panzanella salad variations: 
    • Summer peak season ripe tomatoes are ideal. If not in season, choose good cherry tomatoes, heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes.
    • For other vegetables, in addition to tomatoes and cucumbers, try roasted beets, cooked green beans, radishes, grilled zucchini and/or red onions.
    • Fruits add a wonderful sweetness and juiciness to a panzanella salad. Try peaches (or grilled peaches), grapes, nectarines, pineapple, mango or pears.
  2. Vinaigrette Dressing and other flavor alternatives: Feel free to use your own favorite vinaigrette or even buy a good quality dressing. You will need about 1/4 cup or just slightly more.
    • Other good options are a Japanese Salad Dressing for an Asian twist, an Apple Cider dressing or Champagne Vinaigrette.
    • For Italian flavors, try adding oregano, feta, capers and olives.
    • Herbs will also add great flavor. Basil is traditional. Alternatively, try fresh thyme, chives, parsley, dill or tarragon. 
  3. Alternative to grilling:
    • For bread cubes: Heat oven to 425F/218C. Place bread cubes, tossed with oil and sprinkled with salt, pepper and garlic powder on a pan. Bake for for 7-10 minutes or until golden brown. 
    • For chicken and peppers: Heat large non stick pan on stove to medium high. Add chicken and peppers. Cook for 3-5 minutes on one side, depending on thickness of chicken. Turn and cook another 3 minutes or more on the other side until chicken reaches 160F/71C.
  4. Dietary Preferences: Replace the chicken with cubed tofu (or more veggies) for a vegetarian version. And for a dairy-free version, omit the cheese. 
  5. Make Ahead:
    • The panzanella salad recipe can be made 1-2 hours ahead and left on the counter to develop the flavors.
    • If you want less soggy bread cubes, make everything ahead but add the dressing just before serving. 
    • Leftovers will get a bit soggy in the fridge, but still taste good! 
 
Nutrition values are estimates and will depend on type of chicken used, amount of dressing used, alternative veggies used, etc. Values are based on chicken breasts and no cheese added. 
Calories: 497kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 37g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 97mg | Sodium: 1008mg | Potassium: 916mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 2083IU | Vitamin C: 66mg | Calcium: 68mg | Iron: 3mg