Herbed Lemon Chicken Salad with Kale Buttermilk Dressing

December 12, 2017
Herbed Lemon Chicken Salad with Kale Buttermilk Dressing - Zoodles tossed with kale and buttermilk dressing, topped with lemon chicken and smoked almonds

 “Do I contradict myself? 

Very well then, I contradict myself”     ~ Walt Whitman

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I'm beginning to believe my husband is right, and I am a bit fickle.  For years I've been waxing poetic about recipes with pasta, and now here I am about to offer you a recipe for dinner made instead by spiralizing your veggies

This past Saturday night, our neighbors hosted a get-together.  The party was ostensibly to celebrate the holidays and decorate the 18′ Christmas tree(!) they order every year.  But between you and me, I think it was just a great excuse for good conversation and an awful lot of cookies(Which I really can't fault her for)

We all chipped in and brought bottles of bubbly, homemade bread, and some pretty amazing finger food.  A fire was going in the fireplace, paper snowflakes hung in the windows, and the tables were lit with tea lights in old mason jars

A night was so lovely that not even a stain on the tablecloth from spilled wine, or gin and tonic, or whatever it was, could mar it

Herbed Lemon Chicken Salad with Kale Buttermilk Dressing - Zoodles tossed with kale and buttermilk dressing, topped with lemon chicken and smoked almonds Herbed Lemon Chicken Salad with Kale Buttermilk Dressing - Zoodles tossed with kale and buttermilk dressing, topped with lemon chicken and smoked almonds

Our neighbor's husband is a center director at the university, and they entertain all of the time.  She makes these sorts of things look maddeningly easy

For dinner, she made a little something for everyone.  Single-serving potpies filled with pork and winter veggies that had been braised in white wine.  Their golden puff pastry tops cut into pretty wreath patterns.  On the stovetop, a pot of creamy winter squash soup, salmon burgers if you were the sandwich sort, and hot out of the oven lemon chicken on a bed of herbed rice

For his part, her husband kept the wine flowing and made some pretty excellent margaritas.  In between, re-programming the ice/water setting on the fridge every time somebody leaned against it

It was a gold star party all the way around

One of the very best parts of the evening was one of its smallest of details: the kale buttermilk sauce.  It was the unofficial star of the party.  A secret weapon of sorts, I guess you could say, sneaking its way into (or onto) most everything

It served as a dip for the chips and veggies.  A dressing for salads.  Some people spread it on their salmon burger's bun or dipped hunks of warm buttery bread into it.  It was the simplest of touches, but I couldn't help thinking it was something that we all: you, me, everyone, should have as part of their arsenal

As part of the care package we assembled for my husband who was at home sick, she included a healthy-sized container and tucked the recipe into my bag

Herbed Lemon Chicken Salad with Kale Buttermilk Dressing - Zoodles tossed with kale and buttermilk dressing, topped with lemon chicken and smoked almonds

So the next evening, when it looked like he was ready to re-join the land of the living, we sat down to a salad of sorts.  I'd forgotten how much I love Ina Garten's lemon chicken and if you've haven't tried it yet, you're in for a treat

There are few things tastier than golden, hot-out-of-the-oven lemon chicken, and this is where we start.  Essentially, you make a slurry of white wine, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, and herbs that the chicken bakes in.  The rind is really the secret weapon of the entire dish.  When it releases it's incredibly potent oils, they permeate the sauce and set off a fragrant finale signaling to anyone in the vicinity that its time to eat

While the chicken was cooking, I made the quick blender sauce of buttermilk, a hunk of good Parmesan, garlic, and a handful of kale. It comes together in a flash.  You can either toss the zoodles with it or use it in a more conventional way.

Top with chicken and smoked almonds and dinner is served

A few notes about the recipe:

Zucchini noodles aren't the best as leftovers.  So I like to make this and eat it right away, or store everything separately and prepare each serving just before you're ready to eat

I didn't cook the zoodles because I wanted this to be more like a salad, cold and creamy and crunchy.  Whether or not you cook the zoodles, when the warm sauce from the lemon chicken hits them, they're going to get a little watery.  I found that this was only a problem when I didn't serve the salad right away



~ Lemon Chicken Adapted from Ina Garten and salad dressing loosely adapted from The Cooking Channel

Herbed Lemon Chicken Salad with Kale Buttermilk Dressing


  • Herbed Lemon Chicken
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic
  • cup white wine
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon zest (from ~ 2 lemons)
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • fine grain sea salt + freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, skin on (6-8 oz each)

  • Kale and Buttermilk Dressing
  • cup finely grated Parmesan
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 4 cups baby kale (or spinach is a nice alternative)

  • Finish and Serve
  • 3 zucchini, spiralized
  • ½ cup smoked almonds, chopped
  • lemon wedges, optional


  • Herbed Lemon Chicken
  • Preheat the oven to 400° F
  • In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil
  • Add garlic and cook for a minute (be careful not to let the garlic burn or turn brown)
  • Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon juice, herbs, a strong pinch of sea salt and a grind of black pepper
  • Pour the mix into a 9 x 13” baking dish
  • Pat the chicken breasts dry and place them skin side up over the sauce
  • Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them with a liberal pinch of sea salt and a grind or two of pepper
  • Cut the lemon into 6-8 wedges and tuck them in and amongst the chicken pieces
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken breasts), until the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned
  • Note: If the chicken hasn’t browned enough, put it under the broiler for a couple of minutes
  • Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for ~ 10 minutes

  • Kale and Buttermilk Dressing
  • While the chicken is baking, make the dressing
  • In the bowl of your food processor, add the Parmesan, buttermilk, 1 cup kale, and a pinch of sea salt. Process until well combined
  • Set aside in the fridge

  • Finish and Serve
  • Slice the chicken
  • Divide the zucchini between plates and top with chicken, a drizzle of the juices from the baking dish, almonds, and the remaining kale
  • Drizzle with the kale buttermilk dressing and serve with lemon wedges
Serves: 6
Nutrition + Show
Calories 335
Total Fat 14.4g
Saturated Fat 3.3g
Carbohydrates 9g
Fiber 2.2g
Sugars 5.7g
Protein 40.2g
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  • Reply Sabrina December 12, 2017 at 3:02 am

    You’ve had the best posts lately, Ali. I LOVE the way you give so many wonderful suggestions for things that are simple, as well as delish. It’s always nice to have room to play with ingredients and your jumping off points have been great. The best part? They adapt to us non-healthy-thinkers as well and give us wonderful ways to ease into eating more veggies

  • Reply Robin December 12, 2017 at 4:28 am

    Oh my Lord, Ali, thank you for posting a recipe I can make and eat while on the South Beach diet! I haven’t baked a thing for the last two weeks and am almost going crazy. And let me tell you, the all of the baked goodies online this time of year is enough to put me over the edge. One HUGE lemon chicken salad for lunch tomorrow will bring a bit of holiday cheer back into my life. xo

  • Reply Alli Smith December 12, 2017 at 5:37 am

    Sounds like such a lovely party and I’m looking forward to making the Kale Buttermilk Dressing. I can see why it was the star of the party and again the next day.

  • Reply Candy December 12, 2017 at 6:40 am

    I’m so having this for lunch today!
    You are just great, Ali!!

  • Reply Danielle Fox December 12, 2017 at 7:21 am

    5 stars
    I am going to try that Kale Buttermilk dressing next week – but I may put it over beet noodles!

  • Reply Amber Myers December 12, 2017 at 7:23 am

    5 stars
    I would just love this salad. It looks so amazing–and that dressing? Yum!

    It sounds like you had a fun party!

  • Reply Lisa December 12, 2017 at 7:29 am

    Don’t you have a love hate with those who make parties look easy and effortless? But this salad? This looks like love. L

  • Reply Heather December 12, 2017 at 7:29 am

    I want this for lunch! I haven’t had sprouts in such a long time. The dressing inspired me to make my own today using my ripe avocado (I know your recipe didn’t include it but the color reminded me!)

  • Reply Lizzie December 12, 2017 at 8:28 am

    5 stars
    Ali, another Thank You for a fresh and tasteFULL post! I so appreciate your pallet and all the incredible effort you make to share such lovely and inspiring posts. I could keep gushing, but you might start questioning my sincerity. A perfect, hearty salad to balance out the holiday excess! Cheers to you for all you do to make this a happier world!! – Lizzie in Florida

  • Reply Jeanette December 12, 2017 at 8:30 am

    This salad looks amazing and I bet everyone at the party LOVED it! I know I would have! I could use that dressing on so many different things. It looks delicious.

  • Reply Val December 12, 2017 at 10:53 am

    I’ve decided I need to bookmark your entire site.

    You even having me craving a salad with zoodles, which I wouldn’t have guessed possible! Now I know what to do with the skinless chicken breasts that someone-who-isn’t-me brought home from the grocery store a month ago and expected me to cook. Needless to say, they’ve been languishing in the freezer and I have a feeling this will be their future! Thanks for the reminder and always making me smile. xo

  • Reply Laura December 12, 2017 at 11:06 am

    It sounds like a lovely get together and that salad looks DELICIOUS!! I love anything with lemon, especially when chicken is involved, so this is right up my street!

  • Reply Sarah Honey December 12, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    This looks like a delicious & healthy chicken salad recipe. Reminds me to dig out my spiralizer to make some good zoodles & sauce.

  • Reply Melanie December 12, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    We love zucchini noodles in our home. I stopped eating traditional pasta about a year ago. I’ve had traditional noodles once since that time and it messed my stomach up! My husband will only eat his cooked, though.

  • Reply Tim December 12, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    I’ve heard ostensibly used in a sentence before but never bothered to look it up. Good news is your description with it made it unnecessary to do so. Great post!

  • Reply Joely Smith December 12, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    5 stars
    This dish looks so yummy! While usually this time of the year I am elbows deep in chili our weather has been so back and forth, some days like spring, this is perfect for those days! I love lemon chicken and I do love anything with buttermilk so this sounds perfect!

  • Reply Pamela December 12, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    HOLY MOLY! I can’t wait to make this. I don’t think I’ve ever had lemon chicken. What a great weeknight meal. Light but substantial. Your photos always make everything look drool-worthy. . . yum!

  • Reply Eliza December 12, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    5 stars
    Wow! Looks interesting – this seems yummy and delicious too – At home we so love zucchini noodles, whether cook or not we’re on it. And I like that my nieces love this too as this saves them from carbs from common pasta.

  • Reply Quinn December 12, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    A good salad is like a breath of fresh air. It’s the perfect addition to any party. And the buttermilk dressing is going on my To-Make list this weekend!

  • Reply Censie Sawyer December 12, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    We tried doing the spirialized veggie “pasta” a few weeks ago for the first time. Surprisingly my whole family really loved the dish we made. My son commented that it was more like a salad than a pasta dish but everyone loved it.

  • Reply Franc December 12, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    I love blogs that post amazing salad recipes. It’s soooo easy to fall into the rut of just throwing some lettuce into a bowl with a couple of cherry tomatoes and some store-bought dressing. Posts like this remind us of what a salad SHOULD be like – diverse, delicious and anything but boring!

  • Reply Claudia Krusch December 12, 2017 at 7:45 pm

    5 stars
    I am always looking for new healthier recipes to try. I will have to pick up the ingredients I need to make this on the weekend. It looks so delicious.

  • Reply Lisa Lisa December 12, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    5 stars
    This is such a healthy salad and I’m sure my family would love it. I just started eating Kale and it really taste good when mixed with other veggies. I also like to cook my chicken with lemon, it adds that extra kick. I think I’ll grab these ingredients and give this one a try, I’m excited about the kale and buttermilk dressing. Thanks

  • Reply Leah December 12, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    Hi Ali …my daughter and I have followed your site for a couple of years, but have never posted. Last night she invited me over for dinner and this salad was on the menu. SO good…and the left-over chicken was even better for lunch today. We did change it up a bit as I happened to have some black bean “spaghetti” on hand and thought it would be a nice contrast (color/texture) and it was.Thank you for the inspiration for such a colorful/textural/healthy dish. Cheers, Leah

  • Reply Mellissa December 12, 2017 at 9:49 pm

    This looks delicious! Surprisingly I’ve never tried Zucchini noodles before although all of the vegetarian raw sites rave over how its the perfect pasta alternative. Thanks for the reminder to try this as soon as possible.

  • Reply Jhilmil December 12, 2017 at 10:50 pm

    So it seems it was a great get together for all the neighbours and your host did a wonderful job by preparing delicacies some for all invitees. Zucchini noodles look amazing and I thing being a vegan, I’ll have to replace chicken with either Tofu or fried Cauliflower and keep the dressing as such to retain the delicious taste you have given here:)

  • Reply Tonya Tardiff December 13, 2017 at 12:33 am

    Ali! This looks beyond delicious. I get so excited whenever I visit the site and you’ve posted something new and gorgeously photographed 🙂 Now I’m hungry again…

  • Reply Ana De- Jesus December 13, 2017 at 8:47 am

    Oh no sorry to hear that your husband was at home sick but I do hope that he is feeling better now ? It is so nice of your neighbor to create a care package to take home to your husband and I hope that it helped build up his immune system. It wasn’t until a year or so ago that I actually started enjoying kale and I remember that I had it with lemon and herbs and it was delicious. My mind is definitely blown by this kale buttermilk sauce it sounds absolutely divine x

  • Reply Chubskulit Rose December 13, 2017 at 10:46 am

    I made this last night for dinner. It turned out wonderfully–and tasted even better. We especially loved the dressing. Your recipes never disappoint and if I’m not sure what to cook, I browse your site and always come up with a great idea!

  • Reply Adriana December 13, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    Oh it sounds like you must of had such a fun time with your neighbors! Aren’t those just the best kinds of nights? Nothing but laughs, chats and good food! This recipe looks SO amazing. I definitely will be trying this out – I love this mix of flavors too. Nothing quite better! 😉 YUM!

  • Reply Angie December 13, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Just wanted to say thanks, Ali. A few months ago, a friend introduced me to your blog and I’ve become a big fan. The food is fantastic, but your writing helps get me through bad days at my frustrating job. So thanks and keep up the great work!

  • Reply Debra December 13, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    It sounds like it was an amazing party. I love i individual pot pies at parties. Such a great idea!

  • Reply Natalie December 13, 2017 at 11:02 pm

    5 stars
    Ali, this is exactly why you are my go-to girl! I needed something relatively fast and simple for dinner and remembered seeing this. It was delightful. The chicken just lemony enough. And the kale buttermilk dressing was perfect with it. I had mine with the zoodles and made regular spaghetti noodles for my hubby. Oh, my!

  • Reply Naomi December 14, 2017 at 7:15 am

    Ali, I just wanted to say that I love your blog. I’ve been reading it for a little over a month now and it’s great! I love photography and food so this is right up my alley. I’ve never made lemon chicken but I just made homemade dressing last week. You’ve inspired me to go for it!

  • Reply Mayah Camara December 14, 2017 at 8:47 am

    Your writing Ali, really adds the loveliest touch, in multitudes. And thanks so much for the Walt Witman quote. I’m filing this recipe away for when spring returns. but am guessing it won’t wait and I’ll make it the next time there’s a sunny day ’round here.

  • Reply Kayleigh December 14, 2017 at 11:21 am

    5 stars
    Sounds delicious yet so simple! Thanks for this suggestion. I need to get a bit more creative in the kitchen. x

  • Reply Clare Nicholas December 14, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    3 stars
    Oh my I need neighbours like this, mine just does frozen pizzas or hotdogs when we go over…this sounds Devine.

    What a lovely way to start the Christmas celebrations

  • Reply Emma Raphael December 14, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    5 stars
    What a lovely sounding party, it’s been too long since I have been to one like that! I am always on the look out for healthy recipes for evening meals for my family, an I know they would like this one. The dressing sounds gorgeous too… I love that you call them zoodles, here we call zucchini’s courgettes, coodles doesn’t sound have as good! 😀

  • Reply Rachel Evans December 14, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    That sounds like an amazing party!! I would love to have seen the tree!

  • Reply Karlyn Cruz December 14, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    5 stars
    My salads are so boring. I’m glad you shared this! It’s time to try something new for sure! Glad your husband finally got well enough and was able to join you!!

  • Reply David Elliott December 14, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    I don’t think you are fickle. You just have things that strike you at certain times as interesting or different. Or you like taking things in another direction. I think that we all have things we like, but we still like to try new things from time to time. I hate doing the same thing over and over.

  • Reply Elizabeth December 15, 2017 at 3:48 am

    5 stars
    This year I’ve become such a fan of zoodles. I don’t cook mine either as I find when you put a warm sauce over them they soften perfectly as they are. LOVE the sound of this dressing! And I want to go to one of your neighbour’s parties – it sounds amazing!

  • Reply Rhian Westbury December 15, 2017 at 3:56 am

    Wow that sounds like one heck of a good dinner party, and spiralized veggies are a great alternative x

  • Reply Melanie December 15, 2017 at 4:50 am

    Oh my this dish looks super tasty. I love when neighbours host a get-together it is so much fun and you get to know each other while enjoying yummy food x

  • Reply Rhiannon-Skye December 15, 2017 at 5:02 am

    Oh my goodness; your blog is SO lovely and gives me the munchies!!!! 🙂

  • Reply Melissa December 15, 2017 at 6:34 am

    5 stars
    Sounds like an amazing dinner party! I love enjoying food with people. This looks like a delicious salad

  • Reply Sheri December 15, 2017 at 6:52 am

    I love dinner parties and getting together with friends for fun, laughter and great conversation. We all have certain things we love, our favourites, and sometimes we want to branch out to do something different which is also great. I think change is always a good thing, so you are not necessarily fickle. <3

  • Reply Sarah Bailey December 15, 2017 at 7:15 am

    5 stars
    This salad looks incredible. I love zoodles and am a big fan of herb and lemon chicken so this sounds like the perfect lunch to me. Totally intrigued by the dressing too, would never have thought to use kale and buttermilk together to make a dressing but it sounds delicious!

  • Reply Sam Jeffery December 15, 2017 at 10:55 am

    Oh I have been after new recipes as I’ve started taking lunch to work & I think this will be next on my list!

  • Reply Kirsty December 16, 2017 at 5:38 am

    Ali, this is exactly why you are my go-to girl! I needed something relatively fast and simple for Sunday dinner and remembered seeing this. It was delightful! Just lemony enough. The kale and buttermilk dressing is perfect with it. For my hubby, I served it with brown rice and also a mix of chopped squash, zucchini, and caramelized onions. Oh, my! So, so good!

  • Reply Nina December 16, 2017 at 6:21 am

    I’ve been making lemon chicken for over thirty years and am so happy you posted the recipe. I’m one of those grandmas that drives my kids crazy because I never take the time to write down exactly how I make their favorite things. This recipe is the closest I’ve ever seen. Thanks, Ali! 🙂

  • Reply Kavita December 16, 2017 at 7:22 am

    This was such a beautiful story, loved it and the kale we have growing out in a pot will do nicely. ps: I’ve been lurking on Instagram and your feed is one of my favorites. xo

  • Reply Angie December 16, 2017 at 10:11 am

    4 stars
    This sounds like it was a yummy night, from decor to food. My dad makes a dip similar to the buttermilk dressing and we dip the leaves of grilled artichokes in it, which is just wonderful.

  • Reply Alice December 16, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    Ooh I’m saving this recipe for January – perfect for kickstarting my healthy eating, although I’ll miss out the chicken because I’m veggie!

  • Reply Trisha December 16, 2017 at 10:16 pm

    Sounds so delicious, Ali. A dressing that sounds similar to a spread we enjoyed during the sunny days this past weekend. Salmon burgers with avocado and kale mayo. They were so good!

  • Reply Kavita December 17, 2017 at 7:33 am

    Haven’t been reading The Veggies for a few weeks (for a few, unimportant reasons that are nothing to do with the quality of said blog!) But now that I’ve come back, I realize how much I missed it. You are always a joy to read, Ali

  • Reply Isabella December 17, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    4 stars
    Sounds like a lovely evening and I don’t blame you for taking the kale buttermilk sauce recipe home. Sometimes the best parties are the ones you keep talking about after they have finished x

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