Chicken and Cranberry Salad with Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing

$5.25 recipe / $1.31 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.82 from 22 votes
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I’m not done with cabbage yet! Hahah, okay, I really am sorry about all this cabbage lately, but I still had half a head in my fridge and a thoughtful reader emailed me a recipe with a new cabbage technique that I wanted to try. Yes, “cabbage technique” is a thing. :D Anyway, this new technique for preparing cabbage really did make this Chicken and Cranberry Salad a step above, so I wanted to share it with you ASAP.

Chicken and Cranberry Salad with Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing

Overhead view of a big bowl of Chicken and Cranberry Salad with a gold fork

The Salting Cabbage Technique

This technique comes to you via my friend Alexandra from Alexandra’s Kitchen. She wrote this recipe for Chicken and Cabbage Salad with Sesame Seeds, Scallions, and Almonds, which uses salt to tenderize the cabbage, making it juicier, easier to eat, and more receptive to absorbing the flavors of the dressing. It really did make a big difference in the overall texture of the salad.

Instead of that dry, slightly waxy texture that raw cabbage often has, the pre-salted cabbage was tender-yet-crisp, juicy, and much more enjoyable to chew. I’m definitely going to give all my cabbage salads the salt treatment in the future. And don’t worry! The salt gets rinsed away before you actually build the salad.

Chicken and Cranberry Salad Flavor Profile

Instead of doing an Asian inspired salad like Alexandra’s, I decided to go the sweet-tart route and paired my chicken with dried cranberries and a homemade lemon poppy seed dressing. This dressing is incredibly simple and not too-too sweet. If you prefer a creamy lemon poppy seed dressing, you can always sub half of the oil with mayonnaise or Greek yogurt. And as always, you can always taste and adjust the sweetness to your liking.

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Chicken and Cranberry Salad with Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing

4.82 from 22 votes
This Chicken and Cranberry Salad combines tender cabbage, sweet cranberries, nutty almonds, a tart lemon poppy seed dressing, plus enough chicken to make it a meal!
This Chicken and Cranberry Salad combines tender cabbage, nutty almonds, sweet cranberries and a tart lemon poppy seed dressing, plus enough chicken to make it a meal. BudgetBytes.com
Servings 4
Prep 30 mins
Total 30 mins

Ingredients

LEMON POPPY SEED DRESSING

  • 1/4 cup neutral salad oil* ($0.16)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice ($0.30)
  • 1/2 Tbsp honey ($0.06)
  • 1/4 tsp sugar ($0.01)
  • 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard ($0.04)
  • 1/4 Tbsp poppy seeds ($0.07)
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder ($0.01)
  • 1/4 tsp salt ($0.01)

SALAD

  • 6 cups shredded cabbage, (about 1/2 head) ($0.54)
  • Salt, as needed ($0.10)
  • 1 cup cooked chicken, diced or shredded ($2.02)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds ($1.04)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries ($0.63)
  • 3 green onions, sliced ($0.26)

Instructions 

  • Remove an damaged outer leaves from the cabbage. Cut the cabbage into wedges, remove the core, then slice crosswise into thin shreds. Place the thinly shredded cabbage in a colander and sprinkle liberally with salt. Massage the salt into the cabbage and let it sit for about five minutes.
  • While the cabbage is being salted, prepare the dressing by combining the oil, lemon juice, honey, sugar, Dijon, poppy seeds, onion powder, and salt in a bowl or jar. Whisk the ingredients together or place a lid on the jar and shake until it forms an emulsion (10-15 seconds).
  • Rinse the cabbage well to remove the salt. Toss the cabbage in the colander as you rinse to make sure all the salt is removed. Let the excess water drain away.
  • Once the cabbage is rinsed and drained, add it to a bowl with the chopped chicken, sliced almonds, dried cranberries, and sliced green onions. Give the dressing a quick stir, then pour it over the salad. Toss the salad until everything is evenly mixed and coated in dressing. Let marinate 5-10 minutes before serving.

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Notes

*Because the flavor of this dressing is so light and fresh, a neutral or light flavored oil is best. You can use oils like canola, safflower, grape seed, sesame (untoasted), or a light olive oil.

Nutrition

Serving: 1ServingCalories: 367.75kcalCarbohydrates: 28.73gProtein: 14.38gFat: 24.43gSodium: 395.75mgFiber: 7.63g
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Love cabbage salads? Check out my Vinaigrette Slaw with Feta!

Side view of a bowl of Chicken and Cranberry Salad

Step by Step Photos

Salted Shredded Cabbage in a colander

This salad begins with cabbage, which is inexpensive, bulky, and good for you! You’ll need about 1/2 head, or 6 cups shredded. Shred your cabbage as fine as possible for this one. If you have a food processor, that makes the job easy. Once it’s shredded, place it in a colander and sprinkle salt liberally over the surface. Massage the salt into the cabbage, making sure to get all the layers at the bottom of the colander as well. Let the cabbage sit for about five minutes, or until it becomes just slightly soft and wet (the edges of the cabbage may look a little transparent). Then rinse the cabbage really, really well and let the excess water drain off.

Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing in a mason jar with lemon halves in the background

While the cabbage is doing its thing, prepare the lemon poppy seed dressing (this is a double batch pictured above). In a jar or bowl combine 1/4 cup neutral salad oil (like canola, grape seed, light olive, safflower, or untoasted sunflower), 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, 1/2 Tbsp honey, 1/4 tsp sugar, 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard, 1/4 Tbsp poppy seeds, 1/8 tsp onion powder, and 1/4 tsp salt. Whisk the ingredients together, or put a lid on the jar and shake-shake-shake until it creates an emulsion, like in the photo. Set the dressing aside.

Salad Ingredients in the bowl, not stirred together

Once the cabbage is rinsed and drained, add it to a bowl along with about one cup chopped or shredded cooked chicken, 1/2 cup sliced almonds, 1/2 cup dried cranberries, and 3 sliced green onions.

Pour on Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing onto salad ingredients

Pour on your dressing…

Mix Salad to distribute dressing

And then toss everything together! I suggest letting the salad sit for a few minutes (5-10) to let the flavors of the dressing get all up in there. 

Overhead view of Chicken and Cranberry Salad with a purple napkin and gold fork

But then it’s ready to serve! Not only is the cabbage super inexpensive and healthy, but it holds up excellently in the fridge, too. So you can eat the leftovers of this Chicken and Cranberry Salad for a few days.

Front view of a bowl of Chicken and Cranberry Salad with a gold fork

Enjoy those healthy eats!

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  1. Turned out just so-so for me, but I went ahead and gave 4 stars because I think it didn’t turn out as good as it should have because my lemons were bad so I had to sub bottled lemon juice. I think with fresh lemon this would be much better!

  2. This salad was great! I love salads for lunch but they need lots of components and variety to be a satisfying meal. I added pears and used pecans instead of almonds just because I’ve been loving them, but this is a great and flexible base recipe. The batch of dressing is perfect for just a few meals and much more cost effective than buying it. Yum!

  3. I’m making this for someone else to take on a trip, so it will sit for 1-2 days. Would you recommend dressing the salad ahead of time, or waiting until ready to eat? Does it decline after a few hours like homemade coleslaw? Thanks!

    1. Yes, it does, so if you prefer a more crunchy salad then definitely wait to dress it until right before serving. :)

  4. Do you think this technique would work with presliced cabbage, as for coleslaw?

    1. It might, but I’m not sure. Pre-shredded cabbage can be a bit more dry than freshly shredded cabbage, so the salt might not be able to coax as much moisture out.

  5. Love! Can’t find my poppyseeds, so it isn’t as pretty. A great weeknight dinner.

    1. This is even better than I remembered! I forgot the sliced almonds, and I have to admit that I missed them. Otherwise, it was delicous. I served it as part of a New Year’s Eve dinner party, and despite its humble ingredients, it was special enough for a holiday celebration.

  6. This was delicious. I subbed faux chicken strips for a vegetarian version. My new go-to lunch to pack for work. 

  7. Just tried the lemon poppy dressing over some couscous with lentils and veggies. 5 stars!