Honey, Pomegranate, Pecan Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps are light, fresh, and mayo-free. Perfect for a refreshing lunch or dinner!
Happy Monday, everyone, welcome to a new week!
This weekend my Mom and I took our annual Christmas shopping trip to the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN! We started the tradition when I lived in Minneapolis after college and have kept it going, gulp, 10 years and a move to Iowa later. We were up and outta town before 7am and arrived, ready to shop, at 10:45.
After shopping for five hours at the mall, and another two at the neighboring IKEA where I bought ALL THE BLACK FRAMES for my gallery wall for UNDER $100 (I was sick waiting in line thinking the bill was going to be sky high then nearly shook the register girl with relief when my total rang up to $97. #onlyatIKEA) – we were wiped! (And how beautiful is my fabulous Mom, by the way?!)
A quick stop at the hotel to freshen up revived us for dinner plans with three of my favorite ladies who live in town – Lindsey, Lea, and Ellen. I texted the girls last minute to see if everyone was free to get together and, despite the weather which had taken a turn for the worse during the day, everyone could make it!
I went to high school with Lindsey and Ellen, and met Lea in college, and am lucky to call all three some of my closest friends. We had so much fun talking babies, husbands, and beyond between bites and sips. This has been such a wonderful month of serendipitous girlfriend get-togethers, and November’s only halfway through! The icing on the cake was having my Mom and Lindsey’s Mom (aka the photographers) with us too. (PS we ate at CRAVE in the mall – pretty good and a great gluten-free menu!)
My Mom and I hit the road early Sunday morning and arrived home around lunchtime. I dropped my bags and rushed to say hello to the boys but my sweet Lincoln was having none of it – sob! (Anyone else’s young children get furious when you leave town, even just for a night?!) After a nap and Cheerio snack I had my buddy back so I had Ben drag the tree up from it’s hiding spot in the basement and we started “decorating” it together, aka me furiously stringing the lights up before Lincoln could knock the whole thing down (this should be an interesting next couple of months.) It’s still a WIP – I see this taking several days to finish with the help of my wee elf – but it was a festive way to finish this fun, holiday-themed weekend!
Speaking of the holidays, we all know they’re a time of abundance and indulgence, so today I wanted to share a lighter recipe that you can feel good about eating after overindulging on heavy holiday foods – Mayo-Free Honey, Pomegranate, Pecan Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps!
I’ve had the combo of chopped chicken tossed with sweet-tart pomegranate seeds, crispy green onions, and buttery pecans smothered in a cool and creamy honey-Dijon-spiked Greek yogurt dressing, then stuffed into fresh lettuce leaves, on my mind for months now and thought this would be the perfect time to share it.
If your holidays are anything like my family’s, they’re brimming with rich and indulgent foods that are more than great-tasting. They’re tradition! Since they only make an appearance two or three times a year I don’t feel a bit guilty savoring all my favorites. The next day though? Totally craving something light and healthy, like these chicken salad lettuce wraps.
Sweet and tart, creamy and crunchy, fresh and light – they are awesome. Better yet, the chicken salad mix stays good for 3-4 days afterwards so you can enjoy lettuce wraps for lunch all week long. PLUS this dish would be perfect to use leftover Thanksgiving turkey in. It’s a simple turkey for chicken swap!
I’m a firm believer in eating with our eyes first, and this colorful combination of red and green is so inviting. Packed with protein and satisfying flavors – you’ve got to give this recipe a try this holiday season!
Start by cooking 1 large chicken breast (this recipe will serve 1-2 but is easily scalable to feed more.) You could use fresh or leftover sauteed, grilled, or rotisserie chicken, though I almost always prefer poaching chicken for chicken salad. All you’ll need to do is drop the chicken into a pot of boiling, salted water for about 10 minutes or until cooked through. When it’s cool enough to handle, chop it up!
Meanwhile, make the mayo-free dressing for the chicken salad. I don’t have a huge aversion to mayonnaise, I just really like this dressing made with cool and creamy Greek yogurt accented with a drizzle of honey. Add 4oz plain Greek yogurt, 2-1/2 teaspoons honey, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and plenty of salt and pepper to a large bowl then mix to combine.
Next get the other ingredients ready, starting with 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds or arils. I think I was 26 or 27 the first time I ever had a fresh pomegranate. They just weren’t around a whole lot growing up, and it’s really only been in the last four or five years that they’ve become a grocery store staple in the fall and wintertime.
If you’re in the same boat I 100% encourage you to give them a try sometime. Pomegranate seeds are like little culinary jewels vacuum-packed with sweet-tart juice, and are higher in antioxidants than red wine and green tea. Love ‘em! Trader Joe’s and Costco sell pomegranate seeds out of the fruit, but if you can’t find them, or want to save a few bucks (they can be pretty pricey) I’ll show you how to seed a pomegranate yourself.
Start by picking a pomegranate with a deep red hue that’s largely unblemished (though a few scuff marks are fine,) and is heavy for its size. Pick a few up and you’ll be able to tell which ones are heavier than others. Wash the pomegranate then use a sharp knife to cut halfway down the fruit through the blossom end. Tuck your thumbs inside the cut then pry the two halves apart. I like this partial cut method vs cutting all the way through as it preserves more seeds and prevents the juice from seeping out everywhere.
(FYI don’t wear white when handling pomegranates as the juice can stain!)
Partially cut each half using the same method to create quarters. Isn’t this just the prettiest sight you’ve ever seen?
Now it’s time to get all those juicy seeds out! There are a few popular methods for de-seeding a pomegranate, but the following is my tried and true method which produces zero mess and only takes about 5 minutes total.
Fill a large bowl with cold water then submerge one of the pomegranate quarters inside and use your fingers to pop the seeds out (they should loosen easily.) Do the same with the remaining three quarters then scoop out any pith that rises to the top.
Give the seeds a good rinse while picking out any pieces of pith that you might have missed, then you’re set!
Each medium-sized pomegranate should yield about 1-1/2 cups pomegranate seeds. They are FABULOUS when sprinkled onto salads, oatmeal, yogurt, or just popped like skittles. You can even use them to make fresh pomegranate juice!
For this recipe they’re combined with a cast of savory characters including the aforementioned chicken plus 1/4 cup pecans halves that have been roughly chopped, and 1 chopped green onion.
Add the ingredients to the honey-Greek yogurt dressing then mix until everything is well coated.
Finally, prep the lettuce wraps. I adore butterhead lettuce for wraps. I’ve used them before for my Kung Pao Chicken Lettuce Wraps and Thai Steak Lettuce Wraps because they’re the perfect size for a 3-4 bite handheld lettuce wrap. That said, if you can’t find this type of lettuce around you, use regular iceberg, Boston bibb, or even endive instead!
Scoop the chicken salad onto the lettuce leaves, garnish with a few fresh pomegranate seeds, then enjoy!
Honey, Pomegranate, Pecan Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps
Serves 1-2 (easily scalable for more)
1 large chicken breast (7-8oz,) cooked then chopped or shredded
1/4 cup fresh pomegranate seeds, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup pecan halves, roughly chopped
1 green onion, chopped
4oz plain Greek yogurt
2-1/2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
Butterhead lettuce leaves, or any other lettuce with a big leaf
- Combine Greek yogurt, honey, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper in a large bowl then stir to combine. Add chicken, pomegranate seeds, chopped pecans, and green onion then mix to combine. Taste then adjust salt and pepper if necessary, and then scoop into lettuce leaves and serve.
- Tip: This chicken salad will keep well in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Honey, Pomegranate, Pecan Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps are TOTAL feel good food! Chicken salad is such a popular lunch-time staple but I really thing the addition of juicy pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of honey gives this version a little somethin’ somethin’ over other versions. Enjoy!