I Tried Padma Lakshmi’s Favorite Chicken Salad and I’ll Never Make It Another Way

published Sep 1, 2023
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Close up of plated tandoori chicken salad.
Credit: Lena Abraham

As the dog days of summer roll on, I find myself constantly craving bright, crispy, hydrating salads. So when I came across this ultra-colorful tandoori chicken salad via author, model, television host, and all-around icon Padma Lakshmi, I knew I needed to try it. Lakshmi utilizes the chicken’s yogurt marinade as a dressing for the salad, which is an intriguing technique that really sparked my interest — waste not, want not! 

How to Make Padma Lakshmi’s Tandoori Chicken Salad

Credit: Lena Abraham
  1. In a large bowl, stir together nonfat plain yogurt, garam masala, ground ginger, minced garlic, ground turmeric, salt, and (optionally) a seeded and minced jalapeño pepper.
  2. Next, gently flatten boneless, skinless chicken breasts and slice them into 1/2-inch-thick strips. Add chicken to the bowl with yogurt marinade, stir well, cover, and refrigerate while you assemble your salad.
  3. In a large salad bowl, combine shredded iceberg lettuce, shredded red cabbage, diced plum tomatoes, sliced cucumber, diced jicama, sliced radishes, finely chopped scallions, and finely chopped cilantro leaves. Toss to combine.
  4. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat canola oil. Add the chicken and marinade and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes.
  5. Transfer chicken and pan juices to the bowl with the salad. Add lemon juice to taste (I used 2 small lemons) and toss well to combine.

My Honest Review of Padma Lakshmi’s Tandoori Chicken Salad

Crunchy, fresh, and surprisingly hearty, I thoroughly enjoyed this salad. The juicy brightness of the chopped veggies was super satisfying, but it was the chicken that really stole the show. Lightly golden, perfectly seasoned, and incredibly tender, the chicken was the perfect texture to pair with crunchy raw vegetables. I also loved the generous serving of finely chopped cilantro and scallions, making for a much more flavorful bite. A good dose of fresh lemon juice perked up the flavor even more, and once incorporated into the salad, it mixed with the extra chicken marinade to form a light but flavorful dressing.

Did I miss croutons? Yes. Would croutons have defeated the purpose of this salad, as it’s intended to be Mediterranean diet-friendly? Also yes. I just always want croutons. I also think roasted chickpeas would be great if you too crave something crunchy in your salad.

Two Tips for Making Padma Lakshmi’s Tandoori Chicken Salad

  1. Use a mandoline if you’ve got one. This salad requires quite a bit of chopping! A mandoline will cut down on prep time significantly and will result in more uniformly sliced ingredients.
  2. Meal prep the chicken. If you like to meal prep, you can absolutely cook the chicken ahead of time. Just make sure to scrape all the extra marinade into your resealable container along with the chicken. Pre-cooked chicken is actually ideal if you’d like your veggies as fresh as possible, as they tend to wilt slightly when the hot, just-cooked chicken is added.