This is a dinner salad for pasta-lovers. Creamy Caesar-dressed orzo and bite-sized pieces of crispy, lemony chicken breast are layered over a bed of crunchy chopped romaine and tomatoes in a hybrid meal that brings the ease and satisfaction of pasta night to a vibrant, dinner-ready salad.
Crispy Chicken Caesar Orzo Salad: Watch the Video
Treat the Orzo Like You're Making a Pasta Salad
When making this recipe, I want you to treat the grains of orzo just as if you were making a pasta salad. You'll want to start by cooking them just short of being al dente, so they hold on to some of their toothsome bite. Once drained, the warm orzo is tossed with a few spoonfuls of Caesar dressing, which will both flavor the pasta and soften its bite.
Our Favorite Way to Make Crispy Chicken for Salads
Jacques Pepin's technique for making crispy chicken — without the mess of a three-step breading process — is our favorite way to make crispy, juicy chicken breast for salad. The magic ingredient is Wondra — a type of cooked flour that won't clump when it touches water. Once cooked, chicken tossed in Wondra has a light and crispy coating that we can't resist.
Read more: Jacques Pépin's Garlic Chicken Breasts
Crispy Chicken Caesar Orzo Salad
dry orzo pasta (about 8 ounces)
1 1/2 cups
grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
Caesar salad dressing (store-bought or homemade), divided
1 1/2 pounds
boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch cubes
Wondra or all-purpose flour
freshly ground black pepper
freshly squeezed lemon juice
coarsely chopped romaine lettuce (from 1 medium heart)
shaved Parmesan cheese
Bring a large saucepan of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until barely al dente, 6 to 7 minutes. Drain, then transfer to a medium bowl. Add the tomatoes and 1/4 cup of the dressing, and stir until evenly coated; set aside.
Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and place in a medium bowl. Add the flour, salt, and pepper and toss to coat. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet, preferably nonstick, over high heat until shimmering and very hot but not smoking. Add the chicken cubes and cook in one layer, turning occasionally, until cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the lemon juice and butter and sauté for 1 minute longer, shaking the skillet occasionally to coat the chicken; set aside off the heat.
Place the lettuce and remaining 1/4 cup dressing in a medium bowl and toss to combine. Divide the lettuce between serving bowls, then top with the warm orzo and tomato mixture, chicken, and shaved Parmesan. Serve warm.
Storage: Leftovers will keep for 1 day stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.