Fresh arugula comes together with crispy crumbled bacon, chopped nuts, zesty mandarin orange and tangy goat cheese for the Best Arugula Salad. Serve with grilled chicken and a balsamic vinaigrette for a well rounded meal!
Have you ever had a salad so good that you actually craved it? This arugula salad is that salad for me. It’s packed to the brim with fun goodies and hits every flavor and texture note while still being a pretty good-for-you lunch!
We found this salad at a local Italian market and lunch type place in town, and although their sandwiches are good, I was in a mood for a salad and decided to give their arugula salad a chance. It wound up being such a good salad that I knew I had to go home and make it myself.
This salad is such a winner because it has a little bit of every flavor to keep a salad interesting and not your sad lettuce, one topping and a dressing type salad. Here’s what’s inside.
- Crispy chopped bacon
- Chopped walnuts (I substituted pecans because I was out of walnuts and it was still PERFECT)
- Mandarin orange wedges
- Crumbled goat cheese
- Grilled chicken
- Balsamic vinaigrette (I substituted a champagne vinaigrette and it was also still a good choice!)
Please see the recipe card for quantities.
The most time intensive part of this recipe will be cooking your chicken and bacon to top the salad with. I have been putting my bacon in the oven on a baking sheet for years now, and I hardly ever cook it on the frying pan anymore. (Because let’s face it - who wants to risk getting splattered with screaming hot bacon grease? Nope, not me or you either.)
While the bacon is in the oven and the chicken is being grilled or cooked on the stovetop, you have time to prep the rest of the ingredients so when it’s time to assemble, you have everything mise en place. (I never went to culinary school, but learning this term made so much sense to me - especially when I was starting to film my own cooking videos. Having everything prepared ahead of time to add in when it’s needed is such a nice way to cook in your kitchen. If you haven’t tried this out yet, you should!)
Nuts get chopped, oranges get peeled and sectioned and the goat cheese log gets cut and crumbled as well. Once the bacon and chicken have cooled a little, those can also be chopped into small pieces so they can be added to the best arugula salad.
Once all the rest of the ingredients are prepped, assembling the salad is the easy part! Layer the arugula on the bottom, and add the rest of the ingredients to your heart’s content on top. I add the chicken second, bacon next, pecans (or walnuts), orange sections, goat cheese and then dressing on top. Give it a good stir and then dig in!
Of course, any time you choose to make a substitution, it will alter the original recipe. However, if you are in a pinch and would like to make this salad but don't have all the ingredients, here are a few substitutions that I believe would work.
- Pecans in place of walnuts (I did this and it worked perfectly)
- Feta in place of goat cheese
- Apple slices instead of oranges
- Dried cranberries (craisins) instead of mandarin oranges
The key here is to substitute one item from each "category" equally. So, as long as you're replacing a nut with another nut and a protein with a protein, you should find yourself with a fairly pleasing salad. Some combinations will obviously work better than others, but if you believe flavors will work together, try it out! I love goat cheese, apples, spring mix greens, candied nuts and chicken with a balsamic dressing.
- For easy bacon baking and no stovetop splatters, I love baking on my Nordicware baking sheets
- For that classic "grilled" chicken look without having to actually own a grill OR go outside, a nonstick grill pan
This salad stores fairly well in the refrigerator as long as the dressing isn't added until you're ready to eat. I had it as a leftover the next day and it was still very tasty and the arugula didn't get weird at all. I would say it's best to consume within 2 days of preparing it if you prefer to prepare your lunches ahead of time.
These containers are my favorite for packing lunch to go to work with.
- 3 cups arugula
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 strips crispy bacon, crumbled
- 5 ounces grilled chicken
- 1 mandarin orange, peeled
- 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts
- 1 ounce goat cheese, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
- On a medium sized plate or bowl, add arugula.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Line baking sheet with foil and lay strips of bacon flat. Bake for around 25 minutes or until desired crispiness is reached. Alternatively, you can fry the bacon in a frying pan by frying for approximately 3 minutes per side over a medium high flame. When bacon is cooked, allow to cool and then chop into crumbled bacon pieces. Set aside.
- While bacon is cooking, heat a medium sized frying pan over a medium high flame. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to grease the pan. Cook chicken until done, about 5 minutes per side or until middle is cooked to internal temperature of 165°F. After chicken is done cooking, allow to cool slightly. Slice into strips and set aside.
- Peel and section one mandarin orange. Set aside.
- Using a sharp knife, chop walnuts into smaller pieces to sprinkle on salad. Set aside.
- Place arugula on a plate or bowl and layer the chicken, bacon, crumbled goat cheese, chopped walnuts and mandarin sections. Top with vinaigrette and enjoy!
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 400Total Fat: 21gCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 36g
Did you love this salad? Leave a comment and review below - it helps other readers want to make this arugula salad, too!