Excuse me, but I have a mouth full of skinny tandoori chicken caesar salad. Um, what? SKINNY caesar salad? SKINNY TANDOORI CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD? Yes, yes, a thousand time yes! I feel like my flavor world has imploded, with the combination of my guilty pleasure- rich,creamy, caloriffic caesar salad- and spicy, charry tandoori chicken and naan-tons. More on the naan-tons later. This is real life. With real flavor. If I could put life on a plate and serve it up with a mint-cilantro dressing, this is exactly what it would look like because real show-stopping goodness and healthy eating without actually feeling like you’re eating “diet food” is the greatness I aspire to. Because food, my dear friends, is meant to be enjoyed, savored, and devoured with pleasure. You can actually eat good-for-you meals without have them drown in an ocean of butter/cream/oil. I promise.
My tandoori chicken caesar salad has marinated, grilled, warm pieces of chicken breast added to a bed of that delicious, fresh romaine. Topped with homemade naan croutons or naan-tons, lightly sprinkled with sea salt, freshly shaved shards of nutty parmesan (ALWAYS freshly shaved). That parm rind makes me –> ?. Every single time. And the final piece: a much lighter, creamy dressing, infused with mint and cilantro, and a fraction of the fat and calories of regular caesar dressing.
I’m not a person who likes to go grocery shopping. Or putting away said groceries. It’s one of my highly detested tasks, pretty high up there with folding laundry. So going to the store for ONE ingredient is not something I am ever a fan of. This time it was for a tandoori masalaa, or spice mix. Nope, not happening. I’ll go through my cabinets and doctor something up but please don’t make me go grocery shopping! Lucky for me, I had all the ingredients on hand to whip up my own batch of tandoori masaala, and I could taste the freshness with every bite of the chicken. Like a part of me wanted to stand up on top of the kitchen table and declare that I would never used a pre-ground spice mix again. Maybe even introduce a bill in congress. I get it though- pre-ground= fast and efficient and that’s 100% acceptable on days when you just want to be done with it. I saw tandoori chicken mix at Target the other day, in the ethnic foods aisle but any indian/pakistani grocery store will carry it too. Otherwise you can use my recipe.
But let’s back up. Tandoori chicken gets its name from the special clay oven that it’s cooked in, along with naan. The result is charred, moist, spiced, flavorful chicken that is incomparable. Most of us are not fortunate enough to own a tandoor (maybe one day, in my dream kitchen/yard!), so you have to make do with what you have. Grilling the chicken on a gas or charcoal grill will get similar results, which was my original plan. Then it started raining so I ended up using a grill pan and grilled the chicken stovetop. But because I was missing out on that charred flavor, I added liquid smoke to my marinade- best. idea. ever.
And the naan croutons. Or as I lovingly call them, naan-tons. Need I say more? N-A-A-N. Naan, a chewy flatbread also cooked in the tandoor is a perfect pair for tandoori chicken and is often inseparable for me. So even if we’re transforming tandoori chicken into a caesar salad, we won’t be leaving the naan behind. Instead, cut the naan into 1/2-inch pieces, coat with cooking spray (or 1/2 tsp of olive oil), sprinkle on sea salt and toast until nice and crispy. The result: naan perfection. The naan has a smoky flavor you can’t find in regular ole’ croutons. The closest substitute that I found is pita chips. So go ahead and indulge.
OHMYGOSH guys, this dressing. This dressing. THIS. DRESSING. You will not be able to tell it’s a skinny dressing–it doesn’t taste like “low fat” food and that’s because all of the ingredients are fresh. I don’t even know why I used to buy dressing. I’m that serious. I’m questioning all of my life choices now.
Over the last year, I’ve cut back significantly on bottled dressing and the result is fresher, more flavorful, HEALTHIER dressings. Who says healthy has to be boring? Like the dressing here or the sauce in these platters, or the sriracha cream sauce here; all of these sauces and dressings are anything but boring, and filled with fresh ingredients sans preservatives. But let’s talk about this cilantro-mint, creamy caesar dressing today. This dressing is packed with a full, overflowing cup of herbs that gives it a bright pop. I also replaced most of the oil, cheese, and mayo with fat-free greek yogurt and freshly grated parmesan. Get the stuff with the rind- it makes all the difference! Add some dijon mustard ? and little bit of worcestershire sauce, like the original caesar dressing, and the flavor is amazeballs. No one can even tell that it’s made with fat-free yogurt.
FOR THE SALAD:
- 1 lb chicken breast, cut and flattened into 4 cutlets
- 4 tbsp tandoori masaala (recipe follows), or less for milder flavor
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp minced ginger
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup fat-free greek yogurt
- 2 medium romaine hearts, chopped
- 1/2 large parmesan shards (more if desired)
- 3 medium naan, cut into 1/2 inch squares
- sea salt for sprinkling
- oil or cooking spray for grilling chicken and coating naan
- fresh black pepper, if desired
FOR THE DRESSING:
- 1/4 cup fat-free greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 3 tbsp hot water (to thin out if needed)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup mint, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- juice and zest of one lemon
FOR THE TANDOORI MASAALA:
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp red chili powder (add more for spicier marinade)
- 5 green cardamom pods
- 3 black cardamom pods
- 5 cloves
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp whole peppercorns
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp liquid smoke
- red food coloring (optional)
MAKE THE TANDOORI MASAALA: In a medium skillet, over medium heat, add green and black cardamom pods, cloves, cumin, bay leaves, peppercorns, and cinnamon sticks and toast until fragrant, about 5 mins, moving the spices around in the pan, to prevent burning. Place all the toasted ingredients, salt turmeric, and red chili powder in a coffee grinder/spice grinder/blender and grind into a fine powder.
MAKE THE MARINADE: In a medium bowl, whisk together the tandoori masaala, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, yogurt, and red food coloring (if using). Add chicken and coat completely. Refrigerate and marinate for at least 30 minutes*.
PREPARE THE DRESSING: Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
TOAST THE CROUTONS: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray naan pieces with cooking spray and sprinkle salt and toss well to coat. Place in a single layer, on a baking sheet and toast for 12-15 mins, until golden brown and crispy. Set aside to cool.
ASSEMBLE THE SALAD: while the croutons are toasting, grill the chicken until juices run clear. Let chicken rest for 5 minutes while prepping salad. In a large bowl, add lettuce and top with parmesan shards and cooled naan croutons. Dice chicken into large pieces and place on top of chicken. Pour in dressing and toss to coat.Serve immediately with fresh cracked pepper if desired.
* The longer the chicken marinates, the better the flavor. I usually marinate the chicken overnight, in bigger batches.
Did you make this or another manna & spice recipe?
I’d love to see your results! Leave a comment on this page and/or upload a picture on instagram with the hashtag #mannaandspice.