Leftover Chicken and Fennel Salad

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A quick and easy grain salad using leftover chicken and fresh fennel.


This refreshing quinoa salad is a quintessential recipe for spring and summer entertaining.

I can still remember the first time I tried quinoa. I was 20, and attending a family member’s 70th birthday celebration at a house in the mountains. I remember it because it was one of the last big family events that my grandparents attended (they attended my wedding about a decade later), and my grandmother enjoyed one too many wine spritzers. For years to follow, my grandfather enjoyed telling the story about how she puked out the window of the moving vehicle like the good old days when they were newly weds.

A quick and easy grain salad using leftover chicken and fresh fennel.

Everyone had been asked to bring a dish, potluck style. Back in those days, I was a risk taker and would often randomly choose a recipe I’d found in a magazine without trying it beforehand. 

I did it all the time with moderate success, with a couple of huge blunders.

Fortunately, my first introduction with quinoa proved to be fruitful. In fact, years later, family members are still asking for that recipe much to my embarrassment (after making the recipe, I threw away the magazine). It sort of pressured me to begin experimenting with ingredients in order to recreate that magical recipe years earlier. It also led me to experimenting with other grains such as amaranth, farro, wheat berries, and even rye berries, any of which are delicious in this salad as an alternative to quinoa. While that original recipe was vegetarian-friendly (not vegan because if memory serves me correctly I used feta cheese), this quinoa salad serves as a vessel to use up left over chicken, which brings me to a whole other story involving my husband and his refusal to eat leftovers.

A quick and easy grain salad using leftover chicken and fresh fennel.

Except this salad. It took a few tries and subbing out an ingredient here and there, but he’ll eat leftover chicken when it’s in this salad. That’s a major win in my book. I’ve used leftover rotisserie chicken, smoked/grilled chicken, and even baked chicken and they’re all interchangeable in this salad, play around and see which one you and your family prefer! Don’t be afraid to add red onions or summer squash when you find yourself swimming in zucchini in the middle of summer.

While I’m not typically a white wine drinker, I find myself reaching for Vina Robles sauvignon blanc, which has become one of my favorite white wines to enjoy when the temperature is inching closer to 90º or above and has made joining their wine club a worthy quarterly expense. You’re going to want to keep a spare bottle or two lying around for last minute barbecues or when your air conditioner goes out and you’re in need of instant relief.

A quick and easy grain salad using leftover chicken and fresh fennel.
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Leftover Chicken & Fennel Salad
This recipe is the perfect use for leftover chicken and grains. I like to use a combination of quinoa and farro. Don't be afraid to add other vegetables to the salad you may have on hand.
  • 2 cups, chopped cooked chicken
  • 4 cups, cooked cooked quinoa (or other grain)
  • 1 cup, diced fennel
  • 1 1/2 cups, trimmed snow peas
  • 3 teaspoons chopped fresh chives or fennel fronds
  • 1 teaspoon, stemmed fresh thyme
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • champagne vinegar 2 1/2 tablespoons
  • 1, minced garlic clove
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • to taste salt and pepper
In a large bowl, combine the grain, chicken, snow peas, fennel, and most of the herbs. Set aside.In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, lemon zest, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.Add the dressing to the salad and toss to evenly coat. Serve with remaining herbs and season to taste.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 servings