Panera Bread is famous for their drool-worthy salads. They just seem to have a knack for combining ingredients that have the right amount of sweetness, tang and crunch — and their Fuji apple chicken salad is no exception. While we love going to Panera and ordering this salad, it’s hard to resist also buying a dozen of their cookies. That’s where our copycat version of the recipe, inspired by Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice, comes in.
It has the same ingredients and flavor and you can eat it in the comfort of your home anytime — without being talked into cookies. Oh, you can still eat homemade cookies afterwards. We don’t judge.
Making this salad at home starts with the base salad: a mixture of the field greens and chopped romaine gives your salad the right texture and flavor. A bag of mixed salad greens from the supermarket typically contains a blend of Swiss chard, arugula, radicchio, baby romaine, frisee and baby spinach. Add in a couple of cups of chopped leafy romaine and you have your base.
Fuji apples are the star of the show and are known for their sweet crunch, making them perfect for salads and pies. Gala apples make a good substitute, as they are also on the sweeter end of the spectrum and are delicious in salads. If you want this salad to be less sweet and more tart, consider a Red Delicious or Honeycrisp apple.
Feta cheese compliments the sweetness of the Fuji apple. However if you aren’t a fan of feta, ricotta salata cheese has the same crumbly texture, but isn’t as salty. If you do use ricotta salata, you may need to add a few dashes of salt to get the same flavor. Goat cheese is another great option, and it also contains the salty kick you need for this salad. For those that want a dairy-free option, tofu cheeses are a good substitute.
For the chicken in this salad, you can save yourself a step and pick up a rotisserie chicken at the market. If you want to add that special homemade touch, rub olive oil on chicken breasts, season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder and bake until cooked through and no longer pink. Either way, shred the cooled chicken with a couple of forks for chops into small pieces.
The “special sauce” of the salad is definitely the dressing and it brings the whole thing together. The dressing the right blend of honey, white wine vinegar and Dijon mustard to balance out the sweet with the tang. But it’s not done yet! The addition of apple chips brings the flavor up to a whole other level. You can crunch up a few apple chips and mix into the salad, however laying a few whole pieces on top of the salad makes for a great presentation. Sprinkle in a few toasted pecans (trust us, the toasting really brings the flavor up a notch!) and you have a copycat Fuji Apple Chicken Salad that puts the real deal to shame.
Mix extra virgin olive oil into the honey, white wine vinegar and dijon mustard dressing
You can also buy the Panera Fuji apple vinaigrette dressing at the grocery store or online for just $3.99.
Add mixed field greens to leafy romaine
Most bags of mixed field greens available at the store contain kale, spinach, and radicchio. Although romaine lettuce is high in minerals, mixed field greens typically yield more nutritional benefits such as fiber and micronutrients like calcium, potassium and magnesium.
Top salad base with shredded chicken
You can buy shredded chicken from the store or make it yourself at home. An easy way to make shredded chicken is to boil chicken breasts in broth for 20-30 minutes. Let the chicken cook until it can easily be shredded on a cutting board with two forks.
Add Fuji apple slices
Fuji apples have a higher amount of sugar in them (as do Honeycrisp apples) which is why they taste sweeter than McIntosh, Red or Granny apples.
Pour feta cheese on top of chicken and apple slices
This brined curd white cheese originated in Greece and is made from sheep’s milk or a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk. One serving contains zero carbohydrates (zero!) and five grams of protein. While it’s high in sodium and cholesterol, feta is a good source of protein, vitamin B12, calcium and phosphorus.
Add sliced red onions
Onions are healthiest when eaten raw, and while they might give you “onion breath,” you can get rid of it by eating parsley!
Tip: Don’t worry about buying organic onions. Because the smell of onions is so pungent, they repel pests and are typically not highly sprayed with pesticides.
Add toasted pecans
You can buy toasted pecans at the store or do the toasting yourself at home. There are several ways to toast pecans but the most common are in the oven or on a skillet with butter or coconut oil and any spices you’d like.
You can also buy apple chips at the store or make them yourself. To make them at home, all you need is thinly sliced apples, white sugar and ground cinnamon. They do take 45 minutes to cook in the oven, though!
Pour dressing over salad
Pour as much dressing as you’d like but don’t forget, you can also serve the salad with the dressing on the side so guests can dress to their own desire.
This copycat Panera Fuji apple chicken salad tastes just like the real thing
Make your favorite Panera salad at home and have leftovers to enjoy later.