Deconstructed Pesto Spinach Salad with Grilled Chicken

Deconstructed Pesto Spinach Salad with Chicken Recipe via Worthy Pause

It's pesto... but without a food processor or a blender in sight!

Before I share this awesome summer salad for when it's too hot to cook, I want to give idea credit where it's due. Part of my 9-to-5 involves recipe development, and I was working on a pesto pizza a couple of months ago. One of the test kitchen geniuses, Maggie, had the most brilliant idea to deconstruct the pesto and use all the ingredients like toppings instead. And she also did all the heavy lifting to make it happen. And, of course, it was SO good! 

Anyway, inspired by Maggie, I decided to try making a salad this way and also loved how it turned out. I mean, it's not pizza... but it is another win on my quest to force myself to eat more salad and less pizza.

Deconstructed Pesto Spinach Salad with Chicken Recipe via Worthy Pause

Deconstructed Pesto Spinach Salad with Grilled Chicken

gluten-free recipe (paleo + whole30-friendly without the cheese) | serves 2


  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1.5 T lemon juice (more if desired)
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 bag of baby spinach (6 oz), chopped
  • 2 chicken breasts, lightly seasoned, grilled and chilled (or hot, either way) and sliced
  • 1/3+ cup fresh basil chopped
  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes (either fresh or — even better —slow-roasted!)
  • 2 T pine nuts
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to taste


  1. Whisk the dressing (garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper) and set aside.
  2. Assemble your salad with spinach, chicken, fresh basil and tomatoes.
  3. Toss the salad with the dressing.
  4. Top with pine nuts and freshly grated parmesan.


  • Always chop your salad. No one can eat large pieces of lettuce gracefully. Don't be a hero.
  • Spinach and basil don't hold up very well once they are chopped, so this salad is best served fresh. It won't keep that well if you make it too far ahead of time (even if you hold the dressing until later).
  • If you want to know how to make the best roasted tomatoes, here you go. I often make a batch on the weekend to throw into things like this throughout the week.
  • Grab a rotisserie chicken for a shortcut on the protein.
  • Hold the Parmesan if you're not into dairy. Hold the chicken if you're not into chicken.