Have you ever done a web search for copycat recipes? There are even published cookbooks boasting “top secret” versions of fast food dishes like Cinnabon cinnamon rolls and KFC fried chicken. This phenomenon fascinates me, as I have to say most of the restaurant food I’ve found worthy of trying to replicate isn’t the kind you can get at a chain.
All my food snobbery aside, though, I obviously stumbled upon the wealth of options because I was looking for something to replicate myself. I do have a soft spot for one certain chain called Houston’s. There used to be one in Georgetown, where my father, sister and I all went to college. Suffice it to say I have years’ worth of memories that include the restaurant’s spinach & artichoke dip, sandwiches and my favorite grilled chicken salad.
I don’t get to DC much these days, and sadly the restaurant closed while I was still an undergrad. In the years since I’ve visited other outposts in NJ and MA, but the trips have been few and far between. The arrival of grilling weather brought an urge for grilled chicken, which lead to cravings for that delicious chicken salad.
Houston’s description of the salad is “grilled chicken, local greens, peanut sauce and lime vinaigrette.” The two sauces definitely give it an Asian flair, and the lime contrasted with the peanut is one of my favorite flavor combinations. The description neglects to mention to crispy tortilla strips that top the salad, that give just the right amount of saltiness and crunch.
There are a ton of copycat versions of the recipe out there, so clearly I’m not alone in my adoration of the salad! None of the recipes I found won me over, so I decided to come up with my own. If you’ve had the chance to eat at Houston’s and have had this salad, I’d love your feedback!
“Copycat” Houston’s Grilled Chicken Salad
1/4 cup gluten-free soy sauce
1/4 cup raw almond butter (or nut butter of choice)
1 tbs. freshly grated ginger
2 small cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs palm or brown sugar
1 tbs. sesame oil
2 tbs. rice wine vinegar
Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Put in refrigerator for at least half hour before serving, as this allows it to thicken up a bit.
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
4 tbs. honey mustard
1 packet stevia (or about 1 tsp. sweetener of choice)
juice of one lime
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 chopped green onions
1/4 tsp. pepper
pinch of salt
Mix all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for one minute to infuse oil with the lime. Allow to cool in fridge before serving
homemade tortilla strips:
4 organic tortillas, cut into strips
1 tbs. olive oil
salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 400. Toss strips with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until crisp.
1/2-1 lb. grilled chicken breast, cut into strips
mixed greens (I also mixed in some baby spinach)
grated carrot, cucumber and/or vegetables of choice (red pepper would be great! I just forgot to buy one…)
To make salad, top greens and vegetables with grilled chicken. Evenly dress with lime vinaigrette and peanut sauce. Scatter tortilla strips on top.
If you’re worried this isn’t a kid-friendly dinner, you can certainly modify what part of you it you serve to your kids. Mine ate their chicken with a little peanut sauce drizzled on top, along with the lettuce and vegetables. The tortilla strips were naturally a big hit as well. The vinaigrette wasn’t their speed, but otherwise they ate just about everything.
Vegans and vegetarians, I highly recommend both dressings! They would work with any number of vegetarian options (the peanut sauce would taste delicious with cold noodles too).