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Crispy Chicken Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

Serves 4-5     adjust servings

A refreshing crispy chicken salad recipe with lots of greens, fresh red tomatoes, avocados, and some cucumbers for even more crunch. All drizzled with the most amazing ranch dressing! I'm not usually a salad person but honestly, you add fried chicken to just about anything and I'm in. It's so good!


For the crispy chicken buttermilk marinade

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 and 1/2 pound frozen chicken tenderloins, thawed

For the chicken shake

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup tempura mix
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons dry chicken bouillon powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

To fry

  • several cups of oil, enough to fill a wide skillet about 1 inch high

To assemble

  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce
  • 3 cups baby spinach, sliced
  • 1 medium cucumber, quartered and sliced
  • 6-8 tomatoes, sliced into wedges
  • 2-3 avocados, sliced
  • homemade ranch dressing, click for recipe


  1. If you are making homemade ranch dressing, make it now so it has time to marinate.
  2. Begin by marinating the chicken: In a large bowl combine 2 cups buttermilk, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 3/4 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add more if you like it spicy), 1 large egg, and 2 and 1/2 pounds of thawed boneless chicken. I bought a bag of frozen chicken tenderloins (and thawed them first). I like tenderloins because they are nice and small. I don't like big thick pieces of fried chicken. But you can use any kind of chicken you like!
  3. Stir the marinade together and make sure all the chicken is coated well. Let marinate in the fridge for at least an hour, or up to 24 hours.
  4. When you are ready to fry, prepare the dry chicken shake: In a large ziplock bag, add all the dry ingredients: 1 cup flour, 1 cup tempura mix (I found it in the store next to the fresh seafood, check on the baking aisle by cornmeal as well*), 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal, 4 teaspoons kosher salt (yes really), 2 teaspoons onion powder, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons dry chicken bouillon powder, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/8 or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. (Add 1 teaspoon or more if you like spicy fried chicken!)
  5. Get the chicken out of the fridge. Use your hands to let each chicken piece drip off for a few seconds, then add it to the bag and move it around to coat. Add each piece one at a time, trying to coat as you go. When you've added it all, zip it up and shake it like a polaroid. Use your hands to separate any chicken pieces that are sticking together and coat them with the flour mixture.
  6. Put the ziplock bag in the freezer for about 15 minutes or up to an hour. If there's no room in the freezer the fridge will do.
  7. Meanwhile, heat the oil. In a 12 inch high-sided skillet, add about 1 inch of oil. Any flavorless frying oil will do: vegetable oil, peanut oil, canola oil, light-flavored olive oil (that's what I use). Turn the heat to medium high. Let the oil preheat for about 15 minutes.
  8. When the oil is hot (you can test it by adding a little piece of bread, if it bubbles it's ready) get your chicken out of the freezer. Quickly add the chicken one piece at a time, making sure they are not touching. Let cook for about 5 minutes until golden, then flip each piece of chicken with a pair of tongs. Be careful! Cook for another 5 minutes. Each batch of chicken should cook for about 10 minutes total.
  9. When the chicken is light golden and a meat thermometer registers 160 degrees F, remove each piece of chicken to a cooling rack set over a paper grocery bag, or a bunch of paper towels, to absorb the oil. (I like paper bags because they are really thick and absorbent.) Keep in mind that the chicken will rise in temperature a couple degrees after you take it out of the oil, and that the color of the fried chicken will deepen to a darker brown once removed.
  10. I fried the chicken in 3 batches. Put the raw chicken back in the freezer (in the bag) while you wait for the other ones to fry.
  11. Meanwhile, chop and prepare all your vegetables. Wash and chop up a head of romaine and a head of iceberg. (Don't be an iceberg hater. It's so crunchy and delicious!) Chop up about 3 cups of baby spinach. Chop a cucumber into small bite size pieces. Slice a bunch of tomatoes into wedges. Slice 2-3 avocados. (I like to toss all the greens including the cucumbers in a bowl, that way if there are leftovers you can store it in the fridge together. If you add the tomatoes and avocados it will get all mushy. Store them separately.)
  12. Serve the salad topped with fried chicken and plenty of homemade ranch dressing. Or store bought ranch dressing. I mean homemade is best, but let's be real, sometimes it's just not gonna happen.