dinner Featured gluten-free salads

Pacifica Salad

July 27, 2020

This take on a fast-casual staple, this pacifica salad features grilled chicken, quinoa + a medley of veggies in a cilantro jalapeno vinaigrette for a filling and flavorful meal you can make at home.

I love trying out new recipes and new restaurants, but I’ll also admit that I’m the type of person who will order the same thing over and over once I find something I like. Usually the newness comes with the first novel experience but if I try something on my first try that I absolutely love, I’ll typically just stay right there in my comfort zone. I think the opportunity cost of trying something new at a place where I already know I love something else has always felt higher than if I missed the mark on first shot.

Pre…the whole world shutting down…I would say that we ate out 2-3 times a week. I obviously cook a lot at home but also working from home meant that I was cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner at home every single day. Having a nice respite a few times a week helped to keep cooking fun and less of a stressful experience. Typically at least one of those nights would be a quick, pick-up from Mixt and ordering the exact same thing: The Pacifica Salad.

You see, the first time C and I ate a Mixt we both ordered the Pacifica Salad. Since then, it’s the ONLY thing we’ve ever eaten there. Neither of us is willing to change it up and deal with the opportunity cost of ordering something not at good. But sadly we moved across the bridge 6 months ago and our Mixt love affair came to an end.

I’ll admit that cooking almost all of our meals at home isn’t always my favorite thing to do. I get tired of it from time to time, but I also have been challenging myself to recreate some of my favorite restaurant meals just to add a little something new. And it helps, kind of. And that’s where we’re at.

 

What is the Pacifica Salad?

The pacifica salad is named after my favorite salad from Mixt. It’s a combo of a traditional salad and a grain salad. I love that it uses cabbage as the base but is also mixed with quinoa for a more hearty meal. I honestly have no idea why it’s called the Pacifica salad. Pacifica, California and one of my favorite places in the world but I’m not entirely sure how it connects to this salad. It’s got a really interesting combo of fresh ingredients that I suppose are “California” cooking to some degree. But mostly it’s just the name for the salad and I’m sticking with it.

What You Need

This salad has 3 main components: the veggie/grain portion, the chicken + the cilantro jalapeno dressing. You could swap out the chicken if you’re vegetarian and replace it with something else (or skip all together) but I recommend it if you eat chicken.

For the salad:

  • white quinoa
  • cabbage – I use napa but you can use any kind of cabbage
  • cherry tomatoes
  • scallions/green onions
  • mango
  • feta cheese – the original salad uses cojita cheese but it’s hard to come by and feta has a similar texture
  • pumpkin seeds
  • edamame – the original salad uses black beans but I prefer edamame.

For the chicken:

  • chicken breasts
  • seasoning: garlic powder, salt + Italian seasoning
  • olive oil

Note: I prefer to grill the chicken on an outdoor grill, however you can also cook it on an indoor grill pan or regular pan. Instructions on how to use a grill pan HERE.

For the cilantro jalapeño vinaigrette:

  • olive oil
  • cilantro
  • jalapeno
  • shallot
  • red wine vinegar
  • honey
  • salt + pepper

The dressing is the only area where I don’t think I nailed the original perfectly, but it’s still delicious! Mixt uses a cilantro jalapeno vinaigrette but mine turned out a bit greener than theirs. Flavor is still great but a slightly different taste. I’m not mad about it!

How to Make a Pacifica Salad

STEP 1: Marinate chicken in olive oil, salt, garlic powder + Italian seasoning. Let sit at room temp for 20 minutes.

STEP 2: Meanwhile, make quinoa by combining 1/2 cup dry white quinoa with 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes, covered. Remove from heat and let sit with top on for 5 minutes. Remove top and mix quinoa allowing it to cool.

STEP 3: Once the quinoa has cooled, add to a large salad bowl with all other ingredients (except chicken + dressing ingredients).

STEP 4: Make vinaigrette by combining all ingredients in a blender. If blender needs a little liquid to get going add water 1 tbsp at a time.

STEP 5: Cook chicken on your grill (instructions below) or on a grill pan inside – instructions here. When finished allow chicken to cool slightly and then cut into cubes.

STEP 6: Combine everything in a large bowl and top with desired amount of dressing.

If you’ve tried the original version let me know how you think this one holds up! I personally find it slightly different but dare I say better?!

Print

Pacifica Salad

This take on a fast-casual staple, this pacifica salad features grilled chicken, quinoa + a medley of veggies in a cilantro jalapeno vinaigrette for a filling and flavorful meal you can make at home.

  • Author: Davida Lederle
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Salad
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Gluten Free
Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white quinoa
  • 6 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 dry pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 scallions, sliced
  • 1 cup shelled edamame
  • 1/2 mango, sliced
  • 1/23/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (add to preference)
  • 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds*

For the cilantro jalapeño vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup tightly packed cilantro leaves
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded + roughly chopped
  • 1 shallot, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey (or maple syrup)
  • salt + pepper, to taste
  • 12 tbsp water, if needed

*You can toast raw pumpkin seeds on stovetop for a few minutes until lightly toasted.

Instructions

  1. Marinate chicken in olive oil, salt, garlic powder + Italian seasoning. Let sit at room temp for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, make quinoa by combining 1/2 cup dry white quinoa with 1 1/2 cups of water in a medium pot.
  3. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes, covered.
  4. Remove quinoa from heat and let sit with top on for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove top and mix quinoa allowing it to cool.
  6. Once the quinoa has cooled, add to a large salad bowl with all other ingredients (except chicken + dressing ingredients).
  7. Make vinaigrette by combining all ingredients in a blender. If blender needs a little liquid to get going add water 1 tbsp at a time.
  8. Heat your grill on medium-high heat. Once temperature has reached at least 450 degrees F. place chicken directly onto grill and cook for 5-7 minutes on each side (stove top instructions here).
  9. Allow chicken to cool for at least 5 minutes + then cut into cubes.
  10. Combine everything in a large bowl and top with desired amount of dressing. Mix well.
  11. Salad will keep 3 days if dressing stored separately. Do not store after combining with dressing as cabbage will get soggy.

 

Like this salad recipe? Here are a few others you might enjoy:

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