Santa Rosa Chicken and Wild Rice Salad
This amazing Santa Rosa salad makes a light and delicious weeknight meal and/or a fabulous dish to bring to your next potluck!
I have certain people in my life who make me turn into a crazy person by the simple act of sending/giving me a new recipe to try.
I will literally drop everything I’m doing, run to the store immediately, if necessary, and make the recipe within the hour because I know I’m looking at life changing food in my near future.
They probably don’t realize the power they have – or the pressure this puts on them to seriously deliver great recipes.
My friend, Mel B. (a little confusing since we share the same first name, I know), is just such a friend. We’ve known each other for almost two decades, and even though we’ve never lived close to each other (a travesty), she has the best taste in food and has given me many recipes over the years.
Actually, you have benefitted from some of them already!
Amazing Key Lime Cheesecake
Sweet Baked Ham
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Easy Peanut Butter Fudge Bars
Have you made any of these amazing recipes?
Today’s recipe is another of Mel’s favorites.
Santa Rosa salad!
She sent it to me just weeks before she had her 5th boy (!!), and I’ve made it at least 3-4 times since.
Mel requests this meal each Mother’s Day, and after tasting the deliciousness, I can see why.
It is everything a main dish salad should be: light, healthy, filling, and TASTY!
Seriously, it is fabulous. Just look at those colors! It’s even tastier than it looks, if you can believe it.
I’ve forced a few local friends to try out this recipe, as well. And the feedback is that this Santa Rosa salad pretty much rocks.
You’ve got the crunch of the crisp veggies, tender juiciness of the chicken, heartiness of the wild rice blend (lots of options here, so check out the notes below the recipe), smooth creaminess of the avocados, and the tangy freshness of the easy, homemade dressing.
Be still my heart.
Not only does this simple salad make a fabulous weeknight dinner, but it is a great option the next time you’re asked to bring a salad to a potluck or other share-a-dish function.
You could leave out the chicken for a meatless version, too!
I’ve taken to serving the flavorful concoction over torn butter lettuce – optional, but extra delicious, I think. You could also toss the lettuce right into the hearty salad, too.
That’s what Mel-that’s-not-me does. And we trust Mel!
A little unique and a lot delicious, this Santa Rosa chicken and wild rice salad is amazing!
And since we are still hanging out (read: melting) in the high 90’s/low 100’s here, I’m indebted to meals like this for pretty much eradicating my heat-induced bad mood.
What To Serve With This:
Divine breadsticks, homemade rosemary bread, or pao de queijo
One Year Ago: The Best Chocolate Zucchini Cake
Two Years Ago: Roasted Red Pepper and Pesto Hash Browns
Three Years Ago: Frozen Mint Lemonade Slush
Four Years Ago: Tappan Hill Brownies
Five Years Ago: Summer Couscous Salad
Santa Rosa Chicken and Wild Rice Salad
- ¾ cup (170 g) wild rice blend (see note)
- 2-3 cups cooked diced or shredded chicken, rotisserie chicken is a great option (see note)
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 cup chopped sugar snap peas, chopped, blanched asparagus works great as a sub
- 1-2 avocados, peeled and diced
- 1 head butter lettuce, chopped (optional)
- ⅓ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- ⅓ cup neutral-flavored oil, like vegetable, canola, avocado
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Pinch of black pepper
- Cook the rice according to package directions. Scoop the cooked rice into a large serving bowl and let cool to room temperature (alternately, the rice can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until needed).
- Add the chicken, bell pepper, peas (or asparagus, if using), and avocado.
- For the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a jar or blender and shake/process until well-combined. Add additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed.
- Pour about 2/3 of the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Add more dressing to taste or for desired consistency, if needed.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate the salad for 1-2 hours (you may want to save a bit of the dressing and toss the salad with it before serving if it has been refrigerated).
- Give the salad a good toss before serving.
- The chicken and rice salad can be served: a) on its own, b) over a bed of chopped butter lettuce, or c) tossed WITH the butter lettuce. Yum!
Recipe Source: sent to me by my sweet friend, Mel B. (lots of variations of this salad online)
65 Comments on “Santa Rosa Chicken and Wild Rice Salad”
Just made this tonight! So good and easy! I just marinated some chicken breasts in Italian dressing and grilled it and it was all great together.
Hi quick question! I’ve seen variations of this recipe all include chopped pecans or almonds. Was wondering if your friend omitted those or if you adapted to omit…sounds like they’d be good in there but if there’s a reason you don’t like them I’ll follow your lead! Thanks!
I don’t believe the recipe my friend initially sent me had them in there, but they’d be delicious if you want a little nutty crunch!
I love this salad. Actually, the first time I made it, I happened to have a box of Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice Mix. It comes with a seasoning packet and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to use it or not. Well, I did use it and loved the result. I mixed everything together, including the lettuce, in a large bowl and tossed with the dressing. It was fantastic. I make it this way all the time now though I sometimes like to use Romaine for its added crunch.
Hi Mel, are we supposed to use the spice packet that comes with the wild rice mix?
No…you can discard that.
Thanks for replying so fast! I had just started the rice when I asked that and figured you wouldn’t see it til later haha. You’re awesome.
This was so yummy! I used iceberg lettuce and marinated roasted red peppers because I prefer them that way. It was delicious and healthy and got my kids to eat their veggies and healthy grains (brown and wild rice blend) all at once. Thanks for another winner!
It says a lot when a 2 and 5 yr old eat every bite happily and say “mmm! This is good!”
Any other good substitutions for the sugar snap peas? Can’t get those or asparagus here, but this sounds great. Don’t want too off a flavor of another vegetable.
I think you could easily sub roasted cauliflower or broccoli – even zucchini (or celery, if you are a fan)
Chopped zucchini was an excellent sub. We loved it and thanks for the idea!
Glad it worked out!
I think edamame would also be so good
I made the salad kind of but I made the dressing exactly and that is a wonderful dressing!! I used it all week on variations of chopped cabbage salads. Delicious!!
This is probably, hands down, my favorite salad of all time. I know that sounds a bit ‘over the top’ but it’s true. I mixed everything together (so it wasn’t quite as pretty as your pic) but no one complained (and I have four kids and a hubby) and our standard poodle gazed longingly at us while we ate. Love your recipes! Keep up the good work!
Haha, the poodle comment made me laugh out loud!
I made this tonight and it was amazing!! I can’t wait to eat the leftovers for lunch tomorrow! Thanks for another great recipe!
Had this for lunch today. I cooked brown and wild rice in chicken broth instead of using a mix and steam blanched broccoli (since that’s what I had). DH heated his (without avocado) and sprinkled with hot sauce instead of salad dressing. Delicious!
This was a huge hit! My husband had four servings and said he could eat it every day. I brought wild rice with us to the Philippines and have used it in this salad and your creamy wild rice chicken soup. Yummy. I used palm oil and coconut nectar vinegar because that’s what is common here. We’ll, sugar cane vinegar is the most common type but I splurged with our regional specialty. Thanks for another delicious meal.
Thanks for the report back, Ann!
This sounds yummy, going to make it this weekend but will use quinoa instead of rice and will try using the Skinnygirl mustard dressing to make this Weight Watcher point friendly. Will be great for lunches
I had a brown wild rice mix in the pantry so I used that. Too hot to cook so I bought a rotisserie chicken. Easy summer meal. The whole family enjoyed it even my skeptical boys (4 &7.)
Made it! Very tasty! Thank you Mel!
So happy you loved it, Amanda!
Yum! Just made this with your pesto chicken. I subbed fresh haricot verts and fresh English peas ( from Trader Joe’s) – turned out so yummy and made a ton. Oh – I used the Basmati Rice Medley also from TJ’s – which worked very well
Just made this for dinner tonight. Delicious! And for all of you out there who are watching your carbs, I made it with “cauliflower rice” and it turned out great! That said, I’m sure it’s even yummier with TJs brown rice medley 🙂
Oh, cauliflower rice! What a great idea, Sheree!
I’m eating low carb right now, and I wondered if this recipe would work using cauliflower rice. THANK YOU for letting us know that it will!!!
Just wanted to check in (since I’m sure your just dying to hear!!) to say I doubled this recipe last night (except used celery plus red pepper plus the snap peas) and my family devoured it all! Every last bite! It was so yummy and creamy and the dressing is perfect and light and tangy! Thank you Mel
Haha, I am dying to hear this kind of stuff! I’m so happy to know this was a hit, Meg! Thanks for the details on your variations!
Hi Mel, just curious how this salad was named Santa Rosa. I live in Santa Rosa, CA and clicked on this recipe as soon as I saw my hometown named in the title on Feedly. I am going to make this recipe with some modifications (no avocado for me) and maybe some haricot vert beans from TJ’s. Thanks!
Mel, this looks great. I thinking of stuffing it into a spinach wrap using a bit of rocket (arugula). Yum…
Could you include the number of servings please if it were a main dish salad?
The number of servings is right above the recipe title – this serves about 6 for a main dish.
Oh gosh…the font is so stylized that I couldn’t even read it so it didn’t stand out. Looks like a decorative accent. Thanks
My husband is not a fan a lime, no matter ow little of it is in something I swear he can tell. Would lemon juice work? Or a different dressing?
Hi Heather – it’s actually lemon juice that’s called for in the homemade dressing for this recipe, so you should be good!
That does look good! What are the dark, round, little thingies–seeds from a grainy mustard or something in the rice medley? The dressing sounds wonderful too.
Sorry you’re getting scorched by a heat blast, and hope it breaks soon. It’s usually that way in New England and suffocatingly humid in August, and it’s been unusually rainy and humid this season, but not quite as hot as usual, at least. Still, I’m counting the days quite impatiently for the crisp and refreshing weather to return!
I should count my blessings we don’t have the humidity, too! Just dry, dry heat! And sadly so many fires right now…the air is super heavy with smoke. The brown round bits in the rice are a type of grain – but I don’t know the name, sorry! It’s all mixed up in that brown rice medley from TJ’s.
That’s horrible about the fires and smoke! That must really dial up the discomfort for everyone, especially when combined with the wretchedly hot temperatures. The poor firefighters, having to cope with those temperatures in all their gear, in addition to the heat generated by the fires, plus the smoke. I hope some temperature relief and fire relief will come soon, and everyone remains safe in the meantime!
Thanks, I didn’t recognize those little thingies, either, but they look good in the salad! I’m going to think of them as being something in the “ancient grains and seeds” category, because I’m partial to that category! 🙂
Hi Mel. I have not made this delicious-looking recipe yet but it caught my attention because I am trying to determine what to bring to a potluck we are invited to in early September. This salad is a strong contender.
Maybe another category of “Potluck” on your site would be helpful. I know I can enter that term in the Search field but it might be helpful for your fans to actually see the category listed.
Thanks for considering.
Oooh, that’s a great idea, Roxie! I’ll have to add that category when I have a minute!
May I ask for the skillet/one-pot dinners category too….I’m sure you used to have that but can’t seem to find it any longer. Thanks!
Here you go! http://melkitchencafe.com/recipes/main-dish/one-potone-skillet-meals/
How do the avacados do if this isn’t eating all at once? It sounds delicious!
They get how avocados do – kind of brown and icky. 🙂 So if you aren’t eating it all at once and anticipate leftovers, it might be a good idea to add them individually to each portion.
What I like about this salad is that everyone at a potluck passes it by because it’s so different looking. Then I get to take it home and eat all of the leftovers!
Question-Does the mustard flavor come through much? I’m not really a mustard fan so I don’t usually try recipes that call for it but I wonder with the other strong flavors in the salad dressing if you really taste the mustard.
Hmmm, good question. I can taste the hint of Dijon – there’s a full tablespoon of it, so if you don’t like the flavor, I’d say you might want to skip this recipe (or maybe make the dressing with just a teaspoon of Dijon?).
Thank you for turning my non-existent dinner plans for tonight into a beautiful new reality! Can’t wait to eat this!!!
Haha, no problem, Meg! If you want to know the truth, my normally menu-planning-efficient self is looking toward dinner and realizing I have nonexistent plans tonight! I think in my mind I thought we’d have leftovers but we gobbled everything up the last few nights. Refried bean quesadillas it is!
Refried beans quesadillas for the win!! (A staple here as well!)
Hi Mel! Can I please send you an insane delicious recipe? A recipe from the south that is!
Of course! I love new recipes almost as much as Christmas morning. You can send it to contact @ melskitchencafe . com
Mel, I can’t wait to try this one! Eating gluten free, I’ve missed making pasta salads. A few years ago, it occurred to me that I could sub rice for the pasta – not the same, but so good! – but I have only ever seen maybe 1 or 2 rice salad recipes, and none that looked this good! You’re the best, and I’m amazed that you are still giving us new, yummy recipes after all these years! <3 you, Mel!
What are your thoughts on trying it with just quinoa?
Yum! It would change a bit of the texture/flavor, but I think it would be tasty (coming from a quinoa lover).
we make it with a mix of quinoa, bulgar and wheat and it is delicious. I love the subtle crunch of the grains with the rest of the veggies and chicken. this is my summer diet and my family has no choice in the matter.
(And I did read your notes about rice options… just wondering which one is pictured.) Thanks. 🙂
Where did you find the rice blend pictured? I’m thinking it’s the Costco variety. It looks delicious (as does the salad as a whole). Can’t wait to try it!
In this picture, it is the Trader Joe’s brown rice medley.
Thank you! Headed to TJ’s right now anyway… I’ll pick some up. 🙂 I haven’t tried theirs, but it looks delish!