Recipe: Trader Joe’s Hatch Chile Pepper Power Salad

You know those times when you need to start easing your way into a health kick?  When you’ve been eating (maybe too) well and need to start cutting back, but don’t want to go cold-turkey into a spread of romaine?  That was very much the dinner vibe last night, when Chris and I decided to transition back from vacation foods to our somewhat healthy lifestyle, while still making sure we finished up those leftover chicken tenders in the freezer.

Enter this epic dinner salad.  Armed with an impulse buy of fresh Hatch Chile Peppers that we spotted at Trader Joe’s, some fresh romaine, our still abundant tomato harvests from the garden, and our frozen chicken tenders, we set out to make the most incredible dinner salad that Chris described as “a salad firing on all cylinders”.  That’s huge praise from someone who generally does not eat salads as a meal, friends.

This salad has a fun, Southwestern-style vibe from the roasted Hatch chile peppers and the cumin/coriander dressing.  The peppers and tomatoes add color and a little extra bulk to the romaine so that nothing feels too healthy.  The creamy yogurt-based dressing adds that hint of richness while still remaining light, and that chicken-tender topper is essentially a keto crouton, and really brings home that fried, bready character that salads sometimes crave.

I usually offer substitutions/additions to my recipes, but honestly, if you can find all of the ingredients for this one, I would actually recommend making this one as is.  It’s so good.  Now, fresh Hatch Chile Peppers are seasonal and usually hard to find outside of New Mexico or Colorado, but we were excited to see them sold this year at our local Trader Joe’s and scooped them up.  If you are unable to find these, mild peppers such as shishito, bell peppers, banana peppers, or poblano peppers would work well here as a substitution.  The Hatch Chile Peppers have a nice grassy, green flavor and some of them have some heat, so if substituting with a more mild pepper, I would recommend throwing in a jalapeno as well for that mild/spicy dynamic.  Some roasted corn would also be good on this salad, and some grilled chicken would be a delightful (and lighter) substitution for our breaded chicken tenders.

This salad made two very large servings, which was perfect as a dinner salad.  This same amount would comfortably make about 4 good side servings, or 2-3 lunch portions.  Recipe down below, photos up top and down below!

Trader Joe’s Hatch Chile Pepper Power Salad

Ingredients:

  • For the Salad:
    • 6-8 Hatch Chile Peppers, diced with seeds removed
    • 1 small head of Romaine Lettuce, chopped into bite sized pieces
    • 8-10 tomatoes, diced
    • 4-6 breaded chicken tenders, cooked
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • For the Dressing:
    • ⅔ cup whole fat yogurt
    • Juice of 1 lime
    • 1 tbsp salt
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 2 tsp coriander

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven and cook your chicken tenders according to the package instructions.  The rest of the salad can be made while the chicken tenders are baking, as this usually takes about 20-30 minutes.  Once cooked, remove the chicken tenders from the oven and set aside until ready to use.
  2. Remove the stem end of the Hatch Chile Peppers, and use your knife to split them down the middle, lengthwise.  Remove the seeds and the membranes from the insides of the peppers, then slice the cleaned pepper halves into inch-long, bite-sized pieces.
  3. Add olive oil to a large sauté pan and warm up over high heat, about 1 minute.  Add the peppers and stir to combine.  Allow the peppers to brown and char, tossing or stirring occasionally.  Cook the peppers until they are nicely browned and tender, about 5-7 minutes over high heat.  Once browned, turn the heat off and allow the peppers to cool in the pan until cool enough to touch, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. While the peppers are cooling, chop or tear the romaine head into large bite-sized pieces and add it to a large bowl.  Chop the tomatoes as well and add those to the bowl along with the lettuce.
  5. For the dressing, add the yogurt, lime juice, salt, coriander, and cumin to a bowl. Whisk to combine.
  6. Add the cooled peppers and all of the dressing into to bowl with the lettuce, use tongs (or your hands) to toss until all of the salad components are thoroughly mixed and coated in the dressing.
  7. Remove cooked chicken tenders from the baking pan, and cut into bite-sized pieces.
  8. Plate a large portion of the salad on a plate, and top with chicken tender chunks.
  9. Grab a fork and enjoy!

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