This Watermelon and Arugula Chicken Salad is a light, refreshing summer salad that’s still satisfying enough for a meal. It’s bursting with bright flavor and it comes together in minutes because it’s made with rotisserie chicken!
As summer winds down, locally grown watermelon is plentiful, the days are hot, and the last thing anyone wants to do is spend an hour standing over the stove making a hot dinner. When you put all this together, you get this refreshing Watermelon and Arugula Chicken Salad.
This is a salad of contrasts: sweet, ripe watermelon with peppery arugula, a tart lemon dressing, savory chicken, herbaceous mint, and pungent red onion. Tender chicken with crisp watermelon and crunchy almonds. Each component complements the others perfectly, making this the kind of healthy meal you’ll look forward to eating.
But, just as importantly, this is a salad of convenience! Use rotisserie chicken and there’s no cooking involved. Shred the chicken with a fork, prep and cut the rest of the salad ingredients, and whisk the dressing. That’s it!
Because this Watermelon and Arugula Chicken Salad is made with only 2 cups of chicken, you can get a few more meals out of the rotisserie chicken. Serve the chicken with 25 Minute Garlic Mashed Potatoes one night, then reserve what you need for the salad the next day.
Is Rotisserie Chicken Healthy?
Yes, rotisserie chicken is a healthy lean protein that can be eaten on its own or added to any recipe calling for cooked chicken. The rotisserie is a low-fat cooking method, but it’s also juicy, tender, and has a depth of flavor that’s hard to replicate in a home oven.
What You’ll Need
Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
For the Salad:
- Watermelon – Use pre-cut watermelon for convenience, or cut your own for maximum freshness and flavor.
- Red onion – Thinly sliced is key! The acid in the dressing will soften the onion and cut some of its sharpness.
- Fresh mint
- Arugula – Although you could certainly substitute another green, the peppery bite of arugula is perfect with sweet watermelon.
- Sliced almonds – Toast these in a skillet set over medium heat.
- Skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast – Leftover baked chicken breasts work, too.
For the Dressing:
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Lemon rind
- Lemon juice – Zest the lemon first, then juice it.
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Is It Better to Cut Watermelon Warm or Cold?
It’s always best to chill a watermelon before you cut it. It will retain its shape better that way, giving you nice, clean cuts.
How to Make Watermelon and Arugula Chicken Salad
Ready for the ultimate end-of-summer salad? Here’s what you’ll need to do.
Assemble. Prep all of the ingredients, then combine the watermelon, onion, mint, and arugula in a large bowl. Add the almonds and chicken and gently toss to combine.
Make the dressing. Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
Dress the salad. Pour the dressing over the salad and gently toss to coat. Serve immediately.
Tips for Success
These hints and tips will help you make sure your Watermelon and Arugula Chicken Salad turns out perfect:
- Choose the best watermelon you can find. It should feel heavy for its size and have a uniform shape, without any bumps or irregularities. The “field spot,” or the spot where the watermelon sat on the ground while growing, should be orange, not white, and the rind should be dark and dull, not shiny.
- Dry the mint and arugula. If water is still clinging to the mint and arugula leaves when you add them to the salad, it will water down the dressing.
- Assemble just before serving. This is not the type of salad that can be assembled far in advance. If you want to get a head start, prep the ingredients and keep them in separate containers in the refrigerator.
Want to switch things up and make this recipe your own? Here are some ideas:
- Use fresh basil instead of mint.
- Swap the lemon juice for lime juice.
- Add crumbled feta.
- Skip the chicken and add extra watermelon for a light side salad.
How to Store Leftovers
If you have leftover Watermelon and Arugula Chicken Salad, you can store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a day. The greens will get a bit soggy as the melon releases its juices, but the salad is still delicious and fine to eat.
More Meal-Worthy Salad Recipes
- Salmon Cakes with Arugula Salad
- Asian Beef Rainbow Salad
- Roasted Beets Pistachio and Goat Cheese Salad
- Eggplant Feta Salad
- Cannellini Bean and Radicchio Salad
Watermelon and Arugula Chicken Salad
- 4 cups cubed fresh watermelon
- ⅓ cup thinly sliced red onion
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- 1 5-ounce package arugula
- ¼ cup sliced almonds toasted
- 8 ounces skinless boneless rotisserie chicken breast, shredded (about 2 cups)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Combine watermelon, onion, mint, and arugula in a large bowl. Add almonds and chicken to combine.
- Combine olive oil, lemon rind, juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add oil mixture to watermelon mixture; toss gently to coat.