Caribbean Salad with Sweet Orange Vinaigrette

All of you early risers might have noticed my post is up a little late this morning.  That’s because I just woke up and had completely lost track of what day it was!  I’m a little off of my normal schedule because I’m off on a little adventure right now.  It took my husband and I 20 hours, stopping in 3 countries, on 3 airplanes, a couple of cab rides, and a rickety-but-speedy water taxi, but we finally made it to a tiny little speck in the middle of the Caribbean sea: the island of Anguilla.  Can you see the little red circle down there?  Squint a little, it helps 😉

I’m here on assignment for Sea Cuisine, who’s recipes are inspired by world travel, to eat my way through the island and discover what makes this little spot of land, of only 35 square miles, one of the world’s culinary gems and capture its beauty in photographs. The food here is spectacular (a lot of creole influence) and the beaches breathtaking (look at that water! It’s clearer than my local swimming pool) and I can’t wait to tell you more about everything I’m discovering.  We’ll be here for a couple more days and then we jump over to St. Maarten for the second half of the week, where the food is heavily influenced by French and Dutch cuisine (please, please, bring on the chocolate croissants!)  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and I’ll share a few more photos during the week.

So, onto today’s recipe.  Kate and I love entree salads during the summer, especially.  Last week I whipped up this salad based on a salad by the same name at one of America’s culinary epicenters:  Chili’s Restaurant.  I Joke.  But I also eat at Chili’s sometimes.  Here in the states we often equate “Caribbean” to anything that’s tropical, fresh, and island-y.  So while technically this isn’t a traditional Caribbean meal, it is really bright and fresh with a tropical twist so we’ll stick with the name.  I’ve noticed at Chili’s, this is often served differently every time I order it.  Sometimes on iceberg, sometimes on “fancy” lettuce, sometimes with pineapple, sometimes without, and often with different dressings.  So I created my own Sweet Orange Vinaigrette (instead of their honey-lime) because I thought it went better with the flavors in the salad.  So start by mixing that part up so it can sit in the fridge and get extra yummy.  Start out with a little fresh orange juice.

and add a few spices and a tiny touch of sesame oil.  To get the perfect, creamy consistency, make sure to follow the instructions about emulsifying the dressing (slowly pouring the oil in a running blender, not just whisking).

You can definitely make the salad dressing a day or two ahead of time and just store it in the fridge.  By the way, seriously every time Kate and I post photos with these little carafe’s people ask where they can get one.  The answer: Walmart, $2.

The salad is packed with sweet and savory flavors and textures.  First up, a small can of mandarin oranges.  You could certainly use fresh orange segments (click here for a tutorial on how to segment citrus) but I actually the prefer the sweetness of mandarin oranges in this salad.  Mangoes would be great too, though!

Some dried cherries or cranberries,

some bright herbs and greens, from green onions and cilantro (cilantro haters could use fresh parsley, and when you’re done go to the library and check out the book titled “Why I’m Missing Out in Life by Not Eating Cilantro”)  🙂

And finally some diced or sliced red pepper.  I happened to have some of these sweet baby peppers in my fridge so I just sliced those up.  You can buy little bags of these at Costco and I’ve been getting them on every trip lately.  I love how sweet they are and how great it is to just slice up a few for a salad or something.  But any sweet bell pepper (red, orange, or yellow- just not green) will be just fine.

Completely optional, black and/or white sesame seeds.  Funny- I bought these a couple of months ago when I needed them to garnish a recipe in our new cook book.  Last week I got an email from Williams-Sonoma that said, “Hi Sara!  You’re probably out of black sesame seeds by now- would you like us to send you some more?”  That sneaky sneaky Williams-Sonoma…little do they know that jar will last me about 3 years at the rate I use it.  They sure are pretty though!  I love how they garnish a dish.

Put the salad all together by topping it with some grilled chicken.

If I remember, and I have time to make the dressing ahead of time, I like to marinate my chicken in some of the dressing- or simply brush some on in the last few minutes of grilling.

The mix of sweet oranges and dried fruit, mixed with the savory of chicken and herbs and topped with that sweet dressing is magic in your mouth.

Kate and I are huge fans of entree salads for dinner, especially during the summertime and this is definitely a new one on my rotation.



woman in denim shirt holding a salad bowl
Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. I think you posted this just because you’ve been missing my comments, right? That’s what happens when you’re on a two week cruise and then you come home and your husband decides to spend three days in the hospital. Anyway, you had me laughing out loud for a long time over the cilantro bit. Looks like I’m in for a trip to the library, huh?
    Have fun on your little holiday!

  2. Made this today for lunch and although I made a few changes/omissions, I still felt I needed to leave this review. I usually don’t when things are changed cuz duh, it’s not the same recipe. I left out the dried fruit and sesame seeds on the salad and added cucumbers (I just have to…I have a problem…I just LOVE cucumbers.) My problem lies with the dressing. I made it ahead of time so it would have some time for the flavors to blend. I followed everything to a T. It’s the sesame oil. Even at 1/4 tsp I just can’t stomach it. I tried, I really did. I guess next time I’ll just leave it out. Since I didn’t have that to baste the chicken with, I resorted to the spicy honey chicken recipe and grabbed my honey and cider vinegar. Basted the chicken with that and that NEVER disappoints. I then just used regular old Italian dressing since that’s all I had. This was by far one of the BEST salads I have ever tasted. Will most definitely make it again and will try the dressing without the sesame oil. Thanks for the recipe!

  3. So Sara, I just found out about your blog and am excited to have some new recipes to find. I read how you graduated from BYU in horticulture and wondered if you know my older brother, Dr. Phil Allen? Just curious! Thanks for the recipes!!

  4. This is a fantastic salad and dressing! I could eat the dressing with a spoon. =) I made it vegetarian (no chicken) and we can’t get enough of it! I made it the first time with fresh oranges and then with the canned mandarins. Both are fabulous. Thank you so much!

  5. I don’t even need a recipe today–I just want to stare at that beach picture and pretend I’m there!

  6. Love this one! I made it for dinner last night and it was SO delicious. The ingredients work really well with each other; I especially loved the dried cranberries. I doubled the amount of orange juice in the dressing, just because it was convenient for me, and it turned out great.

  7. This looks tasty! I was wondering where you got your juicer from? It looks like a great one!

  8. Oh and I definitely think it’s a biological thing about hating cilantro. I love it. Casey hates it. I don’t think you can be lukewarm about it.

  9. I used to order this salad every time I went to Chilis! Seriously, they change it all the time but I love it. So I’m so glad you came up with something even better. I think I’ll add avocado to mine! Yum. But should I cook the chicken or eat it raw?

    I kid I kid. 😉

  10. MMMmmmmmm, looks so yummy. I have a recipe for an Orange Vinaigrette, but this one looks even better. I love that you put Sesame oil in it, I love that flavor so much!

  11. Thanks for the great salad recipe. I made it last night and my Husband who doesn’t usually like salads said it was the bomb. Perfect for the 100+ temps we have in Arizona now.

  12. Hi. I want to thank you for this recipe. We will be having it for dinner tonight! It looks amazing and I just love your site! Thank you for all that you do!

  13. The flavors sound amazing together! My Husband adores anything with oranges in – must give this a try!

  14. My husband and I were just in Anguilla last week for our 1 year anniv. It was heavenly! We loved Blanchards, Veya, Da’Vida!!! Enjoy!

  15. We just got back from the Caribbean late last week and I’m already missing it….will definitely have to make this salad to try to make the transition easier! =) It sounds wonderful!!

  16. I totally agree… in a cage fight between parsley and cilantro, parsley is definitely the 98-pound weakling!! Life is better with cilantro! I’ve made a similar dressing recently, but I think I will try your version next time!

  17. I just have to say that you have the best job ever. Food tasting on Caribbean Islands? I am sick with envy! This salad does sound delicious though, so thanks for sharing!

  18. Sounds very tasty. I’ve been looking for some yummy salad recipes and this looks like just what I’m looking for.

  19. Oh. My. Goodness. My husband and I have this current obsession with chicken salads but we’re starting to run out of ideas. This is just what we’re looking for! Perfect for summer! And cold mandarins in a salad is divine! Thanks!

  20. I frequent Chili’s a wee bit in my other life before moving to S.E. MO. I’ve also done a wee bit of Island hopping traveling as well and found some other interesting topping you might also want to try with this salad. A handful of toasted (citrus glazed) pecans or walnuts. Another one is bacon pieces or sliced strawberries they also work as well.

  21. This sounds absolutely wonderful and refreshing. Thank you for giving us these wonderful recipes and ideas!

  22. Love Anguilla and St. Maarten – we sailed there when I was a kid. Watch out for the topless and nude beaches on the French side of St. Maarten. My first view of a naked man (a very large 300-lb one, at that) was as an 8-year-old at Orient Bay. Not my favorite memory. 🙂 Enjoy the amazing chocolate croissants!

  23. I would love to print this out but don’t see a print button or am I just missing it? I am not a member of facebook so I can’t get pinterest to pin it.

  24. This looks great! And I am ALL about entree salads. In fact, I plan my meals for the coming week on Fridays, and I just happened to plan 4 entree salads for dinners this coming week. I’ll have to add this one into my plans for next week. Have fun!

  25. You’ve got to be kidding me! I just got home from a work trip to Anguilla! AND we went to St. Maarten for one day! Isn’t it heaven? I can’t believe I missed you by just a few days.

    If you are staying on the west end, the Straw Hat is a really good restaurant, and Blanchard’s Shack just down the beach from it has a heavenly virgin Mango Pina Colada! Not that I know or anything…

    Have fun! We’re heading back to the Caribbean to St. Thomas this week, so wave at me when you fly home!

    1. How funny! We actually ate ate Straw Hat last night! Had a crazy huge lobster there. Blanchard’s is on our list so I will for sure grab a Mango Colada- thanks for the tip. I’ll be waving!

  26. YUM! Looks great…I’ll have to try it. I made y’all’s creamy lime-cilantro dressing and am doing the baked chicken taquitoes tonight to go with the salad. And you know what? I heard it’s a biological thing that some people like cilantro and others don’t…they think it tastes soapy. I can’t imagine…I swear I could eat it straight :). Enjoy your working holiday!

  27. Yum! I live in the South where it gets hot hot hot, so a nice cool-preparation meal is always up my alley. 🙂 Thanks for the yumminess and enjoy the Carribean!