Saffron Chicken Salad with Fennel

This bright, colorful saffron chicken salad with fresh fennel is moist and refreshing. We love the crunch from the fennel, celery, and scallions, and the fresh herbs keep it light and tasty. 

Saffron Chicken Salad

Plenty of fresh herbs, nuts, real saffron, and fennel give this salad texture, taste, and a pleasing crunch.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings 6
Author Tania Van Pelt


  • 1 orange
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 fennel bulb and fronds diced
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves chopped
  • 1 cup basil leaves torn
  • ½ cup fresh mint torn (optional)
  • 1 bunch scallions white and green part, thinly sliced on the bias
  • 1 stalk of celery diced
  • 1 red spicy chile
  • Fresh juice from 1 lemon
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Slice the ends off of the orange. Cut orange into 12 wedges. Place wedges in a small saucepan with honey, white wine vinegar, saffron, a pinch of salt, and just enough water to submerge the orange slices. Add more water as needed during cooking. Simmer for 1 hour. In a blender or food processor, puree cooked orange and its liquid. This syrup will be the base of the dressing.
  3. Heat a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add one tablespoon olive oil to the hot pan. Sear both sides of the chicken thighs for a couple of minutes. Season generously with sea salt and ground black pepper.
  4. Transfer pan to the hot oven to finish cooking the chicken, about 15 minutes.
  5. Place the orange infused syrup in a large salad bowl. When chicken is cool enough to handle, tear it into large pieces. Toss the chicken with orange puree with 3 tablespoons olive oil and the juice from the lemon.
  6. After the chicken is coated add the thinly sliced fennel, cilantro, basil, scallions, celery, mint leaves and sliced chili. Toss everything with your hands.
  7. Taste for seasoning, adding salt, pepper and lemon juice as desired.

Recipe Notes

Make sure you finely slice the fennel. If you have it, use a mandolin, for extra thin slices. It makes for a more flavorful, elegant salad. (And, only use the fronds and the bulb.) I add celery and scallions for extra texture and taste, but you can leave them out and stick with the fennel. Even non-fennel/anise lovers enjoy the salad, thanks to the orange dressing. Don't worry if your syrup is thick, it coats the chicken nicely, and adding the lemon juice and olive oil rounds out the sweetness of the dressing.