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Apple Walnut Chicken Salad- Applebee’s Copycat

This Applebee’s copy cat salad has been one of my favorite salads for years. The list of ingredients is long, but the flavor impact that comes from all of the components is amazing.

Apple Walnut Chicken Salad- Applebee's Copycat


Smokey grilled chicken, a mix of romaine and red leaf lettuce, apple, celery, red onion, blue cheese crumbles, candied walnuts, and a balsamic vinaigrette that is out of this world. This is a recipe that I got out of Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3: The Secret Formulas for Duplicating Your Favorite Restaurant Dishes at Home (Top Secret Recipes).ย  I find all of the Top Secret cookbooks to be so much fun to cook from. Many times they really do taste like the real thing, and even if they don’t, they are almost always delicious nonetheless.

Apple Walnut Chicken Salad

It’s probably been close to two decades since I’ve eaten at an Applebee’s so I’m not sure how this recipe compares to the real thing. Or if it’s even still on the menu.

The chicken is marinated in brine for 3 hours. The brine has a touch of hickory-flavored liquid smoke added to it which makes the chicken taste like it’s been grilled to perfection over hot coals and wood chips. But I just grill it in my grill pan.

Apple Walnut Chicken Salad- Applebee's Copycat

All of the components can be made ahead of time and the balsamic dressing recipe makes a huge batch that you can use on salads all week long. It’s one of my favorite dressings ever, and it actually doesn’t taste much like a balsamic vinaigrette. Not surprising considering how little balsamic it has in relation to the other ingredients. There is a lot of sugar and honey in it and sweetness is the predominant flavor. But I find there’s just enough tang from the balsamic, red wine vinegar, and Dijon mustard. If you don’t like sweet vinaigrettes, you may not be a fan.

Apple Walnut Chicken Salad- Applebee's Copycat

Apple Walnut Chicken Salad- Applebee's Copycat

Apple Walnut Chicken Salad- Applebee's Copycat

Marinated grilled chicken tossed with greens, apple, blue cheese, candied walnuts and a tangy balsamic vinaigrette.


Chicken Marinade

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon hickory-flavored liquid smoke
  • 1 boneless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2-inch thickness
  • oil
  • ground black pepper

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • pinch ground black pepper
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Candied Walnuts

  • 1 teaspoon peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts


  • 4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 4 cups chopped red leaf lettuce
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese


  • Make chicken marinade. Combine water, salt, garlic powder, and liquid smoke in a medium bowl. Mix to dissolve salt. Place chicken in marinade, cover, and refrigerate for 3 hours.
  • Make balsamic vinaigrette. Whisk together all ingredients except oil in a medium bowl. Gradually pour oil in while whisking continuously. Cover and refrigerate.
  • Make candied walnuts. Combine (in order listed) the peanut oil, honey, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a medium skillet over medium heat. When mixture starts to bubble, add walnuts and stir constantly until sugar begins to caramelize. Turn off heat and keep stirring walnuts so they do not burn. After 1 minute of stirring. Pour nuts onto a piece of wax paper to cool.
  • Grill chicken. Heat a gas grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Remove chicken from marinade and blot dry with paper towels. Rub with oil and season with pepper. Grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until done. Let cool and slice.
  • For each salad, toss together 2 cups romaine, 2 cups red leaf lettuce, half of the apple, onion, celery, and blue cheese. Mix in desired amount of dressing and top with sliced chicken and walnuts.
Course: Salad

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Disclosure: Spicy Southern Kitchen is an amazon.com affiliate.

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18 thoughts on “Apple Walnut Chicken Salad- Applebee’s Copycat”

  1. Amy @ Elephant Eats

    Yummy! This is my favorite salad combo- apples, nuts, cheese. Looks sooooo good.

    1. Christin
      Christin Mahrlig

      Me too Amy. I’ve become such a huge fan of fruit, nuts, and cheese in salads that sometimes I don’t want any other type of salad.

  2. This looks like such a pretty and refreshing salad Christin! I love the apples with the candied walnuts – they are perfect together and the balsamic vinaigrette sounds amazing and super tasty! I’ve never tried the Applebee’s version but I’m sure this one tastes so much better ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Christin
      Christin Mahrlig

      Apples and candied walnuts are wonderful together aren’t they? Hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend Kelly!

  3. Karen (Back Road Journal)

    I’ve never eaten at an Applebee’s but the chicken salad sounds like a real winner. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

  4. Kristi @ Inspiration Kitchen

    This salad looks so refreshing and fresh! What the perfect thing after so many heavy dishes during the cold weather! I love this! Gorgeous pictures too! Makes me want to grab a fork and dig right in!

  5. It’s been a long while, but I have eaten this salad at Applebee’s. When the kids were younger we would go from time to time and I would always get this! Yours looks delicious, Christin, and I’m positive it must be way better!

  6. Amy (Savory Moments)

    This salad looks terrific!! I love apples and walnuts together with chicken. I’ve never had the Applebee’s version of this salad – but I think yours looks perfect!

    1. Christin
      Christin Mahrlig

      Apples and walnuts are perfect together in a salad aren’t they? Have a great weekend Amy!

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