I was invited last week to try out the new Chick-fil-A Superfood Salad that launched last Monday and get a peek behind the scenes of the making of it. I was not compensated, and all opinions remain my own.
I’ll state it right upfront. I love kale. I could eat kale chips until the cows come home, and my homemade kale salad is my ten year old daughter’s favorite side dish – one she asks for on the regular. So when I heard that Chick-fil-A was introducing a kale salad, I was a little giddy. Ok, I’ll also admit that I am not a coleslaw fan, so the fact that this item is being introduced just as Chick-fil-A removed the beloved coleslaw from its menu does not distress me the way I know it does so many others. I went in with a somewhat positive attitude towards this.
As I learned more about it, I was a little bit leery. The dressing is a sweet and tangy maple vinaigrette, and in addition to not being a huge coleslaw fan, I also am not a maple syrup person. At. All. I was prepared for the salad to be overdressed and sickly sweet, but I really wanted to like it, and I couldn’t wait to head to see the new Chick-fil-A Superfood salad being made and taste it for myself.
To say I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor is putting it mildly. When it is made properly, the salad is amazing. The dressing is there, but it isn’t overpowering. The kale has been properly broken down and is well complemented by the broccolini, and the sweet dried cherries add that pop of tart flavor that finishes off the salad. Though it comes with a package that includes a variety of sweetened nuts, I could happily eat the salad with just the dressed kale, broccolini, and cherries. The nuts do add some protein, and they work well with the salad, though I could handle some roasted nuts without the sweetened piece for an even healthier topping to the Chick-fil-A Superfood salad.
The trick, however, is in making the salad, and the feedback that I’ve heard from friends near and far is that the salad hasn’t been perfected by all the employees in the chain yet. Kale, unlike other greens, can’t simply be cut or torn and eaten with dressing. It needs to be worked and massaged to break it down a little, which decreases the bitterness and creates the flavor I love.
Photo courtesy Chick-fil-A Vernon Hills Marketing Director Evelyn Wagoner
This salad is no different. It is made according to a strict recipe where the broccolini (that is cut in store – when they say things are made fresh at Chick-fil-A, they aren’t joking) is weighed into a container, with the kale – more than the broccolini by weight and volume – coming second.
The dressing is then added, and a gloved employee then needs to spend time stirring and massaging the salad. There are no tools involved, and it isn’t a quick stir and go, which I think this issue arises for anyone who has had a salad they haven’t liked. This is a minutes long process, and it needs to be.
Once it’s mixed, a lid is added, and the salad needs to “rest” to let flavors meld. It is placed in a cooler for a half hour before it can be served, and it is only saleable for 18 hours, so you know the salad you’re eating has been made fresh. To ensure this, just like so much else, the Chick-fil-A Superfood salad container has stickers attached noting the time and date it was made to ensure any remaining is discarded past that 18 hour timeframe.
After a half hour has passed, the salad can be finished and served. It is served in a 5 ounce and 8 ounce size at this point (personally, I would love to see this as an entree salad, and I know I’m not alone), with the dried cherries added to the top of the salad. The best part for me – it is January after all, and I’m still working on making those small changes to healthier eating – is that the small Chick-fil-A Superfood salad is just 140 calories while the larger size is just 170 calories.
Those are not typos. The store owner and I puzzled over this for awhile because the math to get from 5 ounces to 8 ounces doesn’t intuitively made sense to have just a 30 calorie jump. But we figured it out. The nuts that come with the Chick-fil-A Superfood salad are 70 calories, and you receive one package, regardless of the size you purchase. That means the salad itself is 70 calories for the 5 ounce and 100 for the 8 ounce. The kale and broccolini are minimal calories, and the dressing is not overdone, so it isn’t adding all that many either. The dried cherries don’t increase that much from the 5 ounce to the 8 ounce size because the container openings are similar in size and the cherries are sprinkled on top. So yeah, 140 and 170 calories for this salad that absolutely does not feel like that few calories.
I know that not everyone is in love with this salad, and there are several reasons. If you’ve never had kale before and this doesn’t…sound like you, give it a shot. Many Chick-fil-A restaurants have been sampling the Superfood salad when they can, and I’ve heard story after story of people who have been doubters and become firm advocates of the change. It is a great crunchy, sweet, tangy, tart combination that is somehow a relatively decent choice for those monitoring what they eat. I can’t ask for much more than that.
It is not a heavily dressed salad, and if you are one who is used to the typical American salad whose strongest flavor is the dressing, this will be a change. The dressing is meant just to enhance the flavor and not dominate it. When the salad is properly mixed, the dressing is incorporated and the kale is broken down, which changes the flavor and texture for the better. I understand that this is a new product and that many of the employees (and customers) may not be familiar with it yet, but those kinks will get worked out, and I know that I can’t wait to head back up and get more of that Chick-fil-A Superfood salad!
Even better? The owner of the Chick-fil-A I visited generously offered to provide 10 Chick-fil-A calendars for me to give away as I choose. So you know I have to give them away to my readers so they can enjoy them. If you haven’t ever seen or used a Chick-fil-A calendar before, a quick heads up. The calendars are sold for $7 apiece starting well before Christmas and include not just fun cow pictures on the monthly wall calendar but a special Chick-fil-A promotional card that has offers loaded each month. Some are mystery offers that you’ll learn about via email shortly before the start of the month while others are announced when you purchase your calendar. And yes, I purchased one for myself and one for my husband – with my procrastination requiring me to visit multiple stores to find a store that hadn’t sold out.
The January offer will have ended by the time the winners receive their calendars, but there are still 11 more months and offers left for the calendars. February’s mystery has been announced, and those with a calendar will get their choice of a Free Medium Bowl of Hearty Breast of Chicken Soup or Chicken Tortilla Soup. Yum! March is a free large soft drink, June has a free frosted lemonade or soft drink, December has a Chick-fil-A Sandwich or Chick-fil-A Spicy Sandwich. So yes, you want one of these calendars. Trust me.