This salad. Where do I begin? I guess it all starts with pumpkin seed oil. The green gold. If you live in the States, (or anywhere outside of Austria maybe) and have never tried pumpkin seed oil, I feel sorry for you. It has a subtle an umami flavor, and a nutty, creamy texture unlike any oil I’ve ever tried. I can never get enough of it, and this salad is basically just a vessel for enjoying the shit out of that oil.
Was my opening a little dramatic? Yes, yes it was. But for real, this is one of my favorite salads to order when I’m at an Austrian restaurant. If you order it at a legit Wirtshaus or Gästhaus you can expect it to come with all kinds of goodies: potato salad, carrot salad, some cabbage salad, corn, green beans; basically, it’s loaded with veggies and tasty, good-for-you stuff. But it’s also topped with juicy fried chicken and lots of pumpkin seed oil! While loaded with vegetables, it’s still an indulgence (and not one I am afraid of given the appropriate setting).
I use pumpkin seed oil a lot when making salads at home, but I have never made a Steirisches Backhendlsalat (Styrian Fried Chicken Salad in English. We’ll go with this name for now). This is because 1) I don’t fry chicken and 2) it just never really occurred to me that I could make one myself. But now, after completing two successful rounds of Whole30s (and about to do a third!), I have discovered you can make almost any dish Whole30 and perfectly compliant, especially if you’re willing to cut out some unnecessary ingredients and simplify.
For my Whole30 version of this Styrian chicken salad, I baked my chicken in the oven and breaded the strips with ground almonds AND ground pumpkin seeds! Yes, we are going all in on the pumpkin seeds here. I used the same cooking method that The Defined Dish uses on her Whole30 Chicken Parm (which is awesome and on regular rotation in my kitchen). The pumpkin seeds give the breading more of a nutty flavor and turns it a slight green color, which I think is so cool.
Instead of alllll the sides you normally get with this salad in the restaurants, I opted for just one side, which is the most important one: an Austrian/German style potato salad. It’s also important to use big, beautiful leafy greens in this. No iceberg or romaine lettuce please. While those are great lettuces, they have no place here.
And lastly, I have to talk about the dressing. Before compiling this post I did a quick Google search just to see how many Styrian chicken salad recipes there were floating around on the web. I found a few, but was shocked and appalled (so dramatic, I know) that almost all of the recipes said you could substitute the pumpkin seed oil in the dressing with any vegetable oil. (Gasp!). This is NOT TRUE. Sure, if you can’t find pumpkin seed oil you can sub out something else you love, but then you are no longer having a Styrian salad. You’re just having a salad with really yummy green-ish baked chicken strips. The pumpkin seed oil is a must. Sorry to be a stickler, but there is no substitute for this.
I did some research to see where one could possibly find pumpkin seed oil to purchase in the States, and sadly, it’s not easy to find. I found a few options on Amazon, but I can’t speak for the quality so I’m not linking them. It is possible some local boutique food shops carry it, but that’s a discovery you’ll have to make on your own. I would only ask that you read your labels and look for:
- Pumpkin seeds from Styria or Austria (preferably not from China, but that would be okay I guess).
- Cold-pressed oil
- Dark glass bottle. This oil should not be in clear, plastic bottles. It should be kept away from light (or even kept in the fridge for a longer shelf life).
- Deep green in color. If the oil is in a proper bottle, then you won’t be able to see its true color, but if you’re in a shop where the shop owner could possibly show you a sample, the color should be very, very dark green.
One last tip on pumpkin seed oil before I send you on your way to make this awesome salad. If you get the oil on your clothes or favorite dish towel, don’t panic. You wont’ be stuck with a permanent green stain. Place your stained item in direct sunlight for several hours. Maybe even all day for a day or two. The sun magically fades the stain, then you can use your favorite oil-stain removal method for the rest. Learned this from my husband (and he most likely learned it from his mom 😉 )
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