Have you ever wondered how those insanely popular pinned recipes on Pinterest actually taste? Us too, which is why we’ve started a new series, Pin to Plate. We’re interviewing the blogger, testing out those recipes in-house, photographing our results, and sharing our experience. #PinFails, you’ve become a thing of the past.

Whole30 has become a cultural sensation with new products, cookbooks, and blogger recipes pouring in each day. The challenge for many on the diet is to find credible items and resources that really follow all the specific rules. Thankfully, Pinterest’s most popular Whole30 recipe will keep you in the compliant zone. This Whole30 chicken salad has been saved and shared on the social network over 247K times. That inspired us to reach out to the recipe developer to find out what makes it so dang popular and to see what all the fuss is about.

The blogger behind North South Blonde, Michelle Nemis, created her Blackened Chicken & Avocado Salad (pictured left), which is now a staple among Whole30 fanatics. She developed the recipe to change salad’s reputation as sad diet food. “Salads tend to get boring quickly, especially when you are trying to stay on a healthy regime,” she explains to Brit + Co. “I wanted to make something that had big and bold flavors.”

Most of the flavors come from the chicken breast itself, coated in a spiced mixture of paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin. The savory juices coat the tomato, red onion, cucumber, and romaine thus doubling as a salad dressing. You can see our version, pictured right, which has so many enticing, bright elements.

Its straightforwardness is probably what attracted many to pin it. “I believe that everyone is looking for recipes with simple ingredients that can be found in their pantries. This recipe is quick and easy enough for anyone to make,” Nemis promises. “It’s also very easy to customize, by adding one’s favorite ingredients. Everyone has different palates, and many of my readers have shown me their unique way of making this salad their own.”

Speaking to that, we made only slight adaptations to the recipe. If you like spices, you may want to add a pinch or two of cayenne or chipotle powder to the mix to add some heat. We also recommend doubling the spice mix, because we wished we had extra to coat the chicken more liberally and to keep some on reserve for faster prep next time. Our butcher separated the chicken breasts from the tenders and pounded them flat, so they cooked up in less than 15 minutes and thus caramelized rather than blackened. You may wish to do the same.

If tomatoes are out of season, opt for the canned salad version in olive oil, which surprisingly taste very fresh. We also put the avocado on top of the salad (rather than tossed in), because it looks pretty and prevents the tender pieces from disintegrating into the leaves (a salad pet peeve!).

BLACKENED CHICKEN AND AVOCADO SALAD

(Serves 4)

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

Blackened Chicken:

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for pan
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Avocado Salad:

  • 2 cups romaine lettuce or baby spinach
  • 1 large tomato, cut in a large dice
  • 1 small red onion, cut in a medium dice
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, cut in a half moons
  • 2 avocados, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro fresh or dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

1. Wash and pat the chicken breasts dry.

2. In a small bowl, mix together the paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, two large pinches of salt, a few cracks of black pepper, and olive oil.

3. Evenly sprinkle the spices on each side of the chicken breasts.

4. Heat a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cook chicken on medium heat, flipping halfway through cook-time, until it’s no longer pink in center (approximately 15 minutes, depending on thickness).

5. Add all the ingredients (except for the chicken and avocado) to a large salad bowl, drizzling the olive oil, and sprinkling the salt, pepper, and cilantro. Toss with tongs.

6. Remove the chicken and cut diagonally into strips. Place on top of salad along with the sliced avocado, and serve immediately.

Find more incredible recipes on Brit + Co’s Pinterest page.

(Recipe via North South Blonde; photos via North South Blonde and Brittany Griffin/Brit+Co)