Fast Food Review: New! Berry Almond Chicken Salad from Wendy’s

Condensation... Not a good first sign.

There are two types of people in the world: those who don’t really like salads, and those who love them. Despite what you may think you know about my eating habits from the reviews I’ve done here on GrubGrade, I am in the latter category. I am so much in the latter category, in fact, that I acquired the nickname of “that dude with the big salad” during my time in the college dining halls. Whether it be watermelon and tomatoes over spring green with red onion and feta, or beets and orange segments with a sprinkle of lime juice, my dining hall salad creations knew no bounds.

The promo picks looked good. Can you count the amount of berries?

All that being said, I can’t remember the last time I actually ordered a salad at a fast food restaurant. It’s just one of those things, you know? I mean, OK, I can trust an industrial fryer when it comes to cooking mechanically separated chicken with tons of additives; but a fresh, light, and composed assortment of seasonal vegetables? Haha, good luck with that.

Of course, every once in a while a place like Wendy’s will roll the dice on the proverbial salad game, betting the drive towards ‘healthier’ options will lead consumers to take to something like their Berry Almond Chicken Salad. It almost never works out that way, but judging from comments here at GrubGrade over the last month or, it so seems to be a hit. If nothing else, its description certainly leaves one impressed and willing to try:

…bursting with the freshness of summer. Plump blueberries and ripe, hand-sliced strawberries. They’re grown right here in the U.S. and filled with antioxidants. Topped with tender, grilled chicken breast, Asiago cheese, roasted almonds and our all natural fat-free raspberry vinaigrette.

In the interest of full disclosure, I purchased this salad with a gift card provided by a Wendy’s representative. This point aside, I’m being completely objective when I say I found the salad overpriced, unbalanced, and hardly substantial. I also found it to be Exhibit A in why I stay clear of salads at fast food places, and why there really is no truth in advertising. Retailing at $6.49 for a large salad, my Wendy’s salad contained exactly eight blueberries, and approximately one and a half large strawberries. I cannot say for certain that it didn’t contain 11 “freshly chopped” greens, yet as you can see from the pictures, it looked like mostly iceberg to me. And let’s be clear, in terms of the actual composition of the salad, it was mostly iceberg.

The extent of my fruitage. Is this, technically, a full serving?

To be fair, the berries were plump, and the greens weren’t wilted or dry, but the lack of substance is hardly what one expects for paying for the single most expensive menu item. The portion of “Asiago” cheese was generous, but its flavor – not to mention the thick shavings – didn’t mesh with the other ingredients. The cheese was more earthy (think bitter, ‘musky’) than nutty and complex, was too loud in terms of weight, and had none of the  subtle sweet notes that finer shavings of fresh Asiago would lend. A valiant attempt, but in the quality given, more of a distraction than anything else.

Which leads me to the chicken. While my salad was pulled from a fridge, the chicken was warm. I think it’s a mistake to serve it warm given the ethos this salad is trying to convey, but the breast itself was above complaints, albeit for a few stringy pieces and the usual saltiness. The almonds provided a nice contrast, but the advertised smoke flavor was minimum, and I didn’t think it did much for the salad. The dressing – apparently chock-full of antioxidants – had no balance or astringency. It was too sweet and had a weird viscosity. Also, why the heck is it a “vinaigrette?” Xantham gum is not oil, and while I appreciate the attempt to keep the fat down, don’t insult the artful approach of dressing a salad by giving me 100 calories worth of syrup and calling it a “vinaigrette.”

I’m being hard on this salad, I realize, and truth be told, it’s not bad. But with the salad’s steep price tag, it bears scrutiny. Keep in mind consumers DO NOT expect to pay more for healthier options, yet this is what Wendy’s is expecting them to do. Eight blueberries and a strawberry and a half is not acceptable, and it led to an unbalanced meal that relied too much on a bitter and fake tasting Asiago cheese, way too much iceberg lettuce, and a “vinaigrette” with no body, tang, or complexity. The salad would benefit from red onion and a milder, creamier cheese.  It may be fine for people looking to eat healthy at a fast food place on a limited basis, but is it the kind of menu item a loyal salad eater (and cost conscious individual) comes back to? My answer is a definitive “no.”

Other Wendy’s Salads Reviewed

Pros: Fruit is fresh and plump. Chicken is whole breast, meaty and juicy. Almonds give salad a nice textural contrast. Very good source of protein.

Cons: Insufficient fruit to warrant the price. Warm chicken does not match with the cold storage method nor ethos of the summer salad. Too much lettuce. Dressing lacks in richness. Could use sour notes. Cheese has funky, half-melted texture on cold greens. Not as 'healthy' as made out to be, seeing as though it has more trans fat than the Entenmann's donut I ate for dinner and more sodium than the Arby's Beef 'n Cheddar I had last night.

Taste: 700.00/10
Value: 4.50/10
Grubbing on-the-go: 5.75/10
Price: 6.49 (paid for by Wendy's)

Overall GrubGrade: 5.50 (mediocre)

More Info: Wendys.com
Nutrition Facts:
Berry Almond Chicken Salad (full salad with dressing)
Calories – 450
Total Fat – 16 grams
Saturated Fat – 6 grams
Trans Fat: 0.5 grams
Carbs – 42 grams
Cholesterol – 95 milligrams
Sodium – 1300 milligrams
Sugars – 30 grams
Dietary Fiber – 6 grams
Protein – 38 grams

44 comments on “Fast Food Review: New! Berry Almond Chicken Salad from Wendy’s

  1. Shannon says:

    I am shocked, and I can just see the comments rolling in on this one.

    • Adam says:

      Shocked at what? Comments about what? I’ve given my honest impressions here, and I’d like to hear why you do/do not disagree…

    • Kay says:

      I LOVE it, I just finished my second one this week!!!

  2. [...] Other Wendy’s Berry Almond Chicken Salad review: Foodette Reviews Brand Eating Grub Grade [...]

  3. Tracy says:

    I’ve been on a fast food salad kick lately and was tempted to get it but the price held me back. Knowing it’s not great, I won’t even try it.
    Not surprisingly the garden salad from Chick-fil-a is the best there is. It is pricy by it is a very large salad, all the ingredients are very fresh and filling without a large calorie intake. McD’s salads were shameful. I tried 4 salad, 2 separate visits, 2 locations, with 2 BOGO coupons. The salads had the tiniest amount chicken, one breast cut in half and the tomatoes were either old or in some cases moldy. The bacon was either nonexistant when it should be there or raw and was heaped in a mound so big it couldn’t be avoided.

    It’s sad that the few healthy choice available are either not great or over priced and poor quality.

    • Adam says:

      I like CFA’s Chargrill and Fruit as well. I think the tang of their chicken – marinated in pickle juice – works better with the assortment of fruit. It’s also a buck cheaper and is served cold:)

  4. Jonthan says:

    I completely disagree. This is the best salad I’ve ever had from a fast food place, without a doubt! Anyone agree with me?

    • lee says:

      I agree. The three salads I have had have been full of strawberries and blue berries not mention a good portion of chicken. I think that the location makes a difference. I had the salad from the same location each time.

  5. Shannon says:

    Well, I don’t have an opinion either way on the salad having never eaten it, but your review seems to be quite thorough. I was referring to what must be approaching one hundred positive comments on this salad prior to your review. Why wouldn’t they weigh in on what you had to say? When you referred to this salad as a summer salad, I thought it was interesting. Such a thing is new to me.

    • Adam says:

      Gotcha :)

      Yes, it is a summer salad. When you’re dealing with berries you’re obviously dealing with light ingredients in terms of weight, and given their seasonal spring/summer peak, I think the goal is to project a summer ethos. I agree the Asiago may go with the almonds, but berries? If you want to use that particular flavor profile of a cheese, go with figs or grapes.

  6. Crysta says:

    The one I had when it first came out had way more fruit than that. The amount of berries you got is truly pathetic. :(

    Maybe they’ve cut back since then, or maybe my local Wendy’s just piles stuff on (their salads are huge). Wish I had taken pictures, but I didn’t take a camera with me.

  7. Alec says:

    It’s a consistency thing. I had one in Lost Hills, California a couple weeks ago and I got plenty of berries and a great mix of salad greens. The price, however, is still nuts.

  8. Kayleigh says:

    I’m sorry you didn’t like your salad because I thought it was pretty awesome for a fast food salad. Mine was a bit different, had quite a few more berries and the Wendy’s I go to uses the mixed greens as a salad base so all the salads I have had from them are really good and fresh tasting. I agree about the Asiago cheese, I think a white cheddar would be much better in this salad. The dressing is also very sweet, I’m not sure what they could do about that…I just didn’t use very much and it didn’t really bother me. Good review nonetheless!

    • Adam says:

      Here’s my thing, though: at $6.49-7.00, is it supposed to be acceptable as just a “fast food” salad? Is it on the upper spectrum of fast food salads? I think so – but just barely – and it’s more expensive than salads like Micky D’s Asian Chicken and Carl’s Jr. Hawaiian.

    • Paul says:

      Please let me know where you are getting your salads. I have been buying mine at two Wendy stores in Columbus, Ohio (Wendy’s HQ), and they no longer feature the spring mixed greens, but iceberg lettuce as the first ingredient in the nutrition info on the web. They are at least 95% iceberg with only a few leaves of something else. This is also true of ALL of their other salads except for caesar which is chopped romaine. Too bad, because up until two weeks ago, I had one for lunch daily. They also cut down on berries, and the same with the apples on the apple pecan chicken salads. I refuse to pay their prices now for the reduced quality salads, and buy the caesar side salad and add my own meat and other ingredients from home for a lunch salad.

  9. TheGem says:

    I think, though I haven’t tried it, this salad seems disgusting. I can just imagine how gloopy and cloying that “vinaigrette” must be.

    But, unless you brought one from home, aren’t there 9 blueberries?

    • Jenny says:

      I had one last weekend and it had far more fruit, it was really good too, the fruit that is. The salad was huge, much larger than MCdonalds’ salads, which are iffy as to whether they will fill me up; I couldn’t eat this whole salad. It was mostly iceberg though, which bummed me out. There was a ton of chicken also. I also didn’t like the dressing, Ken’s Raspberry vinaigrette would be much better.

  10. rob says:

    The price is too high for me to even try it. I’ve always liked their chicken caesar salad.

  11. SkippyMom says:

    I thought this was a very thorough review – if you had liked it I definitely would have considered ordering one [although the price is steep] but when I got to the sodium I almost choked. That must be coming from the cheese, dressing & smoked almonds. What a joke for eating healthy.

    I will definitely look at one if we go to Wendy’s again – I am curious to see it ours have more fruit [that was really pathetic.]

  12. Chefprotoss or dan says:

    Technicly speaking, a vinegrette is just the combination of vinegar and oil(emulsified or not) with anything else you feel like putting in it. It is a blanket term. You could call mayo a vinegrette if you wanted and you would be correct. Dumb, but correct.

    Oh and adam, please take this with a grain of salt, but try not to say “flavor profile”. It is a meaningless term that people who want to sound smart use to describe food. In my 14 years in the restaurant industry, I have yet to see a flavor profile chart or any kind of break down of what flavor profiles even are. I have had many a customer in the kitchen rave about our “complex flavor profiles”, and the whole staff laughs at their expense the second they leave. Just sayin’ =P

    Great review though. And thanks for debunking wendys claim that this salad anything more than commercial iceberg with some random items thrown in for flare. Also I seriously doubt that asiago was shaved by hand the moment it you ordered your salad. If it came in a bag(and I bet it did), it had some kind of food starch added to keep the cheese from sticking together. Long story shot, it gives cheese a weird taste and texture. Lastly, cutting up one strawberry does not make “strawberries”. Good call on that. =)

    • Adam says:

      Thanks for the compliment dan, and the explanation. Given my 1/3rd of a year in the restaurant industry, I willingly conceed I was attempting to “sound smart.” But I do think I have a decent understanding of what fruits and cheeses go together in terms of balance, at least in terms of people who review fast food for fun (c’mon buddy, throw me a bone here!)

      • Chefprotoss or dan says:

        Lol, everything you said was spot on. You have quite an educated palete my friend. That term just makes me cringe. ;)

    • J.B. says:

      Yeah, I always assumed that statements like flavor profile were just garbage that people said to each other at dinner parties to make themselves sound like they were experienced food critics.
      Glad to see I was correct.

  13. Manavee says:

    I could have sworn I got more fruit in mine as well….but I might be mistaken, as I would assume that would be a standardized thing.

    I liked this salad personally, although I agree the price is too high.

    What I liked:
    1. I felt like I got a generous amount of fruit in my salad. THe fruit seemed fresh and of good quality.
    2. I liked the chicken. It was moist and I liked how they had diced it up (as opposed to McDonalds where the chicken is incompletely sliced into strips (you have to break it apart and distribute it around yourself)).
    3. I know it wasn’t a true vinaigrette, but I thought the dressing added a nice amount of flavor that complemented the fruit well.

  14. J.B. says:

    This price is absurd.

  15. Rhiannon says:

    I wanted to try this salad but I don’t believe that will be happening now.

    My favorite summer salad is from Panera bread. Yummy chicken, blueberries, pineapple,mandarin oranges, strawberries and pecans. Well worth the price.

  16. Deanna says:

    The expression is “chock full,” not “chalk full.”

  17. hamburglar says:

    “contained exactly eight blueberries” – I count nine in your photo. Sorry, I have to void your review.

  18. J says:

    i liked it so much i went back and got another a few days later. but i tend to go with the 2 for 5 deal so a half salad and something else that can fill me up. i typically hate fast food dressings but this one was okay.

  19. missouri says:

    Price = poor quality control = CRAZY!!

  20. B says:

    I thought it was fantastic. Same thing as the panera berry salad but 2 bucks cheaper. I am surprised you didn’t like it. I had one today and loved it.

  21. Matt says:

    I thought this review was very thorough and made some excellent points. Red Robin is currently featuring a very similar salad at a price point of $8.99 (which is actually a low price for that restaurant). It has sliced strawberries (and a good portion of them), crumbled feta cheese, almonds, grilled chicken, and a strawberry vinaigrette, with only romaine lettuce. It was fantastic!

  22. Anon says:

    I work for my local Wendy’s and your salad was under portioned by company guidelines. You should have had at least 2 whole strawberries/12 blueberries per salad. (Half size is 1 whole strawberry/8 blueberries) My area actually suggests that the salad shouldn’t be under portioned so if there are more than there is supposed to be that is okay.

    The lettuce blend is off as well, as soon as you open the salad you are supposed to see iceburg, romaine and the other types of lettuce. Again because the company is pushing 11 types of lettuce in ads you are supposed to see more of the spring mix type than iceburg/romaine. All salads are supposed to have romaine not just iceburg.

  23. Debbie says:

    By far the best fast food salad ever. Even my grandchidren love it. Wendy’s please keep up the good work, we need good food on the go.
    Thanks

  24. Sarah says:

    I have to say, I hate salads. But Wendy’s Berry Almond Chicken Salad is the very best salad to have entered my mouth. I got quite a few berries (more than you seem to have gotten) and I had mine without dressing and without the almonds. The chicken is my favorite part. I leave it for the end. I’m quite shocked that you were so displeased…maybe you should try a different Wendy’s.

  25. Jack says:

    I think this is the best (so far) of the fast food salads. I think it rivals many salads I have gotten in a “real” restaurant. While it may seem expensive, (I thought so at first too) it is about the same as you would pay for a burger meal deal. I have found that I am satisfied at lunch and late at night with the 1/2 size for $4-5. I hope Wendy’s keeps trying to upgrade this offering. I really wonder why KFC with their good tasting grilled chicken doesn’t wake up and dominate the chicken salad market. All they have to offer is disgusting sides that don’t even include a salad, unless you call coleslaw a salad.

  26. Amy says:

    I honestly love this salad. I must have a generous Wendy’s as well because my salads certainly never lack in the berry department. That being said, I do agree that they are way too expensive. And I have come across the warm chicken problem before. But if you’re looking for a quick and filling summer salad, it’s worth at least trying.

  27. I LOVE this salad and I’m surprised about the review! One thing though, I always order the HALF SIZE version and I have about DOUBLE the amount of berries on mine! I have so many blue berries that I can eat one with every bite! I love getting the Pair 2 combo and ordering a baked potato to go with it. This is BY FAR the BEST fast food salad I’ve ever eaten! I LOVE the dressing and I think it tastes amazing, and the fat FREE is the bonus! I normally really hate fat free salad dressings, so I was hesitant about this one, but now I order extra packs so I can eat it on my own salad at home!

  28. [...] NewsBack for a limited time at Wendy’s… the Berry Almond Chicken Salad.  Check out our review from last year.Featuring a star-studded cast of summer produce, Wendy’s Berry Almond Chicken Salad stars fresh, [...]

  29. Bill says:

    worst review ever.

  30. [...] been at fast food places, I’ve rarely seen them ordered. The price points are also high…$6.49 for a salad? Share this:EmailPrintDiggFacebookLinkedInRedditTwitterStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to [...]

  31. Mike says:

    This salad is great. I think the chicken needs to be hot, and I like that about it. Almonds are great, the fruit is a good amount, of course you always want more. I get the full salad and only use one of the dressings, and I actually like that too. The price is fine to me too. My only problem is why is there trans fats, I know its only .5, but still most places have eliminated them. Ill still get the salad, but I wish I knew where the trans fat came from, I might cut that part out.

  32. Susan says:

    We think the salad is great….we only use a few drops of the dressing…where are all the fat grams coming from?