Classic & Easy Chicken Salad is a great recipe to have as a foundation for a flexible & easy lunch that’s both crunchy and creamy.Jump to Recipe
Chicken salad is such a classic staple recipe that’s flexible for many occasions and an easy one to remember off hand. It’s nostalgic, a little retro, and at first glance, would seem a little plain. But when done with some TLC, it just might end up being a favorite go-to lunch for the whole family.
Honestly, chicken salad reminds me of my grandmother. I think she made it pretty often because I have some vague memories of her chopping up celery and red onion to make a traditional chicken salad recipe. I also remember loving it as a kid. Something about a grandma’s cooking, right?
Less nostalgic and more famous is the Chicken Waldorf salad. It became famous by Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC in 1893 and the recipe has evolved to include things like sliced grapes, candied walnuts, celery, and apple.
THE BEST CHICKEN SALAD
The best chicken salad is the kind that has different textures, combines salty and sweet, it’s creamy, a little tangy, and the chicken is well cooked and seasoned.
It stands the test of time and taste buds. Proving that just because something is basic doesn’t mean it's bland! A good recipe sticks around because it's good, period.
One cool thing about chicken salad (and all salads), is that you get to pick and choose your favorite mix-ins. Once you know how to make a basic chicken salad, you can play around with different chopped ingredients to create the texture and flavor you love the most or change it up.
WHEN TO EAT CHICKEN SALAD
Because chicken salad is a basic recipe, it makes it pretty flexible to change up and use how you’d like. Typically, it’s eaten at lunch & served cold.
Occasions to eat chicken salad that comes to mind are luncheons, bridal and baby showers, picnics, play dates, your workday lunch, and at the beach. You name it, it can work. It’s the champion of the everyday lunch.
Typically, you would either eat chicken salad as a standalone salad over a bed of lettuce or you would use it as a filling to make chicken salad sandwiches. I love to eat a chicken salad sandwich on an English muffin or everything bagel! It’s also great to meal prep and have on hand in the refrigerator for a bunch of easy lunches throughout the week.
HOW TO COOK CHICKEN SALAD
Let’s break down how to make a very easy, but very flavorful chicken salad.
The formula for chicken salad is of course semi-shredded chicken, a creamy dressing, and crunchy mix-ins.
I’m using chicken breasts in this that get seasoned, baked, and then shredded. But you can certainly use leftover chicken or buy a rotisserie chicken to shred as a shortcut that will cut out the cooking. What many people also do is buy a whole chicken and use it for many purposes, one of them being for chicken salad.
To season the chicken, it’s very simple. Squeeze it all over with lemon juice first, then rub it with the spice blend. To make the spice blend, mix together sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and poultry seasoning in a small bowl and stir it all together.
The chicken then bakes in the oven for about 20 minutes. Leave it out to cool down and then put the chicken in a large bowl which will be necessary to mix everything together!
While the chicken cooks and cools, dice up all your ingredients – the celery, red onion, walnuts. You can even toast your walnuts for a deeper nutty flavor!
You’ll then take two forks and shred the chicken roughly. Don’t worry about shredding it too finely.
When the chicken is all shredded, add in the diced ingredients, plus the dried cranberries to the large bowl. Then finally mix this all together with about a cup of mayonnaise and Dijon. Allow it to chill for at least an hour so that it has time to get cold and for the flavors to come together.
Refer to the full recipe below.
CHICKEN SALAD VARIATIONS
Some substitutes you can use for chicken breast would also be dark meat chicken from the thigh and leg, but note that the nutritional information would change because dark meat is fattier than white meat.
Pre-cooked chicken you can use include a fresh rotisserie chicken from the grocery store or any leftover cooked chicken that you have and can shred.
Mayonnaise substitute in Chicken Salad
This recipe calls for light mayonnaise rather than regular mayonnaise, however, you can of course use regular mayonnaise – just again note that the nutritional information will be different.
Sour cream - sometimes sour cream is used especially if you don’t like mayo. This has a tangier taste.
Healthier alternatives – these recipes will use Greek yogurt or even avocado! I find the balance with light mayonnaise in a healthy recipe works well for that nostalgic taste with a touch of Dijon mustard.
Other Mix-ins for Chicken Salad
As I said above, the best part about making salad is that you get to customize it to your liking. So here are some other ideas for flavors & toppings to mix in:
Crunchy ingredients: green onions, red onion, celery, bacon, almonds, pecans, raisins, diced red bell pepper, sliced grapes, cubed apples
Flavor: lemon juice, dijon mustard, fresh dill, other fresh herbs, shredded cheddar cheese, boiled egg yolk
How to serve chicken salad
The easiest way to serve chicken salad would be over a bed of lettuce where everyone can make their own salads and sandwiches. You can also serve chicken salad as sandwiches. To meal prep chicken salad, just leave it in the refrigerator in a large bowl sealed tightly. The whole family is sure to love this and eat it throughout the week however they want.
Chicken Salad & Weight Loss
This chicken salad recipe aids in weight loss only because an individual serving is low-calorie. It's protein-packed, as well as being filled with vegetables and healthy fats. Those aspects make it very satisfying and will curb hunger. That being said, how much you eat of it still matters (as with anything).
How long will chicken salad keep?
Chicken salad will keep for three to five days in an airtight container in the refrigerator until it starts to go bad.
AS ALWAYS, IF YOU MAKE THIS – PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW!
Classic & Easy Chicken Salad Recipe
- 1 ½ pounds chicken breast
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp poultry seasoning
- Juice from ½ lemon
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- ¾ cup celery
- ⅓ cup diced red onion
- 1 tbsp fresh minced dill
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries
- 1 ½ cup light mayo
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Preheat the oven to 375.
Start by patting the chicken breasts dry with a paper towel. In a small bowl, mix together the dried seasoning blend of sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and poultry seasoning. Stir it all together.
Squeeze the lemon juice all over the chicken, then sprinkle the seasoning blend all over the chicken making sure it’s all covered.
Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes or until juices run clear?
OPTIONAL: Toast the walnuts on a baking sheet in the oven for 5 minutes.
Allow the cooked chicken breasts to cool. Once its cooled, put the chicken breasts in a large bowl. Then you’ll take two forks and shred it into medium sized pieces.
While the chicken is cooking and cooling, dice up all your ingredients if you didn’t already – celery, red onion, walnuts, and dill.
After the chicken is all shredded, add in the diced ingredients, plus the dried cranberries to the large bowl. Then finally mix this all together with the mayonnaise, Dijon, and the fresh minced dill.
Allow it to chill for at least an hour so that it all has time to chill and come together.
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