Chicken Salad Recipe

Chicken salad, a dish that effortlessly combines simplicity with versatility, has a storied history that dates back to the early days of American cuisine. Initially crafted as a way to utilize leftover chicken, it has evolved into a staple that transcends cultural and dietary boundaries. Its popularity is undeniable, stemming from the ease with which it can be customized to fit any taste preference or dietary requirement. Whether served on a bed of greens, sandwiched between slices of artisan bread, or enjoyed as a standalone dish, chicken salad offers a delightful blend of textures and flavors that appeal to a wide audience. Its versatility is showcased in the numerous variations that exist, each bringing its unique twist to this classic dish.

The Many Faces of Chicken Salad

The beauty of chicken salad lies in its versatility. Whether you’re a fan of the classic version or enjoy experimenting with flavors, there’s a variant to satisfy your taste buds.

Classic Chicken Salad

  • The quintessential chicken salad combines chunks of tender chicken with creamy mayonnaise, crisp celery, and a pinch of salt and pepper. This version is beloved for its simplicity and comfort food appeal, serving as a blank canvas for additional ingredients or variations.

Waldorf Chicken Salad

  1. A sophisticated twist on the classic, Waldorf chicken salad includes juicy grapes, crunchy walnuts, and crisp apples, dressed in a light mayonnaise-based sauce. Originating from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, this variant is celebrated for its unique combination of sweet and savory flavors.

Asian Chicken Salad

  • This vibrant salad is a fusion of flavors and textures, featuring shredded chicken, crisp vegetables, and often mandarin oranges or pineapple, all tossed in a tangy and sweet Asian-inspired dressing. Nuts like almonds or sesame seeds add a delightful crunch, making it a refreshing option for any meal.

Mediterranean Chicken Salad

  • Drawing inspiration from Mediterranean cuisine, this version incorporates ingredients like olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a zesty dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. Feta cheese and fresh herbs like oregano or basil elevate the flavors, offering a light yet satisfying salad.

Low-fat and Healthy Chicken Salad Variants

  • For those mindful of their dietary intake, there are numerous healthy twists on the traditional chicken salad. Substituting mayonnaise with Greek yogurt or avocado provides a creamy texture without the added calories, while incorporating a variety of vegetables increases the nutritional value of the dish. These variants prove that healthy options do not have to compromise on flavor or enjoyment.

For those interested in the nutritional aspects of including chicken in your diet, the American Heart Association offers insights and recommendations for heart-healthy eating, which can be easily applied to making a healthier chicken salad.

Crafting the Perfect Chicken Salad

Creating the perfect chicken salad is about finding the right balance of flavors and textures. Here’s a step-by-step guide to preparing a mouthwatering dish:

Ingredients and Substitutions

While the basic components of chicken salad are straightforward, there’s plenty of room for creativity and customization.

  • Chicken: Cooked and shredded or cubed
  • Celery: For crunch
  • Mayonnaise: Can be substituted with Greek yogurt or avocado for a healthier option
  • Grapes or apples: For a sweet contrast
  • Nuts: Like walnuts or pecans for added texture

Understanding the importance of food safety, especially when handling poultry, is crucial. Refer to Food Safety Guidelines for Preparing Chicken Salad to ensure your dish is not only delicious but also safe to consume.

The Recipe

  1. Begin by preparing your chicken. Whether you opt for boiling, grilling, or using leftover rotisserie chicken, ensure it’s cooked thoroughly.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the chicken with diced celery, your choice of fruits and nuts, and a generous dollop of mayonnaise or its substitute.
  3. Season with salt, pepper, and any additional herbs or spices to taste.
  4. Mix gently until all ingredients are well coated and refrigerate until serving.

Beyond the Basics

To elevate your chicken salad experience, consider the following:

  • Nutritional Information: Keep your salad balanced with lean protein from the chicken and add fruits and vegetables for vitamins and fiber.
  • Pairings and Serving Suggestions: Serve your chicken salad on a bed of greens, in a sandwich, or with a side of whole-grain crackers.
  • Storage and Make-ahead Tips: Chicken salad can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days, making it a perfect make-ahead meal.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does chicken salad last in the fridge?

  • Chicken salad can be safely stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days when kept in an airtight container. To ensure the best quality and safety, always refrigerate the salad within two hours of preparation. It’s crucial to keep your fridge at a consistent temperature of 40°F (4°C) or below to maintain the salad’s freshness and prevent bacterial growth.

Can chicken salad be frozen?

  • While you can freeze chicken salad, it’s important to note that mayonnaise or yogurt-based dressings tend to separate and become watery upon thawing. If you plan to freeze chicken salad, consider freezing the chicken separately and adding fresh dressing when you’re ready to serve. This method helps preserve the texture and flavor of the salad.

What are the best herbs to add to chicken salad?

  • The best herbs to add to chicken salad depend on your flavor preferences. Classic choices include dill, parsley, and tarragon, which offer fresh and vibrant flavors. For a more unique taste, consider incorporating basil, cilantro, or chives. Experimenting with different herbs can help you discover your perfect chicken salad recipe.

How can I make a low-fat chicken salad?

  • To make a low-fat chicken salad, substitute mayonnaise with healthier alternatives like Greek yogurt or avocado. These substitutions provide a creamy texture while significantly reducing the fat content. Additionally, you can increase the salad’s vegetable content with ingredients like celery, apples, or grapes for added fiber and nutrients without the extra calories.

Chicken salad stands as a testament to the power of simplicity in creating something truly satisfying. Whether you stick to the traditional recipe or venture into more adventurous variations, this dish is sure to delight.

Chicken Salad Recipe

This classic chicken salad recipe offers a perfect blend of creamy texture and crunchy elements, making it an ideal choice for a nutritious and satisfying meal. With a balance of flavors and a mix of healthy ingredients, it's great for lunches, picnics, or light dinners.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 4 Serves
Calories 250 kcal


  • Mixing bowl
  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Measuring cups and spoons


  • 2 cups cooked chicken shredded or diced
  • 1/2 cup celery diced
  • 1/2 cup red grapes halved
  • 1/4 cup almonds sliced or chopped
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or light mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh dill or parsley chopped (optional for garnish)


  • Prepare the Ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked chicken, diced celery, halved grapes, and sliced almonds.
  • Mix the Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt or mayonnaise, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Combine: Pour the dressing over the chicken mixture and gently stir until all ingredients are well coated.
  • Chill: Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld together.
  • Serve: Garnish with fresh dill or parsley before serving. Enjoy your chicken salad on a bed of greens, as a sandwich filling, or with your favorite crackers.


  • Substitutions: Feel free to substitute grapes with dried cranberries or chopped apples for a different sweet element.
  • Vegan/Vegetarian Options: For a plant-based version, use chickpeas or tofu instead of chicken and a vegan mayonnaise.
  • Storage: Chicken salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. It's not recommended to freeze this salad due to the dressing.
  • Serving Suggestions: Serve as a filling for sandwiches, atop a green salad, or as a dip with crackers and veggies for a versatile meal option.
Keyword Chicken Salad, Easy Recipe, Healthy Lunch, Meal Prep, Picnic Food