How to Make Chicken Salad

This tasty chicken salad recipe is a game changer, using fresh ingredients and poached chicken. It makes for a tasty lunch sandwich or a delicious dinner side dish.

A plate of chicken salad with slices of apples and garnished with lettuce.

Are you tired of old-fashioned chicken salad with little flavor? Chicken salad does not have to consist of tired tastes and textures. This chicken salad recipe gives you a fresh take on a classic and uses healthy ingredients that make this dish nutritious and tasty.

The best news? This recipe takes less than an hour to prepare, even considering the time it takes to cook the chicken. You can expect to enjoy your chicken salad on bread, salad, or as a side dish. It serves four to six.

A Chicken Salad that Defies Expectations

For many people, chicken salad does not sound appetizing. They might think of side dishes at family picnics chosen because they were easy to find at the deli. They might think of dull sandwiches lacking in flavor.

It does not have to be this way.

Sure, the chicken salad gets a bad rap. The dish has strayed far from its roots. While many people associate chicken salad with the 1950s, its history goes much further back. In the 1860s, chicken salad was a Southern dish with rich flavor provided by a combination of tarragon, grapes, homemade mayo, and cold poultry often served on bread.

While chicken salad is the target of much criticism, this is only because most people have never tried a fresh chicken salad made with love. The homemade chicken salad contains fresh ingredients, including nuts and fruit. It also provides a rich texture with layers to enjoy. There is a world of difference between pre-packaged chicken salad and the kind made in a home kitchen.

Why Does This Recipe Stand Out?

Like other recipes, this chicken salad contains shredded chicken breast. The difference lies in the poached chicken breasts. While many recipes call for a store-bought rotisserie chicken, the chicken is often too dry, leading to a lack of flavor in your dish. Moisture is the key to creating texture and taste that stands out.

This recipe shakes things up by poaching the chicken breasts. The process is easy and involves bringing the breasts to boil in a pot of water. Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat and cover the pot for about 20 minutes. Once the chicken cools, the meat can be shredded. It will be moist and cooked to perfection.

Choose Your Own Adventure

This recipe provides you with a strong base. You can add a variety of ingredients to the salad to create more flavor and texture. For example, you might want to add different types of apples, more nuts, or different levels of mayonnaise. This recipe gives you some freedom to work with, ensuring you don’t end up with one of those infamous dull chicken salad sandwiches.

For instance, this recipe calls for chopped apples. The type of apple you choose is up to you. If you prefer your chicken salad to be tart, use a Granny Smith apple. Want a sweeter flavor? Select a Gala or Fuji apple. Want to mix it up? Use a combination of apples.

Chicken Salad Ingredients

The ingredients to be used for the recipe.

The ingredients for this chicken salad are simple and affordable. As you can see, a healthy and tasty dish does not require a ton of ingredients.

Here’s what you need:

  • 3 medium chicken breasts or 6 chicken tenders (should make about 2.5 cups of shredded chicken)
  • 2 cups apples, chopped (leave the peel on for improved taste and texture)
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons mayonnaise (more mayonnaise balances out any extras you add)
  • 1/3 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, and pecans work well)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

What about those extras? These are a few ingredients you might consider adding to your base to create texture and flavor that everybody will agree takes your chicken salad to the next level:

  • Dried cranberries (about 2 tablespoons will do the trick)
  • Celery (about 1 stalk, chopped into small pieces)
  • Grapes (1/2 cup, sliced in half and seedless)
  • Raisins (1/2 cup)
  • Sunflower seeds (1/4 cup, shelled)
  • Cucumber (chopped into small pieces)

Poach the Chicken

The chicken is boiled in a pot of water.

First, you need to cook the chicken. Simply place the chicken breast tenders or whole breasts in a pot of water. Bring the pot of water to a rolling boil. Once boiling, turn of the heat and use a tight lid to cover it. After about 20 to 25 minutes, the chicken should be cooked through.

Once the chicken cools off, use your hands to shred it into bite-sized pieces that combine well with the rest of your ingredients.

Some people may prefer to use canned chicken, but fresh is always better. Taking the extra time to poach the chicken, perhaps in salt and pepper, makes all the difference.

Combine Chicken & Apples

Mix the shredded chicken pieces and apples in a large bowl. Stir them together with mayonnaise. Start with just three tablespoons. If you want to add more, use one tablespoon at a time. Taste the concoction as you go, ensuring that the texture and taste are suitable to you. Some people just prefer more mayo than others, so go with your gut (and taste buds).

Once you are content with the amount of may on your salad, add the salt. Mix well before adding the nuts, and mix again. Then, you can add your favorite extras.

The Cherry on Top: Add Extra Ingredients

Customize your chicken salad with any of the extra ingredients listed above. Remember that you might need to add more mayonnaise to adjust the texture of the dish.

Keep in mind that the bread you serve a chicken salad on can make the difference. Toasted bread with garlic can add to your experience, for instance. You might also add a dash of lemon juice or a spot of dill for some extra flare. Chicken salad can also be served on a salad or a bed of lettuce for a low-carb meal.

Chicken salad is not a static dish. Mix and match the ingredients to create a recipe based on your own preferences. Adjust the ingredients to suit your taste, and you will never be stuck with a boring chicken salad sandwich again.

A close look at a freshly-made chicken salad garnished with raisins.

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