Ultimate Chicken Salad

Chicken salad is undoubtedly a classic recipe. Diced chicken is tossed with creamy textures and dotted with crisp celery, green onion, and fresh grapes.

But my version has a little something extra to make it the ultimate chicken salad recipe. It’s easy, healthy, bright, flavorful, and will make any summer meal a breeze.

Chicken salad in a white bowl with spoon.

When I think of chicken salad, I think of summer’s own version of comfort food. It’s creamy, filling, and filled with fresh and bright flavors. You get hints of Dijon mustard, juicy grapes, and crispy celery with every bite. And the best part? It keeps cooking to a minimum, making it the perfect throw-together meal.

But if you want to make the ultimate chicken salad, it’s really all about the herbs. And my secret ingredient – tarragon.

Tarragon pairs beautifully with the chicken and gives it that wow factor. Trust me, everybody will be coming back for seconds on this one. So hit the market, grab your salad ingredients, and follow along with me in the video below.

Chicken Salad Ingredients

While the ingredients are simple, it’s how their unique flavors meld together that’s key. Here’s what I use:

  • Chicken Breasts – I poach boneless skinless chicken breasts, but you could also use leftover rotisserie chicken.
  • Mayonnaise – The best creamy binder to mix all the ingredients together. And it’s easy to make mayonnaise at home!
  • Dijon Mustard – Just a little Dijon mustard adds great depth of flavor and a little spice.
  • Red Grapes – You could use red or green seedless grapes, I just love the contrasting color of red grapes.
  • Celery – I love my chicken salads to have that crisp celery crunch.
  • Green Onion – Green onions add that savory flavor without being too pungent, which is perfect.
  • Toasted Almonds – Toast your sliced almonds to bring out that nutty flavor.
  • Parsley – One of the best herbs for adding to salads, just chop up a few tablespoons.
  • Tarragon – The best secret ingredient! You’ll be amazed at how much flavor just a little bit of tarragon adds to the salad.
  • Lemon Juice – For that bright freshness.
  • Salt and Pepper – Always season to your personal preference.

Chicken salad ingredients in a mixing bowl.

How To Poach Chicken

I love to use poached chicken in this recipe as it’s easy, healthy, and flavorful. It also means you don’t have to turn your oven on if it’s a hot sunny day outside. A definite bonus.

If done correctly, poaching can yield one of the most tender pieces of chicken you’ve ever had. To nail this every time, follow the simple steps below.

  1. Place your chicken breasts into a wide pot or pan, so that they’re not overlapped or crowded.
  2. Cover the chicken with cold water. Season the water with a bit of salt to give it some flavor.
  3. Slowly bring the water to a gentle simmer. Then, reduce the heat back to low and cover the pan.
  4. Let the chicken simmer for about 10 minutes. Remember, patience is key for this low and slow process!
  5. Check to see the doneness of your chicken. If its internal temperature reads 160-165 degrees Fahrenheit, turn the heat off.
  6. Let the chicken rest for a minute or two after you’ve removed it from the pot. This will allow the chicken juices to redistribute.
  7. Chill the chicken in the fridge. This is key as you need cold chicken in this recipe.

Can you use baked chicken or store-bought rotisserie chicken? Of course. While I prefer poached chicken, almost any chicken works in this recipe. Just make sure you have about four cups of diced or shredded chicken.

Chicken salad in a white bowl with spoon and small bowl of diced celery in the background.

How To Make Chicken Salad

Now that you have beautifully tender chicken breasts, it’s time to assemble the salad. And there’s really only three steps:

  • Toast: Lightly toast 1/2 cup of almonds in a pan on the stove. Let them cool completely to room temperature.
  • Slice and Dice: First, dice up your chicken breasts into small 1/2-inch pieces. Then quarter the grapes, dice the celery, parsley and tarragon, and slice the green onion.
  • Mix: Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and mix everything together until it’s well combined. Season with a bit of salt and pepper – and you’re done!

Chicken salad is best served when it’s cold. So let the mixture chill in the fridge before serving. This also helps all the flavors meld together for the tastiest salad.

Chicken Salad Recipe Video

Want to see how I make this recipe, step-by-step? Watch the video below!

Chicken Salad Variations

Aside from the ingredients listed, you have a few options to play with when it comes to texture and flavor.

  • Vary the nuts. Swap the almonds for pecans or walnuts.
  • Mix up the fruit. You can omit the grapes and add diced apples, dried cranberries or dried cherries.
  • Change the onions. If green onions aren’t your thing, you can swap them for finely diced red onions.
  • Make it creamier. Swap the mayo for greek yogurt or do half and half.

Chicken salad sandwiches sliced in half on a serving tray.

How to Serve It

Sometimes I find myself eating this chicken salad by the spoonful straight out of the bowl – because it’s that good. But to turn it into a meal, here’s a few ideas.

  • Sandwich: Stuff it between sandwich bread with layers of lettuce, spinach, or tomato slices.
  • Wrap: Turn it into a wrap with homemade cassava flour tortillas.
  • Lettuce Wrap: For a lighter, low-carb option, use large romaine or butter leaf lettuce to wrap it.
  • Extra Green Salad: Pour a spoonful on top of a bed of greens such as spinach.
  • Dip: Serve it with flax seed crackers or chips.

How Long Does Chicken Salad Last?

Since this recipe is meant to be chilled, don’t leave it out at room temperature for more than two hours. Otherwise, store it in the fridge for up to 3-5 days.

More Classic Salad Recipes

With the weather warming up, more salads are being added to the weekly rotation. Here’s a few light, fresh and healthy ideas to keep things interesting.

Chicken salad in a white bowl next to small bowls of diced celery, chopped parsley and fresh tarragon.

Ultimate Chicken Salad Recipe

4.98 from 145 votes
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 25 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan
Chicken salad is a classic salad recipe with diced chicken, creamy mayonnaise, crisp celery, green onion, sweet grapes, and fresh herbs. Watch the video above to see how I make it!

Ingredients

  • 2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 cup red grapes, quartered
  • 2 stalk celery, diced
  • 3 green onions (green and white parts), sliced
  • 2 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
  • 1 lemon , juiced
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions 

To Make the Poached Chicken

  • Place the chicken breasts in a wide pot or pan and cover by about an inch with cold water. Season the water with salt. Optionally, you can add aromatics of your choice. Read my poached chicken recipe for more details.
    Two chicken breasts in a pot.
  • Turn the heat to medium until it reaches a gentle simmer. Then reduce the heat back to low and cover the pan. Let the chicken simmer for 8-12 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160-165 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the chicken and let it rest for a couple of minutes. Then chill in the fridge.

Chicken Salad Recipe

  • Transfer the cooled chicken to a cutting board and dice it into 1/2-inch pieces.
    Poached chicken on a cutting board.
  • Slice and dice the celery, green onion, grapes, parsley and tarragon. Add those ingredients to a mixing bowl along with the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Mix everything together until it's well combined. Let it chill in the fridge until you're ready to serve.

Nutrition

Calories: 524kcal, Carbohydrates: 10g, Protein: 36g, Fat: 38g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 112mg, Sodium: 454mg, Potassium: 782mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 318IU, Vitamin C: 15mg, Calcium: 61mg, Iron: 1mg
Course: Main Course, Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Chicken Salad, Chicken Salad Recipe, How To Make Chicken Salad
©Downshiftology. Content and photographs are copyright protected. Sharing of this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited.
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345 comments on “Ultimate Chicken Salad”

  1. 👍❤️🤓🎯5 stars

  2. I’ve made this recipe a couple of times now and I can definitely verify that the tarragon makes all the difference with this recipe. I forgot to add it the last time I made it and it was good but not fabulous. We also added some home grown bell peppers for a little extra crunch and it was very yummy. Thank you for sharing the recipe it’s now my go to chicken salad recipe. 5 stars

  3. Very good although I added the lemon in quarters and stopped at 3/4. I think any more lemon and it would lose the balance of flavors. Otherwise followed the recipe as directed. 4 stars

  4. Very good!  This chicken salad recipe was a huge success!!  Very flavorful and satisfying. I will make it a regular in my meal plan. 5 stars

  5. Made it tonight and my husband went back for seconds!  I used rotisserie chicken instead of poaching. Will have to try poaching next time!5 stars

  6. Hi Lisa
    I’m in the UK and I’ve just come across you by chance on YouTube having searched for overnight oats recipes. So impressed I have just signed up on your website and started following you on FB. No I’m not a stalker just really love what I’m reading!
    Thank you
    Rhian x

    • Welcome to the Downshiftology community Rhian! Can’t wait to see what recipes you whip up and share with us :)

  7. I absolutely love this recipe! It is so flavorful and tasted just as fresh the last day as it was on the first day. I put it together with a whole wheat tortilla and some spinach and it makes a great lunch that holds me the afternoon without feeling sluggish. I will now be making extra so I can give some to my mom. Thank you!5 stars

  8. I made the Ultimate Chicken Salad substituting apple and dried cranberries as l did not have grapes.  I also used 1/2 mayonnaise and sour cream as l did not have enough of either one.  My guests loved it and kept eating it even though they said they were not hungry. There was just enough left for lunch the next day when it tasted even better. I did have to thin it out with a  bit of water due to the dried cranberries absorbing some of the moisture from the dressing.  The guests, who are gourmet cooks picked out the tarragon right away, the tarragon was home grown!  I am glad that l added tarragon to my herb garden and will use it more in any chicken recipes.   Thanks for the recipe.5 stars

    • I bet this tasted amazing with freshly grown tarragon! Happy to hear everyone enjoyed this chicken salad :)

  9. My recipe exactly so it reinforces my family favorite.  Watching you prepare it inspires me to be a more precise in prepping the ingredients!  Great job!  

  10. Hi, Ms. Lisa, just a question- can I use dried tarragon instead of fresh? If so, how much should I use? Thank you!

  11. I like chicken salad but utterly hate celery and it seems to be in every recipe. What would you suggest as a substitute. I’m thinking carrots?

  12. WOW,!!!! That has to be the best chicken salad I have ever had, The tarragon flavour is amazing, Thanks so much for sharing ur recipes, will def be making more of them😃5 stars

    • The tarragon really makes all the difference in this recipe :) Can’t wait to hear about what you make next Michelle!

  13. Great recipe! The print version, however, omits the “Toast the almonds” step, so be sure to read the whole page before following the printed recipe — there are lots of great suggestions for substitutions, too.5 stars

  14. Can you use chunk chicken in the can or sheeted chicken in the pouch .

  15. What is serving size? I made this and it is yummy!!

  16. Delish!5 stars

  17. I had to comment on this recipe – I made some for myself, because my boyfriend doesn’t like chicken salad. But guess what? He tried some of mine and he loved it so much he asked me to make it for meal prep next Sunday! I personally think this is the best chicken salad I’ve ever had. Bravo!5 stars

  18. Yum. It was fresh and light. Great summer meal on a bed of lettuce. I tried my Kitchen Aid mixer to shred the chicken as you suggested in another post. Fast and easy! I have tried a bunch of your recipes and they are really good. Thank you for sharing your gift with the world.5 stars

  19. I loved it and will make again. I am the kind of cook who uses what I have not necessarily all ingredients listed. I used lime and less mayonnaise which I would repeat. I didn’t have grapes and will add them next time. There were so many layers of flavor each bite was a wow! Thank you!5 stars

  20. A new weekly staple! Made this without going to the store to get a few things I was missing. Also used Greek yogurt in place of mayonnaise. AMAZING. Can’t wait to make it again with the onions and tarragon.5 stars

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