Ultimate Chicken Salad

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Chicken salad is a classic recipe, but my version has a little something extra to make it the ultimate chicken salad recipe – keep reading below! Diced chicken is tossed with a creamy dressing and dotted with crisp celery, green onion, and fresh grapes. 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 loaded with fresh, bright flavors. You get hints of Dijon mustard, juicy grapes, and crispy celery with every bite. And the best part? The cooking is kept to a minimum, making it the perfect throw-together meal.

So what makes my version unique? It’s really all about the herbs (the more herbs the better). 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 in a mixing bowl.

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 use poached chicken in this recipe, but you could also use leftover rotisserie chicken, or shredded chicken from boneless skinless chicken breasts.
  • Mayonnaise – You can’t beat this creamy binder to mix all the ingredients together. And while you can use a store-bought version, 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 more of the nutty flavor.
  • Parsley – One of the best herbs for adding to salads, just finely 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.

Find the printable recipe with measurements below.

Slicing poached chicken for chicken salad recipe.

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 the internal temperature reads 160°F to 165°F, turn the heat off.
  6. Let the chicken rest. Just a minute or two of rest time allows the chicken juices to redistribute.
  7. Chill the chicken in the fridge. This is key as you need cold chicken in this recipe.
Mixing the ingredients for chicken salad in a bowl.

How To Make Chicken Salad

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

  • Toast: Lightly toast the almonds in a pan on the stove. Let them cool completely to room temperature.
  • Slice and Dice: Dice up your chicken breasts into small 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 in a white bowl with spoon and small bowl of diced celery in the background.

Chicken Salad Variations

Aside from the ingredients listed below, 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 mayonnaise for greek yogurt or do half and half.
Close up photo of chicken salad.

How to Serve It

Most often, I eat 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.
  • Lettuce Wrap: For a lighter, low-carb option, use large romaine or butter leaf lettuce leaves to wrap it.
  • Extra Green Salad: Dollop a few spoonful on top of a bed of greens such as baby spinach or a spring mix.
Chicken salad sandwiches sliced in half on a serving tray.

STORAGE TIPS

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 4 to 5 days.

More Classic Salad Recipes

Here are a few light, fresh and healthy salad recipes that I always have on repeat.

  • Tuna Salad – Besides chicken salad, this is the recipe I make most often.
  • Broccoli Salad – For that crispy crunch, this potluck favorite always wins.
  • Greek Salad – This Mediterranean salad is easy, fresh, and light.
  • Cucumber Salad – Just a handful of ingredients turn into a super refreshing salad.
  • Shrimp Salad – A creamy and bright salad with celery, red onion, and herbs.
  • Egg Salad – One of my favorite uses for hard boiled eggs!

This really is the ultimate chicken salad recipe – and I hope you love it as much as I do! If you make it, I’d love to hear how it turned out in the comment box below. Your review will help other readers in the community.

The best chicken salad recipe in a white serving bowl.

Ultimate Chicken Salad Recipe

4.96 from 296 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan

Description

Chicken salad is a classic salad recipe with diced chicken, creamy mayonnaise, crisp celery, green onion, sweet grapes, and fresh herbs. Watch the video below to see how I make it in my kitchen!

Video

Ingredients 
 

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • ½ cup sliced raw almonds
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup red grapes, quartered
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 3 green onions (green and white parts), sliced
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon
  • 1 lemon , juiced (about 3 tablespoons)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions 

To Poach the 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 to 12 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160°F to 165°F. Remove the chicken and let it rest for a couple of minutes. Then chill in the fridge.
    Chicken poaching in a pot.

Chicken Salad Recipe

  • Transfer the cooled chicken to a cutting board and dice it into ½-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.
    Mixing the ingredients for chicken salad in a bowl.
  • Mix everything together until it's well combined. Let it chill in the fridge until you're ready to serve.
    Chicken salad in a white bowl.

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
Did you make this recipe?Mention @downshiftology or tag #downshiftology!

Recipe originally published May 2020, but updated with new information and tips.

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About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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Recipe Rating




630 Comments

  1. Have made chicken salad many times but always felt like something was missing. Tarragon for the win. What a difference. Will be putting this recipe into the rotation for sure. Thank you!5 stars

  2. This was SO very good! Just finishing a bowl of it after making it this morning. Used green grapes as that’s what my husband will eat and used cashews instead of almonds. Had to use dried tarragon as simply cannot get fresh anywhere near me. The flavors were amazing. Will definitely be making again.5 stars

  3. This was sooooo good. Gave some to my sister and now have to make it again for her birthday. I used walnuts only because I love them. Best ever chicken salad5 stars

  4. To be honest, I’ve never used Tarragon before so I had no expectation of liking/disliking the flavor. I’m so glad I have an open mind because this is, BY FAR, the best chicken salad recipe I’ve ever tasted. It’s the only one I make now and is delicious!5 stars

  5. This recipe is great.

    I’ve tweaked it a bit every time I’ve made it and it just seems to get better!

    This last time, I used a rotisserie chicken and it was ready in a snap.

    I added dash of celery salt, a dash of za’atar, and a bit of dill and garlic powder. (I can’t make anything without garlic!)

    I usually don’t have almonds on hand, so I subbed them for toasted cashews or pecans. (I’m beginning to prefer a mix of both) I also added a handful or so of dried cranberries, and the tiniest dash of white wine vinegar. Sooo yummy on a toasted roll/croissant with arugula or romaine!5 stars

    1. I see the nutrition says 524KCAL. Is that 524 calories a serving? Bc google is confusing because it says a 1kcal is equal to 1000 calories. But that cant be right because there is no way this recipe is 524,000 calories .

      It’s literally the best chicken salad in the world (i only add a little sugar bc i like a little sweet )and im trying to log it into my food diary that i track what i eat a day but im confused. Phenomenal recipe5 stars

  6. Excited to try this recipe for a large crowd at our church! Does anyone have any ideas/thoughts on how many small sandwiches this might make? I want to serve it on slider size rolls, so I’m thinking this will yield more than 6 servings. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

  7. This is the best chicken salad I’ve ever had. I can’t order chicken salad at a restaurant now because it’s never anywhere as good as this!5 stars

  8. HI LISA,
    This recipe looks great. Do you use regular parsley or Italian parsley in this recipe?
    Thank you kindly for clarifying for me.
    Angelica

  9. I found Downshiftology on YouTube due to this recipe. Have been a fan ever since. I’ve made this salad so many times, and every time I do, people ask me for the recipe, so I always have to share this page with them. I love a good fruity salad and had never tried one like yours before, like you said, the tarragon does make a huge difference, that’s why I always come back to this dish no matter the season.5 stars

  10. I have made this a few times and it’s great way to use chicken breasts for a light dinner or lunch. Thanks,5 stars

  11. The balance of flavors is just right, creating a dish that’s both satisfying and flavorful. Definitely a must-try for anyone looking for a delicious, quick, and healthy meal option!5 stars

  12. This chicken salad is SO good. Admittedly, I make a few changes – no tarragon or Dijon, and I add bacon. Delicious!5 stars

  13. This Ultimate Chicken Salad is a true masterpiece! The combination of flavors and textures is simply divine. The chicken is cooked to perfection, and it’s perfectly complemented by the celery and grapes, which add a delightful crunch and sweetness. The almonds add a nice nutty flavor, and the fresh herbs, especially the tarragon, really elevate the dish. The dressing is creamy and tangy, and it brings all the flavors together beautifully. I can’t imagine a better chicken salad recipe!5 stars

  14. Our favorite chicken salad recipe! So easy and so so delicious. We probably make this at least every other week for a quick dinner and use the leftovers as a super easy meal prep for lunch throughout the week.5 stars

  15. Delish! I used our sous vide to cook the chicken, since it stays really juicy and requires no effort on my part :) I also swapped the grapes for apples, since they are in season. I’ve made it twice so far and everyone really enjoys it. This is going into our lunch rotation!5 stars

  16. This was so incredible! I used rotisserie chicken and dried tarragon. I look forward to making this again. It’s so tasty.5 stars

    1. I used both dried tarragon and dried parsley. It worked fine, but is much better the next day after the dried herbs have rehydrated and all the flavors have combined. I added extra tarragon, too. My adult daughter, a picky eater, calls this the best chicken salad she’s ever had. I have instructions to make extra for her to take to her family. I guess I now run a takeout service because of it!

  17. I made this following your instructions on poaching and chilling the breast overnight and I think this is the best chicken salad I have ever had. Thanks so much.

  18. I’ve made this a couple of times. Delicious and hubby loves it!
    While the calories (524) are listed, I can’t find what the portion size is for a serving.5 stars

    1. Happy you both loved the recipe, Wendy! There are 6 servings total, but next time I make it I’ll measure out the size of a portion. Enjoy!

  19. I poach boneless chicken breasts, let them cool slightly and shred them in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer on low speed (number 1) – we prefer it shredded not cubed. It freezes well & can be used for chicken tacos, quesadillas or soups etc.

  20. Best chicken salad ever! I used left over broasted chicken and used a little bit of regular onion because I didn’t have green onion and chopped pecans. Because I used broasted chicken from the store deli I omitted any salt which turned out perfect. The tarragon is what really makes this recipe scrumptious! I literally could eat the whole bowl right now because I can’t stop myself! This recipe is a keeper!!! Thank you for sharing!5 stars

  21. I love chicken tarragon salad and this recipe looks great! I generally look at many recipes then come up with my own. I do not really like mayo unless it is homemade, so I use usually use greek yogurt for tarragon chicken salad since it is readily available in my ice box. I am writing to suggest CASHEWS…best nuts for chicken tarragon salad, hands down!!

  22. OMG Lisa…this chicken salad is incredible. The complexity of flavor and you’re right the tarragon takes it to the next level. This was also my first time poaching chicken breasts but your video made it so easy. Thank you thank you. This recipe is definitely a keeper!5 stars

    1. Yay, I’m happy you loved this chicken salad, Alyne! And kudos on your first poached chicken. It’s really simple, isn’t it?

  23. My food snob family expects what I make to be excellent and this recipe did not disappoint. Their personal preference was they liked the grapes and future makings have 4 times the grapes…. thanks5 stars

  24. I did the ultimate potato salad and although I’m not a fan of celery I was really surprisingly good, everyone thoroughly enjoyed it 😊5 stars