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 289 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




616 Comments

  1. I think I’ve made this like 5 times at this point. It’s so good to eat on its own or on bread, its very filling and has quite a complex flavour for such simple ingredients.5 stars

  2. I just made your chicken salad recipe.. with a few tweaks… I used 3 cans of chicken from BJ’s, 1/2 cup of toasted chopped pecans, 1/2 bunch of green onions and a box of chives diced and 1 red apple diced (along with the grapes)…. sooo delicious. Didn’t need the extra lemon juice, parsley or tarragon. Can’t wait to make it again.

  3. I made this with left over roasted turkey. Oh my goodness so fresh. I love it. I had to use dried tarragon but still so good. 5 stars

  4. Great recipe!  I really wish the nutrition information had a serving size, through. 512 calories, but for how much?  A cup? Half cup?5 stars

    1. So sorry, as I normally try to remember to put serving sizes. But tt can range between 1/2 to 1 cup, depending on how big your chicken pieces are!

  5. Great recipe Lisa, did not use the almonds or the grapes and was still outstanding chicken salad! Didn’t need salt or pepper either, thanks great recipe.   Rich. Pt Jeff Long Island 5 stars

  6. I made this for a party yesterday at the suggestion of my sister in law who introduced me to your blog a few months ago. I tripled the recipe to make sure I enough and it turned out great – I received so many compliments! Thank you for sharing!5 stars

  7. Very good recipe!!! Here are some hints for a twist here and there if you want to mix it up.
    Use chopped walnuts versus almonds. Love them both!
    Use 1/2 sour cream and 1/2 cup mayonnaise.
    Top with some diced crispy bacon!
    Toss in some grated mozzarella or other cheese that won’t overpower the salad.

    Thanks for the recipe!5 stars

    1. Mid-January in the lower Gulf coast region of Louisiana, I declared I was done with winter even if it wasn’t done with me, and I made this delicious chicken salad recipe. I used green grapes and chicken breasts I’d roasted and topped with Frank’s seasoning a couple of days earlier. I made it again today because I was craving it and subbed full-fat Greek yogurt for the mayo. It was slightly tangier than I liked, so next time I’ll do half mayo and half yogurt or may cut half the lemon juice. But truly delicious both ways. Love that secret ingredient! Great to eat after a workout!5 stars

  8. This chicken salad is great!!!! I made mine using leftover roasted chicken.  I removed the skin and pulled meat off the bone.  Then cut into 1/2 inch chunks.  I also did not use the tarragon and it was delicious!5 stars

  9. I love this recipe. I am so excited to have found Lisa’s channel and this website. It took 8 years or so to get diagnosed  with Multiple Sclerosis, an auto immune disease.  All of the recipes which interest me are simple and don’t require a lot of specialized products every week. I can make it with many things I already have on hand. This is my first time making anything from Lisa. I researched recipes and budgeted for this week’s food before making anything. I am looking forward to sharing some of my chicken salad with a friend when I visit their home this week. Most of all looking forward to healthier eating on my journey. Stay encouraged all and love your body and yourself!  5 stars

    1. So glad you enjoyed this chicken salad Cindy! Can’t wait to see what other Downshiftology recipes you make next :)

    1. This chicken salad is by far the best I’ve ever had , better than any store bought chicken salad. Herby, crunchy with a hint of sweetness from the grapes and tangyness from the lemon juice. We make this at least a month if not more. Kids love it too. Thank you!5 stars

  10. First of all, Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I made it at night but how many grams of chicken do we use for 4 peoples?4 stars

  11. We could not sleep so at 2:00 am I made this recipe except I put in a teaspoon of dill relish. Delious …. Thanks for the recipe

  12. I love this recipe! I’ve made it twice in the past month, eating it daily for a week each time. The flavor profile is fresh, and it’s a great way to sneak chicken, fruit, and veggies into a wrap or sandwich. The recipe is adjustable based on what’s in your pantry (ie pecans for almonds, red onion for green onion). Yum!5 stars

  13. Love this recipe, very flavorful and perfect for summer. I always find chicken salad dry and plain but I liked your recipe because it makes the chicken salad creamy as you used mayo. And I loved the crunch of chopped almonds in the chicken salad, really enjoyed the salad, so good!! Thank you for the recipe.4 stars

  14. Love this recipe! I swapped out the grapes for dried cranberries, and the almonds for sunflower seeds and it was fantastic! I also didn’t use tarragon because I can’t seem to find in anywhere in our grocery stores right now. Thank you for giving me the main components of the most amazing chicken salad – I didn’t even like chicken salad before. The boiled chicken makes such a difference! 5 stars

  15. Really good, I always liked the chicken salad from the grocery store that had grapes, but they just aren’t making it anymore. And I’m preferring homemade stuff more now anyway. Great recipe, thanks so much!5 stars

  16. I was in a waiting room yesterday, picking up my phone I did my fav thing Lisa and that’s to scroll through your website. 
    Looking for some inspiration for supper I found your chicken salad recipe. I made it for supper and I’ve just had another bowl of it for lunch the next  day. So delicious and just right on a hot sticky day over here in Ontario.  
    Thank you !
    Great easy to follow recipes and website. 5 stars

    1. This is definitely one to make when the weather is warm! Glad you loved it Louise and thanks for the review :)

  17. I USED DRIED CRANBERRIES INSTEAD OF GRAPES, AWESOME!!
    DEFINITELY CHILL OVERNITE BEFORE SERVING.
    YOU CANNOT BUY CHICKED SALAD THIS GOOD, AND SUPER EASY TO MAKE.5 stars

  18. I made this for dinner for a Wednesday night class, (20-ish people) and everyone loved it! I served it with croissants and lettuce so folks could put it in a lettuce wrap if they wanted. My sister who said she didn’t like chicken salad tried it and loved it so much that now it’s in her family’s dinner rotation. So many wins!!5 stars

      1. It can range between 1/2 to 1 cup, depending on how big your chicken pieces are.

  19. I see there are 10 carbs, is that per serving, and, if so, how many servings in this recipe.

    1. The nutritional information will always be per serving, and you can see the number of servings listed at the top of the recipe card :) There are 6 servings in this recipe.

  20. So, I always find chicken salad plain and one of those things I stay away from, until I just made this and I can’t see me going back!
    I made this exactly as written, including how to poach the chicken and what a difference it makes!
    Thank you for sharing this.5 stars

  21. Fabulous unfortunately I had to sun dried tarragon for fresh. It still was unbelievable. Can’t wait to try with fresh!

    Definitely a keeper!5 stars

  22. This has become my go-to Salad recipe since I discovered it in YouTube. I only swap mayo with hung curd as you have suggested too and it’s just so satisfying to eat. And yeah I love dried cranberries in my chicken salad!5 stars

  23. OMG..my grocery store has a tarragon chicken salad that I worship but it cost so much money. This recipe taste just like it!! It actually taste better. I will be making this all summer.5 stars

  24. Just came across this recipe on Pinterest, and we must say, it is very good! You can alter the Mayo or Dijon to be less or more and it doesn’t disappoint. Just one correction, you want 2 ‘Ribs’ of celery not 2 ‘Stalks’. Stalks are the part that is cut out of the ground and the Ribs are the individual pieces you remove from them! Great recipe!5 stars

  25. My husband made this and it’s the best chicken salad I’ve ever had. The tarragon total elevates the flavor. We only had whole almonds so he chopped them up a bit and I really loved the crunch factor they provided. I’ve started replacing sliced almonds with coarsely chopped whole in any recipe that calls for them.

    One question, is a serving size about 1/2 cup?5 stars

  26. I made it but also added Greek yogurt and halved the mayonnaise, then I added apples and dried cranberries and used toasted pecan because I had them, have been eating on Costco croissants that were air fried to make them crispy on top and is so addicting. One whole rotisserie chicken from Costco is perfect for this recipe for those that want to put this together quickly. 5 stars

    1. love how you use 1/2 greek yogurt and 1/2 mayo…I also do this in salads…yes the Costco chicken is great…and the croissants take it over the top…serve with a simple salad or fruit salad and it is such a great summer meal…plus you can make it ahead…

  27. Tried this recipe the other evening! I followed the recipe as written except I didn’t have tarragon so I just left it out. It was a hit! My family ate it on top of buns and I had mine in a lettuce wrap. So good! Thank you for the recipe!5 stars

  28. Hi! I am very much looking forward to making this recipe for the holiday weekend! I plan on using a rotisserie chicken then dicing it. About how much rotisserie chicken do you suggest? I see the chicken weight is raw chicken before cooking so just curious! Thanks in advance.

  29. I halved the recipe & it was plenty for me & my husband for dinner & lunch today. I didn’t put in the onion or tarragon. I added dill. It was very good. I will make again. Thank you for the recipe.

  30. I love the recipe…I was just wondering how long do you think it’s good for in the frig? Also, do you think it can be frozen?5 stars

    1. 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. And no – this is best not to freeze since it has mayo in it.

  31. We ate this salad two ways at the same meal. I made a leaf salad with long slices of tomato and roasted beets. I stuffed a flour tortilla adding thin logs of cheddar and Monterey jack. I positioned my plate so the chicken salad falling from the tortilla sandwich landed onto the vegetable salad! When I finished the tortilla sandwich, I then wrapped and ate the lettuce salad with the fall-out from my chicken sandwich to complete the meal! Did I mention that this meal was completely vegan?! YUMMM!5 stars

  32. Very good, although I think a the lemon I juiced was too much lemon for me. I will reach for a smaller lemon next time.4 stars

  33. The ultimate chicken salad, I had high hopes but was a complete waste of great ingredients. I guess there is a reason I so rarely use receipts. The  tarragon completely overshadows the other herbs, so no harmony of distinct flavors, just tarragon. I fully realize that  each of us experience taste quite differently and I appreciate that my opinion appears to be in the minority but before you dive in you might want to make a smaller batch and see if the flavors work together for your pallet. Serve with a big oaky Chardonnay to tone down the tarragon a bit. 1 star

    1. Hi Hal – Oh no, that’s a bummer you didn’t enjoy the recipe. Yes, everyone has different taste buds. Perhaps you’d enjoy my tuna salad recipe more? Thanks for giving this recipe a try!

  34. This was the best chicken salad I have ever had. I think the herbs really makes this work! Thank you for sharing it.

  35. Made a 6x batch of this for a baby shower I was hosting. Received rave reviews. Followed the recipe to the letter other than the quantities of herbs as I measure those with my heart! The balance was wonderful it wasn’t sweet unlike previous chicken salads I have had that really turned me off to them. Great recipe will be making this again many times I am sure.5 stars