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 305 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




651 Comments

  1. I just made this so we could take it to the park on a sunny day with us as part of a picnic near the the Lake ! Perfect for Labor Day weekend!! Put it in our cooler and went! My spouse and I absolutely loved it! What great food to serve at our going to a beach! Not many people there! It was delightful and delicious! Thank you for posting this! I have been a true follower of you and your recipes!5 stars

      1. wondered if next time, since I absolutely love love celery seed, could I put it at the end before I add the almonds? thank you
        lise5 stars

  2. I am making this amazing chicken salad for the 2nd time. This time I am making 2.5 days ahead of time. Should I mix the toasted almonds in just before serving? Thanks5 stars

  3. Definitly my favorite chicken salad ! This is sooooo good ! The red grapes are surprising in this receipe but they give so much flavour !
    I’m adding some potatoes sometimes to make a complete meal.5 stars

  4. Hello Lisa,
    My name is. Anita , and i am new to your channels. Thank you, for sharing your recipes to everyone in the world. I appreciate you.

    1. Hi Anita! Thanks for leaving a kind comment and hope you continue to enjoy Downshiftology recipes to come :)

  5. Thank you for this delicious recipe. Tonight was my second time making it within two weeks. I didn’t change a thing. Served it on toasted buns with a side of pasta salad. My family loved it.

  6. Hi I am going to give this a bash for our summer party (30 people). I was hoping to mix in some iceburg lettuce, would this be possible? Or would it go a bit soggy?

      1. Hello Lisa, I am new to you channel my name is Anita, i was wondering can you utilize tarragon that has already been bottled, or must it be fresh for best results ?

  7. Superb. Made exactly as instructed but used pecan pieces instead of almonds per your sanctioned suggestion. I did throw in a handful of cut up dried cranberries because….why not? They were in my fridge screaming why not me, too? Holy Moly – I didn’t even bother with bread. Why mess with perfection?

  8. This was so good! The only changes I made were omitting the grapes, just because I didn’t have any, and used Greek yogurt instead of the mayonnaise. This was fantastic. Don’t skip on the almonds though. I think they’re a deal breaker. They were perfect in the there!5 stars

  9. My family LOVES this chicken salad! It is so delicious and easy to prepare. I highly recommend you try it and make it. You will not be disappointed.5 stars

  10. I made this for dinner last night and we loved it. I served it in romaine lettuce, and we also had some baby carrots.5 stars

  11. Maybe this was personal preference, but the mayo was way too much. I cut it way down, but it overwhelmed the flavors. So I added curry and mango chutney to change the flavor entirely.3 stars

    1. Hi Liz – I actually have a recipe for a mango curry chicken salad in my cookbook! You’ll have to check that out. :)

  12. My wife’s reaction to the taste of the salad, after she tried a bit: “… wonderful! I can taste each ingredient one after the other. What a combination!”5 stars

  13. My new favorite chicken salad! Love sweet and savory blend with good crunch factor. Husband loves it! Win win!5 stars

  14. This was my first time making chicken salad but I have to say it turned out so good. My family loved it so much I’m getting ready to make it again because it’s all gone. Thank you for the recipe it was amazing. I love Greek chicken salad, I’m making that next.5 stars

  15. Super good! I didn’t have fresh herbs available but the dried ones from the spice rack worked great! And I ended up shredding my chicken with my hand made mixer to save time and it was a big hit! My toddler and husband loved it so ..winning! 5 stars

  16. Before making the Ultimate Chicken Salad, I’d had a sealed bottle of tarragon in my spice cabinet purchased for another recipe that I never got around to making. Later, I just didn’t know what to do with it.
    The tarragon makes this recipe for me, and now it feels like something is missing if I try to make chicken salad without it. This recipe is on regular rotation at my house. I usually sub toasted pecans for the almonds since we are surrounded by pecan trees here. My fave chicken salad EVER! Thanks, Lisa!5 stars

  17. I do make a couple changes, so I’m not truly reviewing the recipe as is. I do not use the tarragon or the mustard, and I add bacon. But other than that, it’s a GREAT recipe. So delicious. I love the lemon – adds such a great flavor to the recipe. It’s a hit in our house!5 stars

  18. AMAZING. I substituted 3/4 of mayo with plain greek yogurt and added celery seed. Switched almonds for walnuts and added dried cranberries!! YUMMMM5 stars

  19. This is one of the most delicious chicken salads! I always have chicken in the fridge to use up during the week, so this was perfect for that. What really makes it delicious is the tarragon. It adds a subtle herby flavor that pairs so nicely with the pop of sweetness from the grapes. I used toasted pecans and the whole thing came together perfectly. My new favorite for sure!5 stars

    1. The tarragon really helps to tie it all together :) But great idea on using pecans as well!

  20. Oh my goodness!! This is OUTRAGEOUSLY delicious!! My husband is swooning over it and showing it off at work to his colleagues!! I used special mayo that doesn’t have sugar, and also found that it was especially yummy when warm!! So I’ve been heating it up since we made it. We doubled the recipe – it was a lot of chopping but just got a mini food processor the day after so hopefully next time will be quick! Thanks so much, Lisa!!! I have gluten, dairy and sugar intolerances so your recipes are a complete godsend!! I hope you release your book in UK metric measurements soon! :o)5 stars

    1. How funny! I’m so glad you and your husband are loving this chicken salad amongst many others.

    2. Best chicken salad ever!! I added 4c celery, 3c grapes cut in 1/4’s. The fresh terragon really made the difference. 5 stars

  21. This is downright PERFECT! I left out the parsley(not a fan) and had to use dried tarragon, and it was still amazing. YUM5 stars

  22. This is absolutely the best chicken salad recipe ever! Since finding it, it’s the only one I use. The flavors are amazing-It’s got the perfect hint of sweetness and great crunch!5 stars

  23. I made this for 12 ladies. Was soooo good!  Definitely worth all the work (chopping). I did everything exactly in recipe plus added a half of a large organic honey crisp (or pink lady) apple and some pieces of walnuts. Everyone raved at how good this recipe is. Can’t wait to try it again. Yum. 

  24. This is a great recipe. I made it for my bible study group. We had a tea party I made this chicken salad with the homemade mayonnaise recipe of course, and served it on mini croissants. They ate them all. Thanks for the great recipe. It has just enough sweetness from the grapes and crunch from the almonds. I also like the hint of tarragon.5 stars

  25. I made this for lunch this week! Awesome salad! Love the sweetness of the red grapes and I love the tarragon taste! 5 stars

  26. OMG delicious!!! I just added a bit of pepp-ricot preserves (appricot/jalapeño jam) to kick it up a notch from my local Ralph’s market. Put it all on a fresh croissant.5 stars

  27. I’m going to make this recipe to take for lunch at work and I was wondering how long this would stay fresh if kept in the fridge, so I know if this is viable as a meal prep recipe

    1. I normally have storage instructions written in the post! But, this will last between 3 to 5 days.

  28. Only 5 stars?! No, this is a 10! Gollll-eeeee, the blend of exciting flavors…really good. Bright and tangy! Ohh, yum. I did it with ground pecans, and tossed in some Maldon salt. Made some fresh focaccia to serve with it, and added some arugula, in case ya need even more tang! Delish! Will put into my regular rotation. :-)5 stars

  29. Hi Lisa! I took this salad to church fellowship for serving in baked tart shells. Everyone, adults and children LOVED it. I was shocked to turn around and the bowl for self serve was empty. It’s versatile too, because I added a tiny bit of heat and doubled the grapes. Thank you so much!!5 stars

    1. Quick question: how many servings are in this recipe if used for sandwiches? Looking to make for a wedding luncheon. Thanks!