Ultimate Chicken Salad
Updated Nov 27, 2023
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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.
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
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.
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.
- Place your chicken breasts into a wide pot or pan, so that they’re not overlapped or crowded.
- Cover the chicken with cold water. Season the water with a bit of salt to give it some flavor.
- Slowly bring the water to a gentle simmer. Then, reduce the heat back to low and cover the pan.
- Let the chicken simmer for about 10 minutes. Remember, patience is key for this low and slow process.
- Check to see the doneness of your chicken. If the internal temperature reads 160°F to 165°F, turn the heat off.
- Let the chicken rest. Just a minute or two of rest time allows the chicken juices to redistribute.
- Chill the chicken in the fridge. This is key as you need cold chicken in this recipe.
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 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.
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.
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.
Ultimate Chicken Salad Recipe
- 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
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.
- 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 Salad Recipe
- Transfer the cooled chicken to a cutting board and dice it into ½-inch pieces.
- 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.
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Recipe originally published May 2020, but updated with new information and tips.