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Classic Chicken Salad Recipe

Perfect for a picnic, backyard hangout, quick lunch or a baby shower, this classic chicken salad recipe is an old fashioned favorite. A little creaminess, a little crunch and lots of flavor. 

It’s an easy recipe, ready in minutes, when you use leftover cooked chicken or rotisserie chicken from your local grocery store. 

chicken salad sandwich in bun on plate

Classic chicken salad is a nostalgic comfort food for me. I ate two chicken salad sandwiches on buns pretty well every single day for four years of high school. One for recess and one for lunch. So I know my way around chicken salad 🙂

I like to stick to the basic ingredientstender chicken, creamy mayonnaise, green onions, crunchy celery, salt and black pepper. There are lots of variations to this classic recipe though (see below).

To me, this is the ultimate chicken salad recipe. Hope you like it too. 

FAQ

Is chicken salad healthy?

That depends on the ingredients you use and how you serve it. Generally, chicken salad is higher in protein, calories and fat. And lower in carbs, sugar and fiber. According to healthline, for a 1/2 cup (113 grams or 4 ounces) serving, you can save about 100 calories by using light mayonnaise instead of full fat. And another 200 calories or more depending on the bread used if making a sandwich. Adding fruit, vegetables and/or nuts will add good nutrients, but it’s still pretty high in calories.

What ratio of chicken to mayonnaise should I use?

Most recipes use a 4:1 ratio of chicken to mayonnaise. For example, 4 cups/560 grams chopped chicken to 1 cup mayonnaise/239 grams. I use a bit less to save on calories and fat, but this is personal preference. Start with less and add as much mayonnaise as you need to get the creaminess you prefer.

What to serve with chicken salad

As part of a brunch spread or backyard picnic, I like to serve it with a few of these recipes:

For a simple weekend lunch, try a half chicken salad sandwich with one of these delicious soups.

How to make classic chicken salad

rotisserie chicken
Start with a rotisserie chicken or leftover chicken.
chicken breast, celery, parsley, scallion, mayonnaise, dijon, salt, pepper
Ingredients: skinless, boneless chicken breast (or thighs), celery, green onion, Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, salt and pepper.
finely chopped celery onion parsley in bowl
Finely chop celery, green onion and parsley. And cut chicken into small pieces. 
all chicken salad ingredients in bowl not yet mixed
Add all ingredients in a medium bowl (oops, I forgot the Dijon in this shot).
chicken salad in bowl
Mix well with a fork. Taste and adjust seasoning.
chicken salad sandwich on plate
Then make your best homemade chicken salad sandwich! Or serve a scoop on lettuce or a slice of tomato.
chicken salad sandwich on plate p

Tailor To Your Taste

Here are some variations and substitutions for this simple recipe.

Add-ins

  • Fresh herbs such as dill, chives, parsley, tarragon
  • Chopped olives, sundried tomatoes or chopped red pepper for color. 
  • A squeeze of fresh lemon juice or, my fave, lemon zest. 
  • A sprinkle of garlic powder or onion powder
  • Red onion, finely chopped, instead of green onions
  • Chopped nuts – pecans, walnuts, almonds or cashews
  • Chopped grapes or apples. 
  • A few pinches of curry powder to make curried chicken salad

Lower calorie, lower fat version

  • Instead of full fat mayo, use light mayonnaise, no fat or low fat sour cream, Greek yogurt or half light mayo-half low fat sour cream
  • Serve in lettuce wraps instead of bread.

How to serve chicken salad

  • In a sandwich – white bread, pumpernickel, whole-grain bread, bun, slider buns, buttery croissant or bagel. Toasted or plain. 
  • On a bed of lettuce or a thick slice of tomato
  • In lettuce wraps or lettuce cups
  • On crackers. 

Shortcuts

  • The main shortcut is buying a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken or using leftover chicken. If you prefer to make your own chicken from scratch (longcut?) here’s a recipe on how to poach chicken by Recipe Tin Eats. Or use this sous vide chicken recipe to cook the chicken sous vide (no need for the glaze). 
  • You can also skip the celery, green onions and parsley (less chopping). 

Make ahead

  • Chicken salad can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-5 days.
  • Freezing is not recommended (it can become bland and watery) 
chicken salad sandwich in bun on plate
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5 from 3 votes

Classic Chicken Salad Recipe

Perfect for a picnic, backyard hangout, quick lunch or a baby shower, this classic chicken salad recipe is an old fashioned favorite. A little creaminess, a little crunch and lots of flavor. So quick and easy with leftover or rotisserie chicken.
Prep Time10 mins
Total Time10 mins
Course: brunch, lunch
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chopped chicken (280 grams), Note 1 1 large skinless breast or 2 small
  • 1/3 cup – 1/2 cup mayonnaise full fat or light
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped, green onion (or chives or red onion)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley (or other fresh herbs, Note 2)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper or more to taste

Other add-ins (optional), Note 2

  • fresh herbs, nuts, curry powder, grapes, apples, sundried tomatoes, red pepper, olives, garlic powder, lemon zest or lemon juice.

Instructions

  • MAKE CHICKEN SALAD: Place all ingredients (including optional add-ins you like) in a medium bowl and mix with a fork until fully combined. Start with less mayonnaise and salt, then add more until you get the creaminess and seasoning you like.
  • SERVE: You can eat the chicken salad immediately or let it sit around in the fridge for an hour to let the flavors meld. For serving options, see Note 4.

Notes

  1. Chicken options:
    • Any kind of leftover or rotisserie chicken will work – white meat (breast) or dark meat (thighs).
    • If you prefer to prepare fresh cooked chicken, here’s a recipe on how to poach chicken by Recipe Tin Eats. Or use this sous vide chicken recipe to cook the chicken sous vide (no need for the glaze). 
  2. Add-ins
    • Fresh herbs such as dill, chives, parsley, tarragon
    • Chopped olives, sundried tomatoes or chopped red pepper for color. 
    • A squeeze of lemon juice or lemon zest. 
    • A sprinkle of garlic powder
    • Red onion, finely chopped, instead of green onions
    • Chopped nuts – pecans, walnuts, almonds or cashews
    • Chopped grapes or apples. 
    • A few pinches of curry powder to make curried chicken salad
  3. Lower calorie, lower fat version
    • Instead of full fat mayo, use light mayonnaise, no or low fat sour cream, light salad dressing, Greek yogurt or half light mayo-half low fat sour cream.
    • Serve in lettuce wraps instead of bread.
  4. Serving options:
    • Make chicken salad sandwiches with white or whole-grain bread, pumpernickel, buns, slider buns, croissants, bagels. Toasted or plain. 
    • Serve on a bed of lettuce or a thick slice of tomato, in lettuce wraps or on crackers. 
  5. Make Ahead: chicken salad can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-5 days. Freezing is not recommended. 
 
Nutritional information is an estimate and includes a 1/2 cup serving of white breast meat with light mayonnaise and no additional add-ins or sandwich bread.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 164kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 55mg | Sodium: 353mg | Potassium: 186mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 231IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 15mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?We’d love you to rate it above under ‘rate this recipe’ or in the comment section below. Thanks!

 

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4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I love rich salads as this one. I’m making a similar one whenever I grill some chicken thighs in the summer. The next time I have some chicken left from the lunch, I’m giving your recipe a try 🙂

  2. Superb. I made this exactly per your recipe, slipped it into a toasted ciabatta bun and It was delicious. Thank you both for your contribution to my culinary repertoire.