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help please, making really good chicken salad

[This thread was moved from the General Topics board. --The Chowhound Team]

Hi y'all...I had a craving today for chicken salad and bought one of those prepared/deli chickens from the grocery store. But, I can't seem to find a recipe using the ingredients I have on hand and I'd love to make some that's REALLY good for the rye bread I also bought (just for the chicken salad, lol). The ingredients I have are: mayo., whipping cream, onion, celery, green grapes, a LITTLE lemon, almond and walnuts. I've got a small assortment of herbs.
I'm so wanting to try some with the whipping cream, tho all I have is a blender...would that work or would a whisk work (say that 5 times, LOL)?
Would you use almonds or walnuts and should either be toasted first?
I have dill and sweet pickle relish but would rather not use it if possible.
Do I need chopped eggs?
Would you use cheese on a chicken salad sandwich? I have sliced swiss and Velveeta slices
I.e., I guess I'm asking for your favorite recipes for delicious chicken salad. I'd so appreciate any feedback. Thanks so much!

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  1. I love almonds in my chicken salad. Definitely toast them first. The best chicken salad, IMHO, is made with a few really good ingredients to let the flavors shine through. Chicken, celery, mayo, toasted almonds, salt and pepper is really good. If you want to put a little lemon zest in to brighten the flavor, that would be good, too. A few grape halves are nice, but I tend to like red grapes better than green in this case. Chopped eggs will be overkill here. And don't add the pickle relish...save that for tuna. :)

    You can whisk a little whipping cream into the mayo for the dressing. It will be quite rich, so definitely add some lemon zest. You don't need proprotions for this...put all in a bowl, mix, taste, adjust. It's going to be great!

    1. I don't follow a recipe. But I usually thin the mayo w/a little milk. Love lightly toasted walnuts in it, especially. You can toast them in a frying pan, tossing. Also like adding paprika. Cheese on it? un-unh.

      1. Thank you both SO MUCH, wyf4lyf and TonySop! Wy, you sound like an amazing cook, I'm not kidding. You also sound like you know me, because I do tend to add too much of this and that, resulting in losing the flavor of the main ingredient I want to taste. I so much appreciate you both helping me out. Y'all made it much more simple for me than I originally anticipated and I'm going to do what you both suggested. My only regret is the cheese, lol. But, I WAS afraid that whichever I decided upon might also interfere with the flavor of the chicken. I really can't thank you both enough for your time and consideration in helping me! TonySop, I would never have thought of toasting the nuts in a frying pan, either. Again, thank y'all so much.

        1 Reply
        1. re: heyjude

          if you're new to nut toasting, it's very easy to do, and very tasty. but be forewarned that it does take some vigilance. nuts can burn fast. i now turn on a kitchen timer for two minutes, stick them in the toaster oven at 400 degrees, or heat them up on the stovetop. i find that without the timer on, i can't keep track of the time. enjoy!

        2. personally i prefer dark to white meat (more moist). try to use as many celery leaves as opposed to ribs as possible, grated onion, some finely diced fresh apple and a liberal touch of your favorite curry paste.toasted almonds and grapes yes, cheese totally out of the question.

          1. Byrd, thanks a lot! So, use the celery leaves? I wouldn't have thought of that. I assume you mean to chop them finely (?). Doggone it, I don't have ANY curry in this house and I sure meant to get some. Well, it's obvious I'm just going to much on cheese instead of putting it on the sandwich! I appreciate your input.
            Sorry to keep posting 'thank you's' but I HAVE to, and I know there's no way to send a p.m. to those that have taken their time to help me. Sorry for the repititious off-topic replies.

            1. Ok, so it's not what you've got on hand, but chicken salad with just chicken, mayo, chopped basil, and parmesan cheese is amazing.

              1. I love a chicken salad made just with shredded chicken, chopped celery, chopped onion (preferably green onions), a little fresh tarragon, a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper to taste, and just enough mayo to hold it together. For me this is the gold standard.

                But if you want to add to it, grapes are good, so are orange segments, toasted nuts, dried cranberries. I like toasted walnuts with the cranberries.

                1 Reply
                1. re: sheiladeedee

                  Second the use of cranberries and tarragon, both great inclusions.

                  Other ideas:

                  Sunflower seeds, cranberries/grapes, celery, (cheddar cheese if desired)

                  Thin mayonnaise w/ buttermilk, green onions, dill, celery, cashews, grapes

                  Raisins, avocado, celery, apple, little lemon juice, walnuts

                  Dill, cashews, avocado, bacon, a little swiss on top, and ranch in the mayo

                  Celery, onions, apple, pecans, curry, raisins, grapes

                  Tropicali- mango, water chestnuts, celery, pineapple, mandarin oranges, a little sour cream w/ the mayo, coconut extract

                  Peaches, peach juice, cream, almonds (this is rich)

                  Golden raisins, pineapple, celery, pecans, grapes, mustard and mayo together

                2. Curry paste, mayo, green onions, raisins. Yum!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: FlavoursGal

                    try adding some cilantro and subbing currants for raisins sometime. it's deeeeelish, and also works well with eggs.

                  2. Celery, toasted almonds, and mayo loosened with a bit white wine, S & P. Make sure you let it sit in the fridge for an hour or so to meld.

                    The one element that I feel strongly about is to use chicken breast only. Dark meat just has the wrong texture. This may be the *only* use for which I prefer chicken breast.

                    1. I take small diced celery and sall diced carrots, Hellman's (the one and only) mayo and then I also add a dab of ketchup (I grew up with russian dressing with my turkey and it just adds a little zip). M daughter like to throw a couple of drops of hot sauce.

                      No nuts as I have a nut allergy

                      1. Ah yes, curry is a wonderful addition...but then it's a whole different thing. Here's a fabulous recipe:

                        Curried Chicken Salad
                        2T chicken broth
                        1T curry powder
                        1C mayonnaise
                        2T mango chutney (such as Major Grey’s)
                        1T lime juice
                        2-1/2C diced cooked chicken (about 8 oz.)
                        1C diced unpeeled apple
                        1C diced peeled fresh pineapple
                        1/2C sweetened flaked coconut
                        1/3C chopped dates
                        1/4C golden raisins

                        Stir broth and curry powder together in small saucepan over medium heat until thick, about 3 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl and cool. Whisk in mayo, chutney and lime juice to make dressing.

                        Mix chicken and all remaining ingredients in large bowl. Add 3/4C dressing; toss. Mix in remaining dressing by tablespoonfuls, if desired. Season with salt and pepper.

                        Can be made up to 4 hours ahead; cover and chill.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: wyf4lyf

                          this sounds sweet and delicious--I will try it-I also like the classic with mayo-salt and pepper and celery on rye bread with lettuce

                        2. I make chicken salad two ways. Usually I make the kind you find in the deli, which is just chicken, celery, mayo , salt and pepper and a good drizzle of honey (old German deli trick). That's the one my husband will eat, and it HAS to have swiss cheese and lots more mayo on the sandwich. For myself I like a curried recipe, as others here are describing. That I eat on a plate though.

                          1. Before I roast my chicken to make chicken salad, I dry brine it. It makes all the difference.

                            1. When I roast a chicken, I deglaze the pan and save both the fond and some of the fat to add to chicken salad I make with the leftovers. It adds loads of flavor.

                              To compensate for the added fat, I use 1/3 mayo and 2/3 yogurt.

                              I balance sweet additions (raisins, dried currants) with savory ones (capers, kalamata olives).

                              Some powdered cumin boosts the flavor. For a large batch of salad (maybe a quart), I add a couple of teaspoons -- not quite enough to notice. The same with cayenne pepper, paprika, oregano, Spike, Lawrey's seasoned salt, etc. Not all at once, of course, and never so much that you notice it.

                              1. I like to make a flavorful dressing using mayo, red wine vinegar or lemon juice, minced garlic, S&P, touch of cumin and touch of red pepper flakes. Some fresh chopped herbs (dill or tarragon or chives) if I have them. In the salad, chicken, celery, chopped carrot, praps toasted walnuts or almonds or pepitas, praps raisins or dried cherries. Great on a hearty dark bread with some simple lettuces.

                                1. Hello to all. Please let me state that I've been having computer trouble and have not been able to reply to these wonderful posts until now. Also, my 'cay' cey on my ceyboard is severely stuc, so please excuse my use of the letter 'c' instead of 'cay' (lol).
                                  I wanted to respond and express my appreciation to each of you for the wonderful replies to my post. I am overwhelmed at the responses along with the incredible recipes and individual suggestions you each have. I'm going to print this page out now before this old computer crashes. I had NO idea there were so many ingredients one can add to chic. salad. I am VERY grateful to each of you for your time and help...there are some obviously excellent chefs here! Just fyi, I ended up using mayo., red onion, green grapes (sliced in half), chopped celery (using as many of the leaves as I could) and toasted walnuts along with almonds! I just had to try both since so many of you suggested almonds and some thought walnuts would be good, also. Thancs to Rose Water for teaching me how to toast nuts; had I not followed those directions, I'm sure I would have burned them. I cannot begin to express my gratitude to each of you. When anyone posts a question for help and gets the wonderful responses such as those that I received, I feel it becomes a personal and selfless gesture on others' parts. I am truly touched by the help every single one of you provided, esp. as none of you had to bother and give up your time and assistance. Sorry for sounding 'mushy', but I really felt blessed; there is such a sense of community here and you are each special and giving. You are each SO appreciated, more than I could say. In fact, I'm going to mace some more tonight using some of the different ingredients y'all suggested! Much gratitude and may God bless.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: heyjude

                                    hey jude,
                                    it's nice to see people so appreciative.I'm throwing in my recipe even though it's very close to the others.

                                    "pulled" chicken breast
                                    light hellman's
                                    mrs. dash regular blend (just a little)if you just don't have this use a little garlic and red pepper flakes
                                    chopped celery (leaves also)
                                    finely chopped red onion
                                    chopped walnuts
                                    I use grapes if it's plated bu not in a sandwhich
                                    I also use a little paprika
                                    mix and refrige for at least an hour.

                                    I'm not sure why but it always taste better if you pull the chicken apart instead of chopping! Could be me (lol)
                                    All the best!

                                  2. heyjude, I'm like you... didn't know so many ingredients for chicken salad. I don't have specific recipes, but make 2 types, depending on my taste at the time. I don't like nuts in my salads, other than almonds on tossed salads. A Chicken salad "must" is onion.

                                    First recipe uses celery, onion, Miracle whip and crushed pineapple, chicken (fresh chicken, not canned, cut in small cubes no bigger and 3/8 in.) I like lite and dark meat mixed. 1-2 boiled eggs is optional. Good on lettuce or as a sandwich. If you use a lot of pineapple like I do, you have to squeeze out a lot of juice so the salad is not soggy. It is better the next day after flavors meld together.

                                    Second recipe is also fresh chicken, all white meat. Lots and lots of onion. ( I like to grate my onion), Mayo, black pepper (prefer white pepper). Chicken is cut very small and kind of smushed when you mix it. It is probably more of a chicken spreadwhen finished. This is a take off on the chicken salad that Marshall fields had at their Fairlane Store deli in Detroit for a short time. It sold for around $8 a lb. excellent with saltines, ritz, sesame or other crackers. I could never afford to buy as much as I wanted to eat, so made my own.

                                    1. MsMe, thanks so much! Yum, each of those sound so good! You really helped simplify things for me. The recipe with the pineapple sounds delicious and I LOVE Miracle Whip!
                                      I'm in N.C. and have yet to find any deli-type chicken salad such as what you described, but I sure wish I could. It sounds like you were able to duplicate the recipe just fine....wow, $8 a lb.? Good grief! ;-(
                                      Thank you so much for your help and I really mean that; now I'm craving chicken salad on crackers, lol!

                                      1. Hand shredded chicken, diced red onion, diced Granny Smith apple, mayonaise and salt and pepper

                                        1. I just have to add that I tasted Trader Joe's premade chicken salad today, and was quite pleased, aside from one ingredient I'd have left out, the pecans, and ended up picking the few out. It had cranberries, celery, pecans, poppy seeds, mayo, apple cider vinegar, as well as cider vinegar listed, honey, salt and white pepper...

                                          I may experiment to see if I can recreate my own sans the pecans of course, but as I generally hate honey as a rule, I was wondering if any hounds had any suggestions as to how much I might try adding in to start. I know start with a little, but how much might be a little... I only ask because generally anything sweetened with honey has that readily apparent taste to me (of course then imagine my surprise in reading it as an ingredient)... TIA!!

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Emme

                                            Honey is the only thing I add to my regular chicken salad, beside the usual stuff, I drizzle a good bit over it before the mayo, at least a few Tbsp. As I said above (I think!) this is a secret many delis use, you don't taste it but it just tastes better, as chicken can be so bland.

                                          2. Chicken salad recipes are a lot like meat loaf recipes.....so many different variations, and I rarely make it the same way twice, but one way I really enjoy it when I have few ingredients on hand other than the chicken is simply with mayonnaise mixed with some dijon mustard...and that's it, except maybe for some finely diced celery or onion.

                                            1. mmmm chicken salad - you can go so many different ways with it. But my own personal favorite is:
                                              mayo- mix until it looks right, but don't drown it and wait until you have all the indgredients before you add mayo
                                              about a tablespoon of mustard
                                              celery cut tiny, and leaves too
                                              fresh parsley
                                              dried cherries
                                              green apple
                                              fresh lemon juice - 1/2 Tablespoon
                                              lots of freshly ground pepper - kosher salt to taste
                                              Chopped walnuts

                                              Once your ingredients are ready, add the mayo a little at a time, and don't over mix, you don't want to break the chicken down and make mush out of it. You should be able to scoop it with an ice cream scoop, and place it on a beautiful bed of greens, with tomato or on your bread of choice. Right before service I'll top it with more ground pepper, and finely chopped chive or scallion.

                                              1. Y'all, I did it! Thanks to each of you, I made some more last night and reviewed the suggestions y'all had submitted. At the age of 54, I'm just not a good cook. I live alone (with 5 animal-children), so I tend to eat out or eat frozen foods too much. BUT, last night I made what I consider the BEST chicken salad I've ever tasted in my life, thanks to y'all. Here's what I did.
                                                Again, a deli-chicken. I just shredded into small pieces the white meat. I poured on the curry powder, s&p, some dill and tarragon. Then I threw in toasted almonds (I burned the walnuts because I was on the phone, lol...didn't listen to rose water!), some dried cranberries and raisins that come in a bag, black olives, finely chopped celery, green pepper, green grapes and lots of onion. The dressing was just mayo. with some half & half (I saw that suggestion somewhere on here...maybe for potato salad?) and I swear, it was out of this world. It had just enough crunch and a really good 'sweet' taste, but not too sweet. And, the texture ended up perfectly for either a sandwich or on a bed of lettuce drizzled with blue cheese dressing (or ranch). Thanks y'all! I think you hounds may make a cook out of me yet! Yeeeeha.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: heyjude

                                                  I hate to admit it, but Emeril's chicken salad is amazing. You can find it on foodnetwork.com. It involves poaching chicken breasts in chicken broth, and includes capers. Very simple, and the best I've ever had.

                                                  1. re: heyjude

                                                    I think the half & half mixed into the mayo suggestion was mine. It was from a potato salad post. I put a bit of half and half into almost anything I make that requires a mayo dressing. A trick my mother-in-law taught me---but only because I watched her make her potato salad once. She was one of those people who would not share any of her recipes and if she did, she would always leave something out of the recipe so hers was better than anyone elses. You won't find that type of thing in this community, everyone is generous and is so willing to share.

                                                  2. heyjude, I experimented with a curry chicken salad found on CH and stuffed it inside half an avocado. Just amazing! Thanks for posting, this thread has some great expanded ideas.

                                                    1. I add chopped honeydew melon plus chopped mint or basil. Must use Best Foods Mayo or even better, the Mexican version of BF mayo which has lemon in it. Bought this at Big Lots - no longer available so found McCormicks mayo with lemon at Smart and Final.

                                                      1. Thank YOU, HillJ! You know, I was thinking earlier today how much response this post has received and I'm so glad. I'll never worry about making c.s. again with all of these wonderful ideas and suggestions. And, I cannot believe yours!! I LOVE avocados and would never, ever have thought of stuffing one with curried chicken salad....what an awesome idea. You can bet your patootie that I'm going to try that. Yum, does that ever sound good. Did you add other 'stuff' to the chicken salad or just the basic onion, spices, mayo., etc.? And did you sprinkle lemon juice on the avocado or just stuff the c.s. in it? Good grief, now I'm gonna have to go buy an avocado tomorrow, lol!
                                                        You know, one thing I've noticed is that hounds seem to be really particular about the kind of mayonnaise and the difference it makes; who'd a' thunk? ;-). Maybe we should start a post just on mayo. ZoeZ, I live in NC, so have never heard of Best Foods Mayo. (or McCormicks for that matter!), so I'm really curious about that now. I wonder if I could find the Mexican version you're referring to, esp. if it has lemon in it. I usually just get Hellmans or Dukes, but only because the other limited choices we have are awful. Thanks again, y'all!

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: heyjude

                                                          You've already got the best mayo generally available. Worry not.

                                                          1. re: heyjude

                                                            heyjude, I sprinkle fresh lime juice on the avocado half before stuffing it. Re: mayo I think you're on the right track. I've been known to use plain yogurt just to change it up now and then but I use mayo sparingly. To the curry chicken I add slightly chopped unsalted cashews but I don't add fruits as some of suggested (pineapple, apple or raisins) only because that's my preference. I say, go for it..you really can't mess it up..and even the practice salads will make good eats! Enjoy!

                                                            1. re: heyjude

                                                              hey jude,
                                                              Best Foods and Hellman's are the same. Hellman's east of the Mississippi, Best Foods west.

                                                            2. A jerked chicken salad is good also. Find a spicy jerk seasoning to your liking, add some mayo, chunks of chicken & celery. Simple enough. It's best on a croissant with lettuce & tomato.

                                                              1. All of these chicken salads sound so yummy.

                                                                My question is, if you weren't starting out with leftovers, or in a rush, but just planning the best chicken salad ever, how would you cook the chicken? What's the ideal texture for chicken in salad, and which cooking method produces it (along with the best flavor, of course)?

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Anne H

                                                                  If I have time, I prefer to roast chicken breasts with skin and bone on...then remove the skin and bones, of course. :) Best flavor, IMO. But usually I poach boneless breasts by covering with cold water, bringing to a simmer, then removing from heat and letting them cook in the hot water...much like making good hard-boiled eggs. The chicken stays moist and tender. If you boil it, it becomes tough.

                                                                  1. re: Anne H

                                                                    i think the texture is better if you roast

                                                                  2. Thanks so much, uptown jimmy and HillJ! I'm SO going to try c.s. in the avocado and leave out the 'fruit'. I hadn't even thought about lime juice on the avocado, but I bet that really adds to the flavor of it stuffed with the c.s. I'm really grateful to you for such a delicious idea!
                                                                    Sara T...I tried jerked chicken one time in a restaurant and it was so hot I had to send it back. Do you happen to know of any brands that I could find that aren't so hot, or is there a home-made 'jerk' recipe one can make? That really does sound good!!
                                                                    Anne H. WHAT A GOOD QUESTION! I'm so glad you asked that, as I'd like to know that, also. That's the reason I just buy the deli chickens from Ingles (in this area). Those are 'roasted' (is that correct?) and the texture is perfect. I'm like you...I wouldn't know whether it would be better to boil/broil/bake the chicken to give the best texture or what, but those already 'cooked' from the grocery stores are perfect, imo. I just peel off the skin and grab the white meat in large pieces, then pull apart and shred; if you prefer, you could also cut it into small chunks, but I like it just pulled and shredded. The meat is tender and juicy, not to mention quick and easy. Around here, the chickens are about $5 which is worth it to me, esp. with the cost of raw chicken breasts and the time/mess involved in cooking them. I hope someone answers your question, lol! I'm really curious as to whether anyone else using the deli chickens or if most people start from scratch (get it? 'scratch', lol?). Thanks so much, y'all!

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: heyjude

                                                                      Heyjude - My fav recipe comes from a restaurant I use to work in. I have it somewhere, just have to find it. And it's a flavorful spicy, not obnoxious heat. I will keep you posted!

                                                                      1. re: Sara T.

                                                                        Sara T, thanks so much! Please don't go to a lot of trouble, but if you DO happen to find the recipe, that would be great. I love 'flavorful spicy' but not 'obnoxious heat' as you so well described. I appreciate it very much!

                                                                    2. p.s. jackie de....somehow I missed your post until just now. It WAS your post to which I was referring and I thank you so much for that suggestion about the half and half. That's another thing I never would have thought about doing, but boy were you right! I think that's what gave my c.s. that taste that I just can't describe. Your post above about your mother in law is so funny; I can't help but laugh. And you are absolutely right about this site. I'm so overwhelmed by how nice, considerate and helpful everyone is. I can't believe how many people are so willing to take their time to help another with ideas and suggestions. Isn't that nice? This definitely IS a community and I just hate that I didn't find Chowhound earlier. So, despite your m.i.l. being unwilling to divulge her recipes, thank YOU for that amazing idea with the half and half. You can bet I'm going to be using it on a regular basis. Yum, I imagine it would be incredible in a pasta salad. ;-)