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chicken salad, hold the mayo!

i make a great chicken salad with mayo, white pepper, mustard, celery, almonds, and grapes, but my boyfriend doesn't eat mayo. we're trying to make a chicken salad for a potluck picnic and i was wondering if anyone might have a tried-and-true recipe that can be multiplied easily and does not involve mayo? we were thinking of devising a dressing involving olive oil, lemon juice, and za'atar but any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated! thanks so much!!

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  1. Substitute your usual amount of mayo with 2:1 ratio of plain yogurt and dijon mustard.

    1. you can also use greek yogurt. it is thicker. we have them for lunch sometimes. scoop with endives or big pita chips.

      if you are hiding the yogurt flavor, making it curried wight work.

      or you can make a shredded chicken salad with carrot and cucumber/sprouts/red pepper julienne with sesame oil, green onion, rice vinegar, honey and soy. serve with some cold glass noodles. eliminating the need to use mayo/mayo substitute.

      1. Don't sub; go in a whole different direction. I dress warm chicken bits (pulled, not diced) with olive oil and a little lemon juice and oregano; add green beans, black olives and good tomatoes closer to serving. (All this from I think one of the Silver Palate Cbs.) Also consider sour cream instead of mayo if you insist.

        Also relevant: Is this something he doesn't like the flavor of, or is it another sort of problem? (How is he with hollandaise, which is essentially mayo made with butter instead of oil?)

        1. I agree with the "don't substitute" advice. I'd suggest one of two directions: SE Asian chicken salad, or pasta salad with chicken. Unfortunately I don't have battle proven recipes to share, but I have eaten both kinds and liked them a lot -- and I'm another one that does not generally like mayo-heavy chicken salads. Both will feature lighter, more vinegary dressings. For a pasta salad, I'd recommend an orzo salad, probably with chicken and nuts.

          1. I make this without the rice and eat it in lettuce leaves


            1. how about a sesame oil/peanut salad with chicken--and maybe the traditional noodles. most recipes for this one involve whipping 1 unit of peanut butter into 3 units of oil and then adding soy sauce, grated ginger, red pepper flakes, vinegar and (to my taste) honey or sugar. maybe some chopped scallions and for sure some longish scallions cut into brushes for garnish.

              1 Reply
              1. re: silverhawk

                all good suggestions -- thank you! asian chicken salad sounds good, but someone else is bringing sesame noodles to the potluck so i think i might try that but hold off on adding noodles...
                my bf doesn't like mayo, sour cream, hollandaise... any creamy stuff in general. i'm not sure why... he just thinks they're gross. i think something must have happened to him as a child!

              2. I right with ya there. Good XV olive oil and a spash of lemon with herbs would be rustic and wonderful. Just curious, why doesn't you BF eat mayo?

                1. I make one with olives, sundried tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, capers, celery and tomatoes in a balsamic vinaigrette. I put it on the roll and top with good crisp lettuce and a good slice of cheese. For a sandwich spread I use pesto. No dairy and it is really good. A good mozzarella is great with too melted over the chicken. It holds up well for picnics. Shredded or cubed chicken works equally as well.

                  1. White meat chicken in small cubes, cannellini beans, chopped celery with a sprinkling of its leaves, a little white onion, chopped thyme (not too much), fresh lemon juice, good olive oil. This is one of my summer stand-by dishes, and is equally good with tuna.

                    1. I made a really great chicken salad once with some ricotta cheese (bought too much for a lasagna I had made a few days before. And while I haven't done it, I've seen it done with hummus. In fact that one was a combination of egg salad and chicken salad.

                      1. does he eat aioli? ;-).

                        1. I make a creamy "caesar like" chicken salad. It has green olives, capers, celery, onion, cherry tomatoes, chicken of course, I make my own caesar dressing, just the traditional kind and add lots of parmesan. I toss this with the chicken and vegetables. Serve it on a great toasted baguette and top with crisp romaine. It isn't creamy but I mix the dressing with the immulsion blender to give it some extra body which is great with the salad. No need to add extra cheese unless you want. I often use just a little extra dressing on the bread. A great sandwich and no mayo.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: kchurchill5

                            eggs (i'm presuming), oil, emulsion.... sounds like a mayo that the boyfriend would object to....IF it were called "mayo" and not caesar salad dressing.

                            1. re: alkapal

                              Well basically yes, mayo but it is not emulsified to the point where it resembles mayo. Also being a caesar with garlic, worschestershire, lemon etc it doesn't really look or taste like mayo. I only beat it a a few seconds. You can just shake it if you want it more of a just wisked effect. And 1 egg for a lot of dressing. It was a stretch but I thought it might work. It just tastes like caesar.

                              I know what you mean though. My friend I cook for hates mayo but loves caesar dressing. and loves other dishes with eggs and oil. Just doesn't realize the similarities.

                              1. re: kchurchill5

                                i love caesar dressing.

                                but about the "mayo psychological barrier"... it is a funny thing, no?

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  As Mr T said: "I pity the fool who don't understand the beauty of the range of emulsions"

                                  1. re: FoodFuser

                                    food fuser, you make me LOL! did mr. t really say that? i've misunderstood his range...... ;-).

                                    <but i believe the "FOOL!!" part>

                                    1. re: alkapal

                                      When we lived in the northern suburbs of Chicago, Mr. T lived in Lake Forest and often brought his elderly mother shopping at Sunset Grocery Store there. He would pull up in his Rolls Royce convertible, hop out to open the door and lead this tiny, frail woman through the store replete with his Mohawk hair do and tons of gold jewelry. We must have been on the same schedule, because I would often see him. His mother gave me a good tip on how to make terrific fried chicken (buttermilk soak).

                                      I didn't particularly care for his image prior to meeting him, but seeing how sweet and respectful he was of his mother, you couldn't help liking him.

                                      1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                        i smiled and thought of a memoir, "the mr. t you never knew."

                          2. Our company cafeteria makes a very popular chicken salad using slices of roasted chicken breast, fresh bean sprouts, mandarin orange slices, toasted almonds, sliced water chestnuts, chopped romaine lettuce, julienne slices of carrot & zucchini. The dressing is a kind of sweet & sour mustard vinaigrette. The best part is it is topped with pieces of fried won ton noodles, but you don't have to do that if calories are an issue.

                            1. Here's one with avocado from serious eats.Haven't tried it yet, but plan to soon. My daughter doesn't like mayo ( but she's okay with miracle whip. yuck!)


                              1. Am I the only one who thought of the Jack Nicholson line in "Five Easy Pieces"?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                  I must admit to similar ruminations. And when he said "hold it between your knees", it led to thoughts of how Dear Abbey's classic same-positioned aspirin advice would relate to "no mayo".

                                  The Nicholson scene:

                                2. Chicken/Strawberry Salad

                                  Trader Joe's Ginger Sesame Soy Viniagrette
                                  Cooked chicken cut in strips
                                  Quartered strawberries
                                  Honey roasted peanuts

                                  Shred romaine and mix with salad dressing to taste.
                                  Add chicken and strawberries to taste and toss.
                                  Top with peanuts before serving.


                                  1. we ended up improvising a giant batch by boiling several chicken breasts with a bay leaf or two, shredding the cooled chicken, and then dressing with lemon juice, olive oil, a healthy dose of za'atar, finely diced shallots, and chopped parsley and ramp leaves... it turned out great!