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I conquered chicken salad

I have two guiding principles with chicken salad, use mostly dark meat and make the dressing separately and then add instead of mixing in ingredient by ingredient.
I add some toasted nuts for the last mix in, use some leafy tops of the celery and cut the chicken into really small pieces. Please share some of your own laws of chicken salad.

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  1. Well, since you asked...

    I start with a smoked chicken from one of two local bbq joints. I use an equal mix of white and dark, (in fact, I usually use a half a chicken, which is how these two places prepare them).

    I add

    celery
    green onion
    cilantro
    jalapeno
    green apple

    Sometimes I add a few pepitas, (shelled and roasted pumpkin seeds)

    (All "green" ingredients so I call it my Smoked Green Chicken Salad. )

    Then I add mayo and dijon mustard.

    I don't bake, so I don't do measurements; Sorry. But use the "right" amount and it will always be just right. :-)

    4 Replies
    1. re: DoobieWah

      I love chicken salad, and agree about the dark meat, but use breast if that's what I have. I always use mayo and curry powder. I kind of make it with whatever happens to be around.

      My favorite add-ins are:
      green grapes / mandarin oranges / celery / toasted slivered almonds / a splash of orange juice

      I also make it with:
      onions / hard boiled eggs / celery

      Sometimes I have it on bread, and sometimes just out of a bowl. Doobie's idea of adding apple sounds good. I'm gonna have to try that next time I make it.

      1. re: Essbee

        The green apple is an adaptation from my mother's tuna salad recipe. It provides sweetness, crunch and juiciness. It really is perfect in this.

        Thanks Mom!

      2. re: DoobieWah

        That sounds so, so, so good. Especially with the pepitas. You have officially blown my mind. (I didn't grow up with chicken salad - it's still exotic to me.)

        1. re: Vetter

          Well, I was making chicken salad for only the third or fourth time and still working on my recipe, (I didn't grow up with it either!) and I was thinking that I remembered seeing pecans and walnuts in chicken salad, but didn't have either. However, I had recently made the pepitas which are a great snack, so in they went.

          It worked.

          Hope you enjoy.

      3. I always use HOT chicken pieces (white and dark) on the top of COLD mixed salad leaves and drizzle with a dressing containing harissa paste. I love the slight spiciness and the contrast in temperatures. Other elements vary but often include cucumber, sliced radishes and roasted peppers. Oh, and pine nuts.

        1. I use boneless skinless chicken breasts and add in some frozen peas, celery, green onion, diced water chestnuts and mayo. S&P to taste. I like the crunch from the celery and water chestnuts.

          1. I love the traditional one with a hint of curry and some red grapes and toasted pecans but also have one I make with grilled chicken, pesto, a little very tart mayo,a few whole pine nuts, and sun dried tomatoes. mmmm

            these do not, of course, count as laws of chicken salad, but I have adopted the law that anything that merits mayo deserves home made mayo. and of course there is the law that nuts are always better toasted. I agree wholehearteldly on using some of the celery leaves.

            1. I prefer white meat--the mayonnaise seems to make the dark meat too oily for my taste. Other than that, any add-ins or condiments are OK.

              When I hear "chicken salad" I think "sandwich" -- not by itself on a plate -- ? Agree?

              2 Replies
              1. re: blue room

                It can be either. Sometimes I put it on a croissant, sometimes I put it in a lettuce cup as a salad to go with a meat dish. Just depends. It's a good side dish by itself to go with BBQ's.

                1. re: blue room

                  for me chicken salad is a plate with lettuce, sliced chicken, some other veggies like cucumber, tomatoes, corn and maybe some fruit like pineapple or cranberries and maybe some pecan nuts.. and u serve the dressing on the side..

                  but if you say a sandwich with chicken salad i think of the mayo based style salad.

                2. I vary what I do when making chicken salad, but two things are always constant.

                  1. Use roasted chicken meat (breast, thigh, whatever). None of that boiled stuff.
                  2. Add in a bit of horseradish to the dressing/sauce mix (grated fresh, if possible, otherwise powder will do).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Totally with you on the roasting. True for chicken stock too, start out with the bones of roast chicken. Horseradish idea appeals to me, and I'll look for the fresh root.

                  2. First I spatchcock a chicken,which entails removing the backbone, roast it, use one half for a meal and save the other half for chicken salad, which includes mayo, diced celery, black pepper,fresh tarragon leaves and purple grapes that have been halved. Very easy and very good.

                    1. The penultimate rule for my chicken salad is, must be roasted bird, and must be white meat. I too have a problem with the kinda "slippery" thing that happens to dark chicken when it's bound with mayo; it never seems to bind properly to me. Add-ins consist of super-finely minced celery, green onion tops, salt, lemon pepper, reg. pepper, and mayonnaise dressing (Duke's, Kewpie or BestFoods) mixed w/ a T. fresh lemon zest and a T. white sugar. This is my basic go-to, and the secret is that the veg. should be minced so finely that they'll mound on a spoon. (Got that from James Villas, bless his Southern heart.) I like adding roasted pecans, cashews or walnuts to this, with a few good shakes of garam, some raisins, diced tart apple or crispy Asian pear cubes; I also have been known to add diced hardboiled egg and some minced sweet pickle relish or minced water chestnuts to the basic recipe. The coup de grace for me, though, is to serve the curried one on cranberry-walnut bread, or pumpkin bread, and the classic on an herbed white bread.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: mamachef

                        Oh, I like your ingedients and methods and attitude here! You've inspired me.

                        1. re: mamachef

                          The toasted chopped almond is a good alternative. For my taste, the nuts (maybe even peanuts would be very good) need to be toasted.

                          1. re: mamachef

                            Ooh Asian pair cubes... Fantastic idea!

                            1. re: mamachef

                              i made a variation of yours today- my only addition to the basic? Some diced fresh poblano peppers- it was awesome! thanks for the heads up-

                              1. re: bugmcw

                                Oh, I like that. Now what kind of bread would really make that sing? Like a chipotle-cheese bread with a cornmeal lean dough? or would that be too heavy?

                            2. To salvage a chicken salad that might be too dry, add a tablespoon (with juice) of canned crushed pineapple to it. Depending on your taste, you can add more. The addition is quite a refreshing surprise. Enjoy.

                              1. White and dark diced roasted chicken, celery, celery seed, dijon, mayo, minced shallots, salt and pepper. Sometimes nuts. Sometimes cilantro or parsley. I like it best with good crackers, not as a sandwich.

                                1. I poach chicken breasts with several bay leaves and some peppercorns and plenty of salt. It's gotta be dry white meat... This is the only time I'd ever braise white meat... Yikes! The bay leaf flavor comes through in the finished product.
                                  I like homemade mayo for this but that's just me.
                                  Tarragon and/or chives (FRESH of course) will make the flavor sing.
                                  Lemon juice is not optional IMHO. And finally, raw onion I find too overpowering for this recipe, but a bit of onion and garlic powder combined with the mayo ahead of time will round out the flavor.
                                  Past that... It's super versatile. My kids like dried cranberries in it and my husband prefers celery. Water chestnuts if you have em on hand will add that nice crunch too without throwing off the flavor.