HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Liven up Chicken Salad

So assuming that we're gonna do a basic chicken-mayo-onion-celery base, what do you add to make it better, spicier, more interesting? I like tarragon, thyme, chiles, mustard, chopped pickles and/or hot sauce - I've even added curry powder or tumeric. But roasting a chicken a week, I am looking for other ideas.

Any help - soon?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. My go to is: lots of madras curry powder, currants, toasted walnuts, diced celery, diced onion, salt and pepper, enough mayo to moisten and bind it all together and a squeeze of lemon juice.

    4 Replies
    1. re: cheesemonger

      My friend makes hers like this only with slivered almonds and chutney and serves it in endive leaves. Decadent!

      1. re: cheesemonger

        This is a lot like of of my favorite chicken/turkey salad recipes.
        Add a couple of tablespoons of chutney and use cashews instead of walnuts.
        (If there are giant hunks of stuff in the chutney, chop those up)

        1. re: cheesemonger

          I had a chicken salad once in the US Virgin Islands that had what I initially thought was an overpowering amount of curry powder, but it grew on me very quickly! This is my go-to now: really put much more curry powder than you think is prudent and somehow it comes out wonderful

          1. re: DrMag

            Yes- it's an obscene amount of curry powder, but I love it. Have heard about adding chutney, which I will do next time.

        2. Smitten Kitchen has a quick pickled celery that she used in egg salad. I think it would be good with chicken too. In fact, that will be lunch today.

          1. I frequently pick the meat from rotisserie chickens and then make small batches of different styles of salad over the next few days. A few, all with Dukes mayo & S&P:

            1) protestant - grape halves and walnuts or pecans

            2) Mexican- chipotle and pineapple pieces

            3) Mediteranean- green olives and sun dried tomatoes

            4) Asian- combination of sweet and hot curry

            5) Spanish- egg salad and mashed anchovies (no salt)

            All are good in sandwiches or dolloped on starburst tomatoes with a little balsamic vinegar and croutons.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Veggo

              Typically I do a #1.

              Mayo and or plain yogurt, apple, raisins, celery, salt and pepper, grapes if I have them.

              No onion but wouldn't balk at scallion. It is very much a use up stuff kind meal for me.

            2. MGZ, I've had a version with shredded carrot, minced celery, curry powder and raisins that was good.

              But---truth be told--I'm sold on your chicken/mayo/onion/celery combo. A little S&P, and I'm a happy hound.

              1. There is a chicken salad at a local winebar that I just love. It has pecans, apples, gorgonzola, mayo base but it is served over a bed of greens with a housemade raspberry vinaigrette that just makes the salad delectable.

                I like the nut/fruit addition to chicken salads...the possibilities are endless. Just think of any regional/ethnic cuisine and build a salad around it.

                That said, my mom's plain ol' chicken salad will always be the best!!

                1. I grated up some apples, chopped some walnuts and dried cranberries and added sage to mine. I'm not a fan of onions or celery, but I will do shallots sometimes. I also tend to chop the chicken in a food processor until it's very fine, so that when the mayo is added it's almost like a pate.

                  I realize some people are probably horrified by the above description, but it goes great on sandwiches for parties.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Heatherb

                    i think chopping the chicken real fine is a good idea - if it's too chunky it falls out of the sandwich. :)

                  2. Cumin + some sort of fruit (apple, grapes, and/or dried sweetened cranberries) + lime juice and lime zest.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: masha

                      Yum! I'm going to try this. Do you use a mayo base?

                      1. re: pagesinthesun

                        Yes. The original recipe was from my mother-in-law, and I believe it is actually from Julia Child. As she wrote it down, it included halved green grapes, almonds, lime zest and lime juice plus the usual ingredients - chicken, celery, mayonnaise, salt & pepper, and there was no cumin. Over time, my version has evolved, dependent on the fruit that I have on hand and I typically omit the almonds. Also, I typically add a few sliced green onions.

                    2. I hate mayo, so I make chicken salad with pesto and cherry tomatoes.

                      1. - onions
                        + fresh tarragon
                        + roasted red peppers
                        as a sandwich + sprouts along with the usual tomato and lettuce

                        1. For me, the only way I care for chicken salad is with grilled chicken breasts which have been marinated in an Italian-style marinade. The only ingredient other than mayo, celery (lots), minced onion (very little so as not to overpower), salt and pepper that I add to the chopped chicken is the juice from the plate after the chicken has rested from grilling. This is liquid gold for chicken salad. I imagine pan juices from roasting a chicken would be just as wonderful or close to it.

                          One other thing, again, for me, is texture. I do not like shredded chicken. It must be chopped and it needs an overnight rest in the fridge for the flavors to come together.

                          Other than that, I'm not so particular about my chicken salad. lol.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: MrsJonesey

                            I appreciate your thoughts, but I'm a fan of dark meat - chicken salad or otherwise (hell, I even like the dark parts of fish). I do like the idea of drippin's though. It seems it would replace the fat added by using dark meat.

                            I subscribe to the idea that there are four stages of a roast bird:* (1) Hot for dinner in sections; (2) cold, sliced breast meat sandwiches the next day; (3) remaining meat chunks for salad or tacos or tetrazini or whatever; (4) stock.

                            *This applies equally to chicken or turkey.

                            1. re: MrsJonesey

                              Too funny! So, my basic chicken salad recipe is much like you describe only I add a bit of rubbed sage to the mayo. But where we parted ways was the shredded versus chopped. I much prefer shredded.

                              I also like the way a friend's mother makes chicken salad. It is kinda a cross between a Cobb and BLT. To her chicken she adds mayo, blue cheese, bacon, chopped egg (sometimes she omits this), chopped tomato and chunks of avocado. She serves it on a bed of shredded lettuce. If she is feeling fancy then she omits the tomato, adds some shredded lettuce and serves it in a tomato cup. It is outstanding!

                            2. i love craisins - just a few - in my chicken salad.

                              1. I have made this Curried Turkey Salad with Cashews with chicken. It's very good.


                                4 Replies
                                1. re: valerie

                                  OH! That is the one! I must have made it hundreds of times.

                                  SO, so good served with butter lettuce cups for wrapping.

                                  1. re: valerie


                                    I learned to make mango chutney just for this recipe.

                                    1. re: 1MunchieMonster

                                      1MunchieMonster, I see the BA recipe does not include the recipe for the mango chutney. Would you mind posting your recipe?

                                      1. re: Fowler

                                        No prob. We've been using the "Mango and Red Stuff Chutney" found here http://www.freondream.com/ice/recipes.... I suspect others would work fine too. For instance recently when I was feeling lazy I got a bottle of Trader Joe's mango chutney and the turkey salad was still tasty.

                                  2. http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/qui...

                                    posted today on Bon Appetit'

                                    I like the idea of using greek yogurt instead of mayo.

                                    Inspiring thread, MGZ

                                    1. A teaspoon of yellow mustard always goes in my chicken salad.

                                      Sometimes I'll add good-sized dash of dried dill weed.

                                      And mine finally tastes "right" again with a tablespoon of the family-recipe pickle relish stirred in.
                                      My brother-in-law took on this tradition after a 10-year gap in willing cooks. The family-recipe for pickle relish has cabbage, red & green tomatoes, cucumber, onion, celery, red pepper, salted overnight, the cooked in vinegar brown sugar, dry mustard & cayenne, and sealed in jars.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: MidwesternerTT

                                        Yeah, I too like a spot of mustard - Kosciusko's is my brand.

                                        That relish sounds terrific.

                                        1. re: MidwesternerTT

                                          I was just thinking that nobody does chicken salad like I do, and now I have a like-minded Hound here, Midwesterner.
                                          I use my home canned pickle relish (!), Duke's, dried dill and a good shake or two of lemon pepper. And a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

                                        2. A couple of ways I liven up chicken salad is to make an open-faced hot chicken salad using rye bread a few slices of swiss or pepper jack and heat until the cheese melts.

                                          Chicken salad inside an avocado or replace the mayo with mashed avocados.

                                          I like diced black olives in chicken salad. And if I can get nice ones, tomato slices.

                                          But I think changing up the bread can bring new life to the sandwich. Tomato-basil bread, Asiago cheese bread, etc.

                                          1. I like spices- ginger, curry powder, cumin, after the mayo.
                                            Another trick is marinate ahead in bottled french dressing- the orange stuff in the bottle- just enough to color the chicken. finish with Hellmans.
                                            Last weekend we made 10 lbs of chicken salad for a sandwich making event and I used a healthy amount of barbeque sauce, a sweet spicy type, and added lots of onion and garlic powder and of course a large jar of Hellmans.
                                            I always rub my chicken breasts with olive oil and generous amounts of kosher salt and black pepper before baking at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes so I usually only salt the final product to taste or not at all.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: Berheenia

                                              I was thinking, given some thoughts upthread, about adding finely minced ginger with he curry powder. I use garlic that way sometimes, so, why not try it?

                                              1. re: MGZ

                                                I use powdered ginger because that was all there was back in the day I learned this trick. I also use powdered garlic in this application. Probably just lazy.

                                                1. re: Berheenia

                                                  Either way, it's an interesting idea.

                                            2. Make Coronation Chicken salad.

                                              I also like curried chicken salad using Jamaican curry powder and pineapple.

                                              I usually add some lemon juice to my mayo-based chicken salads, or occasionally some cilantro and lime juice.

                                              Fresh basil would also liven up a relatively plain mayo-based chicken salad.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: prima

                                                I don't think I've ever tried fresh basil. Perhaps, I will this summer when they prosper along side my tomatoes. Thanks.

                                              2. I love Barbara Kafka's Chicken Salad from her Roasting cookbook. It has fine julienned cucumber and red bell pepper, and is lightly dressed with mayo thinned with lime juice (or lemon) and a slug of ground cumin. I usually shred the chicken so it is the same shape as the vegies. Serve on a bed of soft greens. Not really suitable for sandwiches, though.

                                                1. Mandarin oranges. Fantastic.

                                                  1. Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute, which is salt-free and has lots of herbs and spices OR Old Bay Seasoning OR a dollop of chutney mixed in, or spread on the bread.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: greygarious

                                                      Rotisserie chicken, s & p, celery, red grapes (must be red!), and just about equal parts mayo and sour cream.

                                                      And when it's just me, a dollop, or two, of Sriracha. lol!

                                                    2. I like chicken salad so many ways but one that I am partial to is wasabi mayo, soya sauce, lime juice, a little pickled ginger, scallions and lots of cilantro. I top it off with shredded nori.

                                                      1. Top your salad with walnuts and green grapes.

                                                        1. This is my favorite:


                                                          I love the curry (which I add more of), mango and cashews. I shred the chicken instead of cubing. For regular chicken salad, I'll add mustard or worchestire for a little kick. Now that I'm thinking about it, maybe a little anchovy?

                                                          1. Mayo, shallots, celery, walnuts, roast chicken, tarragon, S&P, and dried cherries.

                                                            1. I've been adding some hot Jamaican curry powder, diced apple, and dried cranberries. Walnuts or almonds might be nice too.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. Try sliced almonds and raisins along with that curry powder addition.

                                                                1. Wasabi (i.e horseradish) powder.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                    Good call. On occasion, I make a cucumber-wasabi dressing and mix it up.

                                                                  2. Inspired by this thread, here's what I made today. (approx measurements). Super yum.

                                                                    1 c chopped up roast chicken
                                                                    2 scant tblsp mayo
                                                                    1 tblsp country Dijon mustard
                                                                    Couple dashes Worcestershire
                                                                    Salt & pepper
                                                                    Half a shallot (I dislike strong raw onion/shallot, so I minced it, soaked in cold water a few minutes, drained & splashed with white wine vinegar)

                                                                    Mmm on a toasted whole wheat English muffin. Not too creative but it was nice & sharp.

                                                                    1. I love grilled chicken with mayonnaise, pesto, extra pine nuts, and sun dried tomatoes.

                                                                      1. Living in Maryland I like Old Bay added to the normal chicken salad recipe

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: offtoanywhere

                                                                          The folks lived in Annapolis. Not much other than dessert that isn't good with Old Bay.

                                                                        2. Good subject, MGZ. These are some items I have used but definitely not all at once:

                                                                          red grapes
                                                                          lime zest
                                                                          chile de arbol
                                                                          honey crisp apple

                                                                          I had never thought about tumeric but I will try that some time.

                                                                          1. This is a good chicken salad with a peanut flavored dressing made without peanuts.

                                                                            Mandarin Chicken Salad from the Milwaukee Grill

                                                                            1. curry powder, soy sauce, water chestnuts, toasted almonds (sliced or slivered) and halved green seedless grapes. omit the onion from your base.

                                                                              1. My favorite is simply chicken, mayo, tarragon, s&p. When I do curried, I add diced apple & raisins.

                                                                                1. Using mayo, celery, onion, s&p as the base here are a few ways I like to mix it up.

                                                                                  I prefer using Cayenne pepper than a hot sauce. Cayenne pepper is a more unassuming sneak up on you spice....to me it doesn't have a distinct taste and doesn't over whelm any aspect of a dish. I use it routinely in my soups.

                                                                                  I'm a salty/sweet kind of guy so some of my favorite combinations in chicken salad is;

                                                                                  chopped green olives & chopped sweet gerkin pickles (relish)

                                                                                  chops nuts like pistachios & dried cranberries

                                                                                  Whole green olives in my Vodka Martini !

                                                                                  1. chopped chicken, caramelized onions & garlic, fresh celery leaves, mole sauce, raisins which have been soaked in tequila and dried mango

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Cherylptw

                                                                                      Interesting... I have never thought of mole in a chilled dish. Golden raisins?

                                                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                                                        golden and regular if that's all that is available

                                                                                    2. shallots
                                                                                      chervil or tarragon
                                                                                      thinly sliced green pepper

                                                                                      1. Years ago, I prepped in a restaurant that had a delicious salad of sliced blackened chicken thighs over a bed of greens with a dressing of oil, rice vinegar, cilantro, garlic, green onion, salt. jalapeƱo and cumin (made in the blender). I don't have the recipe but you can wing it. Definitely worth a try, Also,an old favoite of mine: Mix equal parts of mayo, plain yogurt and mango chutney with a little Madras curry powder. Add to cubed chicken. celery, red pepper. ,

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: MazDee

                                                                                          that blackened chicken over greens is "what's for lunch" now that i've seen your post.