A creamy chicken salad is one of the easiest, tastiest, most versatile dishes you can make at home. Traditionally made with freshly cooked or canned chicken and a few other simple ingredients from the grocery store, it’s also among the most budget-friendly recipes around. If you’re reading this, you probably love a good creamy chicken salad as much as we do. That’s why we’re bringing you our own rendition of the blend.
We’ve taken all the deliciousness of this comfort food classic and transformed it into a nutritional powerhouse. A combination of savory seasoned chicken breast, freshly chopped veggies, ripe apple and sweet, juicy grapes, all bound with a mix of Greek yogurt, honey and crushed almonds, ours has the same beloved flavors of the traditional recipe but with more wholesome ingredients.
Whether eaten on a bed of greens, on your favorite bread as a sandwich or as a stand-alone salad bowl, our “Rich and Creamy Chicken Salad” will leave you feeling fully fueled and beyond satisfied. Best of all, it comes together in 15 minutes or less!
THE BALANCING ACT
As with most bound salads, a traditional creamy chicken salad is usually “bound” with mayonnaise. Skim through our recipe and you’ll notice there’s no mayonnaise included – and not for the reason you might think. As a high-fat food, mayonnaise is often thought to be “unhealthy.” Our choice to exclude it has nothing to do with fat.
Here at That Salad Lady, we believe in eating and enjoying moderate amounts of fatty foods, including mayonnaise. However, we also believe that every salad bowl is an opportunity to maximize your overall nutrition. This is why we chose to swap out the typical mayonnaise for strained (Greek-style) yogurt.
It just so happens that Greek-style yogurt will give you the same creamy texture and mouthfeel as mayonnaise but with better quality fats and protein. With our savory and sweet ingredient combination, we promise you’ll hardly even notice the difference.
Now, let’s talk more about what’s in our Rich and Creamy Chicken Salad recipe and why.
Chicken, Chicken and More Chicken
You’ve probably already guessed that our creamy chicken salad recipe includes “chicken” – and it packs a powerful protein punch. We suggest using chicken breast, as it’s the leanest, most nutritious cut (study up in our Nutrition Glossary to learn more). Whether baked, roasted or grilled, any type of chicken breast works. Our founder, Nina, generally makes hers with leftover chicken from the grill to give it a delicate but delicious smoke flavor. It’s indeed a must-try!
Once you’ve chosen your chicken, you can either shred it or chop it up. Chopping up breasts from a rotisserie chicken is a cost-effective, time efficient and tasty option. Just be sure to remove the skin first. For convenience sake, you can always use canned chicken. In this case, we recommend choosing a brand that’s 98% fat-free with no preservatives, artificial flavors or other additives. If you follow a gluten-free diet, check for “gluten-free” labeling as well.
Powerfully Flavored Fresh Veggies
Our recipe includes a combination of red onion and celery, both of which bring strong, peppery bite, crisp, crunchy texture and amazing nutrition to the bowl. For instance, just a cup of celery supplies 30% of a day’s worth of vitamin K, an often overlooked fat-soluble vitamin that greatly supports heart health. Then there’s red onion, which, compared to yellow and white onions, delivers a milder flavor and heftier dose of cancer-fighting flavonoid antioxidants.
We round out the veggie ingredients with the herbalicious flavor of fresh parsley. As both a leafy green vegetable and an herb, parsley contains many unique phytonutrients that boast powerful antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
The Sweetest of Low-Hanging Fruits
The deliciously sweet flavors of red grapes and red apples is definitely a highlight of our creamy chicken salad recipe. It’s also quite the nutritious combo. Each of these low-hanging fruits contains its own unique sets of phytonutrient compounds, all of which act as strong antioxidants that help prevent damage to cells, tissues and organs throughout the body.
Unique to grapes is the presence of resveratrol, a powerful polyphenol known to protect against heart disease and various cancers. Apples are particularly rich in flavonoids but their main claim to fame is tied to the presence of pectin. Pectin is a type of fiber that naturally supports intestinal balance, reduces blood sugar levels and promotes heart health.
Yogurt and Honey to Bind It All Together
As discussed under “The Balancing Act,” our recipe calls for Greek-style yogurt instead of the mayonnaise typically used in creamy chicken salad recipes. Besides being an excellent source of quality protein, this yogurt is chock-full of probiotics, which support digestive health. While low-fat and nonfat yogurt varieties work, we suggest using a plain, full-fat version.
Not only does full-fat yogurt contain more nutrients overall, but it’s a lot richer, creamier and thicker with a texture and flavor profile that’s more similar to the mayonnaise we’re substituting it for.
To sweeten the deal, our recipe also calls for honey. While largely comprised of natural sugars, unlike refined sugars and artificial sweeteners, honey is a well-known “functional food” that comes with powerful appetite-suppressing effects too. We suggest using 100% pure honey for our dressing, as overly processed honey doesn’t retain much of its nutritional value.
Crushed Almonds for Yummy Texture
Finally, our recipe calls for almonds, which introduce a whole new layer of texture, flavor and nutrition to the blend. Almonds are also jam-packed with disease-fighting monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats themselves are known to help the better body absorb many of the vitamins and phytonutrients housed in the fruit and veggie ingredients. Put another way, without fat, the nutrients won’t efficiently move through the body to effectively do their work.
We suggest crushing or chopping the almonds and then sprinkling them on top of your finished salad blend. This helps prevent them from getting soggy, especially if you’re planning for leftovers. If you’re not a fan of almonds, pecans and walnuts work too.
GET YOUR CHOP ON
Since our recipe calls for using either leftover or canned chicken, no cooking is required. So, all you’ll need to do is chop up some veggies and fruits. If using leftover chicken, you’ll have to shred or chop that up too. We suggest chopping everything in one take. Ideally, you’ll want to chop all these ingredients into bite-sized pieces. Using a good sharp paring knife along with a chef’s knife will make the process a whole lot easier.
Start by placing the grapes on a cutting board or another flat cutting surface. From there, you’ll just slice them in half with the paring knife. Once you’ve halved the grapes, use the chef’s knife to cut the apples in halves, scoop out the centers (“core”) with the paring knife and then evenly dice them into cubes. Be sure to leave the skins intact as they’re rich in fiber and add great texture to the blend.
For the celery, simply chop off the leafy ends of the stalks with the chef’s knife and thinly slice the stalks into half-moon shapes. You can then dice the red onion into bite-sized pieces. When it comes to the parsley, you’ll first need to remove the leaves from the stems and then dice it up using your chef’s knife.
The final step here is to chop the almonds. You can either do this by hand with your chef’s knife, or with a food processor, which is definitely the easiest way to do it. If using a food processor, it’s best to pulse your unit rather than running it continuously in order to better control the texture.
BUILD YOUR SALAD BOWL
Once you’ve chopped up the ingredients, it’s time to build your bowl. Simply add all the ingredients (except for the almonds) to a large bowl and stir them together until well blended. Add them in whatever order you choose. We do, however, recommend adding the almonds on a meal-by-meal basis for optimal texture.
All put together, our creamy chicken salad recipe is large enough for six generous servings. Depending on your eating style, you can double your portions and eat less meals or store the base blend in the fridge and eat multiple bowls over the course of multiple days. In an airtight sealed container, it will keep for 3-5 days.
As we mentioned earlier, you can enjoy this creamy chicken salad on a bed of greens, as a sandwich or as a stand-alone salad bowl. For a delicious appetizer or snack, pair it with cucumber slices or your favorite crackers.
SHOW US YOUR BOWL
That Salad Lady wants to see your bowl! If you like it, which we are sure you will, drop a comment below and tag pics on Instagram with @thatsaladlady, #thatsaladlady and #buildyourbowl. If you love it, pin it on Pinterest and share it on Facebook and Twitter using #thatsaladlady.
Rich and Creamy Chicken SaladCourse: Appetizers, MainCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy
Whether eaten on a bed of greens, as a sandwich filling or as a stand-alone dish, our “Rich and Creamy Chicken Salad” will leave you beyond satisfied.
Fully cooked or canned chicken breast (2 boneless skinless chicken breasts or one 12.5-ounce can), chopped or shredded*
1 cup plain full-fat (4-5% fat) strained (Greek-style) yogurt (low-fat and nonfat yogurts work too)**
2-3 celery stalks (1 1/2 cup), sliced or diced
1 small red onion, sliced and chopped or diced
1 1/2 cups red grapes, seedless, sliced in halves
2 small Fuji apples (or other sweet, red apple), cored, sliced and chopped into bite-sized cubes
3/4 cup almonds, crushed or chopped***
2 tablespoons pure honey
1/2-1 cup parsley leaves, loosely packed
1-2 tablespoons milk, as needed for desired consistency
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
- Combine all the ingredients (except for the almonds) in a large bowl and stir them together until well blended.
- Gradually stir in milk as needed for desired consistency.
- Cover the bowl and let the mixture chill in the fridge prior to eating or serving the salad.
- Enjoy on a bed of greens, as a sandwich or as a stand-alone dish.
- Add almonds on a meal-by-meal basis to prevent them from getting soggy over time.
- *Any type of chicken breast works (baked, roasted or grilled). Chopping up breasts from a rotisserie chicken is a cost-effective, time efficient and tasty option. If using canned chicken, choose a brand that’s 98% fat-free with no preservatives, artificial flavors or other additives. If you follow a gluten-free diet, check for “gluten-free” labeling as well.
- **We suggest using full-fat yogurt as it’ll bring the “mayonnaisy” texture and flavor that’s characteristic of classic honey mustard dressings.
- ***If you’re not a fan of almonds, pecans and walnuts work too.
- Depending on your eating style, you can double your portions and eat less meals or store the base blend in the fridge and eat multiple bowls over the course of multiple days. In an airtight sealed container, it will keep for 3-5 days.
This information is provided as a courtesy and is only an estimate. Please review our full disclaimer to get a clear understanding of the nutrition and health information and resources presented and written on our website.