This is the ultimate chicken salad recipe! We call this ‘fancy’ Chicken Salad because of the dressing, grapes, and pecans, but it’s truly easy. This is a fresher and lightened-up version of classic chicken salad and it’s perfect for meal prep.
This is the perfect side dish or main course. It’s especially easy if you use leftover rotisserie chicken. Watch the video tutorial and see how simple it is.
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We love protein-packed salads like our Chicken Avocado Salad, Autumn Chopped Chicken Salad, and Cobb Salad. This creamy chicken salad is really the best combination of chicken salad and Waldorf salad that will become a go-to for lunch. As a busy working mom, I always appreciate quick and easy lunch ideas.
Chicken Salad Video Tutorial
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Ingredients for Chicken Salad
The 5 ingredients in this chicken salad are so simple, but each one is important for the best taste, texture, and color.
- Chicken – we use 2 large chicken breasts from a whole roasted chicken, but you can use rotisserie chicken, Baked Chicken Breast, or sauteed chicken breasts instead. Dark-meat chicken like our quick-cooking Air Fryer Chicken Thighs will also work.
- Celery – adds a great crunch to the salad and lightens up the flavor. Even if you aren’t a fan of celery, don’t skimp on it and I hope you give it a try.
- Grapes – add sweet juiciness to the salad. Just like in our Broccoli Grape Salad, the grapes are a refreshing addition and make the salad feel ‘fancy.’
- Pecans – we toasted nuts on a dry skillet to give them even more flavor.
- Red onion – finely chop half of a medium red onion, or you can add red onion to taste. You can also substitute for chopped green onion, but red onion keeps better refrigerated.
The Best Chicken Salad Dressing
This is similar to the dressing we love for our popular Broccoli Salad, except we didn’t add any sugar or honey since the grapes add plenty of sweetness. This dressing is creamy, tangy and adding sour cream makes it lighter than just using mayo.
- Mayonnaise – use real mayo for the best flavor.
- Sour cream – we use full-fat sour cream, but you can substitute it with low-fat sour cream or fat-free Greek yogurt.
- Lemon juice – be sure to use freshly squeezed and not from concentrate.
- Dill – finely chopped fresh dill is our favorite, but you can substitute with 2 Tbsp of finely chopped fresh parsley.
- Salt and Pepper – added to taste
Chicken Salad Substitutions
- Nuts – You can swap out the pecans for walnuts, almonds, or cashews, or leave them out altogether.
- Fruit – try diced apples or pears or dried fruit like cranberries or raisins.
- Onion – if you prefer a milder onion flavor, try sweet Vidalia onion, or chives instead of yellow onion.
- Celery – if you don’t like celery, you can omit it or substitute it with diced bell pepper or even diced cucumber, but leftovers don’t keep as well with cucumber.
- Canned Chicken – you can use canned chicken, however, we recommend fresh, cooked chicken for the best texture.
How to Make Chicken Salad
This salad comes together so fast in one bowl, which is why it’s the ideal lunch option.
- Toast pecans – place on a dry skillet over medium/low heat and toss frequently until pecans are golden and fragrant. Transfer to a cutting board to coarsely chop and set aside to cool then add to a large bowl.
- Chop Chicken – dice cold chicken breast and add it to the mixing bowl. Note: We prefer the texture of chicken when it’s diced instead of shredded.
- Halve Grapes – cut grapes in half with a serrated knife and add to the bowl.
- Chop celery and onion – trim off ends and finely chop, cut celery sticks in half lengthwise then thinly slice and add to the bowl.
- Make Dressing – Combine the dressing ingredients in a dish and add dressing to the salad.
- Toss to combine – stir until salad is evenly coated in dressing, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
How to Serve Chicken Salad
Just like with a classic Tuna Salad, this chicken salad can be served as a side salad or as a main course. We love to serve it for lunch because it’s easy to turn it into a meal.
- Over Mixed Greens – place your favorite greens such as arugula or mixed salad greens into a large bowl, top with the chicken salad, and serve.
- Lettuce Cups – serving in lettuce cups is a great low-carb option for lunch.
- Croissant Sandwiches – Cut the croissant in half without cutting all the way through then fill it with the salad. It tastes like a bakery-quality sandwich.
- Pita Bread – we love to stuff a pita with chicken salad, it’s so simple and good.
The best way to reheat a croissant is to toast it in an air fryer at 350˚F for 3 minutes until it’s lightly crisp on the outside and warmed through. This is what we do with store-bought croissants and they taste like they just came out of a bakery oven.
To Refrigerate – Store the leftover chicken salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days depending on how fresh the cooked chicken is. The USDA recommends storing cooked chicken for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
More Easy Lunch Ideas
If you love this Chicken Salad, then you won’t want to miss these lunch recipes that keep well in the refrigerator and are perfect for meal planning.
I hope this creamy chicken salad gives you some great lunchtime inspiration. I’m convinced this will become your new favorite creamy dressing – it’s easy and excellent.
Easy Chicken Salad Recipe
We call this ‘fancy’ Chicken Salad but it’s truly easy. Its a fresher and lighter version of classic creamy chicken salad and it keeps well so it’s perfect for meal prep.
Servings: 6 people as a side salad
Chicken Salad Ingredients:
Chicken Salad Dressing:
Place the pecans on a dry skillet over medium/low heat and toast for 3-5 minutes, tossing frequently until golden and fragrant then transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop and set aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, combine diced chicken, halved grapes, sliced celery, chopped onion and cooled pecans.
In a small bowl, add all of the dressing ingredients and stir to combine.
Add all of the dressing to the salad, or add it to taste and stir until salad is evenly coated with dressing. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
438kcal Calories15g Carbs22g Protein33g Fat
Easy Chicken Salad Recipe
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.