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Apple Cranberry Chicken Salad

Apple Cranberry Chicken Salad – This chicken salad with apples and cranberries is the perfect combination of savory, sweet, creamy, and crunchy. A delicious meal-prep lunch! Don’t miss all our serving ideas below! (Gluten-Free, Paleo-Friendly)

Could anyone else use a lunch fairy at your house?

I’d love someone to come over with something delicious to eat every day around lunchtime. Until that happens, meal-prep friendly lunches are the next best thing. Instead of making something *every* day, I can mix up a tasty lunch once and enjoy it for a few days in a row. Which feels sort of like scoring a few days of “free” lunch.

It makes for much better lunches than the fallback I use when I don’t make a plan: “stand in front of the refrigerator and wander through the pantry until I’ve snacked enough to call it lunch.”

That’s why a quick, delicious lunch like this Apple Cranberry Chicken Salad is so fantastic. It’s easy to toss together, keeps well for a few days in the fridge, and can be enjoyed all sorts of ways besides just chicken salad sandwiches.

Here’s what you need to get started on this Apple Cranberry Chicken Salad recipe + a few of our favorite ways to enjoy it…

Overhead view of a glass bowl of ingredients for Apple Cranberry Chicken Salad--shredded chicken, diced apples, celery, dried cranberries, mayo, and seasonings.
Overhead view of a freshly mixed bowl of Apple Cranberry Chicken Salad

HERE’S WHAT GOES INTO OUR APPLE CRANBERRY CHICKEN SALAD RECIPE:

  • COOKED CHICKEN. This is a great chance to use leftover cooked chicken. Something simple, like baked, poached, or rotisserie chicken tends to work better than something highly seasoned (like marinated grilled chicken). I love shredded chicken breast best.
  • DICED APPLES. I love the sweetness and crunch of the apples in this apple cranberry chicken salad recipe. My favorite are Honeycrisp apples, but feel free to swap in your favorite variety.
  • TOASTED PECANS. For another tasty bit of crunch, you’ll mix in some toasted pecans. Toasting your pecans beforehand only takes a few minutes, but really deepens the flavor! Feel free to skip that step if you’re short on time!
  • CELERY. I love the fresh, crisp crunch of sliced celery. It’s lovely here with the apples, pecans, and cranberries. Yum!
  • DRIED CRANBERRIES. Sweet and slightly chewy, dried cranberries are like pretty little gems in this apple cranberry chicken salad. I love them!
  • A SIMPLE DRESSING. I dress this apple chicken salad with a sort of quick dressing. It’s made from mayo, lemon juice, and a little salt and pepper.
Front view of an apple cranberry chicken salad sandwich made with a gluten-free bun on a white plate.
Close up view of an Apple Cranberry Chicken Salad Sandwich on a Gluten-Free Bun with Lettuce

MIX-IT UP! TRY ONE OF THESE YUMMY VARIATIONS. 

  1. MIX UP THE NUTS! One easy way to play with the flavor of this apple cranberry chicken salad is to swap out the nuts! Feel free to swap in walnuts, toasted almonds, or salty cashews instead of the toasted pecans. Whatever sounds good!
  2. ADD GRAPES. I love chicken salad with grapes, and they can make a tasty addition to this apple cranberry chicken salad. Feel free to add as many or few as you like! (1/2 cup halved or quartered grapes is a good place to start!)
  3. ADD GREEN ONION. If you like a subtle layer of onion, a sliced green onion can be a great addition!
  4. TRY SOME FRESH HERBS. For some bright, fresh flavor, feel free to add some fresh herbs! 1-2 Tbsp. of parsley, dill, or tarragon can be lovely in apple cranberry chicken salad.
  5. ADD A PINCH OF CURRY POWDER. Another tasty variation is to add a little bit (1/4-1/2 tsp. or so) curry powder. Curry goes beautifully with the sweetness of the fruit and the savory notes of the chicken.
  6. LIGHTEN IT UP WITH YOGURT. If you’re not paleo or doing a Whole30, you can add extra protein by using half mayonnaise and half plain Greek yogurt. It’s tangy, light, and lovely!
  7. ADD A DASH OF DIJON. Add some tanginess with a little dollop of Dijon mustard mixed in with the other dressing ingredients.
  8. MIX IN SOME BACON. Or, play up the savory notes with some cooked, crumbled bacon.
Front view of a halved apple cranberry chicken salad wrap made with a gluten-free tortilla
Close-up view of an Apple Cranberry Chicken Salad Wrap made with a gluten-free tortilla and lettuce.

FAQ + TIPS AND TRICKS FOR THE BEST APPLE CRANBERRY CHICKEN SALAD

PALEO + WHOLE30 NOTES. The only ingredients you need to double-check to keep this cranberry apple chicken salad paleo & whole30 approved are the mayo and cranberries. One paleo mayo option is Primal Kitchen. For the cranberries, look for a naturally-sweetened variety, like these which are sweetened with apple juice. Or, you can use unsweetened dried cherries instead! Serve it on greens, in lettuce leaves, on apple slices, with almond flour crackers or these paleo crackers, or using a grain-free wrap (like Siete).

SERVING IDEAS: You can absolutely serve my apple cranberry chicken salad on croissants, rolls, toast, or bread, but here are a few other ways to enjoy it:

  • ON SLICED APPLES. Turn a clean apple on its side (so the stem is pointed left-to-right instead of up-and-down, and use a sharp knife to make thin slices all the way through the apple, to create a round, almost cracker-like shape. Spoon chicken salad on top and enjoy!
  • WITH CRACKERS. Crackers + chicken salad are yummy together! We like these gluten-free Ritz-style crackers, Simple Mills almond flour crackers (paleo + gluten-free), or Hu Kitchen grain-free crackers (paleo + gluten-free).
  • SPOONED INTO LETTUCE LEAVES. Turn your apple cranberry chicken salad into a chicken salad lettuce wrap! We like butter lettuce leaves or romaine hearts best.
  • SCOOPED OVER SALAD GREENS. Or, simply spoon chicken salad over a bed of salad greens and enjoy like a bit of salad! The dressing of the chicken salad will dress the greens, too!
  • WRAPPED UP IN A TORTILLA OR GRAIN-FREE WRAP. Take your sandwich in a different direction by wrapping it up in a tortilla or grain-free wrap with some greens. It’s delicious!
Close up front view of an Apple Cranberry Chicken Salad Sandwich on a Gluten-Free Bun with Lettuce
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Front view of an apple cranberry chicken salad sandwich made with a gluten-free bun on a white plate.

Apple Cranberry Chicken Salad


  • Author: One Lovely Life
  • Total Time: About 15-20 minutes
  • Yield: About 4 cups chicken salad 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

This chicken salad with apples is one of my favorite chicken salad recipes of all time! It’s the perfect combination of savory, sweet, creamy, and crunchy. A delicious meal-prep lunch! Don’t miss all our serving ideas below! (Gluten-Free, Paleo-Friendly)


Ingredients

Scale

FOR THE APPLE CRANBERRY CHICKEN SALAD:

  • 12 oz. cooked and cubed or shredded chicken (about 3 cups)
  • 1 cup finely diced apple
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans
  • 1/3 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries*
  • 1/31/2 cup mayonnaise*
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/41/2 tsp. pepper
  • Optional: 1-2 Tbsp fresh herbs, like tarragon, dill, or parsley.

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine chicken, apple, pecans, celery and cranberries.
  2. Add 1/3 cup mayo along with the lemon juice, salt, and pepper (and herbs, if using). Stir to combine, adding a few more tablespoons of mayo, if desired, depending on how well-dressed you prefer your chicken salad.
  3. Taste and add additional salt or seasonings, to taste.
  4. Store chicken mixture in an airtight container in the fridge up to 4 days. 

SERVING IDEAS:

  • Dip with crackers
  • Wrap in a tortilla
  • Serve on bread, rolls, buns, or croissants.
  • Scoop over salad greens
  • Spoon into lettuce leaves for lettuce wraps
  • Serve on thinly sliced apples

Notes

*PALEO NOTES: Use paleo-approved mayo (like Primal Kitchen), and naturally sweetened cranberries, like Made in Nature brand (sweetened with apple juice)

VARIATIONS TO TRY:

  • MIX UP THE NUTS! Try in walnuts, toasted almonds, or salty cashews instead of the toasted pecans.
  • ADD GRAPES. Add as many or few as you like! (1/2 cup halved or quartered grapes is a good place to start!)
  • ADD GREEN ONION. A sliced green onion can be a great addition!
  • TRY SOME FRESH HERBS. 1-2 Tbsp. of parsley, dill, or tarragon can be lovely.
  • ADD A PINCH OF CURRY POWDER. Add a little bit (1/4-1/2 tsp. or so) curry powder.
  • Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Category: Lunch
  • Method: No-Cook
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Cranberry Apple Chicken Salad, Chicken Salad with Apples, Fall Chicken Salad, apple cranberry chicken salad, cranberry pecan chicken salad, apple chicken salad

15 Comments

  1. I have doubled the recipe and made this as meal prep for lunch for eight weeks straight. I hate lunch, BUT THIS RECIPE MAKES ME LOVE IT. I never leave comments on anything, but this is so damn delicious. Thank you for this!

  2. Omg, life changing. Just so good. I made my without celery tho. This will be a staple recipe in my meal prep ❤️

  3. I loved this recipe. It is simple and delicious. I have come back to it multiple times now!

  4. I have been using a similar recipe for years. Aging myself when I say years. Used leftover teryaki grilled chicken this time. Slivered almonds I did grill the chicken on charcoal. I do not own a gas grill. Delicisious.

  5. This is the best chicken salad I’ve ever made! Per the optional recommendations, I added fresh dill and onion. SO good. Thanks for the recipe!

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