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Ultimate Guide to Chicken Salad

The Ultimate Guide to Chicken Salad – Everything you need to know to make a flavorful, colorful, DELICIOUS chicken salad + 8 amazing varieties I know you’ll love as much as I do!

The Ultimate Guide to Chicken Salad - Everything you need to know to make a flavorful, colorful, DELICIOUS chicken salad + 8 amazing varieties I know you'll love as much as I do!
Chicken salad is one of those easy “recipes” (it’s really more of a method) that I sometimes forget about, but it’s really one of the best dinnertime solutions when time is tight, or you don’t really feel like cooking.

For me, that’s about 6 months of “summer” a year here in Arizona. With another Eternal Summer on its way (it was almost 90 degrees in February last year, and we’ve hit the mid 80’s a few times this week), I’ve started working on developing recipes that will hold my interest and taste amazing all year long.

So consider this my Ultimate Guide to Chicken Salad. 8 flavorful, delicious, EASY recipes that will keep your interest (and inspire your creativity) all year long.

The Ultimate Guide to Chicken Salad - Everything you need to know to make a flavorful, colorful, DELICIOUS chicken salad + 8 amazing varieties I know you'll love as much as I do!

The basics.

It’s all about combinations. Everyone has their own favorites with chicken salad. I’m always looking to combine a few different textures and flavors–maybe something crunchy (like celery or apples) with something sweet (like grapes or dried cranberries), or something spicy with something crispy, like toasted nuts. It’s always fun to throw in something unexpected or bright, like fresh herbs, dried spices, or even something like mango chutney or green chiles. Play around!

But I don’t like mayo! I’m usually not a big mayonnaise person, but I’ve been really happy with homemade mayo or this veganaise (I buy it at Sprouts, Target, Walmart, and even Costco sometimes). Some versions below work with avocado, or you can try going halfsies with mayonnaise/veganaise and Greek yogurt or another flavor enhancer, like salsa, chutney, etc.

Be flexible. The amounts here are totally variable based on your own preferences. I’ve given suggested amounts as a starting point, but trust your taste buds. If you like yours a bit more creamy, maybe add a touch more mayo. Want more spice? Feel free to add more!

Think beyond the bread. Croissants and bread are amazing, but think beyond the bread when it comes to serving chicken salad. Try apple or cucumber slices, crackers, tortilla chips, avocado halves, bell peppers, and more!

Without further ado, let’s get to the flavors…

Classic Chicken Salad - This is our favorite classic chicken salad, with celery, grapes, and nuts. Check out 7 more yummy varieties in this Ultimate Guide to Chicken Salad!

Classic Chicken Salad

It doesn’t get much more classic than this. Crisp celery, sweet grapes, and a little crunch from the nuts…this one is a perfect home base recipe that’s good on anything from a croissant to a lettuce wrap. Pro tip: macadamia nuts are my favorite for this. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups chicken
  • 1/2 – 1 cup grapes
  • 1/2 cup celery
  • 1/4 cup roasted cashews, almonds, or macadamia nuts
  • 3-4 Tbsp mayonnaise or veganaise
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Taste and adjust based on your preferences, adding more salt, pepper, or lemon juice as desired. Feel free to use salted or unsalted nuts for this recipe!

Curry Mango Chicken Salad - Such a flavorful twist on chicken salad. A little sweetness from the mango chutney, brightness from the herbs, and tiny bit of heat from the curry. This one is SO GOOD!

Curry Mango Chicken Salad

Such a flavorful twist on the classic. Mango chutney adds sweetness, tanginess, and color, and the subtle hint of curry? I love this one served in lettuce wrap form (butter lettuce is my fave). Amazing. Pro tips: Don’t skip the cilantro and try it with salted cashews!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups chicken
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 2 Tbsp mango chutney
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise or veganaise
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, minced (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a medium bowl. combine all ingredients. Taste and add additional chutney, lime juice, salt, pepper, or curry powder to taste.

Creamy Pesto Chicken Salad - This is so bright, fresh, and light! The perfect warm weather dinner or lunch. I love the combo of pesto and tomatoes!

Creamy Pesto Chicken Salad

I love pesto in or on almost anything, but on chicken salad it’s extra amazing. So much freshness and flavor going on with just a few spoonfuls! Pro tip: try adding a few diced sun-dried tomatoes or kalamata olives to change things up! 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups chicken
  • 1 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise or veganaise
  • 2 Tbsp basil pesto (I love this dairy-free recipe)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • optional: pine nuts, or fresh basil for garnish

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Taste and add additional salt, pepper, pesto, etc. to taste.

Cranberry Apple Chicken Salad - A classic with a fruity twist, this chicken salad is hard to beat. Check out the 7 other flavors in the Ultimate Guide to Chicken Salad!

Cranberry Apple Chicken Salad

I love creamy poppyseed dressing on spinach salads with cranberries and diced apples. This carries a lot of those same flavors, but with a little crunch from the pecans and celery. An easy favorite! Pro tip: try serving this on apple slices for extra crunch! 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups chicken
  • 1/2 cup finely minced apples
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup diced celery
  • 3-4 Tbsp mayonnaise or veganaise
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp poppy seeds
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Taste and add additional lemon juice, salt, pepper, or mix-ins to taste.

Chili Lime Chicken Salad - This is like taco salad mixed with chicken salad. The flavor combo is amazing! So fresh and delicious!

Chili Lime Chicken Salad

Taco salad meets chicken salad in this zippy twist. Green chiles tend to be very mild, so feel free to add more if you like things on the spicy side. Try adding some black beans to fill it out even more! Pro tip: this is a-m-a-z-i-n-g scooped up with tortilla chips.  

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups chicken
  • 1/4-1/2 cup diced bell peppers
  • 3-4 Tbsp fresh cilantro
  • 2-3 Tbsp mayonnaise or veganaise
  • Juice of 1/2-1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Taste and add additional cilantro, lime juice, spices, salt, or pepper to taste.

Very Veggie Chicken Salad - I love this one. It's loaded with veggies and the flavor is amazing. So much freshness in one place!

Very Veggie Chicken Salad

Load that chicken salad up with lots of crispy, flavorful veggies! They add so much beautiful color and flavor and keep this dish anything but boring. Don’t skip the fresh herbs! I love this one with crackers, but it’s awesome any way you can think to serve it. Pro tip: the more finely you mince the veggies, the better this turns out. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups chicken
  • 3-4 Tbsp minced carrots
  • 3-4 Tbsp minced bell pepper
  • 3-4 Tbsp minced radish
  • 2 Tbsp minced green onions
  • 2 Tbsp fresh herbs, such as cilantro, basil, dill, or parsley (optional)
  • 3-4 Tbsp mayonnaise or veganaise
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Taste and add additional herbs, lemon juice, salt, pepper, etc. to taste.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad - I don't think there's a better chicken salad out there! Crispy bacon, creamy dressing, and LOADS of flavor.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad

There are few things I love like the combination of chicken, bacon, and ranch. It’s the perfect savory, smoky combination. This has a ranch feel without any actual ranch dressing, but you can substitute ranch dressing for the mayonnaise, lemon juice, herbs, and spices if you like. Good luck not eating the entire batch in one sitting! Pro tip: I’ve tried this with my avocado ranch instead of the mayo, garlic, and onion powder, and it nearly brought me to tears it was so good. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

  • 1 1/2 cups chicken
  • 1/2 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup cooked, crumbled bacon (or more, to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp minced green onion
  • 2 Tbsp fresh dill (or 2 tsp dried dill)
  • 3-4 Tbsp mayonnaise or veganaise
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Taste and add additional herbs, lemon/lime juice, spices, etc. to taste.

Avocado Lime Chicken Salad - Chicken salad with NO mayo! We love the fresh flavor in this version. The roasted peppers make it!

Avocado Lime Chicken Salad

Chicken salad without the mayo! Avocados are my love language and I hardly need any excuse to add it to a recipe. The result here is kind of like guacamole crossed with chicken salad. It’s as amazing as it sounds. The roasted bell peppers and fresh cilantro MAKE THIS. Pro tip: try serving this on mini bell pepper halves or with bell pepper strips as dippers. Ahhhhmazing. 

  • 1 1/2 cups chicken
  • 1/2 cup roasted bell peppers (jarred or fresh)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2-3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Mash avocado with lime juice in a medium-sized bowl. Stir in all other ingredients and stir to coat. Add additional lime juice, avocado, salt, pepper, etc., to taste.

Check out this Ultimate Guide to Chicken Salad! 8 amazing recipes to inspire and satisfy you!

What are you favorite flavors?
Any favorite ways to serve it? 

5 Comments

  1. These all look amazing, and I don’t even like chicken salad. I’m committed to trying them all, except maybe not the Very Veggie one (Being a grown up had broadened my palette, but I still don’t just love veggies.)

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