How to Make Chicken Salad—and 4 Recipes to Try

It’s easier than you think!


Greg DuPree

Chicken salad is a quick way to transform leftover cooked chicken into an easy and satisfying meal. It takes just minutes to prepare, and can be eaten on top of green salad, toast, crackers, and more. It’s also a blank canvas to create whatever flavor profile you desire, playing with spices, mix-ins, and more to satiate any craving or use whatever tidbits you have lingering in the fridge. Think apples, horseradish, dried cranberries, radishes, pickles… keep it simple or get creative. 

Arielle Nir Mamiye, Culinary Director of Jewish Food Society, is a fan of an Indian-Baghdadi chicken salad recipe that combines leftover chicken and potatoes with spices, plus hard-boiled eggs and plenty of fresh herbs, for a flavor bomb of a dish. She also likes a lighter salad low on mayonnaise, or with lemon vinaigrette and tons of cilantro. Chicken salad can also be dressed in balsamic vinaigrette or peanut sauce, or even pesto—if there’s a condiment you enjoy, it will very likely go well with cold chicken. 

However you prepare it, chicken salad can suit your tastes, and freshen up leftovers in so many new ways. Here’s how to make it. 

How to Make Chicken Salad

When you want to make chicken salad, start with cooked chicken, any leftover chicken or a cold store-bought rotisserie chicken (without the skin) can work. White meat is standard, but you can also use dark meat if you like.

If you don’t have cooked chicken at the ready, poach boneless chicken breasts by cooking it in salted, boiling water until the internal temperature reaches 165, about 15 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breast. Let it cool and follow the steps below:

  1. Using two forks, shred your chicken. Or, if preferred, dice your chicken into small chunks. Add to a large mixing bowl, and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add about ¼ cup of mayonnaise per cup of cut chicken, plus one teaspoon of Dijon mustard.  
  3. Mix in a crunchy element, like diced celery, onion, or nuts, such as pecans or walnuts. Stir in chopped, fresh herbs, such as parsley, chives, or tarragon, and your chicken salad is ready to go.
  4. Serve immediately, or store your chicken salad in an airtight food storage container in the refrigerator for up to four days.  

If you prefer a lighter chicken salad, consider swapping creme fraiche, plain yogurt, or even lemon juice as your dressing instead of using mayo. 

Chicken Salad Recipes 

Now that you know how to make chicken salad, let these easy recipes inspire you to experiment with new dressings, ingredients, and more.

Zesty Chicken Salad


Greg DuPree

Dill pickles and tarragon are the key to the zestiness of this classic chicken salad. Reserve some fresh herbs for garnish as well. This is perfect for a picnic!

Herby Chicken Salad Tartines

Herby Chicken Salad Tartines
Victor Protasio

Worthy of your favorite bakery, these open-faced chicken salad sandwiches start with a rotisserie chicken and result in a chic meal that’s begging to be eaten al fresco. Shaved radish on top adds a nice crunch to each bite.

Chicken Curry in a Hurry

Quick Dinner Ideas: Chicken Curry in a Hurry
John Kernick

Make this chicken and save the leftovers to transform into chicken salad! Just shred the leftover chicken, stir in a bit of yogurt, and you’ll be rewarded with a creamy lunch option.

Chicken Tortilla Crunch Salad

chicken tortilla crunch salad
Victor Protasio

Chicken salad is a great salad topper, and can be a quick way to add protein to a meal without cooking. Swap your chicken salad for the grilled chicken called for in this recipe, and it will add some creaminess to a crunchy dish.

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