Best Classic Chicken Salad

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This Chicken Salad is the best classic recipe made in the traditional way with grapes and toasted almonds. There’s also a variation made with dried cranberries perfect for the winter months as well. It’s naturally gluten free, dairy free, paleo, and there’s no mayo options as well. It’s a healthy chicken salad made with all real food ingredients, and perfect served over a bed of green for extra veggies!

Chicken Salad in a speckled pottery bowl with a gold serving spoon and a blue and white linen behind the bowl.

Sweet juicy grapes, crunchy celery, toasted almond all combine together with the chicken and savory dressing to make the best chicken salad ever! I already have an Avocado Chicken Salad recipe on the blog which is super tasty. However the avocado doesn’t keep as well, and so we definitely need the classic recipe here too.

It’s one of those recipes that’s super simple, and everyone loves it. It’s elegant enough for things like bridal or baby showers. But it’s also great packed along for work lunches, or taken on a weekend picnic.

And it makes a wonderful light dinner that won’t leave you hungry. We especially love this recipe in the heat of summer when you don’t feel like eating anything hot!

A close side view of Chicken Salad in a speckled pottery bowl.

Let’s talk about the ingredients for the Best Classic Chicken Salad!

  • Chicken – Chicken breasts are traditional, but we like using either chicken breasts or chicken thighs. I took a slight departure from the classic recipe and roasted the chicken which provides more flavor than the traditional way of poaching it. If you can find chicken breasts with the bone and skin, they will be the best for this recipe. Roasting the chicken with the skin on keeps the breast meat perfectly moist. But no worries if you have boneless skinless, just keep and eye on them so they don’t overcook, and you’ll be fine.
  • Green onions – provide a lot of savory flavor here and the perfect amount of onion flavor without being overwhelming. I also love using chives when I have them in my herb garden for an even more subtle flavor.
  • Celery – provides both crunch and flavor along with being another veggie added to your meal.
  • Grapes – cut in half to make for a more bite sized amount are the perfect sweet pairing to this savory dish. For the fall and winter months we like to use fruit juice sweetened cranberries when grapes aren’t in season.
  • Avocado Mayonnaise – is my favorite here, and you’ll find the link to my homemade version in the recipe. You can use any mayo you’d like here or you can sub some or all of the mayo for Greek yogurt. Check out the substitutions below for the ‘no mayo’ options.
  • Dijon mustard – Combines with the mayo to make up the base of the dressing.
  • Lemon juice – adds a bright spot to the dressing and keeps it from tasting heavy or bland.
  • Fresh herbs – my favorites in order are basil, tarragon, and dill. Basil has a tendency to turn brown after a day or two in the fridge, but tarragon and dill keep well. I really love all 3, but I just can’t get enough of basil during the summer. Tarragon isn’t always available, but it’s phenomenal in chicken salad as is dill which is more readily available. And you can always use your extra dill from the bunch to make my Easy Blender Ranch Dressing.
  • Sliced almonds – toasted to a light golden brown add a nice flavor and lovely crunch to this salad. You can also use any toasted nut or even pumpkin seeds that you like here, I can’t think of a bad pairing with this salad.

Now let’s make this recipe step by step!

Chicken breasts on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Step 1:

Start by roasting your chicken first so it has time to cool. You can see here I only had boneless skinless chicken breasts here and the meat was still perfectly juicy. It’s just that chicken breasts with the bone and skin are more forgiving, and less prone to be dry.

Mixing the dressing together in a small pottery bowl, and juicing the lemon on a wooden cutting board.

Step 2:

While the chicken is cooking, mix together all the ingredients for the dressing.

Diced celery, sliced green onions, and halved grapes on a wooden cutting board.

Step 3:

Then finely dice the celery, halve the grapes, and thinly slice the green onions.

Chopped chicken on a wooden cutting board with the celery, green onions, almonds, and grapes around the cutting board.

Step 4:

When the chicken is done and cool enough to handle, chop the chicken into small bite sized pieces.

The chicken, green onions, and dressing in a bowl on a wooden cutting board.

Step 5:

Add the chicken to a medium sized mixing bowl along with the dressing, celery, green onions, and fresh herbs. Mix to combine.

Adding the grapes to the chicken salad in a mixing bowl on a wooden cutting board.

Step 6:

Finally stir in the grapes and season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

Tip: Allow the chicken salad to set in the fridge for 20-30 minutes before serving if you can to allow the flavors to develop.

Chicken salad in a speckled pottery bowl on a white background with sliced almonds around it and a blue and white linen behind the bowl.

Storage & Meal Prep Tips:

  • Chicken salad keeps well for 3-5 days in the fridge.
  • To make this ahead for meal prep, I definitely recommend keeping the almonds separate and add them as you eat the salad for the best crunch. If you’re using basil, it’s best to add it as you eat the salad too because it has a tendency to turn brown after 2 days. When I meal prep this, I like to use dill which keeps the best in my opinion.

Let’s jump into some FAQ’s!

What if it’s too hot to turn on the oven?

Grill the chicken! I never roast the chicken for this salad in the oven during July or August. Instead I fire up the grill and avoid heating up the house. I think you’ll find you love the flavor of grilled chicken in this classic recipe too.

How long does chicken salad last?

3-5 days ideally!

What if I hate mayo?

1. Use your favorite Greek yogurt in place of some or all of the mayo. I find the best results are to replace just half of the mayo with yogurt so it’s still perfectly creamy. However this chicken salad is still super good, just a touch lighter with a yogurt only dressing.
2. Try my Healthy Chicken Salad. This is a no mayo version that’s super creamy and way too good. The only downside to this recipe is the avocado dressing doesn’t keep as long in the fridge.
3. Use a vinaigrette dressing in place of the classic creamy one. Try my Lemon Vinaigrette2-Ingredient Balsamic, or White Balsamic Vinaigrette. Any of these options will work perfectly here.
4. If you detest mayo, (I didn’t used to be a huge fan) try making my homemade mayo recipe that you’ll find with my Curried Chicken Salad recipe. Both Tyler and I weren’t exactly crazy about mayo before I started making it from scratch. It takes just minutes in the blender and tastes amazing!

Why is my chicken salad dry?

Overcooked chicken is the biggest problem with a dry chicken salad. This recipe has the perfect amount of dressing for a moist chicken salad that doesn’t dry out in the fridge. But the dressing cannot overcome the problems of sawdust dry chicken.

If you struggle with cooking chicken breasts, I recommend trying bone in and skin on because it’s more forgiving. Also a meat thermometer can be a huge help so you know the chicken is done without the risk of overcooking it.

What can I do with chicken salad?

Make a chicken salad sandwich, or turn it into a wrap with greens. You can also pile it over a bed of greens or make my apple slice snacks which I talk about below.

Can you freeze chicken salad?

No! Chicken salad doesn’t freeze well. But one thing I like to do to prep chicken salad ahead is to cook and freeze the chicken. Then you’re most of the way there to making chicken salad at a moments notice.

Close up macro view of chicken salad with grapes on top.

How to serve this Chicken Salad:

  1. Our favorite way to eat this is over a pile of mixed greens, but spinach and arugula is great too.
  2. It’s also really tasty rolled into a wrap with mixed greens. A local coffee shop where I live serves a chicken salad wrap like I described above with blue cheese dressing in place of the mayo dressing and it’s incredible as well!
  3. Pile it into a sandwich with or without greens.
  4. You can serve this as a snack like my 3 Quick and Easy Apple Slice Snacks. Slice and apple in circles, and use a small round cutter to remove the core, then pile on some of this chicken salad.
Chicken salad on a bed of spring greens with a gold fork and slice almonds sprinkled around.

I really hope you enjoy this Best Classic Chicken Salad! And if you do get a chance to make it, I hope you’ll leave me a comment/rating below. I always love hearing from you here! Also for lots more salad recipes, head over to the recipe index.

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Chicken salad in a speckled pottery bowl on a white background with sliced almonds around it and a blue and white linen behind the bowl.

Best Classic Chicken Salad


  • Author: Kari
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 25
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Ingredients

Scale

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, or 4 bone in skin on chicken breasts, 4-5 cups chopped cooked chicken

1 cup avocado oil mayonnaise, see notes

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 1 lemon

1/21 teaspoon sea salt, to taste

1/41/2 teaspoon black pepper to taste

1 cup finely diced celery

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, tarragon, or dill

2 cups halved red grapes, 10 ounces, or 1/2 cup roughly chopped dried cranberries

1/3 cup toasted sliced almonds, see notes


Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and toast the sliced almonds 6-10 minutes or until golden brown. Increase the oven temperature to 400ºF.

Place the chicken on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast until the chicken is done in the center, or a thermometer reads 165ºF. Boneless skinless will take about 20-25 minutes, and bone in will take about 40 minutes.

When the chicken is done set it aside until it’s cool enough to chop.

Meanwhile mix together the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper, and mix to combine. 

Chop the slightly cooled chicken into small bite sized pieces and place it into a medium sized mixing bowl. Add the celery, green onions, and herbs along with the dressing. Tossing the dressing with the warm chicken helps the flavors to develop and the whole salad is tastier.

Mix to combine, then season to taste with more salt and pepper if needed. Then stir in the grapes and toasted almonds if you’re eating the whole salad right away. If you know you’ll be storing part of the chicken salad, serve the almonds separately.

Allow the chicken salad to sit in the fridge for 20-30 minutes if you have time to allow the flavors to develop, then serve.

Notes

I like to toast my sliced almonds by placing them in a cast iron skillet in a thin single layer. Then toast them in a 350ºF oven until lightly golden brown, 6-10 minutes. You can also toast them over medium-low heat on the stove top, but you’ll need to stir them often to toast evenly and not burn.

You can find my homemade avocado mayo recipe under my Curried Chicken Salad.

  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Roasting
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Classic Chicken Salad, Chicken Salad Recipe, Best Chicken Salad, Chicken Salad Recipes Grapes, Traditional Chicken Salad

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