Remember the chicken salad of your youth – or, the chicken salad found in the pre-packaged deli section of your local convenience store?
I’ll bet it’s a mash-up of pulverized chicken bits, eggs, and mayonnaise … maybe some salt, too.
- Is it tasty? Maybe.
- Inspiring? Not really.
- Visually appealing? No way – it looks like vomit.
The Case For Chicken Salad
If you like the idea of chicken salad but are looking for something a little more interesting than the chicken-egg-mayo combination, this post is for you!
We – meaning I’ve prepared and my family has suffered, er, “tested” – have tried many chicken salad recipes. Curried chicken salad, chicken cole slaw, the list goes on … After many failed and some OK attempts, I’ve arrived on a loose combination of flavors and ingredients that get rave reviews each time. That’s what this recipe is – a culmination of trial-and-error, to save you the heartache of facing a big bowl of mediocre chicken salad (and no one to eat it).
For me, chicken salad is my favorite way to use leftover chicken (and not cook), especially in the warmer months. Not only is it easy and efficient, this chicken salad has a few things going for it:
- It’s quick. The prep time is made up of how long it takes you to chop and stir the ingredients.
- It’s versatile. If you have chicken, some fresh produce, and a binder (in this recipe, it’s avocado) – you can make chicken salad.
- It’s nourishing. Full of protein, healthy fats and antioxidants – but without refined carbohydrates – this chicken salad is a nutritional powerhouse.
- It’s delicious. Maybe this should have been #1.
Why This Recipe Works
With all the chicken salad recipes out there, what makes this one delicious and nutritious, you ask?
- The Right Binder. This recipe uses avocado as the binder – the ingredient that holds everything together. Avocado is rich and velvety smooth, which makes it perfect. Mayonnaise (homemade or your favorite) is another good binder.
- Something Crisp. Celery adds a crisp, refreshing dimension to this chicken salad. Other options that work well are cucumber (my favorite), sweet peppers, or even shredded carrots.
- Something Sweet. I use usually use grapes to bring a little sweetness to this otherwise savory salad. You can also use fruits like peaches, apples, raisins, dried cranberries, or dried apricots.
- Something Crunchy. Toasted walnuts give a distinct and pleasant crunch. Any nut that you prefer would work just as well. If you’re allergic to nuts, try sunflower seeds or (my favorite) wasabi peas.
- Tang. No, not the orange drink mix of your youth – bleh! I mean a pleasant sour or bitterness. Lemon juice does the job here, but you can also use apple cider vinegar, lime juice, or any flavored vinegar you have on hand.
- This chicken salad is an excellent way to use grilled or cooked chicken.
- It’s perfect for lunches or a casual summertime dinner when you don’t want to cook and/or heat up the house.
- A+ stands for “avocados plus …” other yummy healthy foods like nuts, fresh celery and grapes, etc.
- 1 lb cooked chicken, chopped or shredded
- 2 avocados
- 4 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup red onion, small dice
- 1/2 – 1 cup toasted and chopped walnuts
- 2 cups (or big handfuls) red seedless grapes, halved
- juice from one lemon
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pit avocados and spoon out the flesh into a large bowl.
- Add the lemon juice and garlic powder to the avocados and mash to your preferred mushiness.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the mashed avocado mix and combine thoroughly.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
Note: Please be aware that some of these suggestions will change the nutritional aspects of the recipe. For example, adding tortilla chips will increase carbs and make the meal non-paleo.
Serving A+ Chicken Salad
- A heaping spoonful on top of a tossed salad with vinaigrette or honey mustard dressing.
- As a dip (with very sturdy chips).
- In a tortilla/pita (maybe with some cheese).
- Avocadoes – 1/4 cup of mayonnaise per avocado.
- Nuts – Use any nuts you like, sunflower seeds, wasabi peas, or omit them completely.
- Celery – We don’t always have celery at home, so I like to sub 1/2 cup chopped cucumber or sweet red pepper.
- Red Onion – Green onions (scallions), yellow or white onions. Note that yellow and white onions may have a stronger flavor.
- Lemon Juice – Lime juice, apple cider vinegar, or balsamic vinegar. Note that balsamic vinegar will turn the chicken salad a weird brown color.
- Cheese – feta, crumbled blue or gorgonzola, finely shredded parmesan will all work well.
- Prep Time: 30 Minutes
- Category: Salad
- Method: No cook
- Serving Size: 1 Cup
- Calories: 311
- Fat: 18.9 g
- Carbohydrates: 14.2 g
- Protein: 23.3 g
Keywords: gluten-free, no-cook, diabetic-friendly, paleo, Whole30