Chicken Salad

SaladQuick and EasyLow CarbChickenChicken Salad

This family favorite chicken salad is made with celery, bell pepper, green olives, apple, lettuce, and mayo—plus a secret ingredient that makes all the difference!

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

My mother and father make the best chicken salad. It’s a joint effort; my father assembles the ingredients, while my mom makes the dressing.

It’s not exactly your standard chicken salad. They like to include chopped apple for a sweet note, and also chopped green olives for their tangy saltiness.

What Makes this Chicken Salad Special

The “secret sauce,” so to speak, of this chicken salad, is the tablespoon of plum preserves my mom adds to the mayo-based dressing. You could use any berry jelly or jam, but as we always have a lot of plum jam on hand (thanks to several plum trees), that’s what mom reaches for first.

Mom balances out the sweetness from the dab of jam with a bit of lemon juice.

The result? Wonderful!

Chicken Salad with celery and bell pepper

How to Cook Chicken for Chicken Salad

If you are going to cook chicken specifically for chicken salad, the easiest thing to do is to poach it.

What I like to do is put a pot of 2 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon salt on to boil. As the water is heating, I cut skinless boneless chicken breasts into large (2 1/2-inch) chunks. When the water boils, I add the chicken, and return the pot to a simmer. Then I turn off the heat, and cover the pot and let the meat sit for 15 minutes in the hot water while I prepare everything else. Poaching chicken this way allows the chicken to cook gently, so the chicken retains more moisture.

After the chicken is finished cooking you can save the poaching liquid as light chicken broth.

Poaching aside, you can easily use any cooked chicken for this chicken salad—rotisserie chicken, grilled chicken, or roasted chicken. My parents will often use leftovers from their favorite baked chicken, and even include some of the crispy skin in the salad.

How Long Will this Chicken Salad Keep

You can make this salad a day or two ahead of time if you wait to add the lettuce until right before serving. The salad will keep for several days in the fridge, but the lettuce will lose its crunch and get all wilty, so you may want to leave the lettuce out if you expect to have leftovers.

Do you have a favorite chicken salad recipe? Please let us know about it in the comments.

Love Chicken Salad? Try these recipes:

Updated August 12, 2019 : We spiffed up this post with some new details about poaching chicken

Chicken Salad Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Poaching chicken time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

We are poaching boneless skinless chicken breasts in salted water for this salad. You could also use any leftover cooked chicken meat, with or without the skin.

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless (raw) chicken breasts, cut into 2 1/2-inch chunks (or 2 to 3 cups cooked chicken meat)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 4 to 6 green olives, pitted and minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 to 1 whole apple, cored and chopped
  • 1/3 head iceberg head lettuce, sliced and chopped

For the dressing:

  • 5 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon plum preserves, or any sweet berry preserve (or a lesser amount of honey)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

1 Poach the chicken (skip if using already cooked chicken): Bring a pot with 2 quarts of well salted water (1 tablespoon salt) to a boil. Add the chicken breast (cut into large chunks) and return the water to a simmer. Then turn off the heat, and cover the pot. Let the chicken sit for 15 minutes (time it) or more while you prepare everything else.

2 Make the dressing: Prepare the chicken salad dressing in a large bowl. Mix together the mayonnaise, preserves, and lemon juice. Taste for the proper balance of sweetness and acidity. The salad dressing should not be too sweet, nor too sour.

Add more preserves or lemon juice until you have reached the balance you want. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3 Mix in the chopped celery, bell pepper, olives, red onion, and apple.

4 Dice the chicken, mix with dressing and vegetables: Remove the chicken from the poaching water and dice it. (Or dice already cooked chicken if that is what you are using for this salad.) Mix it in with the dressing and vegetables.

5 Add lettuce: At this point you can make ahead. When ready to serve, fold in the sliced and chopped iceberg lettuce.

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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83 Comments / Reviews

No ImageChicken Salad

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Elisabeth Price

    Love the heart healthy way to poach chicken and keep it flavorful. Used just enough of the dressing to moisten du to its fat content and flavored it with my own secret ingredient, Hoisin sauce. Thank you for this recipe and the carefu, helpful instructions.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. Carol C.

    Made it, used sugar free jam and light mayo since I am diabetic. Tasted great, family loved it.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  3. Delores

    Yes. I made it for dinner today. It was delicious. It was very easy and simple to make. I fortunately had all the ingredients needed. I would make again. I’m already planning to take to a Easter Potluck Brunch. ❤

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. Elena

    Really fantastic and simple salad

    xxxxxyyyyy

  5. John.

    I substituted raspberry jam and apple cider vinegar for plum jam and lemon juice. A very nice pop of sweet and acid. Thanks for the recipe. It’s a keeper

    xxxxxyyyyy

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Chicken Salad with celery and bell pepperChicken Salad