Circassian Chicken Salad


Circassian Chicken Salad is a classic mayo-free chicken salad with a creamy walnut sauce and paprika, garlic, green onions, and parsley.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Please welcome guest author Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook who shares one of his favorite chicken salads with us. ~Elise

Not sure where I first heard of this variant on chicken salad, but I’ve been making it for years.

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Presumably it originated in the Caucasus Mountains, which is where the Circassians live. I’ve net yet met a Circassian, although I suspect they may be something like an Armenian. Or not. Who knows?

What I do know is that there are plenty of recipes for this dish out there, but what ties them all together are walnuts, garlic, paprika and poached chicken.

Circassian Chicken

This recipe is a great way to get away from typical mayo-based chicken salads, and is wonderful either as a sandwich, or simply served with crusty bread and a pickle or two. Once made, it keeps well in the fridge for at least 3-4 days.

Circassian Chicken Salad Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6


  • 1 pound skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or walnut oil
  • 4 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 ½ cups chopped walnuts, divided
  • 3 chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, divided
  • 2 slices of bread, crusts removed
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • Salt and black pepper
  • The juice of a lemon


1 Poach the chicken breasts: Bring the chicken stock to a simmer and add the chicken breasts. Add some water if there is not enough liquid to cover the meat. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat.

2 Heat paprika in olive or walnut oil: Meanwhile, heat the olive or walnut oil in a small pot over low heat and add the paprika. Stir well to combine. Heat until you can smell the aroma of the paprika, then turn off the heat.

3 Soak bread in broth: Tear the bread into chunks and put into a bowl. Ladle out about a cup or two of the chicken broth and pour it over the bread.

4 Make walnut paste: Put one cup of the walnuts into a food processor. Add the garlic, the cayenne, about a teaspoon of salt, 1 Tbsp of the parsley and the soaked bread. Pulse to make a thick, relatively chunky paste.

If it needs a bit more chicken broth to loosen up, add some a tablespoon at a time.

Stir the paprika-oil, then pour it into the food processor and buzz to combine. Add salt to taste.

5 Assemble the salad: Tear the chicken breasts into shreds. Put it in the bowl with the remaining 1/2 cup walnuts, the green onions and 1 Tbsp of parsley.

Add the walnut-paprika paste from the food processor to the bowl and stir gently to combine everything thoroughly. Add black pepper and lemon juice to taste.

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Turkish Cerkez Tavugu (Chicken with Walnuts) from Eating Out Loud

Circassian Chicken - Cerkez Tavugu at One Perfect Bite

Hank Shaw

A former restaurant cook and journalist, Hank Shaw is the author of three wild game cookbooks as well as the James Beard Award-winning wild foods website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. His latest cookbook is Buck, Buck, Moose, a guide to working with venison. He hunts, fishes, forages and cooks near Sacramento, CA.

More from Hank

27 Comments / Reviews

No ImageCircassian Chicken Salad

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Donald

    Do you have a preference for olive oil or walnut oil? Also, any thoughts on sous vide the chicken in the broth (maybe with onion)?

    Show Replies (1)
  2. Christine

    Could anyone suggest a bread substitute? I’ve been on a low carb diet & would love to try this recipe. Thanks

  3. Anny

    Thank you Hank for sharing us the recipe! I made this chicken salad last week, and actually enjoyed it very much. It reminds me of the Pecel sauce (peanut sauce) for Indonesian vegetable salad. I like the chunks of walnut in the chicken salad, since it gives the salad a crunch. Again, thanks for sharing!

  4. patty

    I saw this recipe months ago when it was originally posted and have been thinking about it ever since. FINALLY made it last night and had to comment on how delicious it was. I only made two small variations: I used roast chicken breast on the bone (as a matter of preference) and chives instead of scallions (as a matter of what was in my fridge). I used suggested porportions above for spices (very unlike me!) and it was great. I would actually add a little more cayenne for my own preference next time, but otherwise would not change anything.

  5. Ejide TANIK

    I am Turkish, half Circassian my grandmother
    was a Circassian.
    The original recipe calls for :
    1.Only white chicken meat boiled with a whole onion.Discarding the skin you need to pull off very fine threads from the meat. Leave a side.
    2.Walnuts need to be processed untill (very fine like peanut butter)they stick to the bowl.
    3.Add the bread,garlic and some of the stock add also the boiled onion to the walnut puree, process all very well like a cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    4.Mix chicken threads and walnut sauce,then drizzle with walnut oil mixed with red pepper.
    Green onions and parsley is not used in the classic recipe.

    Yes, I know green onions and parsley are not in the classic, but I made this in spring and I decided to put them in. That said, I am pretty happy my recipe is so close to yours – thank you for sharing it! ~Hank

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