Adding curry powder to a dish is like sewing a few sequins on a dress. You haven’t done much, but the whole dish sparkles.
Curry Powder Makes a Beautiful and Tasty Dish
Curry powder, which consists of turmeric, coriander, cumin, and ginger gives this chicken salad its beautiful golden color— mostly because of the yellow turmeric in the blend. In this recipe, we're adding the curry powder to the mayo used to make the salad rather than adding it to the chicken itself.
Curry can sometimes taste bitter when added to a dressing like this, so the secret is to mellow the powder first in hot oil, just for a minute. This takes the raw edge off the spices. Then I like to add a spoonful of tomato paste to soften the flavors and add a hint of ruby color to the dish.
Cooking Tip! This mix of oil, curry powder, and tomato paste makes an intense paste that you can also add to a stir-fry.
How to Cut the Mango
Mango joins in this chicken salad with its own striking orange hue.
When buying mangos, look for ones that are already ripe -- you’ll know because the skin should have some give when pressed with your finger. In my local market, I know the mangoes are ripe because they go on sale!
If you can only find under-ripe mangos, leave them on your counter for a few days to ripen before using.
Remove the peel from the fruit with a vegetable peeler. If your peeler is having trouble cutting into the thick mango skin, make a small cut with a paring knife at one of the tips of the mango and use that as a starting point with your vegetable peeler.
With the peel removed, use a knife to cut off large pieces of mango from the four sides surrounding the pit (which is in the middle). When your knife gets stuck, you'll know you’ve hit the pit; just reposition and continue slicing. Slice the pieces into 1-inch cubes.
How to Make Curried Chicken Salad
First, poach the chicken breasts (or whole legs that include the thigh), and let them cool in the poaching liquid – this helps keep the meat juicy. Also, I like to use meat on the bone because it makes a nice stock to use for another dish; strain the stock once the chicken cools and use or freeze within a week.
While the chicken cooks and cools, prep the other ingredients: toast the almonds, slice the celery, dice the green apple, halve the grapes, cut the scallions, chop the cilantro, and measure the raisins. Toss with curry mayo and pile onto naan (those puffy, round Indian breads), pita, or salad greens.
There’s a lot of flavor, fruit, and crunch on your plate.
More Picnic Salads to Try
- Classic Chicken Salad
- Pasta and Bean Picnic Salad
- Classic Potato Salad
- Mediterranean Chicken Salad
- Deviled Egg Salad
Curried Chicken Salad with Mango
- For the salad:
- 4 bone-in split chicken breasts, or 4 bone-in whole chicken legs, or a combination (3 pounds total)
- 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup whole almonds (skinned or blanched)
- 1 ripe mango
- 1/2 tart green apple
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 1/2 cups seedless red or green grapes
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 6 scallions
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- For the curry dressing:
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar, plus more to taste
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Cook and cool the chicken:
In a Dutch oven or large sauce pan, combine the chicken pieces, water, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Bring to a boil, skim the surface thoroughly, and reduce the heat to low.
Cover the pan and simmer the chicken for 30 minutes, rotating the bottom pieces to the top halfway through cooking. Cook until the chicken is cooked through and registers 165°F with an instant read thermometer in the thickest part.
Let the chicken cool in the liquid for 30 minutes. Remove from the liquid, pat it dry, and let it finish cooling on a cutting board.
Cut the chicken into cubes:
Pull the chicken off the bones; discard the skin and bones. Cut the chicken into 1-inch strips or cubes. Transfer to a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients.
The chicken can also be prepared a day or two ahead and refrigerated until you're ready to assemble the salad. Save the cooking liquid (stock) to make another dish or freeze.
While the chicken cooks and cools, prep the other ingredients:
In a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat, toast the almonds, shaking the pan often, for 5 minutes, or until they start to brown and turn aromatic. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel from the mango. Slice off large pieces on four sides (the pit is in the middle). Cut the pieces into 1-inch dice. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Dice the apple (leave the peel on). Add to the mango mixture, and gently toss with a squeeze of lemon (this will prevent the apple from browning.
Cut the celery stalks in half down their length and thinly slice. Halve the grapes. Chop the cilantro. Trim the tops and roots from the scallions and slice on the diagonal. Add all ingredients to the mixing bowl with the mango and apple mixture.
Make the curry paste:
Wipe out the skillet used to toast the almonds. Add the oil. When it is hot, add the curry powder and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and stir in the tomato paste. The mixture may look like a paste. Cool before using.
Make the dressing:
In a bowl whisk the mayonnaise, curry paste mixture, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and vinegar. Stir well.
Mix the salad:
Add the chicken, toasted nuts, and raisins to the bowl with rest of the ingredients. Use a large metal spoon to stir gently but thoroughly.
Add half the dressing and stir again. Add enough of the remaining dressing to make a salad that has a little dressing or is well coated with dressing—depending on your preference.
Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if you like. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve within a few hours. Leftovers will keep for a few days in the fridge, though the ingredients will start to soften. (Any remaining dressing can be saved for up to a week and used as a spread for sandwiches.)