A while ago a reader asked me to write about how to make a fantastic chicken salad. I just made a batch and it was so delicious that I wanted to share my recipe and seek your suggestions.
When I’m at work, I love visiting Taste by Unc’s Cheesecake, the cafe and bakery behind the alley from our office. They have the best lunch specials and one of my favorites is their Contessa turkey salad panini. The turkey looks and tastes like it was cooked in-house, meaning it’s not chopped-up lunchmeat. The salad is creamy but not overdressed and cranberry sauce adds a pleasant sweetness. This Contessa turkey salad was on my mind as I prepared my chicken salad.
As far as your chicken salad goes, you can use dark or light meat chicken and cook it however you’d like. If you are really crunched for time, buy a rotisserie chicken. I prefer dark meat, so I cooked two bone-in, skin-on thighs in simmering water seasoned with black pepper, parsley stems, lemon slices and onion. I simmered the chicken until it was cooked through and the juices ran clear. This took about 20-minutes. If I had a whole chicken, I would use the same method to keep the meat moist.
Serve the salad on sandwiches or on a bed of fresh salad greens with your favorite chopped vegetables. These are the typical elements I add to chicken or tuna salads:
- Something crunchy: Add nearly any vegetable available in your kitchen. I’ve used diced bell pepper, celery, radish, carrot, pea pods and blanched green beans. You could also add chopped nuts or sunflower seeds.
- A little something sweet: I like adding a handful of currants or craisins to my salad. You could also use fresh fruit like halved grapes or apple. Toss them in at the last minute so they don’t get mushy or make the salad too liquidy.
- Spices: I add black pepper, salt, garlic powder and white pepper. Sometimes I’m in the mood for curry powder.
- Onion: A little onion adds savoriness to the salad. You don’t want to get carried away, though. For a mild onion flavor, try adding some grated onion with the juices, thinly sliced green onion, or chives for the mildest flavor
- Herbs: Use what you have. Tarragon, parsley, and chives would be great additions. If the herb is more fragrant like rosemary or thyme, add more sparingly.
- Tartness: A tart element like a spritz of fresh lemon juice, drizzle of vinegar, and/or a squirt of mustard will balance the creamy salad and add more complexity.
- Creamy: I like creamy chicken salad that’s dressed enough to hold the ingredients together. I really like the combination of mayonnaise and greek yogurt.
My Chicken Salad for Two
2 chicken thighs
3 slices of lemon
1/2 onion cut into a few pieces
Handful of parsley stems
2 small radishes, finely diced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Dried currants, a handful
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Mayonnaise, a couple dollops
Greek yogurt, a couple dollops
Fresh lemon juice, a spritz
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste
White pepper, a dash
- Fill the pot with enough water to cover the chicken and bring to a simmer. Add lemon, parsley, onion and black pepper. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, tender, and its juices run clear. This should take about 20-minutes.
- Allow the chicken to cool. Remove the skin and pull the meat from the bones. Cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Add diced radish, onion, and currants.
- Add mustard and just enough mayonnaise and yogurt to hold the chicken salad together.
- Season with a spritz of lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic powder and white pepper to taste.
- Serve on a sandwich or on a bed of fresh salad greens. I added sliced cucumber and halved cherry tomato halves.