Healthy chicken salad is perfectly creamy with just the right seasonings and crunch. It’s delicious as a sandwich, wrap or served with crackers or greens.
I am waking up at the beach today after a little weekend trip with my family.
The kids are off of school, so we snuck down here for one last trip with some beach time, pool fun and boat rides. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and we've had such a great time together.
I'm working from the condo this morning, then we'll grab lunch at our favorite taco spot and head back home. I'm lucky that my job as a health and nutrition editor allows me to work remotely - and even from a car!
Let's talk food though.
Today I am so excited to be sharing my healthy chicken salad with you. It’s one of those that I really should have shared here years ago, but I don’t know, I got distracted.
(I have shared my basil chicken salad with walnuts and pesto chicken salad recipes though, which are a fun twist. Oh, and this buffalo chicken salad packs a serious flavor punch! I've also shared my tuna spinach salad, another lunchtime favorite.)
But this here is my mom's classic chicken salad recipe that is the original and one of my absolute favorite things to eat for lunch!
I’ve only just barely tweaked it in my adult years to make it a little healthier. And I have full notes on that so you can make it just the way you want as well!
But I gotta say, this chicken salad is perfectly creamy, perfectly flavored, perfectly crunchy and crazy delicious!
In fact, although chicken salad is one of my most favorite things, I rarely order it at delis or restaurants because it’s just never as good as this homemade version!
(Nor is it bound to be anywhere near as healthy as my recipe.)
Plus, this is my mom’s classic chicken salad recipe that I grew up with, so it’s familiar and comforting and just the way I always want to enjoy it.
Speaking of, this is one of the first recipes my mom copied down for me, when I was going away to college and would suddenly need to be feeding myself.
And her notes on the card had exactly no measurements. It was basically just the list of ingredients with a note about adding some of this and that until it seemed right and tasted good. “You know,” she wrote on it.
And I did know, cause I’ve made this and eaten it with her so many times over the years and seen that process of getting it just right.
Don’t worry though, I measured everything out so I could share this with you with a little more detail and precision.
(Of course, you should feel free to take that same whimsy approach and just add this and that as you go, until it’s to your liking!)
So let's get fixing!
I’ve got some notes, tips and substitutions coming up below on how to make chicken salad. Just tryin’ to be helpful.
(I’ve had a lot of experience making this too and want to share all the details. 😊)
If you want to jump on down to the recipe, simply scroll right on through the rest of the text. The recipe card is near the bottom of the page, above the comments section.
Notes on healthy chicken salad:
- The chicken for this recipe needs to be cooked and cooled, so please plan accordingly.
- You can use all mayonnaise for this recipe (either regular or a light mayo) or you can substitute part or all of the mayo for plain Greek yogurt (either nonfat or 2%). I like a half-and-half ratio.
- Also, start with the ⅓ cup of combined mayo and Greek yogurt called for and add extra as needed, to get the salad to your desired creaminess and consistency. (It depends on your tastes but also on how much chicken you have.)
- The pickle cubes are traditional in my family, but you could skip them if you’d like.
- Love grapes in your chicken salad? Feel free to add some here! I’d recommend about ½ cup of halved red grapes.
Also, I wanted to address the actual chicken part of this chicken salad.
What kind of chicken should I use for chicken salad?
You’ll need about 2 ½ to 3 cups of cooked, chopped chicken.
I typically cook my own chicken breasts to use for chicken salad. It’s what my mom always did and that’s how I grew up eating this.
I simply take 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and place them in a pot of boiling water on the stove. Once I’ve put them in, I lower the heat slightly and leave it a boil (a rolling boil is fine as long as you’re not going to bubble over).
They’ll take 25-35 minutes to cook through, depending on the thickness of your chicken breasts. Then use some tongs to remove them from the pot of water and set the cooked chicken aside to cool. Once it's cool enough to handle, chop the chicken into small pieces, let it all cool completely and then you’re ready to make the salad.
Also, you can chop your chicken as chunky or as finely as you like.
It’s really your personal preference whether you want big meaty pieces of chicken or if you want them diced small so everything is more uniform and smooth.
(Though it also depends a bit on how you’re going to serve it. The size of your cut chicken won’t matter if you’re making sandwiches or wraps, but if you’re serving this as an appetizer or with small crackers, you’re going to want a smaller dice. So consider that part too.)
However, you can absolutely substitute a rotisserie chicken if you prefer. Or even some leftover baked or grilled chicken. The more plainly flavored the better, for a classic chicken salad recipe.
OK, and now let’s get to the eating part!
Serving ideas for chicken salad:
- Chicken salad can be scooped and served on salad greens as an actual salad. Sliced cucumbers and tomatoes are good additions here too.
- Serve it with crackers for scooping and eating. I love some sliced cheese to go with it as well.
- Make a chicken salad sandwich with some whole grain bread and extra mayo, or mustard, spread on it. A sandwich is great with baby spinach or fresh greens as well.
- Or make an open-faced sandwich of sorts with some toasted baguette slices and the chicken salad piled on top.
- Use your chicken salad for a wrap with whole wheat, spinach or regular tortillas. Or use a lettuce wrap for a low-carb option.
- Spoon the chicken salad into mini phyllo cups or wonton cups for serving as an appetizer.
Finally, if you are using this recipe to meal prep or if you have extra after enjoying it, I wanted to let you know how to store leftover chicken salad.
How long does chicken salad keep?
- Chicken salad will keep, covered, in the fridge for 4-5 days.
- You can store it in a plastic container with a lid or in a bowl with a top or covered in plastic wrap. You can also store it in a ziptop bag.
- I do not recommend freezing chicken salad.
If you grew up eating and loving chicken salad like I did, I hope you’ll give this recipe a try.
Also, don't miss the video! You should be able to view it on this page with the video player or you can see it here.
And stay tuned, because I’ve got a fun fall twist on this healthy chicken salad coming up later this week that I think you’re going to love!
You can also sign up for free e-newsletter to get all of my new recipes delivered straight to your inbox. I’ll even send you my free e-cookbook, Healthy Weeknight Dinners, as a thank you!
P.S. Check out all of my other healthy lunch recipes with chicken for more ideas!
And browse these recipes too. 👇
- 2 (6-7 oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2-3 medium celery stalks, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
- ¼ cup pickle cubes, drained (I use sweet salad cubes)
- 3 tablespoons light mayonnaise (see notes)
- 3 tablespoons nonfat Greek yogurt
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the chicken breasts and reduce the heat slightly, to maintain a steady boil. Cook the chicken for 25-35 minutes, until cooked through.
- Use tongs to remove the cooked chicken from the water and place on a cutting board to let cool for 10 minutes.
- Chop the chicken into ½-inch cubes - or smaller for a smaller dice for the salad. Let cool completely.
- In a large bowl, combine the chicken, chopped celery, pickle cubes, mayo and Greek yogurt, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Season to taste with extra salt and pepper.
- Serve on a salad, as a sandwich or wrap, with crackers and cheese, or in phyllo or wonton cups. Enjoy!
The chicken for this recipe needs to be cooked and cooled, so please plan accordingly. You can use the method above or substitute rotisserie chicken or leftover grilled or baked chicken for this recipe. You'll need about 2 ½ to 3 cups of cooked, chopped chicken.
You can use all mayonnaise for this recipe (either regular or a light mayo) or you can substitute part or all of the mayo for plain Greek yogurt (either nonfat or 2%). I like a half-and-half ratio
Also, start with the ⅓ cup combined mayo and Greek yogurt called for and add extra as needed, to get the salad to your desired consistency. (It depends on your tastes but also on how much chicken you have.)
The pickle cubes are traditional in my family, but you could skip them if you’d like.
Love grapes in your chicken salad? Feel free to add some here! I’d recommend about ½ cup of halved red grapes.
Chicken salad will keep, covered, in the fridge for 4-5 days.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 92Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 28mgSodium: 352mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 11g