Chicken salad is a classic in our family and we use it in so many different ways. It can be a sandwich, atop a salad, stuffed into a wrap or laid out on a cold platter with other dips, veggies, cheese and bread – one of my favorite (almost) no-cook dinners. Chicken salad is also really delicious on a really big spoon.
My mom made me chicken salad after I had M and had it waiting in my fridge when I got home from the hospital. I took a spoon to that bowl like a madwoman. My husband tried to hand me the crackers and cheese she had brought, too, and maybe I sampled a few by accident if they crossed my path as I gobbled down that chicken salad. I hadn’t ever tasted anything so glorious. Maybe it was the childbirth talking. Maybe it was the long discharge that meant I hadn’t had lunch and was famished. Maybe it was just the comfort of being back home and having my mom’s chicken salad now that I was a new mom. I’m not sure. I’m just glad I didn’t use a fork; that could have been dangerous.
Sigh. And of course, as a good Southern girl, I love me some regular ole chicken salad. And maybe sometimes I add walnuts or pecans or cut red grapes.
But sometimes, I wanna kick it up a notch.
This pesto chicken salad is beyond a notch. It’s fabulous. For starters, the pesto is yogurt-based, so it’s nice and light. The yogurt takes the place of mayonnaise in regular chicken salad and keeps everything deliciously creamy. Including the spoon you’ll stir it with and lick, over and over.
I’ve also used a combination of spinach and basil here to make for a really bright, really tasty background in the pesto. I tend to use walnuts in my pesto regardless, but especially for going with a chicken salad, this seemed like a good choice. (You can use pine nuts if you want; it’ll be delicious too. Or pecans!)
This salad is bright, flavorful and easy! And you can enjoy it a million ways: as a sandwich or wrap for lunch, on a bed of lettuce with veggies for a salad, in wonton cups for an awesome appetizer, as an afternoon snack with crackers and cheese (or just a fork). I can’t get enough of this stuff!
For the pesto:
- 1 cup plain yogurt (I used non-fat)
- 1 cup packed spinach leaves
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- Juice of one lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For the chicken salad:
- 2 cooked chicken breasts, diced (about 3 cups worth)
- 1/2 cup celery, diced small (optional)
- 1 cup pesto (more or less, to your liking)
- Make the pesto by combining all of the ingredients in a food processor. Mix until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.
- Mix with the diced chicken and celery, if using, to get everything well coated. You probably won't need all of the pesto - just add it until you like the mix. Extra pesto is great on bread, as a sandwich spread or on a spoon. Just saying.
- Dive into this pesto chicken salad right away or let it sit in the fridge for a few hours. It gets more and more delicious. Enjoy!
You could also add some chopped walnuts or pecans to the salad. Or some small diced zucchini!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 361Total Fat: 27gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 49mgSodium: 532mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 22g