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Easy Chicken Salad Recipe (Classic Dish)

Classic chicken salad is always a favorite at a picnic, summer barbecue, or holiday potluck! Tender chicken, crisp celery, and buttery pecans are tossed in a creamy dressing for a quick and easy salad.

Serve as a side with crackers or on your favorite bread or tortillas for a filling, crowd pleasing sandwich or wrap!

sandwich on red napkin

Chicken Salad

Chicken salad is a quick and easy main course. Tender chicken, crisp celery, and buttery nuts are folded into a slightly tangy, creamy dressing.

The best part is this light chicken salad requires only 15-minutes of hands-on prep! So it’s a great recipe to whip together when you are running short on time and want something filling and delicious.

Of all the chicken recipes out there this one is perfect for when you need to quickly make a dish to bring to your next get-together.

This recipe is amazing because

  • Budget friendly
  • Made with pantry staples
  • Less than 15 minutes of hands on time
  • Better when made ahead of time
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labeled picture of ingredients

Ingredients Needed

  • Cooked chicken
  • Mayonnaise
  • Sour cream
  • Dill
  • Lemon zest
  • Red pepper
  • Lemon juice
  • Brown sugar
  • Dijon mustard
  • Celery
  • Pecans (I like to use toasted nuts)

Cooked chicken – Feel free to poach and shred your own chicken or if you are running short on time, use a rotisserie chicken. When cooking my own, I cook chicken breasts in batches and store them in the freezer for recipes just like this.

Mayonnaise – I love using Duke’s Real Mayonnaise because of its delicious flavor and super creamy texture but feel free to use your favorite brand. You can even use a vegan version if you’d prefer.

Sour cream – Original or light can be used. Or feel free to swap in Greek yogurt if you’d like to lower the calorie content.

Dill – Fresh herbs like dill can be found in the produce section of most local grocers near the bagged salad section. If you are unable to locate, feel free to use dried, just be sure to use half the amount.

Lemon juice and zest – Be sure to zest the lemon before you cut it in half to juice. During citrus season, try to find Meyer lemons as their fruity and floral flavor will pair nicely with the sweetness of the dressing and the buttery notes of the pecans.

Red pepper flakes – Add for a touch a of heat. If you prefer dishes with more kick, add more. If you don’t like it too spicy, add less or keep out altogether.

Looking for more comfort food? Follow LTB on Pinterest!

How to Make Chicken Salad

ONE: In a large bowl, mix chicken, celery, and pecans.

TWO: Make the dressing in a small bowl by mixing mayo, sour cream, mustard, brown sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and dill.

THREE: Pour dressing over chicken mix. Gently stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

FOUR: Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!

For the full recipe and detailed baking instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post.

Be sure to let the salad refrigerate for at least an hour to allow all the flavors to mix and mingle to enhance the already delicious flavors.

bowl of lettuce and salad

Storage

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Just be sure to give it a good stir prior to enjoying.

Can I freeze Chicken Salad?

Unfortunately, chicken salad does not freeze well. You can, however; do some simple prep ahead of time.

Simply shred or dice chicken and place in a freezer-safe container in the freezer up to 4 months. When ready to make, simply thaw the chicken overnight in the fridge then combine it when the rest of the ingredients for a quick and easy lunch or dinner!

bowl of salad with salt and pepper in the back

How long can I keep it at room temperature or outside?

The FDA advises that meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and other foods that require refrigeration to never sit out at room temperature longer than two hours.

If you are bringing chicken salad to an outdoor summer event, the FDA recommends if the temperature is above 90 degrees, to not keep out past one hour.

A way to get around this is to bring a bowl of ice and set the chicken salad in the bowl to keep it cold. Or store in a cooler until just before serving.

What can I serve with Chicken Salad?

This easy-to-make chicken salad is a hearty and delicious main course. It can be served as a chicken salad sandwich or a scoop on top of mixed greens for a protein rich salad. Garnish with green onions for a nice bite.

To round out for a complete meal, serve with a fresh fruit salad, crispy homemade potato chips, creamy potato salad, or even this potato leek soup for an ultimate comfort lunch or dinner!

fork with bite of chicken over a white bowl

Tips for No Leftovers

  • I will use leftover baked chicken or swing by the deli and grab a rotisserie chicken. Just be sure to remove the chicken skin before using.
  • White or dark meat works well with this recipe.
  • If you’re in a pinch, canned chicken will work however, be sure to drain really well so the salad doesn’t become too watery.
  • Add some red onions and sliced tomatoes for a hearty sandwich.
  • Try adding grapes or mandarin oranges for a nice fresh flavor.
  • Serve in a lettuce cup, or by itself to keep this a healthy low-carb meal.
  • Feel free to swap out the pecans with sliced almonds or walnuts.
  • If nut-allergies are an issue, leave out the nuts. The salad will still be delicious!
  • Add in dried cranberries or dried cherries for another tasty tart element.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, please write a five-star review in the comment section below (or on Pinterest with the “tried it” button – you can now add pictures into reviews, too!), and be sure to help me share on facebook!

close up of salad with text "super easy chicken salad"

This Easy Chicken Salad is a classic summertime recipe. With a handful of easy-to-find ingredients, this simple comfort dish is ready in no time and is perfect to bring to your next picnic, holiday potluck, or family barbecue!

More Easy Recipes

overhead bowl of chicken salad and croissants

Creamy Chicken Salad

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Classic chicken salad is always a favorite at a picnic, summer barbecue, or holiday potluck! Tender chicken, crisp celery, and buttery pecans are tossed in a creamy dressing for a quick and easy salad.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup toasted pecans
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh drilled (minced)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Instructions

  1. Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and stir well to combine.
  2. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. Serve over toast, with crackers, as a sandwich, or add to a salad.

Notes

  • I will use leftover baked chicken or swing by the deli and grab a rotisserie chicken. Just be sure to remove the chicken skin before using.
  • White or dark meat works well with this recipe.
  • If you're in a pinch, canned chicken will work however, be sure to drain really well so the salad doesn't become too watery.
  • Add some red onions and sliced tomatoes for a hearty sandwich.
  • Try adding grapes or mandarin oranges for a nice fresh flavor.
  • Serve in a lettuce cup, or by itself to keep this a healthy low-carb meal.
  • Feel free to swap out the pecans with sliced almonds or walnuts.
  • If nut-allergies are an issue, leave out the nuts. The salad will still be delicious!
  • Add in dried cranberries or dried cherries for another tasty tart element.
  • Nutrition Information:
    Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1/2 cup
    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 261Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 47mgSodium: 233mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 12g

    This nutrition information was generated via a third party, Nutritionix, and can not be held liable for any discrepancies in the information provided.

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