Classic Chicken Salad
An easy chicken salad recipe loaded with apple, raisins, and walnuts. Use rotisserie chicken or canned chicken for a quick shortcut! Perfect for lunch on its own, atop a bed of lettuce or in a croissant.
My mom has been making a version of this chicken salad for as long as I can remember, loading it up with lots of “extras” that I just love. I rediscovered my love for it when my husband and I did a Whole30 a few years ago. It was a quick and easy option for lunches and snacks, and continues to be a recipe I love eating.
I routinely make it if we’re going to have company for lunch, since it’s incredibly easy to prepare and is quite versatile when it comes to serving – it could be placed on a bed of lettuce (healthy option) or stuffed inside of a croissant (my favorite indulgent option). Add some fruit and/or kettle chips and it makes a great lunch for guests. A great option if you’re hosting for Mother’s Day this weekend, too!
What Makes This Chicken Salad the Best
I love, love, love this recipe because it is so unbelievably versatile; you can play around with all of the ingredients and make tons of substitutions to suit your personal tastes. Some ideas:
- Pears instead of apples.
- Dried cranberries instead of raisins.
- Fresh halved grapes instead of raisins.
- Pecans or cashews instead of walnuts.
So many delicious variations!
Ingredients in This Classic Chicken Salad
There is a very small ingredient list for this salad, and you very likely already have everything you need!
- Chicken (of course!) – There are so many options for what you can use – poached, grilled, rotisserie chicken, canned chicken. Feel free to use whatever you like best or is most convenient. My husband actually prefers the consistency of canned chicken; when I use that I buy the organic Valley Fresh brand.
- Mayonnaise – Again, use your favorite! You’ll really taste it (obviously), so make sure it’s something you like.
- Apples – Any variety will do here (my favorites are honeycrisp and gala), and as mentioned above, you can even substitute pear if you’d like.
- Raisins – I love the sweet flavor and soft texture these provide, but you could also use halved seedless grapes (I do this often!) or dried cranberries.
- Walnuts – The obligatory crunch that every good chicken salad needs. Feel free to substitute in your favorite nuts (I personally love cashews or pecans here).
- Apple Cider Vinegar – Helps to cut the thickness of the mayonnaise and gives the salad a nice little tang without tasting too vinegar-y.
- Salt and pepper – More flavor!
How to Make the Chicken Salad
It only takes a few easy steps to get this chicken salad thrown together and ready for lunch!
- Prepare the chicken and shred. I prefer shredded chicken here instead of cubed, as I feel like it integrates with the rest of the ingredients much better.
- Combine the chicken and mayonnaise. You want to ensure that all of the chicken has a nice coating of mayonnaise on it so it doesn’t dry out.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and toss to combine. Throw in your apples, raisins, walnuts, salt and pepper and really mix it up to make sure everything is well combined.
That’s it! While this can be served immediately, I think it really shines when it’s left to sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.
This is one of my favorite quick meal prep recipes because it can be thrown together so quickly (thank you, rotisserie chickens and canned chicken!) and keeps well all week, although this never lasts that long in our house!
Eat it plain, atop a bed of lettuce, or pair it with buttery croissants for lunch guests (or yourself, because everyone deserves a croissant).
More Favorite Lunch Recipes
If you’re in the mood for a sandwich lunch or need some brunch ideas, you’ll love these:
Classic Chicken Salad
- 2 pounds (907.18 g) cooked chicken, shredded
- ½ cup (112 g) mayonnaise
- 2 large apples, your favorite variety, peeled, cored and diced
- ⅓ cup (48.33 g) raisins
- ⅓ cup (39 g) chopped walnuts
- 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Place the chicken in a large bowl and combine with the mayonnaise, stirring well to ensure that all of the chicken has been coated.
- Add the apples, raisins, walnuts and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Toss to thoroughly combine. The chicken salad can be served immediately or stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- You can substitute pear for the apple.
- You can substitute halved grapes or dried cranberries for the raisins.
- You can substitute other nuts (cashews or pecans would be great!) for the walnuts.
- If you are doing a Whole30, Primal Kitchen mayonnaise is compliant.
- This salad can be served immediately, but if you have time, refrigerate for at least 1 hour so the flavors can meld together.
(Recipe adapted from The Whole30)
Update Notes: This recipe was originally published in January 2016; it was updated in May 2019 with new photos and more extensive recipe success tips.
[photos by Ari of Well Seasoned]