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:
Five years ago: Neapolitan Cake
Six years ago: Strawberry Swirl Cream Cheese Pound Cake
Seven years ago: Cinnamon-Almond French Toast
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.
Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!
(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]
made half a recipe since I am alone, used dried cherries instead of raisins…I am a foodie and hard to please…this was fabulous, couldn’t stop eating it. …highly recommend
I haven’t made this yet but it’s similar to my recipe which is delicious so five stars! I usually use grapes instead of raisins (grapes are free on weight watchers) and pecans or almonds because their usually on hand. Also, a little curry is fun. I usually pulse my own cooked chicken in a processor just a couple of times, that makes it easier to mix up. You’ve inspired me – going out to the freezer for chicken now. My treat to myself for Mother’s Day!
This is very similar to a chicken salad I make (grapes instead of raisins) but I LOVE tarragon & add it to my chicken salad. I recommend this addition if you like tarragon.
I was hooked for YEARS on the chicken salad from Arby’s, believe it or not. The combo of grapes and apples with the savory mayo was something we didn’t have as we grew up (my mom would put chopped hard boiled eggs in her chicken salad, along with sweet pickle relish, celery and onion…kind of a chicken-ed up egg salad. As an adult, I love to play around with chicken salad and my most recent favorite version has golden raisins, cashews and curry powder added.
One of our favorite restaurants adds bacon to their chicken salad and it’s great. So I suggest adding a slice or two of diced bacon — nice balance to the sweetness of the grapes.
Bacon makes everything better!
Bacon or not, I need to make this soon! I’ll use halved grapes instead of raisins.
It looks so good! My family will love it, we all love chicken so much. Thank you for sharing the recipe!
Why do you add the vinegar? Thank you
Hi Connie, It helps to cut the thickness of the mayonnaise and gives the salad a little tang.
Hi from Colorado! I enjoy your blog so much. I recently started my own ;) I not only plan on making this wonderful salad but I am sharing it on my page.
Have a great weekend,
Tried this recipe and love it! I was wondering, can this be frozen? Thanks!
Hi Jodi, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I’m not sure how well this would freeze with the mayonnaise; I’ve never tried to freeze a mayo-based recipe.
I made this recipe yesterday. It was great! I’ll be making it a lot this Spring also. Thanks!
Hi! I’d like to ask if cranberries are allowed in Whole30? And also can you eat sauerkraut and gherkins during this time. I’m realy interested in Whole30 and try to make a list of things that are accepted. I read your post and rules on whole30.com and I see that vinegars are accepted, so I suppose that sauerkraut and gherkins would be OK, am I right? :)
Hi Ilona, Cranberries are allowed as long as there is not additional sugar (Craisins, for example, has added sugar). I know some Whole Foods carry dried cranberries sweetened with apple juice; if you can’t find them there, Nuts.com has them: https://nuts.com/driedfruit/cranberries/juice-infused.html
I think that sauerkraut would be fine, as well as gherkins, as long as there is no additional sugar used. The Whole30 is a lot of label reading at first!
Thank you very much! Reading labels is a must for me :) Many greetings.
I adore chicken salad, so easy to make ahead and the flavors don’t get boring! I’d love to add a little sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top. Perfect!
Hi…this looks so yummy! How many cans of chicken would you use in this recipe? Thanks!
Hi Jennifer, It just depends on how big the cans are – you want 2 pounds of chicken meat for this recipe, so 32 oz total.
Glory be! This sounds fantastic. My husband wouldn’t touch this with a ten-foot pole, though. He has no sense of adventure and will not eat anything with nuts or raisins in it. By themselves, yes, but not mixed in with anything. I know. Crazy, right? That’s fine, just means more for me! Sliced green grapes or celery would add a nice pop of color, too. I gotta make this, and right quick!
Hi Peggy, I’ve done celery a lot of times in this, but my husband doesn’t care for it, so I’ve been leaving it out. And I’ve done grapes instead of raisins too!
I threw this together last night. I didn’t have walnuts so I used toasted, chopped pecans instead and it is fantastic! As expected, my spouse turned his nose up at it. I realize taste is a totally subjective thing, but how could anyone not love this stuff? Had it on toasted sourdough. Goodness, I went weak in the knees! Thanks for sharing.
I make this chicken salad all the time. I will have to try the homemade mayo – I’m excited that it is Whole30 compliant. Have you ever put tarragon (fresh or dried) in this? It’s delicious!
Hi Suzanne, I haven’t used tarragon, I’ll give it a try in the next batch. Thanks for the suggestion!
Ina Garten makes a chicken salad Veronique with green grapes and a tarragon dressing that is amazing. Definitely check out her recipe.