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How to Make Chicken Salad

Created December 7, 2017
If you ever find yourself wondering what to pack for lunch or are in need of a quick-fix for hungry kids, look no further. These ideas and hacks for chicken salad will convince you that there is nothing ordinary about the lunchtime classic.

The classic chicken salad needs no introduction. Whether you whip up a batch to eat for lunch all week long or you can’t imagine a potluck or picnic without it, chicken salad sandwiches are one of the most versatile recipes out there, susceptible to frequent adaptions and substitutions. It’s one of the easiest recipes to personalize to suit your tastes making it a go-to lunch recipe that we turn to again and again.

How to Make Chicken Salad

There are several riffs on the classic chicken salad and ingredients can easily be substituted, added in or left out. It’s a versatile recipe and one that lends itself well to experimentation.

To make chicken salad, the basic recipe calls for chicken of course, a mayonnaise base and seasoning. Other common ingredients include chopped celery, onions, some type of nuts, grapes, apples or cranberries. Really, you can use whatever you’d like!

Start with chopped cooked chicken. You can either use cooked chicken breast or rotisserie chicken. Mix it with your mayonnaise, add seasonings and whatever additional ingredients you’d like, and voilà! You have your very own chicken salad—it’s really that easy. Not sure where to start? Try our recipe for Bagel Shop Chicken Salad Sandwiches. If you’re not sure how you feel about using bagels, just follow the recipe for the chicken salad filling.

Bagel Shop Chicken Salad Sandwiches

What You’ll Need:

  • Medium bowl 
  • Large spoon


  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken 
  • ½ cup chopped precooked bacon 
  • ¼ cup finely chopped celery 
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions 
  • ½ tablespoon dried basil leaves 
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder 
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise or salad dressing 
  • 4 bagels, split 
  • Thin cucumber slices or lettuce leaves, if desired

Step 1: In medium bowl, mix chicken, bacon, celery, onions, basil, garlic powder and mayonnaise.

In medium bowl, mix chicken, bacon, celery, onions, basil, garlic powder and mayonnaise.

Step 2: Spread chicken mixture on bottom halves of bagels. Top with cucumber slices.

Spread chicken mixture on bottom halves of bagels. Top with cucumber slices.

Step 3: Cover with top halves of bagels. Serve immediately, or wrap each sandwich in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

Wrap each sandwich in plastic wrap.

How To Make Chicken Salad Without Mayo

Although the traditional recipe calls for mayonnaise, you can also make chicken salad without mayo. Greek yogurt makes for an excellent and healthier substitution with a similar taste and texture to mayo. If you want to healthify your chicken salad recipe, simply substitute an equal amount of yogurt for the mayo. Other substitution possibilities include mashed avocado, pesto or olive oil. Olive oil makes for a vinegar-based chicken salad and is quite tasty when mixed with lemon juice and seasonings.

How to Make Chicken Salad Sandwiches

When you think of chicken salad sandwiches, you likely are envisioning a creamy chicken filling sandwiched between two slices of bread. While that’s definitely the norm, you can make chicken salad sandwiches without sliced bread, too. But more on that later. First, we’ll show you how to make the conventional chicken salad sandwich with our Chicken Salad Sandwich recipe that’s ready to eat in 15 minutes.

Chicken Salad Sandwich

What You’ll Need:

  • Cutting board 
  • Medium bowl


  • 1 ½ cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken 
  • ¼ cup chopped apple 
  • ¼ cup chopped cucumber 
  • ¼ cup chopped cashews 
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise or salad dressing 
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder 
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper 
  • 8 slices of bread 
  • 12 spinach leaves 
  • 4 teaspoons mayonnaise or salad dressing

Step 1: In medium bowl, combine chicken, apple, cucumber and cashews; mix well. Next, add the two tablespoons of mayonnaise, onion powder, salt and pepper; mix well.

In medium bowl, combine chicken, apple, cucumber, cashews, mayonnaise, onion powder, salt and pepper.

Step 2: Spread about ½ cup chicken mixture on each of four slices of bread. Arrange spinach leaves over chicken mixture. Spread each remaining bread slice with one teaspoon mayonnaise. Then place the mayonnaise side down over the spinach leaves.

Spread about ½ cup chicken mixture on each of four slices of bread. Arrange spinach leaves over chicken mixture. Spread each remaining bread slice with one teaspoon mayonnaise.

How to Make Chinese Chicken Salad

Chinese chicken salad is an Asian twist on chicken salad, and although it’s made with different ingredients, it’s worth a try even if you can’t get enough of the classic. Obviously both salads are made with chicken, but the base differs drastically. Traditional chicken salad is made with mayo or salad dressing resulting in a creamy base. Alternatively, Chinese chicken salad uses a vinaigrette base, usually turning to rice vinegar, vegetable oil or some type of sesame dressing for the recipe. Also, while regular chicken salad uses some variation of nuts for the crunch in the salad, the Chinese version uses sesame seeds and chow mein noodles.

While we tend to eat chicken salad as a sandwich, the Chinese recipe is actually eaten as a salad. To make our Chinese Chicken Salad, you will need a handful of ingredients and about 30 minutes of your time.

Chinese Chicken Salad

What You’ll Need:

  • Small bowl 
  • Wire whisk 
  • Large salad bowl


  • ¼ cup rice vinegar 
  • 2 tablespoons sugar 
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • ¼ cup peanut oil 
  • 2 ½ cups chopped cooked chicken 
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces (about 8 cups) 
  • 4 medium stalks celery, thinly sliced (about 2 cups) 
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded (1/2 cup) 
  • ½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped 
  • 4 medium green onions, sliced (1/4 cup) 
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seed, toasted 
  • ½ cup chow mein noodles

Step 1: In small bowl, stir together rice vinegar, sugar and salt until sugar is dissolved. Whisk in oil.

Step 2: In large salad bowl, stir together chicken, lettuce, celery, carrot, walnuts, green onions and sesame seed until thoroughly mixed. Just before serving, pour dressing over salad and toss until coated. Top with chow mein noodles.

What is in Chicken Salad

As we’ve mentioned in this article, what you put in your chicken salad is entirely up to you. Typical chicken salad ingredients include a mayo base, chicken, some type of nut, celery, and a few seasonings—usually garlic powder, salt and pepper.

For less traditional, but equally irresistible add-ins, consider adding chopped apples, grapes, pineapple, cranberries or raisins to chicken salad for a sweet surprise. You can also vary what type of nut you mix in—almonds, walnuts, cashews and sunflower seeds offer a satisfying crunch.

For veggie variations, give chopped celery, cucumbers and green onions a try.

Not only can you vary what goes into your chicken salad, you can change up how you serve it! You may think of chicken salad as being served between two slices of bread, and you would be right, but you can go way beyond that by using croissants, bagelspita bread, crescents  or even biscuits

What to Serve with Chicken Salad

There are plenty of tasty options to serve with chicken salad. In the summertime, few things are more satisfying than a chicken salad sandwich with potato chips—we love it for picnics and potlucks! If you’re serving chicken salad as a sandwich, consider adding a green salad to round out your meal. Because chicken salad is usually creamy, you likely want to stay away from mayo-based salads like potato or macaroni salad, but it’s really up to you! We also love eating chicken salad with fresh fruit likes grapes or strawberries. Might we suggest enjoying a fresh glass of iced tea or lemonade along with your chicken salad?

Leftover Chicken Salad

If you have leftover chicken salad, then you’re in luck! You can eat chicken salad all week long for lunch because it will last in the refrigerator for about three to four days. Because most chicken salad recipes are mayonnaise-based, it should not be left at room temperature for very long. It’s best to store the chicken salad mixture in an airtight container and put it into the fridge as soon as possible. Also, due to the mayo base, chicken salad is usually not suited for storing in the freezer; the base will likely separate.

Otherwise, you could also store the assembled sandwich in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. These Bagel Shop Chicken Salad Sandwiches can be assembled and then wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the fridge overnight—perfect for a make-ahead lunch!

Wrap each sandwich in plastic wrap.
Become the boss of the kitchen with help from all of our easy how-to guides, from how to make beef stew to how to make pie.