This Classic Chicken Salad Recipe is made with juicy diced chicken breast, crunchy celery, and a simple mix of creamy mayonnaise and spicy brown mustard. Perfect for summer BBQs, wedding showers, or birthday parties, enjoy this creamy chicken salad recipe sandwiched between a buttery croissant or scooped onto your favorite crackers and pita bread.
The Best Chicken Salad Recipe
When I was younger my mom was the sandwich maker in our house. It was an art for her to put together the perfect lunchtime sandwich – from the type of bread to the layering of the ingredients, she never forgot the final sprinkle of salt and black pepper. Thanks to her, sandwiches of all shapes and sizes are one of my favorite things to make, serve, and eat.
And this classic chicken salad only requires a handful of super simple ingredients– chicken, celery, mayo, brown mustard, salt, and black pepper.
What Goes in Chicken Salad
- Chicken – You can cook your own chicken or use rotisserie chicken. For this particular recipe, I poached 2 large chicken breasts as it’s fast, easy, and tasty. Rotisserie chicken or leftover baked chicken is just as delicious. You’ll need at least one large or two medium rotisserie chickens to get enough breast meat. Canned chicken can also be used but only as a last resort.
- Celery – I have grown to love celery in my chicken salad, but as a kid, it wasn’t always that way. If you like a light crunch mixed with your creamy chicken then definitely don’t skip it. Chop it into small dice or keep it larger, completely up to you!
- Mayonnaise – There are about a million mayonnaise options available these days. Keep it easy and use your favorite. In the past, I would use low-fat mayo but have since started using full-fat mayonnaise and it really makes a huge difference.
- Brown mustard – My husband and I both really love mustard so we usually add a little extra to our chicken salad. Start with approximately 1 teaspoon and add more as needed. Spicy brown mustard or dijon mustard are my top picks.
- Green onion – You can substitute with finely diced red onion, but it has a much stronger flavor when compared to green onions.
- Salt + Pepper – Super simple seasoning is all you need. Unless, of course, you want to change things up a bit and add some curry powder or chipotle powder.
- Optional additions – pickles or relish, fresh parsley, fresh dill, tarragon, lemon zest, or lemon juice, red grapes, chopped apples, pecans, or dried cranberries.
How to Cook Chicken for Chicken Salad
Almost any mildly seasoned boneless skinless chicken will make a fantastic chicken salad. Typically you’ll find most chicken salad recipes made with chicken breast meat as chicken thigh meat can be quite greasy.
Use store-bought rotisserie chicken or leftover chicken from dinner the night before, or try one of the methods below to get juicy, yummy chicken perfect for all your chicken salad needs:
How to Make Chicken Salad
- Transfer the fully cooked and cooled chicken to a large mixing bowl. Shred, chop, or finely dice the chicken.
- Add the celery, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice (if using), green onions, salt, and black pepper to the chicken. Gently mix until thoroughly combined. Add additional mayo, if needed, and season with additional salt and black pepper, to taste.
- For best results, cover and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 1-2 hours.
Tips and Tricks
- Always allow your chicken to come to room temperature or chill in the refrigerator before adding the other ingredients.
- Some people love adding a tablespoon or two of fresh lemon juice to their chicken salad. Personally, I prefer this recipe without lemon or lemon juice. I find that it makes the mayo taste…off.
- Add fruit. As with the Waldorf salad, this classic chicken salad is phenomenal with freshly sliced grapes, chopped apples, or dried cranberries.
- Love crunch? Add some nuts! Pecans or sliced almonds are both delicious.
- Full-fat mayonnaise makes for the best chicken salad.
- Add some curry powder and cumin for an epic curried chicken salad or sundried tomatoes as in this sun-dried tomato pesto chicken salad sandwich.
- Lighten up this chicken salad by swapping half of the mayo for plain Greek yogurt.
How to Serve Chicken Salad
Serve this classic chicken salad with your favorite sandwich bread or on a warm buttery croissant. It’s perfect with buttery crackers, soft pita bread, or even by the spoonful. I love to serve it in a salad or wrapped in lettuce wraps for an easy, low-carb, and high-protein lunch, dinner, or snack.
Chicken salad is fantastic paired with,
- Fruit salad
- Peach strawberry lemonade
- Pretzels, potato chips, or veggie sticks
- Soup like this roasted red pepper and tomato soup, chicken tortilla soup, or chicken noodle soup.
Have you tried making this Chicken Salad Recipe?
Tell me about it in the comments below! I always love to hear your thoughts. And tag me #theforkedspoon on Instagram if you’ve made any of my recipes, I always love to see what you’re cooking in the kitchen.
Chicken Salad Recipe
- 2 large chicken breasts - poached (see notes)
- 2 stalks celery - diced
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1-2 teaspoon brown mustard
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice - optional
- ¼ cup green onions - chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt - plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
For the Poached Chicken
- Fill a pot with water. Make sure your pot is large enough to hold your chicken breasts and enough water to completely cover by at least 2-inches. Bring just to a boil over high heat.
- Add the chicken breasts and return to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately cover with a lid. Allow the chicken to cook (poach) for 15-20 minutes, or until internal temperature registers 160°F as read with a digital meat thermometer.
- Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside. Allow it to rest for at least 5 minutes before shredding or chopping into small pieces. Allow chicken to cool completely before mixing with mayonnaise and mustard.
For the Chicken Salad
- Add the cooked, fully cooled, and chopped or shredded chicken to a large bowl. Add the celery, mayonnaise, brown mustard, lemon juice (optional), green onions, salt, and pepper. Gently mix until thoroughly combined. Add additional mayonnaise, if needed, and salt and pepper, to taste.
- Serve immediately or cover the bowl with plastic wrap and transfer it to the refrigerator. Cool for 1-2 hours or overnight.
- Learn more about How to Poach Chicken.
- Save time and pre-cook your chicken or use rotisserie chicken instead. You will need about 3 cups of cooked chicken.
- Keep leftovers stored in an airtight container and in the refrigerator. Best if used within 3-4 days. Freezing is not recommended.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)