How to Make Chicken Salad

Start to Finish: 1 hour Servings: 4 Difficulty Level: Beginner

With its mild taste, chicken works well in salad preparations that combine strong flavors with a creamy binder to hold it together. Because chicken salad keeps well, you can prepare it ahead of time for an easy sandwich during the week.

Replace half of the celery in chicken salad with apples for a sweet crunch. (Image: chas53/iStock/Getty Images)


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • Kosher salt, to taste, divided
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons peppercorns
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, minced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 cup mayonnaise, prepared or homemade
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Pepper, to taste


Arrange the chicken breasts on the bottom of a large pot. Liberally sprinkle the chicken with salt. Add the bay leaf, garlic and peppercorns. Cover the chicken with cool water that rises 1 inch above the breasts.

Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 10 to 14 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the chicken to a cutting board and allow it to cool for 25 to 30 minutes.

Dice the cooled chicken. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, celery, red onions, scallions, parsley, mayonnaise and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve as desired.


  • Always cook chicken to 165 F to prevent food-borne illness.
  • Use leftover meat from a whole cooked chicken to prepare the chicken salad.
  • Substitute canned chicken for poached chicken, using about 4 cups.
  • Allow the chicken salad to sit for 12 to 24 hours before serving so the flavors meld.
  • Poach chicken breasts in chicken broth for more flavor. Alternatively, pour 1 cup of white wine over the chicken before topping it with cool water.
  • Refrigerated chicken salad keeps for up to one week in an airtight container.


  • Omit the parsley and mix in 1 cup of halved red grapes, 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts and 3 tablespoons of finely chopped tarragon.
  • For a lighter chicken salad, replace 1/2 cup of mayonnaise with sour cream. To omit the mayonnaise completely, replace it with 3/4 cup of sour cream and an additional teaspoon of mustard. The result is more tangy and less thick.
  • The most common herbs used in chicken salad are parsley and tarragon but you may use finely chopped fresh rosemary, sage, basil and thyme.
  • Make an Asian-inspired chicken salad by replacing parsley with finely chopped cilantro, adding 2 to 3 tablespoons of lime juice and stirring in 1/2 cup of sliced almonds. Serve over a bed of cabbage or coleslaw.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of non-pareil capers and 1/3 to 1/2 cup of chopped sun-dried tomatoes for a rich chicken salad. Serve on garlic toast.
  • To make a curried chicken salad, omit the parsley and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of curry powder and 1/3 cup of golden raisins. Replace half of the mayonnaise with Greek-style yogurt.
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