How to Make Chicken Salad

Replace half of the celery in chicken salad with apples for a sweet crunch.
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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.


  • 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.