This family favorite chicken salad is made with celery, bell pepper, green olives, apple, lettuce, and mayo—plus a secret ingredient that makes all the difference!
My mother and father make the best chicken salad. It’s a joint effort; my father assembles the ingredients, while my mom makes the dressing.
It’s not exactly your standard chicken salad. They like to include chopped apple for a sweet note, and also chopped green olives for their tangy saltiness.
What Makes this Chicken Salad Special
The “secret sauce,” so to speak, of this chicken salad, is the tablespoon of plum preserves my mom adds to the mayo-based dressing. You could use any berry jelly or jam, but as we always have a lot of plum jam on hand (thanks to several plum trees), that’s what mom reaches for first.
Mom balances out the sweetness from the dab of jam with a bit of lemon juice.
The result? Wonderful!
How to Cook Chicken for Chicken Salad
If you are going to cook chicken specifically for chicken salad, the easiest thing to do is to poach it.
What I like to do is put a pot of 2 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon salt on to boil. As the water is heating, I cut skinless boneless chicken breasts into large (2 1/2-inch) chunks. When the water boils, I add the chicken, and return the pot to a simmer. Then I turn off the heat, and cover the pot and let the meat sit for 15 minutes in the hot water while I prepare everything else. Poaching chicken this way allows the chicken to cook gently, so the chicken retains more moisture.
After the chicken is finished cooking you can save the poaching liquid as light chicken broth.
Poaching aside, you can easily use any cooked chicken for this chicken salad—rotisserie chicken, grilled chicken, or roasted chicken. My parents will often use leftovers from their favorite baked chicken, and even include some of the crispy skin in the salad.
How Long Will this Chicken Salad Keep
You can make this salad a day or two ahead of time if you wait to add the lettuce until right before serving. The salad will keep for several days in the fridge, but the lettuce will lose its crunch and get all wilty, so you may want to leave the lettuce out if you expect to have leftovers.
Do you have a favorite chicken salad recipe? Please let us know about it in the comments.
Love Chicken Salad? Try these recipes:
- Chinese Chicken Salad
- Curried Chicken Salad with Mango
- Mediterranean Chicken Salad
- Avocado Chicken Salad
- Cajun Chicken Salad
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