how i make chicken salad | kelly’s kitchen

Happy Saturday everyone, It’s great to see you again! This week I want to focus on one of our family favorites: chicken salad. We pretty much always have some in the fridge. Alex likes to make chicken salad sandwiches, while I typically have it with crackers. It’s a perfect light lunch or dinner, especially in these dog days of summer. 

I never follow a recipe for chicken salad, and I am sure you don’t need one either! Today, I will share with you my most recent chicken salad creation. It’s different every time I make it, so when I do one that Alex particularly likes, I have to try to remember what I put into it! Luckily for him, this time I have documentation of what went into it. Which is good, because he said this one was the best yet. So here’s how I make chicken salad. 

Kelly’s (latest) Chicken Salad

We started this salad with leftover smoked chicken, which makes the best, most flavorful chicken salad. You can do that, or you can get a rotisserie chicken, or simply roast your chicken. Whatever leftover chicken you have will be great! 

Smoked chicken skin will not be crispy, so lately, what I like to do is pull off all the skin and set it aside to make cracklins. Remove all the meat and pull it apart with your hands into good sized pieces – not too big, not too finely shredded. I find that if it’s too finely shredded, the salad overall gets a pasty-texture. 

Prep Your Veggies

For all the weird stuff I might throw into a chicken salad, it always must contain celery. So we start there. 

Today, I have diced red onion. I often go with green onions. 

Then I have sliced pepperoncinis. They add a little heat, a soft texture and the right amount of acidic vinegar flavor to offset the richness of the mayo and the chicken. 

Dressing

Very simple dressing…mayo, dijon, Kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper and my special ingredient is herby green sauce. (Remember that? Chicken salad is a perfect use of this most versatile green sauce. You can find the recipe here.) 

This dressing has no set ratios. One thing though, is that we don’t like our chicken salad to be swimming in mayo, so I am pretty conservative with it. Go by feel, start out with small amounts of mayo and dijon. Start mixing and tasting, adding more of either until it tastes good to you. Same with the herby green sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. 

For reference, I am starting with about one and a half tablespoons of mayo and one tablespoon each of dijon and herby green sauce. Mix it all up and set it aside. 

Cracklins!

This is totally optional. But a nice way to put this chicken salad way over the top is to make some cracklins out of the chicken skin. I have about half an inch of vegetable oil in my dutch oven and once it’s around 350 degrees, drop in your skins. When they puff and crisp up, pull them out to drain on a paper towel. Once they’re cool, slice or chop them into smaller pieces. I won’t mix them into the salad because I want them to retain their crispy, crunchy texture. So instead, they will be a topping. 

Serve the chicken salad as a sandwich, on toast or with crackers. 

Alex opted for extra herby green sauce drizzled on his sandwich.

So there you have it – my latest (greatest) chicken salad. I have mentioned this before, but chicken salad is such a fun way to experiment with color, textures, salt, fat, and acid. Trying new and sometimes weird combinations will surprise you. Chicken salad is an easy, low risk thing to get creative with, mostly because you can use leftover chicken. And what’s more low risk than messing around with leftovers? 

Variation Ideas

Get creative with your chicken salad! Here are some ideas for vegetable and seasoning additions:

Carrot Ribbons

Diced Red or Yellow Peppers

Shredded Red Cabbage

Sliced Radishes

Diced Pickled Egg 

Pickled Green Tomato

Pickled Red Onion Slices

Scallions

Diced Avocado (as a topping!)

Preserved Lemon

Fresh Lemon Juice or Slices of Lemon

Toasted Sunflower Seeds

Toasted Pine Nuts

Halved Cherry tomatoes

Powdered Sumac

Curry Powder

Fresh or Dried Thyme

Fresh Oregano

Thanks everyone, I hope you enjoyed how I make chicken salad! Let me know how you do your chicken salad! Don’t forget you can find me on Instagram and Facebook too. Also, let me know if there is anything in particular you’d like to explore in this weekly column.  Take care, be well, xo Kelly

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22 Comments

  1. cathy ogi wrote:

    I grew up in Kansas, always a Midwest girl. Have lived in Oregon, Washington, Maine, Georgia, Japan. Like Kansas best. Thanks for this recipe. I love creamy foods.

    Posted 8.8.20
    • Hi Cathy, thanks so much for writing today. It’s funny how we can live in so many places, but there’s always a little something from home we carry with us. Take care! xo Kelly

      Posted 8.8.20
  2. Mari L Dolby wrote:

    How do you smoke your chicken ? Also can you summarize your recipes into a printable form ? Thanks !

    Posted 8.8.20
    • Hi Mari, We smoke the chicken on our Big Green Egg. The chicken is seasoned with salt and pepper, smoked at a temp of 225. At the halfway mark, we put the chicken in a pan with a stick of butter, and cover with foil for the remainder. Total smoke time is about 3 hours, but we smoke to temperature meaning that we smoke it until the internal temp of the bird is 168 degrees. Then it rests off the grill for about half an hour. total cook time depends on the size of the bird and maintaining a steady grill temp.
      As for the chicken salad recipe, the ratios depend on how much leftover chicken you’re working with. But here’s a baseline if you’re starting with a full chicken:
      1 cup chopped celery
      1/2 cup chopped onion
      1/2 cup sliced pepperoncinis
      1 and 1/2 tablespoons mayo – more if desired
      1 tablespoon each of dijon and herby green sauce – more if desired
      salt and pepper to taste

      I hope this is what you’re looking for. Feel free to make it your own! Take care, xo Kelly

      Posted 8.8.20
  3. Margarita wrote:

    I had never thought of frying the chicken skin to top and add some crunch to the salad. What a great idea !
    My go to chicken recipe is with mayo, scallions, white grapes and sliced almonds. A refreshing treat for the summer heat.

    Posted 8.8.20
    • Hello Margarita, grapes are such a refreshing addition to chicken salad. Frying the chicken skin is an extra step, but it is worth it! Thank you so much for sharing your go-to chicken salad recipe! xo Kelly

      Posted 8.8.20
  4. Kelly wrote:

    Always enjoy your posts! I will be trying some of your additions next time I whip up some chicken salad. I eat chicken salad almost every day for lunch. Sometimes homemade and sometimes from our local Mediterranean restaurant. Love the pepperoncini in mine too. I made a southwestern version last week when I made chicken with picante sauce in my electric fry pan (how old school!) and then used the leftovers for chicken salad. It was surprisingly good. Can’t really go wrong with chicken salad!

    Posted 8.8.20
    • Hi Kelly, I haven’t tried a southwestern style chicken salad before, but I definitely want to try now! Sounds so delicious. Thank you so much for sharing! xo Kelly

      Posted 8.8.20
  5. Diane Duvall King wrote:

    NEVER use Hellman’s! Duke’s is the ONLY mayo a southern woman uses in her chicken salad! I use lemon pepper and a touch of lemon juice along with celery and a tad of onion. Just add shredded chicken and you have a perfect chicken salad. You don’t need anything else! While you are at Tybee, there are some great restaurants to try. Don’t miss the Sundae Cafe, The Crab Shack, The Breakfast Club, AJ’s, Gerald’s Pig and Shrimp (great for a family take-out) are my favorites. Have fun and relax!

    Posted 8.8.20
    • Hi Diane! Lemon pepper sounds great on chicken salad. We have Dukes, Hellmann’s, along with several other brands of mayo, like Sir Kensington’s…we like to keep things interesting!:) Thank you for the recommendations on Tybee! Gerald’s Pig and Shrimp sounds interesting. Thank you for stopping by today, xo Kelly

      Posted 8.8.20
  6. Carroll Niesen wrote:

    Sounds delicious`!! I have to have celery, too

    Posted 8.8.20
    • Definitely the celery! Thanks for writing in, Carroll; it’s nice to hear from you! xo Kelly

      Posted 8.8.20
  7. Clarissa wrote:

    Could you please add a printable one-page recipe at the end, so I don’t have to print 8 pages of monolog and pictures for every recipe?

    Posted 8.8.20
    • Hello Clarissa, Thank you so much for the feedback. I will be sure to stay consistent with the recipe cards in the future. A little background as to why I haven’t included one with every recipe; I am generally not a recipe follower. I cook intuitively, using recipes merely as a guidepost and part of what I would like to do is encourage the reader’s creatively and comfort with experimentation in the kitchen. That said, I completely understand that some folks like to have the measurements and ratios. Thank you again for your feedback! Take care, xo Kelly

      Posted 8.9.20
  8. Sylvia Espinoza wrote:

    Hi, Kelly! Signing in late but have to say will try your chicken salad version! Can’t lose with smoked chicken. Great start! One of my favorite chicken salad versions has thawed frozen spinach with excess water squeezed out. Drained chopped pimentos. Secret ingredient is Bolner’s Fiesta-brand fajita seasoning (not mesquite flavored!). I use Miracle Whip and no one complains! It’s festive anytime but a nice touch at Christmas, too! Am on the run today. Missed commenting last week, but I love all you offer! Hugs! 🙂

    Posted 8.8.20
    • Hi Sylvia! So nice to hear from you this week! I love the idea of drained frozen spinach. I haven’t done that before, I will definitely give it a try for the next batch. I will have to get some of the fajita seasoning too! Thank you so much for taking the time to write in. Be well, xo Kelly

      Posted 8.9.20
  9. Julie Greene wrote:

    Hi Kelly,

    Your chicken salad sounds delicious! This summer, I finally decided to try spatchcock chicken in the oven. Not only did my husband and I really like it, but we had plenty of leftovers for enchiladas and chicken salad. I made lemon mayonnaise and put in celery, red onion, grapes and apple. Pretty tasty. I love your list of possible ingredients. Your step by step instructions and photos are spot on!

    Thanks, Julie

    Posted 8.9.20
    • Hi Julie! Thanks so much! I love your idea of making lemon mayo. I will definitely try that for the next batch I make. I think lemon mayo would go great with Sylvia’s suggestion of drained frozen spinach. You guys have given me such great ideas! I love the exchange of ideas we can share here. Thanks again for taking time to write in, it’s so good to hear from you each week. Take care, xo Kelly

      Posted 8.9.20
  10. Terry wrote:

    It’s supposed to be 102 today in northern Cal.. I put the chicken on the smoker. Running to the store to get a few ingredients for the green sauce. We will enjoy this Tonight as it cools off. I‘m with you kelly I’ll have it with crackers and gma will have it on a bed of lettuce….
    This is another good one

    Posted 8.9.20
    • Sounds great Mom! I am sure you both will really enjoy it. xo Kelly

      Posted 8.9.20
  11. Gwen Marie Ewing wrote:

    I’m a fan of chicken salad and can’t wait to try this recipe! I have enjoyed every recipe I have tried of yours, Kelly! Thank you for sharing!

    Posted 8.10.20
    • Hi Gwen! Thanks so much! Let me know how this recipe goes for you, take care. xo Kelly

      Posted 8.11.20

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