7 Chicken Salad Recipes for Easy Weekday Lunches


Collage of chicken salad recipes

[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, Daniel Gritzer]

I don’t eat chicken salad a lot, but when I do, it’s from Costco. It’s so tender, creamy, and perfectly seasoned that I have a hard time not eating the whole thing (which is probably meant to serve at least four people) in one sitting. But there are times when I can’t get to Costco, and desperate times call for desperate measures. For some, desperate might mean placing an Instacart order to have the chicken salad delivered (I promise I haven’t done this…yet). But for me, that means taking matters into my own hands and making a big bowl of the good stuff myself.

At the heart of a great chicken salad is juicy, tender meat. The best way we’ve found to achieve this is by cooking your chicken sous vide. By adding aromatics like lemon and herbs to the sous vide bags, you can also infuse the chicken with better flavor. But leftover roast chicken will work for these preparations, too, whether you’re making our classic chicken salad (which just might be better than the Costco version), or one of our many variations. With not one, but seven delicious recipes to choose from, I have no reason not to kick my Costco chicken salad obsession to the curb. The only thing that’s left to do is choose between piling it on toasted bread or digging in with a spoon.

The Best Classic Chicken Salad

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

The key to nailing a classic chicken salad, aside from cooking it sous vide, is is making your mayonnaise from scratch. While this may sound like a process, it takes all of two minutes and offers a lighter, more flavorful result. Still, there’s no judgement here if you opt for the store-bought stuff. Mixing in ingredients like chives, red onion, celery, and parsley will make up for it, along with a generous seasoning of salt and pepper. You’ll be left with a flavor-packed chicken salad that hits all the right notes.

The Best Classic Chicken Salad Recipe »

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Chicken Salad With Avocado, Corn, and Miso Dressing

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Here, chicken salad gets a Japanese twist thanks to ingredients like miso paste, mirin, and ginger. We swap out typical crunchy ingredients like celery and red onion for scallions and fresh corn, while also including avocado for a subtle creaminess. And if you ask us, no dish is complete without a kick to it, so we add Japanese mustard and shichimi togarashi to the dressing. With a notable absence of heavy ingredients like mayonnaise, the finished product is proof that chicken salad can be light without skimping on flavor.

Chicken Salad With Avocado, Corn, and Miso Dressing Recipe »

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Bang Bang Ji Si (Hot and Numbing Sichuan Chicken Salad)

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Sichuan peppercorns deliver hot and numbing málà flavor to this classic Chinese dish of chilled shredded chicken. Tossed with garlic, sesame paste and seeds, vinegar, soy sauce, and chili oil, it’s a bright, tingly take on chicken salad that delivers just the right amount of heat.

Bang Bang Ji Si (Hot and Numbing Sichuan Chicken Salad) Recipe »

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Grilled Chicken and Cabbage Salad With Creamy Tahini Dressing

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

If you’ve got some leftover grilled chicken on your hands that’s leaning on the dry side, give it new life by turning it into this crunchy salad with cabbage. A lemony, garlicky tahini dressing coats every bit of chicken and cabbage, complemented by an array of herbs like mint, parsley, and cilantro. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, then marvel in the wonders of your scrap-cooking abilities.

Grilled Chicken and Cabbage Salad With Creamy Tahini Dressing Recipe »

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Smoked Chicken Salad

[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

This recipe doesn’t drift too far from the classic, other than embracing some added seasonings and using a different method for cooking the chicken. After rubbing the bird, you can throw it in a smoker or on the grill for a rich barbecued taste. A mayo dressing spiked with hot sauce, celery seeds, apple cider vinegar, and smoked paprika balances the smokiness of the chicken without overwhelming it.

Smoked Chicken Salad Recipe »

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Mayo-Free Chicken Salad With Kimchi, Ginger, and Scallions

[Photograph: Daniel Gritzer]

To all you mayo-haters out there: We see you and we hear you. That’s why we created this mayo-free chicken salad and gave it a kick. Using kimchi in the dressing keeps the chicken moist while also delivering an acidic bite, while fresh ginger, scallion, celery, and pine nuts add complexity of flavor and texture. It’s a tangy, Korean-inspired chicken salad without a drop of the white stuff in sight.

Mayo-Free Chicken Salad With Kimchi, Ginger, and Scallions Recipe »

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Curried Chicken Salad with Grapes and Cashews

[Photograph: Jennifer Segal]

It’s time to bring in the big guns—in this case, curry powder. The blend of spices is an easy way to amp up the classic flavors of chicken salad. Combine it with mayonnaise and sour cream to make your dressing, and add in some honey for a touch of sweetness that contrasts the curry quite nicely. For the final touch, we like to mix in cashews, grapes, celery, and scallions for contrasting sweetness and crunch.

Curried Chicken Salad with Grapes and Cashews Recipe »

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