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Don’t be CHICKEN

Even if you’re already a devoted lover of chicken salad, don’t be shy about branching out beyond the basic and finding a new favorite.

My relationship with chicken salad has not always been a rosy one, and while it was me who knowingly and willingly put a formidable distance between us, it wasn’t my fault alone. It was chicken salad’s own bad behavior on several occasions that really caused the rift.

For years, I wouldn’t touch the stuff. In my mind, every scoop or plate of this Southern luncheon staple was the same: the same bland, rubbery chunks of chicken, hunks of boiled egg, inch-thick slices of soggy celery smothered in copious amounts of mayonnaise (and not even good mayo, probably some low-fat pretender). That was my first experience with chicken salad. I was dismayed. “Everyone loves it. It’s served at pretty much every bridal shower, church tea and favorite small-town restaurant in the South. I must be wrong. It has to be good.”

Those were my self-shaming thoughts, so I gave it a second chance. And a third. I won’t name the cooks and eateries that almost kept me separated from chicken salad forever with their sad renditions of the classic dish. Thank goodness, after years of intentionally being apart, I gave it one more shot and finally found some good – make that great – chicken salad.

Now, I never push a plate of chicken salad away. I’ll eat chicken salad all by itself, on crackers, in a hollowed out tomato, on top of lettuce, whatever. And despite an initial fear (based on past experience) of trying anything other than the chicken salad that finally won me over, I now enjoy any and all types: basic with just salt, black pepper and mayo; with all kinds of fruits and nuts; with little or no mayo; heck, even with jalapeno and pineapple.

When it comes to chicken salad, the only thing I won’t do ever again is eat the bad stuff, the chicken salad imitators that offer only mere shadows of the tastes and textures that make all true chicken salad delicious.

But how do I avoid them? I rely on the recommendations of trusted friends when it comes to ordering chicken salad in a restaurant, but the best way to ensure lasting chicken salad bliss is to just make it for yourself.

Here are a few chicken salad recipes from our readers, some like grandma made and some with fun, flavor-packed twists. Find one that seems like it suits you and don’t be afraid to fall fully in love with a new version of an old favorite.

– Jennifer Kornegay


Cook of the Month

Ernestine Pace, North Alabama EC

Ernestine Pace doesn’t remember how long she’s been making her Ginger Chicken Salad, but she knows what inspired her to add blueberries. “My brother grows blueberries, and they are just so good in it.” The sweetness of the ripe berries plays off the zip of the lemon and the crunch of the almonds. And it’s the title ingredient that truly sets it apart. “That ginger really makes it, I think,” Ernestine said. “It’s not too strong, and some people can’t really put their finger on what it is, but it just brings something extra that makes it really refreshing and perfect for spring and summer.”

Ginger Chicken Salad

  • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken
  • 1½ cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup seedless green or red grapes
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup slivered almonds

In a large bowl, combine chicken, blueberries, celery, grapes and almonds. In a small bowl, mix dressing ingredients. Pour dressing over chicken. This salad is good served with cantaloupes, served on a bed of lettuce or served in a Pita pocket.



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Black & Blue Grilled Chicken Salad

  • 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 golden delicious apple
  • ¼ cup red seedless grapes
  • 1 celery stick
  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • ¼ cup mayo
  • ½ cup blue cheese dressing
  • Salt and pepper

Salt and pepper the chicken. Grill on direct heat 8 minutes per side. Set aside to rest. Chop celery and walnuts; peel, core and chop the apple and chop the grapes. In a large bowl, mix mayo and blue cheese dressing. Chop the chicken and add to the bowl along with other ingredients. Mix well, add salt and pepper to taste.

Kirk Vantrease, Cullman EC



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Easy Hawaiian Chicken Salad

  • 2 3-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 8-ounce can pineapple tidbits, drained
  • 3 5-ounce cans chunk chicken, drained
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 ½ cups seedless grapes, halved

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese until creamy. Add other ingredients and mix well. Chill until ready to serve.

Robbie Vantrease, Cullman EC



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Buffalo Chicken Salad

  • 4 cups shredded chicken, cooked
  • 1 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup ranch dressing
  • ¾-1 cup buffalo wing sauce
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • ¾ cup chopped celery

Mix the chicken and cream cheese together first, stirring until the cream cheese is smooth throughout the mixture. Stir in all other ingredients until evenly combined.

Rebecca Hullett, Sand Mountain EC



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Picnic Perfect Chicken Salad

  • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 crisp apple, diced (Fuji, Gala)
  • 1 bunch green onions, white and green parts diced
  • ½ cup chopped nuts (I used roasted sliced almonds, but pecans or walnuts are also good)
  • ¼ cup regular soy sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon curry powder

Mix all together and stir to make sure everything is coated. If you use low-sodium soy sauce, you may want to add salt. Taste and add additional curry powder to taste. (Start with a very small amount as curry can overwhelm the salad.)

Karen Harrison, Cullman EC



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Avocado Chicken Salad

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • ¾ cup refrigerated salsa
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and chopped

Combine first four ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Toss in chicken and cilantro. Right before serving, add salsa and avocado. Serve with chips, pita bread or on top of salad greens.

Pamela Martin, Arab EC


Lawson Chicken Salad

  • 4 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Add all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. It tastes best after having had time to fully chill in the refrigerator. Serve with your favorite cracker, bread, or just eat it straight from the bowl as you will be tempted!

Cassie Lawson, Joe Wheeler EMC


Hot Chicken Salad

  • 4 cups cooked chicken breast, shredded
  • 3 cups cooked white rice
  • 1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup sliced water chestnuts
  • 1 cup sliced roasted almonds
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-1 ½ cups mayonnaise
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
  • ¼ cup melted butter

Mix first 9 ingredients. Add just enough mayonnaise to blend. Press into a greased 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan. Mix crushed crackers and butter together, and sprinkle on top of salad. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out hot. Cut into squares to serve; serves 8 to 10.

Sarah Stephenson, Dixie EC


Chicken Salad

  • 2 cups chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • ½ teaspoon celery salt
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 red delicious apple, chopped
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ¾-1 cup red seedless grapes, chopped

Combine the chicken, celery salt, onion powder, apple and grapes in a bowl. Combine the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise in another bowl. Add this to the chicken mixture and mix well. Serve on croissant or sandwich bread of choice with lettuce, if desired.

Margaret Long, Baldwin EMC


Mimi’s Chicken Salad

  • 4 cups cooked chicken
  • 1 cup seedless grapes (chopped)
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 2 sliced bananas
  • Dressing:
  • 1 ½ cups mayonnaise
  • 1 cup mango chutney
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine first four ingredients. In a separate bowl mix mayonnaise, mango chutney and lemon juice. Pour over chicken mixture and blend together. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, best overnight. I serve with a croissant and fresh fruit salad with a dollop of peach yogurt on fruit. Enjoy!

Dora Powell, Baldwin EMC


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