How to Make Classic – Creamy Chicken Salad Recipe

This Classic Chicken Salad is perfectly tender and creamy with crunchy bits of celery and onion sprinkled throughout. If you try this dish once, you will never want to use another chicken salad recipe again!

Classic Chicken Salad is the perfect thing to serve for lunch, as a salad or over a bed of lettuce. Made with lean chicken in mayo and lemon juice, with and celery (plus if you want, you can add crunchy nutty almonds), it’s the PERFECT dish to bring to a picnic or get-together.

You can add other fresh ingredients to this recipe like green onion, red onion, fresh dill, or avocado. This is a great recipe to make-ahead at the beginning of the week for grab-and-go lunches, and my go-to when we have a busy schedule ahead. You’ll never want to go back to store-bought again!

Time Zone

Serves 6.

Prep time: 15 minutes to 20 minutes.

Cooking time: 12 minutes to 17 minutes.

creamy chicken salad recipe


Large saucepan.


Knife and cutting boards.

Measuring cups.

Large bowl.



For the chicken

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs.
  • Optional aromatics:1/2 red onion, sliced in half, one whole garlic clove, a few sprigs of fresh thyme.
  • Salt.

For the salad

  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced scallions.
  • 3/4 cup small-diced celery.
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves.
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise.
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt.
  • 3/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped (optional).
  • Salt.
  • Freshly ground black pepper.


POACH THE CHICKEN: Place the chicken and any aromatics in a large saucepan. Add a large pinch of salt and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside for 12 minutes. Then, cut into the thickest piece of chicken to check for doneness. If there is any pink, return to the saucepan, cover, and sit for 5 minutes more. Your chicken is ready when opaque, and the thickest piece registers at least 165°F. Drain and set aside to cool.

PREP THE VEGETABLES: Meanwhile, the chicken is cooking and cooling, slice the scallions, and chop the celery and parsley and measure out the mayonnaise and yogurt.

CUT THE CHICKEN: Once the chicken is cool, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and place it into a large bowl. Add the scallions, celery, mayonnaise, yogurt, parsley, walnuts (if using), and a few pepper grinds. Stir gently to combine. Then taste it and season with salt and pepper if needed.

SERVE OR STORE: The chicken salad can be served immediately or stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for 2 to 3 days.

Recipe notes

Variations, Substitutions, And Additions: Feel free to add sliced apples, sliced grapes, avocado, mango, dried cranberries, or raisins. You can substitute the walnuts with pecans or almonds or leave the nuts out altogether. Red onion or chives can stand in for scallions. A famous variation is to add a teaspoon or so of curry powder, swap the walnuts with pistachios, add a dollop of chutney, and about 1 cup of sliced grapes.


Amount Of Per Serving: Calories290, Fat18.5 g (28.5%), Saturated3.3 g (16.5%), Carbs2.8 g (0.9%), Fiber0.8 g (3.1%), Sugars1.4 g, Protein26.7 g (53.4%), Sodium422 mg (17.6%)

* Daily Percent Values of an adult person is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower, depending on the calorie of your needs. To know your calorie, see the doctor, and made a list of it.

**Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. The amount is based on available nutrient data. Information is not currently available for this nutrient. Remember, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption if you are following a medically restrictive diet.

Tips For Making Chicken Salad

  1. Add grapes, raisins, apples, or craisins to add a sweet and savory flavor.
  2. This recipe calls for almonds, but you can use other types of nuts like pecans, walnuts, or cashews.
  3. Replace the mayo with pureed avocado and sour cream for an avocado chicken salad.
  4. Cut the calories in this recipe by using Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise.
  5. This recipe takes a total time of 5 minutes to throw together, but I like to refrigerate it for at least an hour to give the flavors a chance to come together.
  6. If you don’t have time to cook the chicken yourself, you can use a rotisserie chicken. Just remove the skin and chop it into pieces.
  7. You can use fresh chicken or canned chicken for this recipe.
  8. Make BBQ chicken salad by adding 2-3 tablespoons of your favorite BBQ sauce in some of the mayonnaise.
  9. Add spices to this recipe to add different flavors like garlic, paprika, curry powder, or even mustard. Try chipotle seasoning and lime juice instead of lemon juice. Or a dash of cayenne pepper with pickled jalapenos for a spicy version.
  10. Cook the chicken breasts in the crockpot, and then use an electric hand mixer to shred the chicken for a shredded chicken salad recipe!

What Can You Add to A Chicken Salad?

You can always add in other things like;

  • diced carrots
  • green onions
  • almonds
  • or walnuts
  • grapes
  • Mandarins, etc.…

How to store creamy chicken salad?: Always store the salad in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.

How long does chicken salad last?: Chicken salad will last refrigerated for 3-4 days, wrapped tightly with plastic wrap. Please don’t leave it out at room temperature for more than two hours for food safety.

Can you freeze chicken salad?

  • If you plan to freeze the salad, please do not add in the mayonnaise because it will separate once you defrost it. Instead, I suggest freezing the salad without dressing. You can always dress it afterward.
  • Chicken Salad can stay in the freezer for three months.

How to serve chicken salad: Serve the chicken salad as a sandwich, on top of tomato slices, or over greens. You can also have it as an afternoon snack with crackers or serve with cut up celery and bell peppers, or on a lettuce wrap for a low carb option.

Can you Use Canned Chicken?: I used to make chicken salad with canned chicken, and yes, it works just fine. But keep in mind it just won’t taste quite as good. The next time around, try it with freshly cooked. If using canned, be sure to drain well, so the dressing doesn’t get overly wet.

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