Chicken salad filled with sweet Honeycrisp apples, crunchy candied walnuts and a hint of tarragon is a cool and creamy offering kissed with sweet and savory flavor! Perfect spooned onto toasted brioche bread or rolled up in a wrap, it's a delicious salad to pack for an on-the-go lunch!
Chicken Salad, the Perfect Picnic Lunch
Every year when the warm weather makes its way in, I vow to spend more time enjoying my meals outdoors.
I just love picnics, and often tell my hubby Michael that I'd love to pack us a special little lunch and head on over to our favorite park to enjoy sitting on a blanket together, eating and chatting under a big, shady tree.
I've been pining to pack us up a delicious and simple little meal to bring along with us, one featuring a favorite sweet and savory staple of ours, chicken salad.
A cool, creamy chicken salad recipe is the perfect item to pack for a easy-breezy picnic lunch, or any lunch-on-the-go, because it can easily be kept cold in a container and then spooned onto buttery toasted brioche bread or even rolled up in a wrap, on location.
I've filled my version full of all of my personal favorite ingredients such as fresh, diced Honeycrisp apples for sweetness, plus crunchy and flavorful candied walnuts.
I even sprinkle in a bit of parsley and fragrant tarragon for fresh, herby flavor, which gives this homemade chicken salad some tasty complexity.
In my book, this is the best chicken salad recipe to pack up in a cozy little picnic basket, one with lots of texture and sweet-savory flavor!
Now, to find my picnic basket... 😉
How to Make Chicken Salad
Preparing chicken salad involves little more than having some cooked and cooled chicken on hand to dice up and combine in a big bowl with some tasty additions that make it mouthwatering.
When preparing an easy chicken salad, I'll typically use chicken breast tenderloins. These are the portion of the chicken breast that looks like a little flap when attached, and I purchase a package as they’re super tender and juicy. They're also quick to cook!
Here's a glance at my chicken salad preparation: (or just jump to the full recipe further down...)
- To cook my chicken breast tenderloins, I add them to salted, simmering water to poach for a few minutes, until cooked through and tender. (An alternate way of preparing the chicken is to sear it in a hot pan, but I like the poaching because the chicken is more tender and delicate, perfect for this preparation.) Then, once cool, I dice the chicken into small pieces.
- I add the chicken to a large bowl along with some mayo, Dijon, herbs, walnuts and apples, plus a touch of honey, and gently fold/toss the ingredients together.
- I spoon the chicken salad into a container with a lid, or a serving bowl, and cover with plastic wrap; once completely chilled, I serve with toast, crackers, over greens, or wrapped up!
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 2
Nutrition Info: 527 calories (chicken salad only)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes (if cooking chicken)
Total time: 20 minutes
• 6 chicken breast tenderloins, cooked and cooled, then diced (you can also use rotisserie chicken, about 1 ½ cups)
• ¼ cup mayonnaise
• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• 1 tablespoon chopped, flat-leaf parsley
• 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
• ⅓ cup candied walnuts, roughy chopped
• 1 medium Honeycrisp apple, unpeeled and diced finely
• Pinch salt
• Pinch black pepper
• 1 teaspoon honey
• Lettuce or greens, optional
• Toasted brioche bread, wraps, or crackers, for serving
- Add the chicken and the rest of the ingredients up to and including the honey to a medium-large bowl, and toss gently to combine well; set aside, or keep covered in the fridge if preparing ahead.
- Add a leaf or two of your favorite type of greens (if using) to the bottom piece of toasted brioche bread, then add a generous amount of the chicken salad over the greens, topping with another piece of toasted brioche bread. Enjoy with chips, a salad or fresh fruit!
Tips & Tidbits for my Chicken Salad recipe:
- Pre-cooked chicken, or chicken breast tenderloins: You can use rotisserie chicken with the skin removed for this recipe, if you'd like a short-cut. (Use about 1 ½ cups of cooked, diced chicken.) I use chicken breast tenderloins as they are very small and tender, and I poach them in salted simmering water until cooked through. Skinless, boneless chicken breasts are fine too, or even left-over roasted chicken.
- Honeycrisp apples, the crispest apple around: I use Honeycrisp apples here, because they just happen to be my favorite apple. They're firm and crisp yet extremely sweet, tart and juicy, with loads of “apple-y” flavor. However, feel free to use your favorite apple. Some good picks for apples are Fuji, Gala, or Red/Golden Delicious.
- Candied nuts: It's a breeze to use pre-packaged candies nuts and chop them up for this chicken salad, and I love the warm flavor of walnuts. You can use cashews, pecans, or your favorite candied nut, if you prefer. You can also use plain, roasted nuts.
- Prep ahead for an easy chicken salad recipe: You can prepared a chicken salad a couple of days ahead of when you'd like to serve and enjoy it, which makes it really convenient when planning for a picnic or other spread. I typically will prepare my recipe a day or even two days ahead for the flavors to meld; and then, I keep it in a container and cold until ready to use!
Craving more cool salad recipes? Check out this Quinoa salad, this Lemon Chicken Salad, this Macaroni Salad, or this Tuna Salad!
Cooks' Note: This recipe was originally published in 2014, and has been updated with even more love!
Thalia @ butter and brioche
I too love simple recipes! This sandwich looks delicious and perfect for a light nutritious lunch. Thanks for the recipe, i definitely will be recreating it.
i LOVE this recipe and have made it several times. it has the most addicting flavor! because i'm gluten free, i eat it in corn tortillas with a bit of romaine. yum!!
The Cozy Apron
Barb, what a great way to customize this recipe for your dietary needs! Sounds delish. Thanks so much for sharing your comments!
Do you make your own candied walnuts or buy them ready made?
The Cozy Apron
Hi Heather, just to keep things simple, I bought mine. 😉
Hmmm I'm going to HAVE to try this!
The Cozy Apron
Hi Eric! So great to get your comment—I knew instantly it was you, lol!! 🙂 I see your avatar is a beautiful little baby!! Congrats!! I hope life is treating you well, my friend, and you all are happy and healthy! Much love, and yes—you must give this recipe a try, too!
HAHA, yes! I was just thinking of you because I told someone the story of our little senior graduation party at your house when we were playing bloody murder that night and I was running full force and ran into yours or your neighbors volleyball net. I biked passed your old house on Arbroak Way a couple times this summer. I do love adventure but I do also love living close to the nostalgia of Lake Orion. Can you believe its been 24 years!
I read your intro and it was so perfectly written, that it took me right to the canal in the autumn and winter...and though I never visited there at those times, I could imagine it perfectly and I LOOOVE autumn, so MAN did your recipes sound good. I gotta make some of them!
So are these all original recipes? They look incredible!
I do have a 5 year old, so yes I need to update my Avatar, but its been 4 years since I set that so I don't even remember where I did that at =)
How is life for you and your family?
Hit me up on email!
This has to be on of the most appealing (and hopefully delicious!) fall sammie recipes I have seen in a very long time! The combo of the diced crisp apple and the sweet candied apples will make this "da' bomb!!" Thank you so very much for sharing!! Have a wonderful holiday season!! 🙂
The Cozy Apron
Gayle, so glad you stumbled upon this! Yes, the sweet/tart and crunchy combo is very tasty, and I hope you give it a try. Thanks for your comments, and have a wonderful holiday season, as well!
Is it OK to leave this in the refrigerator overnight or will the apples brown? (Making it for an office potluck)
The Cozy Apron
Hi Colleen, great question! Typically apples do turn brown when they oxidize, but since this salad has the mayo & other tidbits mixed in & coating the diced apple, it should be fine to prep the night before. (If you want to be doubly sure, however, you could always prep the salad the evening before, and dice the apple fresh the next morning, then mix it in.) Hope you & your coworkers enjoy this!
Do the apples turn over a few days?
The Cozy Apron
Hi Debbie, not any quicker than any other ingredient in the salad. Because they're "dressed" in the mayo and combined with the other ingredients, the don't oxidize as quickly.
This salad should be good for at least a few days! 😉