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!
Cooks' Note: This recipe was originally published in 2014, and has been updated with even more love!