Chicken salad is an all-time favorite of mine; trouble is, I grew up eating my dad’s, which went so light on the mayo that it barely held together. I remember exactly where I was when real-world chicken salad slapped me in the mouth with its offensive amounts of mayonnaise along with its complete lack of flavor. I’m pretty sure this sandwich had more mayo than chicken; I felt like I was stuck in the middle of a practical joke, and was horrified when my friend raved about how much she loved chicken salad from this particular deli. I was thinking, “you mean… this is how it’s SUPPOSED to be?!”
I’m here to tell you that there is a middle ground – and it’s not light mayo (sorry, but ew.)
See? It’s creamy!
And before you freak out about why that chicken salad isn’t happy resting between two slices of bread… It’s pretty fantastic served as a snack with peppery water crackers. Try it. If you don’t like it, you’re probably crazy. (Just kidding, of course.)
So here are my tricks for making a “light” version of a classic that I genuinely enjoy eating. Also, this post may be something of an attempt to prove that I can make more than just comfort food. Whatever.
1) I use half mayonnaise and half 2% Greek yogurt. You won’t even taste the tang of the yogurt – the mayo flavor is stronger.
2) I use lemon zest and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice. The lemon juice and zest (btw, zest over your bowl to catch all of the oils) give the chicken salad some citrusy aromatics which keep the flavor crisp and fresh.
3) I put apple and celery in it. No onion breath for me; apples and celery are both filling ingredients that contribute to the flavor and texture of the dish like an onion would – they just do it better.
4) I don’t chop up 5 different herbs. Dill is traditional, but I to use tarragon. It goes well with the citrus and the apple.
5) This probably should have been number one: use bone-in skin-on roast chicken. Buy a double breast (it’s cheaper that way) and roast it yourself at 425 for 20-30 minutes (depends on size). The chicken will taste much better on its own, which will carry through to the overall taste of the salad.
The serving options here are extensive. As you can see, I’m partial to a big bowl and some artfully arranged crackers. Gluten-free? Grab some butter lettuce and make wraps. Still craving that sandwich? Fine, you earned it. Just promise you’ll give the crackers a try, okay?
Try your own herb and seasoning variations and let me know what you come up with! I personally love to chop up my leftover tandoori chicken and make a tandoori chicken salad; I bet a BBQ version would also be great. Get creative and have fun!
- 2 C diced roast chicken breast (should be 2 medium chicken breasts)
- 1 C diced granny smith apple (half an apple to a whole apple)
- 2 ribs celery, diced fine
- 1/2 C mayonnaise
- 1/2 C Greek yogurt (I like 2%, but use whatever suits you)
- 1 TBSP minced tarragon
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice (juice of 1/3 of the lemon)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Mise en place, and read this recipe all the way through.
- In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise and Greek yogurt, and stir to combine completely.
- Add tarragon, lemon zest, and lemon juice to the yogurt and mayonnaise; mix to combine.
- Add the celery, apple, and chicken to the mixture and toss to coat completely.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve as desired.
You can substitute rotisserie chicken breast if needed.