Start with leftover chicken and this Chicken Salad recipe takes just 5 minutes to toss together. Ideal for meal prep or a quick make-ahead lunch idea, this Chicken Salad can be dressed up with your favorite mix-ins and herbs.

Chicken salad on a croissant next to chips and a pickle spear.

Bold but true claim (if you ask me, at least): Chicken Salad is one of the most perfect recipes ever created. Easy to assemble ahead as part of my family’s meal prep menu and remarkably customizable (just check out my Curried Chicken Salad for even more inspiration), I could eat Chicken Salad for lunch every single day.

As part of a salad, sandwich, wrap, or simply savored by the forkful, this flavorful and filling make-ahead lunch idea will fight off the hangries for hours. Carve out 5 minutes and you can prepare a weeks-worth of lunches for two!

Table of Contents
  1. Recipe ingredients
  2. Ingredient notes
  3. Step-by-step instructions
  4. Recipe tips and variations
  5. Recipe FAQs
  6. Chicken Salad Recipe

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for chicken salad.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Mayonnaise: I love Hellman’s, Duke’s, and Best Foods, but any brand will work. (Just skip Miracle Whip or other mayo-style dressings.) Not a fan of mayo? Simply use an equal amount of plain Greek yogurt.
  • Lemon juice: This citrusy, acidic element makes the flavors really pop. You could also opt for any kind of vinegar, like white vinegar, champagne vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.
  • Celery seed: I really like celery seed in chicken salad. But if you don’t have it and you don’t want to buy it, feel free to omit it entirely.
  • Chicken: Leftover rotisserie chicken works great in this recipe. (Starting from scratch with a package of chicken breasts? See below; I’ll walk you through how to cook the protein for this Chicken Salad.) Come Thanksgiving, try this same concept with leftover turkey instead of chicken.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, celery seed, salt, and freshly ground black pepper (I like 1 teaspoon salt and ½ pepper).
Chicken salad sauce next to a bowl of chicken salad ingredients.
  1. Add chicken, celery, and parsley. Toss to combine. Serve immediately or cover and chill until serving.
A white bowl with chicken salad.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes about 7 ½ cups of Chicken Salad, enough for 10 sandwiches, wraps, or salads with ¾ cup Chicken Salad per person.
  • Storage: Transfer extra Chicken Salad to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
  • Mix things up: Try folding in halved grapes, cubes of apple, or chopped toasted walnuts or toasted pecans. I also love swapping the celery and celery seed for either red onion and lemon pepper seasoning OR toasted walnuts and dried cranberries.
Chicken salad on a croissant next to chips and a pickle spear.

Recipe FAQs

What are the best ways to serve Chicken Salad?

Scoop into lettuce cups or over leafy greens for a light lunch, or pile it inside a halved croissant or a couple slices of toast for a little more staying power.

What if I don’t have leftover chicken and don’t want to use rotisserie chicken?

You can absolutely poach your own! For poached chicken, dry 2 pounds of chicken breast with paper towels and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper (I like ¼ teaspoon each). Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken in a single layer and cook until golden-brown on one side, about 4 to 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over, add ½ cup water and aromatics (such as black peppercorns, bay leaf, fresh herbs, ginger, garlic, onion, or kaffir lime leaf, which are optional), and cover. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until the chicken registers 165 degrees when pierced at the thickest part, about 10 to 15 minutes longer depending on the thickness of the chicken. Once cool enough to handle, use two forks to shred into bite-sized pieces.

Curried Chicken Salad

This easy Curried Chicken Salad makes the perfect sandwich, wrap, or low-carb lunch on a big bed of greens. This delicious, flavorful recipe uses almonds and fresh grapes, for just the right balance of crunch…

15 minutes
View Recipe

More leftover chicken ideas

Chicken salad on a croissant next to chips and a pickle spear.

Chicken Salad

Start with leftover chicken and this Chicken Salad recipe takes just 5 minutes to toss together. Ideal for meal prep or a quick make-ahead lunch idea, this Chicken Salad can be dressed up with your favorite mix-ins and herbs.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Servings 10 servings (¾ cups each)
Course Main Course, Salad
Cuisine American
Calories 260

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup mayonnaise or to taste (see note 1)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice from half a lemon (see note 2)
  • 1 tablespoon celery seed (see note 3)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups cooked chicken shredded (see note 4)
  • 3 ribs celery finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced freshly parsley

Instructions 

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, celery seed, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. (I like 1 teaspoon salt and ½ pepper.)
  • Add chicken, celery, and parsley. Toss to combine. Serve immediately or cover and chill until serving.

Notes

  1. Mayonnaise: I love Hellman’s, Duke’s, and Best Foods, but any brand will work. (Just skip Miracle Whip or other mayo-style dressings.) Not a fan of mayo? Simply use an equal amount of plain Greek yogurt.
  2. Lemon juice: This citrusy, acidic element makes the flavors really pop. You could also opt for any kind of vinegar, like white vinegar, champagne vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.
  3. Celery seed: I really like celery seed in chicken salad. But if you don’t have it and you don’t want to buy it, feel free to omit it entirely.
  4. Chicken: Leftover rotisserie chicken works great in this recipe. (Starting from scratch with a package of chicken breasts? See below; I’ll walk you through how to cook the protein for this Chicken Salad.) Come Thanksgiving, try this same concept with leftover turkey instead of chicken.
  5. Yield: This recipe makes about 7 ½ cups of Chicken Salad, enough for 10 sandwiches, wraps, or salads with ¾ cup Chicken Salad per person.
  6. Storage: Transfer extra Chicken Salad to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
  7. Mix things up: Try folding in halved grapes, cubes of apple, or chopped toasted walnuts or toasted pecans. I also love swapping the celery and celery seed for either red onion and lemon pepper seasoning OR toasted walnuts and dried cranberries.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.75cupsCalories: 260kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 21gFat: 18gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 9gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 70mgSodium: 181mgPotassium: 243mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 124IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 29mgIron: 1mg
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