Classic Chicken Salad is the PERFECT combo of seasoned chicken, creamy mayonnaise, lemon juice, crunchy celery, and almonds, ready in minutes!
Everyone loves great lunch and Summer Sides picnic options, and this recipe is perfect for a potluck or picnic, along with other favorites like Macaroni Salad, Easy Cole Slaw (Coleslaw), and Best EVER Baked Beans!
Classic Chicken Salad is the perfect thing to serve for lunch, as a salad or over a bed of lettuce. This is a classic summer side made with lean chicken in creamy mayo, tangy lemon juice, and with crispy celery mixed in for an entertaining and fresh side dish. You can add crunchy and nutty almonds to complete 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. It is a great go-to when you have a busy schedule ahead. You’ll never want to go back to store-bought again!
This classic recipe is a great Americana culinary dish that you’ll want to serve every year for your Fourth of July parties and other summer events. The cooled chicken is so refreshing and delightful everyone will be coming back for second helpings! Summer is short. Make it more flavorful with this easy Chicken Salad your whole family will love! Serve this with a yummy side of fresh Garlic Bread for a completely satisfying meal.
How to Make Classic Chicken Salad
Making this recipe is so easy! It’s really just mixing all the ingredients together and letting it chill until ready. This recipe takes a total time of 5 minutes to throw together, but you’ll want to refrigerate it for at least an hour to give the flavors a chance to come together.
- Prep: Get your chicken together, chop the celery, and half the lemons for juice.
- Mix: Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl until throughly mixed.
- Chill: Place it in the fridge until ready!
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Frequently Asked Questions
You can really add a lot of flavor to the dish depending on what you like. Here are a few suggestions to try: two tablespoons fresh parsley, eggs, olives, pickles, dried fruit, bell peppers. Add grapes, raisins, apples, or craisins to add a sweet and savory flavor.
Serve 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.
Cook the chicken breasts in the crockpot, then use an electric hand mixer to shred the chicken for a shredded chicken salad recipe!
If you don’t have time to cook the chicken yourself you can use a Rotisserie Chicken. Just remove the skin and chop into pieces. You can also use fresh chicken or canned chicken for this recipe.
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 add a dash of cayenne pepper with pickled jalapeños for a spicy version.
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Key Ingredients in Classic Chicken Salad
This recipe is incredibly easy to make and even more yummy to enjoy. The various things used can easily be found in your fridge and pantry. And with only 3 simple ingredients with an optional fourth, what’s not to love? Let’s check them out!
- Chicken: You can use any leftover chicken you’ve cooked yourself at home. If it’s rotisserie chicken, it’s best if it is shredded or chopped into small pieces.
- Lemon Juice: For best taste, use fresh lemon juice in your chicken mixture. The bottled kind is okay too if you’re in a pinch.
- Celery: This recipe only calls for about a half cup of celery which is one or two small ribs celery.
- Almonds: This recipe calls for chopped almonds but you can use other types of nuts like pecans, walnuts, or cashews.
Variations on Chicken Salad
This recipe is incredibly versatile. And because of the nature of the chicken, the possibilities are endless. Here’s just a couple of ideas to get you started on your favorite chicken salad recipe!
- Mayo: Replace the mayo with pureed avocado and sour cream for an avocado chicken salad. Cut the calories in this recipe by using Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise.
- BBQ: Make BBQ chicken salad by adding 2-3 tablespoons of your favorite BBQ sauce in place of some of the mayonnaise.
What to Do with Leftover Chicken Salad
If you’ve got leftovers, don’t worry! You can eat this over a few days before needing to make a fresh batch. Here’s some simple ideas to use your leftover Chicken Salad in.
- Sandwich: This makes an incredibly delicious chicken salad sandwich that can be served at lunch or a light mid-afternoon snack.
- Appetizer: Serve sliced french bread or crackers with a small scoop of Chicken Salad and top with a halved cherry tomato and a dash of dried Italian parsley for a fun and festive snack at your next party.
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How to Store Chicken Salad
- Serve: This is a dish best served cold. Don’t leave it out at room temperature for more than two hours for food safety.
- Store: Chicken salad will last refrigerated for 3-4 days, wrapped tightly with plastic wrap or in an airtight container.
- Freeze: It is not recommended that you freeze chicken salad because the mayonnaise will separate when defrosting. You can freeze the cooked chicken, then just defrost it in the refrigerator the day before you want to make the salad, and add the other fresh ingredients the day of.
- 4 cups cooked chicken breast , chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 cup celery , chopped finely
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)
- Mix chicken, salt, pepper, mayonnaise, lemon juice, celery, and almonds together in a large serving bowl.
- Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
Photo used in a previous version of this post.
Lovely for luncheon on croissants. Thank you for recipe
I used a food processor to chop leftover chicken down to the consistency of tuna fish, per the preference of a family member. I also minced up a little celery, green onion, and parsley, as I had these on hand. I added paprika as well. Alert: the stated salt measure is fine – decrease if you want but don’t exceed it, unless you’re careful to taste test at every step. The salad easily gets/tastes salty if too much is added.
This recipe was just what I was looking for. Wanted to put grapes and walnuts in my chicken salad. I also added some dried cranberries and just about a Tbs of fresh lemon juice. Turned out great.
Oh, this is just yummy! Using it 2 days from now for tea party sandwiches. I added walnuts and 1 diced apple mixed with an extra couple teaspoons of fresh lemon juice. Definitely needed pepper and salt. Thanks for the recipe!
Sabrina, this is fabulous! Thank you for sharing an easy weeknight dinner. I can’t wait for leftovers tomorrow. Only change I made was to use walnuts.
As promised, quick & easy and very good. I had a bunch of leftover chicken breasts, shredded them and had so much I made some pasta & a pasta salad. Note: I omitted the almonds because my husband doesn’t like nuts. It was still very good!
It’s called “Classic Chicken Salad” and yet it contains almonds. At least it’s stated that they are optional but I was looking for something really basic and not fancy or a deviation from the classic.
Almond optional – just skip them. The rest “is” basic. Make the recipe work for you.
I Love any Kind Of Pasta Dish
I added onion. Delicious!
Sabrina, I have made your chicken salad several times, and it’s my favorite! I need to make 120 wonton cups with chicken salad for a party next week. I’m thinking maybe a heaping tablespoon per wonton cup. If so, do I double, triple, etc. your recipe? I appreciate your feedback!
I make this with half the amount of Mayo-still great!
Had to finally leave a comment, I’m obsessed with this recipe. This is probably the sixth or seventh time I’ve made it. It’s perfect for lunches, so tasty and honestly so quick to make! I’ve liked it both with and without the slivered almonds. Thank you so much for sharing.
Thanks for taking the time to come back and let me know, Alyssa.
My first attempt and even my picky 10 yr old loved it ? used walnuts and dried cranberries and apple SO good ? thanks!
Thanks for the 5 stars, Gina.
I added fresh parsley and basil. I also added celery seed. Delicious.
This was my first attempt at chicken salad. I used what was left of a “smokehouse” rotisserie chicken after a few meals (not really smokey tasting, just basic seasoning) so had only 2 1/2 cups of chicken. I stuck to the recipe but scaled it back and am glad I did. It made a lot for one person. It’s real delicious and I love it! It’s very easy to make so I’m sure to add this to my repertoire. I might experiment with a few additions.
Can I use can chicken?
Made this with some rotisserie chicken I had on hand, served it on lightly toasted sourdough bread, and it’s delicious! I’ve always added relish or onion with previous recipes I’ve tried but I wasn’t in the mood for those flavors and this is just what I was looking for!
I’ve tried many chicken salad recipes but this one is the best and the only one I make now!! Easy and delicious.
Yay!! I’m glad you enjoyed it, Jill. Thanks for the 5 stars.
Try adding Dried Cranberries into the mix! 🙂
Hello I want to make this but I was wondering if anyone made it without the celery, but with eggs and relish in it
I’ve made this for the last 3 weeks for my husband and I for different lunches for the week and it’s amazing and so easy! I bet it would be wonderful this way! Also I just put the chicken in the Crock-Pot
I always put sweet relish and eggs in mine along with celery
I added 1/2 of a fresh chopped jalapeño, 1 chopped green onion, 1/4 cups raisins, 1/2 cup chopped apple, and 1/4 chopped walnuts- yummy! Thanks! Also, I made my chicken in the Instapot so it was super tender.
Sounds perfect! Thanks for the 5 stars, Heather.
How many chicken breasts are in 4 cups?
It depends on how big each breast is but I would say about 1 1/2 pounds of chicken breast will give you 4 cups chopped.
Do you know how many servings this would yield if I was to make sandwiches with them? Would 1 serving equate to 1 sandwich?
No, I think you’d get a lot more servings when made into sandwiches, depending on how big they are. I would say probably between 8-10.
Great recipe. I made it for my wife before she got back from work and she really like it, thank you
This is so good! I add more celery and nuts because I love the crunch.
I love the crunch too! Glad you liked it!
I add onions and hardboiled eggs but recipe is basically the same – I like it 🙂
Glad you were able to spruce it up to how you like it! It’s a great base recipe and gets better as you make it your own.
I have not made this recipe yet. I see that it says that the whole batch comes to 6 servings. Could you give me an idea of what the gram weight, cup measurement, or both would be, per serving? TIA for a response
Our servings are about 3/4-1 cup of salad. You can always adjust for how hungry your eaters are. 🙂
Glad you enjoyed!
The recipe is wonderful, but the site itself could be cleaned up a little bit
This is my first attempt at chicken salad and I want to say a big THANK YOU! This is delicious and I really appreciated your optional variations.
You’re welcome Julie. Thanks for the 5 stars.
Love the recipes!
Can you tell me what measurements are needed for 2 servings?
Check the slider tool in the recipe card to adjust the serving size to what you need. Hope this helps! Enjoy!
Delicious chicken salad with just a few ingredients but I added green pepper, red pepper and a bunch of Italian parsley. It tasted very good both ways. Since I live in Mexico I was tempted to add some green chilies to satisfy the Mexican taste but I did not. It was a hit anyway.
That does sound like a flavorful addition too. So glad you all enjoyed it!
This is the second time in two weeks that I’ve made this recipe. It’s that delicious! I absolutely love chicken salad but every time I’ve purchased it from a store/deli, it has made me ill. So happy I found this good old fashioned, easy recipe which I know is safe to eat since I made it fresh! I did add a bit more celery just cause I’m crazy about it. lol
Thanks so much Sabrina!
I’m happy to give you a homemade alternative. 🙂
Can you tell me the measurements needed for 2 servings?
You can use the slider tool in the recipe card. Hover over the serving amount and adjust the slider until it reaches 2. Enjoy!
Made this for my daughter’s baby shower and it was a huge hit. Many requests for the recipe, which I followed exactly without any modifications.
Fantastic! Thanks so much for coming back to let me know how much everyone enjoyed it, Susan.
i’m having baby shower for my daughter in law. can i ask you how much did u make for the shower. This is my second idea on meat idea if i do wraps. Thanks for any input
Great basic recipe. I didn`t have lemon juice so I substituted pickle juice. I also added a green onion thinly sliced. Yum yum! Thank you!
Thanks for dropping by to let me know! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
The carb,protein,fat ratio is perfect for what I was looking for & it’s great because you can add on & change ingredients
Thanks for dropping by to let me know! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
Great easy chicken salad. My family loved it!
Thanks for coming back to let me know.
Going to try this with leftover thighs. None of that mess in pickle relish I’m not even sure what half the ingredients are. My family is hesitant to try chicken salad with out the pickle relish but we’re doing it anyway I’m not eating anymore red yellow and blue dyes.
Good for you!
Can you freeze cooked chicken then defrost and make chicken salad with the defrosted chicken.
I had left over spatchcock chicken and tried this recipe, using green peppers, instead of celery. Now I know what to do with my leftover chicken. This was wonderful! Thank you so much.
You’re so welcome, Anne! Thanks so much for the 5 stars.
This was a super easy recipe and you can easily add or take away elements! I got a rotisserie chicken from the store to make it easier and then just added my own elements (like relish) for my personal taste! This recipe made plenty for me to store and save for lunch throughout the week too 🙂
So glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for the 5 stars.
How do you cook the chicken breast? Boil or bake? Or do you buy it ?
I bake it personally, 350 for 20-25 minutes with a bit of salt and pepper does the trick. In a pinch or when I am making this for a big crowd I’ll add them to a slow cooker on low for 4 hours or I’ll buy the bagged costco rotisserie chicken white meat that they sell packaged.
I’m not it the classic way but I’m very curious if anyone tried it using Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise? How was it?
This is a great lunch option! I have to try this!
It’s so good!
Thank you for a chicken salad that doesn’t have weird stuff in it and pickle relish. Just plain ole chicken salad, perfect.
I love the classic recipes. There’s a place for fun mix-in ideas, and that’s up in the post where you can get ideas but down in the recipe I want you to have the classic recipe. 🙂
Hi there, I’m just wondering if people are using fresh squeezed lemon juice, or bottled lemon juice? Thanks in advance!
I used fresh squeezed.