A chicken salad is such a versatile dish and one that is perfect for summer hangouts! We love to make wraps with it, make sandwiches with it or toss it with some lettuce. It's such a great throw-together meal.
This is seriously the BEST chicken salad recipe. It's subtly sweet and creamy with bursts of freshness. It's also packed with tons of flavors.
What is a chicken salad?
The origin of chicken salad, much like almost every recipe in history, has no distinct and exact beginning. The most likely origin was that the recipe or technique came from China, where they were mixing cooled chicken with oil-based sauces for centuries, but, as often was the case, the French are technically credited with the first known recipes of chicken salad because they were the ones who wrote the recipes down.
It is not much of a stretch to understand where the concept of chicken salad came from. Basically, chicken salad is leftover chopped chicken that was essentially rehydrated or refreshed using an oil or aioli, which is basically a mayonnaise. The fat would make the chicken creamy which would make it palatable for another meal.
Ingredients for classic chicken salad
Chicken Salad is such an easy dish to throw together and one that doesn't take too much time. It's the perfect summer comfort food. Here's what you'll need for this recipe:
Chicken Breast or Tenderloin: For this recipe you can use either chicken tenderloins or chicken breast. The cooking time will vary depending on how large the cuts of chicken are so the chicken breast will take more time to cook. Just remember to cook the chicken low and slow and cook to 160 F and either should work!
Chicken Stock or Water: You can use either water or chicken stock. While chicken stock is the preferred option, water can be used in its place. You can also add some vegetables or herbs to the stock or water while cooking to further enhance the flavor. If using stock, make sure you strain the stock at the end and use it for something else. That’s good stuff right there that you'll want to save.
Mae Ploy: Mae Ploy is a sweet chili sauce you can typically find in most grocery stores. You can certainly use another type sweet chili sauce but we find that Mae Ploy has the perfect balance of sweet and spicy flavors that spice this recipe up without making it too sweet. If you can’t find Mae Ploy at your grocery store, try your local ethnic grocery store or you can order it online.
Celery and Onion: We like to use celery for a refreshing crunch and onion for that nice, well, “oniony” flavor. Once you try the recipe like this, feel free to play around a little bit and add some different veggies in there.
Scallion and Italian Parsley: Herbs, much like the vegetables, were picked because of our preferences and the role it plays in the chicken salad but you can certainly use what you have. Tarragon or chervil would also be great options.
Tips on making classic chicken salad
Poaching the chicken: Make sure you cook the chicken slowly using low heat to ensure that it remains soft and tender. If you boil the chicken or cook too quickly the chicken will become tough and rubbery.
Keeping the chicken warm: Make sure you do not cool the chicken down completely before adding the sauce. When the chicken is still warm, its ``pores” are still open and the chicken will absorb the sauce more willingly. If you add the sauce once the chicken is fully chilled, it may not absorb as much of the sauce and as a result, the chicken will not be as flavorful and creamy.
Adjusting the flavors: Don’t be afraid to adjust the flavor of the sauce how you like. This is a base recipe that you can take in many directions. Don’t be afraid to add different vegetables, herbs or spices to it to make your own twist.
We hope you enjoy this incredibly comforting, creamy and flavorful classic chicken salad.
Cheers and eat well!
Classic Chicken Salad Recipe
Whether you're looking for a dish to bring to a picnic/cookout or you're just looking for something other than the same old roasted chicken, this Classic Chicken Salad Recipe will have you and those who try it slathering it on everything.
Liberally season each chicken breast or tenderloin with salt and pepper.
Put them into an adequate sized pot and cover with the stock or water and gently bring the stock to a simmer using medium heat.
Once the liquid reaches a very low simmer, adjust the heat to maintain that temperature, stir the pot gently to ensure the chicken is cooking evenly, and continue to cook for 4-8 minutes (depending on the size of chicken) until the chicken reaches 160F.
Once the chicken has reached 160 F, remove each cooked breast or tenderloin from the pot and pot onto a pan to chill.
Cool the chicken in the fridge until they are about room temperature. Do not fully chill.
While the chicken is cooling, make the sauce by adding the mayo, Mae Ploy, and dijon mustard to a bowl. Whisk to combine.
Cut your celery, scallion, parsley and red onion and add them to the sauce. Stir and season to your liking with salt and pepper.
Once the chicken has cooled to room temperature, cut each piece of chicken into pieces about the size of your thumbnail. Add the chicken to the sauce and gently stir to combine. Make sure all pieces of chicken are coated in the sauce.
Refrigerate for about 1 hour or until fully chilled.
Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.
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