Ok, folks, let’s talk about chicken salad. A simple chicken salad with some watercress thrown in for color and crunch. Not too thrilled? I get it. The name isn’t that enticing especially when it includes watercress that, for the longest time, I thought was only an ingredient found in finger sandwiches served with tea. Trust me!! This is one of those SUPER SIMPLE meals that actually makes you feel like you spent time in the kitchen.
It is not only a simple meal, but also an easy way to transform leftovers into a different meal for your family. Leftovers and I have a love-hate relationship. Wasting food never feels right, but eating the same thing again and again gets so boring. Except pizza! Pizza is the exception. I would eat it every day if possible.
Chicken isn’t pizza, though, and I have not figured out how to make it taste like pizza so let’s get back to chicken salad. Great transition, huh?
I would not go so far as to say that I am the Queen of leftovers or even the Princess for that matter, but I am pretty darn pleased with my chicken salad recipe. It is a great way to use leftover rotisserie chicken (or any leftover chicken) and mix it up a bit. Add in some crunchy ingredients like celery and apple and you are on your way.
When I make this recipe, I tend to have some favorite ingredients that I like to add such as apple, celery, and onion. You can stick with my basic recipe or let your own creative juices flow.
Possible additions to Simple Chicken Salad:
- Green onion
- Dried cranberries
- Crisp pears
- Nuts (walnuts and pecans work especially well)
- Seeds (sunflower or pumpkin are my faves)
- Fresh herbs such as thyme, chives, dill, or even tarragon
Don’t find any of these appealing? You and my sons would get along. For their more discerning (nice way to say picky) taste buds, I tend to finely mince the small amount of onions and load up on the apple and dried cranberries. That always seems to do the trick and distract them from the chicken. They have never been huge fans of chicken.
Another great way to add some variety to this chicken salad is to add spices. I usually like to whip up my own basic homemade mayonnaise for this salad and I add my spices to the mayo. Does making homemade mayo sound too complicated? Don’t let it. Feel free to use a store bought mayo for convenience, but I urge you to try making your own sometime. I actually hated mayo until I made my own.
Whether you make your own mayo or use store-bought, I like mixing my spices into the mayonnaise first. Mixing spices into the mayo helps them blend homogenously (finally got to use a science word and show my nerdy side 😉 ) unlike mixing them directly into the chicken salad mixture. For this salad I went with a more Indian spiced approach using cumin, anise, mustard, and coriander seeds. If you let your spices roast for 30-60 seconds in a dry pan before using them, you will get much better flavor and aroma. I sound fancy, don’t I?
This simple chicken salad is great for a weeknight dinner when you are short on time and have some leftover chicken in the fridge. I also recently used leftover chicken from my roasted spatchcocked chicken and it worked well. A Sunday brunch or a picnic at the park with your kiddos would also suit this salad well. And, if you find yourself with some extra energy in the evening, make this salad the night before you plan to eat it. As the salad sits (in the fridge, of course) the flavors blend together and tastes even better.
As you can see, this simple chicken salad recipe really is adaptable to your likes and dislikes. Not everyone shares my likes and dislikes. For me, being able to share a meal that is like a template is a great way of reaching others. I hope to help give you ideas or a framework to make your meals more approachable and enjoyable. When it comes down to it, the food is the just the vehicle to bring you and others together.
Simple Chicken Salad
- Rotissiere Chicken partial or whole chicken will work
- 1 large stalk celery thinly sliced
- 1/2 small red onion finely chopped
- 1 apple diced
- ½ cup mayo (you may need more depending on amount of chicken and how “wet” you like your salad)
- tsp Dijon mustard
- ½ tsp cumin seed
- ¼ tsp anise seed
- <1/4 tsp mustard seed
- few coriander seeds
- Remove chicken meat from carcass if not already done so. Pull/shred the meat with your fingers as you pull it off bones. You can chop it further with a knife if you want the pieces smaller.
- Put chicken in large mixing bowl. Add in chopped onion, celery, and apple.
- In another small bowl put the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and spices. Stir to combine. Taste and then season with any additional salt and pepper desired.
- Mix mayonnaise mixture into chicken mixture. Stir until combined adding more mayonnaise if chicken salad seems to dry.
- Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired.