Classic Creamy Chicken Salad – Easy Recipe

Our cat is going crazy because the whole place smells like simmering chicken stock.

Confession: I used to buy frozen skinless boneless chicken breasts. They were dry and they had almost no taste, but the media had me convinced they were a healthy “lean protein” option. I can’t believe I missed out on all the flavor and goodness of the rest of the chicken.

Four quarts of chicken stock ready to freeze
Now, when we do eat chicken, I find a local source and I buy the whole bird.  (Try Local Harvest to find a farmer near you.) We eat the meat for dinner. Then I boil the carcass, pick the little bits of leftover chicken out for future soups or salad, strain the liquid and reduce it to make some of the most beautiful, rich stock you have ever seen. I even skim the fat off the top to use for bread making or sautéing veggies. Nothing goes to waste.

To make Classic Creamy Chicken Salad I start with this simple recipe and then I add things like apples and walnuts or some corn relish I made last summer to keep things interesting. The basic chicken salad recipe is creamy mayonnaise with acidic lemon juice, crunchy carrots and pungent onions. That’s all you need to get the right balance of flavors and textures.

Some fresh bread and a homemade garlic dill pickle doesn’t hurt either. Scale this recipe to however much chicken you have left.  If you are feeling a little adventurous mix in some of the bonus ingredients in the last step.  In the picture above I added 1/4 cup corn relish and a diced tart apple. 

Featured in Simple Lives Thursday

Classic Cream Chicken Salad

1 pound leftover chicken meat
2 medium carrots, diced very small
1 small onion, grated
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice (you could also use dill pickle juice)
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Shred the chicken meat by cutting it into one inch chunks and then using your hands to pull apart the meat into shreds.
  2. In a bowl combine the chicken meat with the carrots, onion, mayo, and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Now get creative and throw in some pickle relish, chutney, walnuts, apple, herbs or even raisins and curry powder. I love fresh tarragon minced in with dried apricot. Taste as you go to create a unique dish every time.
How do you spice up your chicken salad?


  1. Oooh - watch out with those jars for freezing - you've got narrow mouth jars there, filled up - you might bust the jars! I've done it before, and it's very sad and messy. I think it's time for you to get a pressure cooker - i always process my turkey and chicken stock. Much nicer to fill cupboards with jars, than much needed freezer space.

  2. Anonymous9/15/2011

    You're right Miranda - I leave the tops off when I freeze them, but it's just a matter of time before I break a jar. I really should get a pressure canner. The whole ticking thing on the stove scare me :P

    - Foy

  3. It's scary the first time, but gets pretty routine. At this point, i'd rather use the PC than a water bath. Less prep.

    At least get some wide mouth jars! ;)

  4. Anonymous9/15/2011

    Funny, I just gave my sister all my wide mouth jars! - Foy

  5. Nothing tops a bite of chicken salad. Something about it just hits home. Thanks for the link to Local Harvest. I had been there before but got discouraged when there wasn't many option posted within a 50 mile radius of myself, but it's always good to go back and see what's changed.

  6. I love chicken salad! Yours looks simple to make, but full of flavor!

  7. Anonymous9/16/2011

    You make it look so elegant, great post!
    I do the same thing w/my local birds. There is no chicken stock as tasty!

  8. I am trying to reform myself regarding only buying chicken breasts. But, I do have to say that I can buy locally grown chicken breasts, frozen and in bulk at our FM. Great salad and use of the whole bird.

  9. Wow wish we could have this for lunch today - looks fantastic

  10. sounds simple and good. I love the idea of putting the corn relish in the salad. Yum.

  11. mmmmm, this sounds so yummy. I have to admit to only buying the breasts at the moment (lack of storage space in freezer) but I have used the whole bird many times in the past and completely agree with you. There is something satisfying in knowing you have used the whole bird to produce good quality food.