The BEST Chicken Salad
June 25, 2018 by Nicole Collins
I know calling anything the BEST of something is a big statement.
But, when my friend asks me every time I see her to make her something that I've only made her twice maybe 7 or 8 years ago, I'd say that's some solid supporting evidence that something is the best.
In the early days of my last job, we used to have marketing days at the branch. We'd go out and try to solicit business from other businesses in our neighborhood. But, when you go out every Wednesday and there's only a certain radius that you can work in, you start to run out of places to go. So, every now and then, my friend and I would go marketing for a little bit, and then we'd come back to my house to snuggle with little Bella, (little Charlie hadn't joined the family yet), and get something to eat.
On one of those occasions, I had some chicken salad in the fridge that I served on little mini croissants, and I swear; I've been hearing about that chicken salad ever since!
Every time I see her...every time...she says “Nic, you got any chicken salad?” “Nic, you gonna bring some chicken salad croissants?” “Nic...chicken salad!”
Now, I know that I love my food, but I'm kinda biased. But, a reaction like that which can stand the test of time? That's a tell tale sign of greatness if I've ever seen one.
So today, we're making The BEST Chicken Salad!
There are sooooooo many ways to go about making chicken salad. But, you know I'm a simple girl. So, I'm keeping the flavors simple and classic. I don't want all the frills like crazy flavor profiles or weird (to me) ingredients like apples and grapes. K.I.S.S...keep it simple, stupid. That's my motto.
Good chicken salad starts with good chicken...duh! I like to make mine with some poached chicken. Sometimes, I'll use leftover rotisserie chicken. But 95% of the time, I go the poached route.
For the poaching liquid, we take some chicken tenderloins, onion, celery, thyme, a bay leaf, and some salt and pepper; and we let them simmer together to help flavor our chicken from the inside out. I prefer to use tenderloins over chicken breast; because they poach a lot faster, and they're easier to shred. You can certainly use chicken breasts if that's what you have. Just increase the cooking time.
After our chicken is cooked, we need to shred it. I just shred it with my fingers, because it's so tender and easy to pull apart. But, you could use two forks, as well, if you find that to be easier for you. Some people like their chicken diced in chicken salad, but I prefer shredded. If you like the chicken diced, feel free to do that instead.
Since we put so much flavor in our poaching liquid, we're going to keep the chicken salad mix very simple. We're just going to use a little mayo, a little onion powder, and a lot of black pepper.
I LOVE black pepper. Especially freshly cracked black pepper. I keep a mason jar of freshly ground black pepper in the kitchen so that I can have fresh cracked pepper at all times without having to manually grind it each time. It may seem like we're using a lot of pepper in the recipe, and we are. But, it adds a subtle spiciness in the background of the chicken salad which is my favorite part.
This chicken salad is so good, you don't even need bread for a sandwich. But, we might as well, right? I mean, carbs...
You can use toast. You can use croissants. You can use slider rolls. You can use burger buns. You can use ANYTHING, and you'll be eating the best chicken salad sandwich ever.
Plus, as a bonus, I like to add some microgreens to the sammie. But, you could also use some lettuce, some fresh spinach, some cheese, some tomatoes, or any combination of them! Talk about a dream sandwich!
You really can't go wrong with this sandwich. It's easy. It's cheap. It's delicious. It's the BEST! I'm telling you...
So, whether you're playing hooky at work or you just need some good noms, this chicken salad is the way to go.
I hope you enjoy, and let's eat!
The BEST Chicken Salad
Serves: 4 Print
1 lb boneless skinless chicken tenderloins
1 onion, peeled and quartered
3 stalks celery, divided
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp + ¼ tsp black pepper
1 tbsp salt
½ cup mayonnaise
½ tsp onion powder
microgreens, for serving
bread, toast, croissants, or rolls, for serving
Poach the chicken: In a large pot, add chicken tenders, onion, 1 stalk of celery cut in half, thyme, bay leaf, and ¼ tsp black pepper. Cover with cold water until about an inch above the chicken and veggies. Add salt to the pot. Heat over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 mins. Remove chicken to a separate plate to cool, and discard the poaching liquid. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken in to a mixing bowl either using your hands or two forks.
While chicken is still warm, dice remaining two stalks of celery, and add to the bowl of shredded chicken. Add mayo, 1 tsp pepper, and onion powder. Stir well to combine. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Serve with bread, toast, or rolls of your choice; and top with microgreens, if desired.
*I prefer chicken tenderloins over chicken breasts, because they poach faster and they're easier to shred. If you have breasts and you'd rather use those, add 10-15 mins to your poach time. The goal is for the internal temp to reach 165 degrees.
*Since we're using so much black pepper in this, I prefer to use freshly cracked black pepper. I keep freshly ground black pepper in a small jelly jar in the kitchen at all times to save me the hassle of having to grind it fresh every time. To make a batch, grind black peppercorns in a spice grinder or small food processor. Store in a tightly sealed glass jar.
*This chicken salad is AMAZING on lots of different vehicles: croissants, rolls, slider buns, white bread, wheat toast (pictured)...you name it!
*I like to eat chicken salad with microgreens, but you could also sub that for lettuce or even fresh spinach if you want. The greens are totally optional. Sometimes, I even throw a slice of cheese on the sammie! A tomato would be yum on here, too. So many options!