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creamy chicken salad recipe

Lately, I’ve been relying on lunch recipes that are a sure thing. You know, those meals you can count on for simple satisfaction? And I’m not talking about a survival mode food situation we all need occasionally, but more of a back-to-the-basics recipe for all the reasons. Reliability. Ease. Comfort. And yes, delicious too! Right now, this creamy chicken salad recipe is on the top of my reliable list, next to drinking water, eating watermelon, and yoga.

creamy chicken salad sprinkled with dill, radish, and walnuts on a mound of kale and radish slaw and a slice of lemon, all in a gray stone bowl on a black patio table.
This post contains affiliate links marked with an asterisk to products I have tried and love. I recommend any of them for this recipe!

You might think everyone knows how to make a chicken salad, and while I don’t think that’s true, we might overcomplicate it or plain forget. When it comes to lunchtime and making a lunch you love that is unfancy and trusty, going back to a classic and creamy chicken salad is about understanding why it was ever a good idea in the first place. Let me tell you the secret!

What do a chef, your grandma, and a deli all know about a classic chicken salad, and why is it always on their lunch menus?

When you have a well-stocked pantry and some tasty chicken prepped (or store-bought!), you have something extraordinary but fairly effortless to make and eat in less than 10 minutes. My creamy chicken salad recipe on lemony kale is more helpful than the actual recipe. Make it once, and it will tell you how to prep going forward. It’s adaptable, delish, and with one or two main items prepared ahead, it becomes so easy to make. But I didn’t say boring! If you asked my family, they’d all put this recipe on their favorite #loveyourlunch lists.

bowl of chicken salad in a bowl on a black table with black polka dot cloth napkin next to a cold bottle of Topo Chico sparkling water with plants in the background

What do your fridge and pantry need to make this creamy chicken salad recipe a reality?

  1. Good mayonnaise – I currently love Sir Kensington* for this salad (and all sandwiches!) But any plain good organic mayonnaise with your preferred oil is usually great. Just season to taste with salt, pepper, extra herbs, or lemon juice.
  2. Mustard – Dijon mustard and classic yellow mustard are always in our fridge! Do you have a favorite?
  3. Pickles – does anyone else think the pickle game is strong right now? We LOVE these perfectly dill-flavored Grillo pickles*. Have you tried them? (User warning: When I open these pickles, they are so full of juice, I spill it every time!) Also, I do not let these pickled garlic and dill pieces get thrown. We chop them up for chicken or tuna salads or sandwiches. Yum!
Grillo dill pickle container open with fork and pickle chips, dill, and garlic cloves on the counter.

Prep this chicken ahead of time, and creamy chicken salad will be your go-to lunch staple.

We buy a couple of packages of organic bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts* weekly. Roasting chicken on the bone keeps the meat flavorful and tender. See the recipe below for specific directions and how to prep juicy, delicious chicken every time.

two roasted bone-in and skin-on chicken breasts cooling on a silver roasting pan ready to shred for a creamy chicken salad

Plant these garden greens and vegetables, or put them in your cart for easy salad prep!

  • Dinosaur kale – Did you know you can harvest hardy kale in the fall or even winter for some in MN? I love that Minnesotans with yard space, personal energy, and the proper cold frames have accomplished this. Do I see this being me? Um, no. But for now and probably ever, I plant and eat until the heat slows the growth and turns the greens bitter. And sometimes I plant again for fall and let them go as long as the cold allows! At under $2.50 a bundle, dinosaur kale (also known as Tuscan or lacinato kale) is our favorite and on my weekly to-check or buy grocery list.
garden bed of curly kale, lacinato or dinosaur kale, basil and sun shining
  • Dill – I love this herb, but if you don’t, throw in some parsley, tarragon, or chives. Fresh herbs add scent and flavor to this creamy chicken salad. I never regret planting or purchasing herbs. Do you? I freeze them before they go bad and toss them fresh or frozen into this instant pot chicken bone broth.
classic wusthof chef knife sitting next to chopped radish pile and a bunch of whole radishes on marble counter
  • Radishes – did you know you can plant seeds right now and have some radishes in a couple of weeks? A little radish goes a long way, and here they supply the crunch factor. Like crunchy but not radishes? Try more celery, scallions, apples if you like some sweetness, or any crisp vegetable finely chopped.

Before you think this is a lot of work for a simple chicken salad, try it with any cooked chicken, from leftovers to rotisserie. Not a kale fan? Put it on toast, serve with crackers, or on its own with a side of tomatoes, cucumbers, and any greens you love. Don’t forget a stack of pickles!

What is this creamy chicken salad on chopped kale with lemon dressing recipe really about?

Curious? Just make it already, and see where the act of making something simple takes you. Classic recipes can lead to a creative process, and starting with something simple is about the possibilities and the reliability for me. See what happens when you start roasting chicken and pre-wash some greens once or on repeat. And a few days from now, when hunger strikes and you have a pantry stocked and essentials prepped, you can remind yourself that it only takes 10 minutes to dice, chop and serve up a lunch you will love.

Let’s get making!

creamy chicken salad recipe

We love this lemony kale slaw with creamy chicken salad for lunch. Add some extra radishes and toasted nuts for crunch.
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Prep Time:15 mins
Cook Time:45 mins
Make time:10 mins
Total Time:1 hr

Ingredients

Roasted chicken

Creamy chicken salad

  • 2 cups roasted shredded (or chopped) chicken breast meat (see directions below if needed.)
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise*
  • 2 tbsp plain full fat yogurt
  • 1 tbsp chopped dill and/or parsley
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp chopped dill pickles*
  • 2 tbsp radishes More for kale salad!
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped celery If you don't like radishes, add more celery, or vice versa. 
  • 1 /2 lemon cut into 5 wedges See additional lemon for kale salad
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp chopped toasted walnuts, pumpkin seeds, or pecans optional but highly suggested!

Kale salad with lemon vinaigrette

  • 1 bunch dinosaur kale or greens of choice washed, spun, and chopped into thin ribbons or bite size pieces.
  • 1 tbsp chopped radish, about 1 radish
  • 3 tbsp squeezed lemon juice, about 1 lemon
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • a few cracks of pepper

Instructions

Roasted chicken

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Drizzle olive oil on sheet pan and roll chicken breasts on all sides in the olive oil using your hands to rub it all around the meat.
  • Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and again rub it into the chicken on all sides.
  • Roast chicken for 40-45 minutes. I like to check the temperature of each piece. If it's at least 160°. It will continue to rise in temperature as it rests.
  • Let chicken cool to touch, removed skin and bones and save in freezer for broth if you'd like. Cut off any parts that are not chewable as you shred or chop chicken. Reserve 2 cups for this recipe and save the rest for future uses.

Creamy chicken salad and kale with lemon vinaigrette

  • Chop or shred chicken into bite size pieces.
  • Wash and prep kale greens as noted in FAQ or seen in video below.
  • To prepare kale, massage greens with lemon dressing and a sprinkle of salt. Let rest while you continue with chicken salad.
  • In a medium bowl combine 2 cups of chicken, mayonnaise, yogurt, herbs, dijon, celery, radishes, pickle, and salt and pepper. Take 1 lemon wedge and give your salad a squeeze. Stir to combine. Taste to see if more seasoning is needed.
  • Dish up each serving with a bed of kale salad. Add a serving of chicken salad next. Sprinkle extra radishes and/or nuts on top. Enjoy!

Equipment

sheet pan
2 mixing bowls
1 cutting board
1 chef's knife

This post contains affiliate links to products I know and love. I recommend any of them for this recipe!

Nutrition

Calories: 315kcal | Protein: 22g | Fat: 24.2g | Saturated Fat: 3.7g | Cholesterol: 57mg | Sodium: 327mg | Potassium: 208mg | Fiber: 0.7g | Sugar: 1.2g | Calcium: 43mg | Iron: 1mg
Servings :4
Author: Heather Bursch
cost: $15-20
Keywords: chicken salad, kale salad, lemon dressing, love your lunch, lunch salad, roasted chicken
Did you make it? Mention @heatherbursch or tag #shemadeit so we can admire your work!

Chicken and Kale Salad Prep: Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to roast my chicken for this salad?

Of course not. I just prefer the flavor of roasted chicken breasts when I can. Use any cooked chicken that doesn’t have a crusted edge or coating. Roasted, boiled, or rotisserie chicken, skinned and de-boned, all work well.

How do I store cooked chicken?

Cooked chicken (homemade or store-bought) can be cooled, shredded or chopped, and stored in a covered container for up to five days. I like mason jars with tight lids for storing prepped chicken.

How do I wash kale?

I like to strip kale leaves of thick stems, hand rinse, and soak leaves in a large pot or bowl of clean water. Let them soak for as long as you’d like. With your hands, swish leaves around, and pull kale into a colander so you can see the water left behind. Repeat with clean water until the soaking water is clear. I do this 3-4 times.seven year old child rinsing and de-stemming kale over water and a silver colander in sink

How do I store kale, and for how long?

Kale can be washed, spun (or dried on a towel laying flat), and stored in a covered container or large bag with a clean paper towel to absorb any water. Kale kept this way can last for about a week in the fridge. 

Want to see, not read, what peeling kale the easy way looks like?

Curious what else I made, might make, and also what I won’t repeat? Join my she made it, she might email at the bottom of this page to get on the list for ideas and updates.

~Heather

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