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Chef's Hat: The ever-so-versatile chicken salad; it's packed full of flavor and easy to make

Jazz up this dish by adding simple ingredients that likely are already in your pantry.

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Donna Evans / Echo Journal Correspondent
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Chicken salad encompasses any type of salad that has chicken, either a mixed green type salad or what usually comes to mind - a salad of chicken combined with mayonnaise, spices, celery and sometimes grapes and other ingredients.

Although the history of this dish is somewhat sketchy, recipe books from the 1840s include chicken salad. So clearly this dish has been around for almost 200 years.

Chicken salad is perfect for an easy meal. It is packed full of flavor and simple to make. There are only a few required ingredients:

  • Chicken. Some recipes say canned chicken gives this salad the best flavor. Others state rotisserie chicken is the best thing to use in this recipe. But for the most part, any leftover chicken works well in a chicken salad.
  • Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip for the base of the dressing. The dressing can be replaced or amended with Greek style yogurt or sour cream.
  • And, of course, salt and pepper to highlight the flavors.

Those ingredients are just the very basic part of chicken salad. With just chicken, mayo and a bit of salt and pepper, the dish is quite dull. The fun thing about chicken salad is that it is really just a blank canvas and it can be doctored up to create your very own culinary masterpiece.

So how do you liven up dull chicken salad?

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There is no shortage of unique foods, spices and condiments that can be added to give that chicken salad some zing. Following is a list of ways that will put some spice into an otherwise dull dish.

  • Try adding a bit of Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice. Add just a teaspoon or the flavor may be overpowering.
  • To entice the flavor of the salad, add a spoonful of ranch or blue cheese dressing.
  • Add fruit. Grapes are always a favorite in chicken salad, but you can also add apples, craisins or even peaches.
  • A little honey goes a long way in this dish. Honey complements the flavor of the grapes and softens up the harshness of the mayonnaise.
  • Celery is a common element of chicken salad, but you can also add carrots or broccoli.
  • Add a spoonful or two of poppy seeds. They will kick up the flavor and add some color to the salad.
  • Throw in fresh herbs, such as parsley, mint or dill.
  • And if you like crunch and more texture, throw in cashews, sliced almonds or sliced pecans.

Chicken salad is ideal for a family dinner or a get-together with friends. It can be jazzed up so it is suitable even for royalty.

If you aren’t ready to jump in head first and start experimenting on your own, begin with the Chicken Salad with Honey Mint Dressing. The sweetness of the honey brings a smoothness to the dressing. The mint makes this a refreshing summer salad that is great for those upcoming Fourth of July events.

Forget about dull, chewy and tasteless chicken salads by jazzing up those dishes with a few ingredients that are most likely in the kitchen pantry. Happy Eating!

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Chicken Salad with Honey Mint Dressing

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Chicken Salad with Honey Mint Dressing shown in June 2022
Donna Evans / Echo Journal Correspondent

  • 4 cups cooked, chopped chicken
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup seedless grapes, red or green, cut in half
  • 1 cup mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Lettuce leaves or buns for serving

Place chicken, celery and grapes in a medium sized bowl and lightly toss.

For the dressing: Combine the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup. Mix until well combined. Taste. If desired, add additional salt and pepper.

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Pour the dressing over the chicken and toss until all ingredients are well coated.

Place lettuce leaves on a serving plate. Top with heaping amounts of the chicken salad. Or place buns on plates and top with the chicken salad.

Chicken Salad with Eggs

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Chicken salad with eggs.
Photo illustration / Shutterstock.com

  • 4 cups shredded chicken
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • ¾ cup Miracle Whip or mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon ranch dressing
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup grapes, red or green, cut in half
  • Salt and pepper
  • Buns, toasted bread or croissants

Place the chicken, eggs, onion, celery and grapes in a medium sized bowl and lightly toss.

In a small bowl or large measuring cup, add the Miracle Whip, ranch dressing, apple cider vinegar and sugar. Mix well. Taste the dressing. If the dressing is a little too bitter, add another ½ to 1 teaspoon sugar. Mix well.

Taste again and then season with the salt and pepper. Taste again, and if desired add additional salt and pepper.

Pour the dressing onto the chicken and mix until everything is well coated.

Place buns on serving plates and fill with ample amounts of the salad. Toast or croissants can be used instead of buns, if desired.

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Donna Evans is an Echo Journal correspondent.

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