Creative Chicken Salad Ideas

By Jamie Miller, RD, Registered Dietitian, Village Health Clubs & Spas

Chicken salad can be an awesome make-ahead meal idea, and in the warm months of Phoenix, there’s the added benefit of not needing to turn on the hot oven to prepare a delicious dish. However, the standard chicken salad base of mayo can make this dish not so heart healthy and derail us from our nutrition goals. But we’ve got some creative ways to upgrade your chicken salad recipes to make them healthy and filling yet still tasty enough to become family favorites.

 

Easy Chicken Prep

You can’t have a chicken salad without the chicken! There are several ways to prepare your chicken, but the key is to keep it quick and simple for a fuss-free meal. Some options include:

  • Crockpot or instant pot chicken, shredded
  • Baked chicken, shredded or cubed
  • Rotisserie or precooked chicken, shredded or cubed
  • Canned chicken
  • For a vegetarian option, use canned chickpeas or cannellini beans

 

Pro-Tip: Save time by shredding your cooked chicken in a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or with a handheld mixer.

 

Swap the Creaminess

Usually the dressing of chicken salad is comprised of a heavy base of mayo. However, there are multiple ways to lighten up a chicken salad and still maintain the creaminess that makes it so delicious. Try one of these creamy, flavorful options:

  • Nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • Hummus
  • Tzatziki
  • Mashed avocado or guacamole
  • Pesto
  • Cottage cheese
  • Yogurt and buffalo hot sauce

 

Pro Tip: If you can’t do without some mayonnaise, try a more heart-healthy avocado oil-based version and dilute it with yogurt, Dijon mustard or another flavorful but low-calorie ingredient.

 

Pump Up the Fiber and Micronutrients

Adding ingredients to chicken salad is a wonderful way to boost the dish’s vitamins, antioxidants and fiber (along with levels of flavors to keep it interesting!). Try incorporating a range of different vegetables and beans to get a variety of nutrients such as:

  • Chopped veggies — bell pepper, carrots, celery, red onion, scallions, tomato, etc.
  • Fresh herbs — cilantro, dill, basil, parsley, etc.
  • Diced fruit — apples, grapes, pear, berries, etc.
  • Beans/Peas — chickpeas, cannellini beans, sweet green peas, black beans, etc.

 

Serve It Up

To create a balanced plate, serve your chicken salad with a combination of fresh vegetables and whole grain carbohydrates:

  • On a bed of greens (arugula, romaine, baby spinach, etc.)
  • In lettuce cups (bibb or butter lettuce)
  • With sliced cucumber, carrots or bell pepper
  • On whole grain bread or wrapped in a pita or tortilla
  • With whole grain crackers or tortilla chips

 

 

 

Creative Chicken Salad Recipes

 

Tzatziki Chicken Salad

  • 2 c. cooked chicken, shredded
  • 1/2 c. plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cucumber, grated with excess liquid removed
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs (parsley, scallions/chives, dill, etc.), chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2-3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve. To serve, fill a whole grain pita, place on top of chopped romaine lettuce, top brown rice cakes or scoop up with whole grain crackers.

 

 

Apple Pecan Chicken Salad

  • 2 c. cooked chicken breast, diced or shredded
  • 1/2 c. plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 large apple, diced
  • 1/2 c. grapes, quartered
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 c. pecans (or nut of choice), chopped

 

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve. To serve, enjoy on whole grain bread as a sandwich, in a high fiber tortilla as a wrap or on a bed of mixed greens

 

Guacamole Chicken Salad

  • 2 c. cooked chicken, shredded
  • 2 medium avocados
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp. lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/4 c. red onion, diced
  • 1/2 c. fresh cilantro, finely chopped (or chop it more coarsely if you prefer)
  • 1/2 c. tomato, diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

 

Mash avocados in a medium bowl, leaving some chunks, if desired. Fold in salt, pepper, garlic powder, lime juice, red onion and cilantro. Add in shredded chicken and mix until combined. Then add in diced tomato. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy with sliced bell peppers, in lettuce cups, on top of greens, with tortilla chips or in a high-fiber tortilla.

 

Tuscan Chicken Salad

  • Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/3 c. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. each salt and pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 c. cooked chicken, shredded
  • 1 c. canned great northern beans, drained and rinsed well
  • 1/4 c. red onion, chopped
  • /4 c. celery, chopped
  • 1/4 c. kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/4 c. roasted red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 c. feta cheese, crumbled
  • Handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • Arugula for serving (optional)

 

In a bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, yogurt, garlic powder and salt. Add in the rest of the ingredients and stir until well combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy with arugula on whole grain bread as a sandwich, on top of greens as a salad or scooped up whole grain crackers.

 

Interested in discussing your own personal nutrition needs with Village dietitian, Jamie Miller? Reach out today for an appointment! E: jamiller@dmbclubs.com P:713-494-2030.

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