When you need lunch in a hurry, whip up a batch of this easy chicken salad recipe. It uses just three simple ingredients, but it’s a big hit on sandwiches or atop a bed of lettuce. You can make it using leftover chicken, rotisserie chicken or canned chicken — whatever you have on hand. This plain chicken salad recipe is made without celery and without eggs — just chicken, mayonnaise and pickle relish.
Sometimes the best recipes are the simplest ones. My mama has been making this chicken salad with sweet relish for years, and it never disappoints.
Her easy chicken salad recipe uses only three ingredients. (OK, 5, if you count salt and pepper. But I don’t since I prefer to let my eaters add their own seasonings!)
If you’re looking for a good basic recipe — chicken salad without eggs, chicken salad without celery, chicken salad without grapes — no need to look any further. Ditto if you’re looking for a delicious canned chicken salad recipe. This recipe might not be fancy, but it’s good every time. (You’ll find the full recipe at the end of this post.)
It makes a mighty good sandwich (served between two slices of toasted wheat bread or soft white bread).
And it’s also good scooped atop a bed of lettuce.
Go to the fridge right now, and you might have everything you need to make a batch: chicken, mayonnaise and sweet pickle relish.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Shredded chicken, mayo & this secret ingredient make the best chicken salad! #lunch #sandwich #chickensalad” quote=”Shredded chicken, mayo & this secret ingredient make the best chicken salad! “]
How do you make plain chicken salad?
I am not opposed to gourmet chicken salad with nuts, fruit, fancy spices and dried fruit. But for a sandwich, nothing beats this basic chicken salad recipe. Just those three simple ingredients, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and no more.
If you’re looking for a good, easy chicken salad recipe without celery, like my dad, this is it. If you like your chicken salad without eggs (except what’s in the mayo), like I do, this will make your belly happy. I’ve never really understood why people put boiled eggs in chicken salad. No thanks!
You don’t really need a recipe, but I’m including one at the end of this post so you can get the proportions right.
To make it, just combine all the ingredients into a bowl and blend with a fork until everything is well combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. You can also skip the salt and pepper and allow people to season the chicken salad when it’s served.
Now, I’m pretty sure chicken salad is eaten everywhere from east to west, north to south and everywhere in between. But in my mind, it’s a quintessentially southern food, the kind of thing you’ll find at summer picnics or church potlucks or baby showers, served out of a big Tupperware bowl alongside the sweet tea, baked beans, potato salad, pimento cheese and mandarin orange JELL-O salad.
But no matter where y’all are from, I know you can appreciate a good meal, especially a simple one that can be fancied up depending on the occasion.
How should I serve homemade chicken salad?
This easy chicken salad recipe is very versatile.
Besides the simple salad and sandwich route, you can serve it in phyllo cups as party appetizer or on croissants for an event like a bridal or baby shower. Bake up some wonton cups and add a dollop of chicken salad for a bite-sized appetizer.
This simple chicken salad recipe can be dressed up, as well, when you’re feeling a little fancy.
Starting with this basic recipe, you can create all kinds of chicken salad variations. Some popular mix-ins include dried cranberries, celery, red onion, red grapes, bacon, raisins and curry powder, pecans, sliced almonds, strawberries and other fresh and dried fruits.
As you add mix-ins, you may want to increase the mayonnaise just a bit to prevent the chicken salad from becoming too dry. I’m always cautious about not overdoing it with mayonnaise. People can always add mayonnaise to their bread if they want a moister sandwich.
I know I’m a southerner, but I don’t treat mayo as its own food group. I can only stomach a little bit at a time. It’s all because my prankster Mama stuck a spoonful in my mouth when she was giving me a mayonnaise hair conditioning treatment when I was a teenager.
See, all my food issues are my Mama’s fault! 🙂 (But mayonnaise does work wonders on your hair!)
Can I make chicken salad with canned chicken?
When it comes to the three basic ingredients in this easy chicken salad recipe, you have flexibility there, too. You can poach a chicken breast or use leftover grilled or rotisserie chicken or open up a can of white-meat chicken. If using leftover chicken, you just want to make sure to shred it, using two forks or your mixer, before making the chicken salad.
My mom usually made this chicken salad using canned Swanson’s or Tyson chicken breast. I usually keep some canned chicken breast in my pantry so I can make this southern chicken salad at a moment’s notice.
If you’re watching your calories, it’s fine to use light mayonnaise in this recipe. (My preferred brand of mayo is Duke’s.)
As for the pickle relish, I do recommend you use sweet relish, not dill pickle relish. But I bet some sweet and spicy pepper jelly used in place of the relish would be pretty tasty.
How long will chicken salad last in the refrigerator?
You can store homemade chicken salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for three to five days.
Do not freeze homemade chicken salad, as the mayonnaise will separate. But you can make chicken salad using frozen cooked chicken that has been thawed.
- 12 ounces cooked chicken breast
- 1/4 cup or slightly less mayonnaise
- 2 Tablespoons sweet pickle relish
Shred chicken with fork.
Add pickle relish. Slowly add mayonnaise, stirring to combine. Be careful not to add more mayonnaise than is required to bind the chicken salad together or it could overpower the dish.
Serve on a bed of lettuce, on white bread or toasted wheat bread or in phyllo cups as an appetizer.
Experiment with this recipe and let me know how you like it.
Be sure to pin my 3-ingredient easy chicken salad recipe.
I think you’ll like it.
Make it the next time you’re packing a picnic, and be sure to add these recipes, too.
And to make things extra special, why not whip up one of these cute picnic wreaths?
Click here for instructions to make the wreath.