Apple Pecan Chicken Salad: A hearty and healthy gluten-free salad that’s light on the mayo and heavy on the apples, toasted pecans, and chicken. A great lunch for bridal showers, baby showers, or Mother’s Day brunch!
Some days I think I’ve lost my mind. Saturday was one of them when I found myself making chicken salad for lunch.
There were a few things wrong with the scene: 1.) I was toasting pecans, 2.) I was adding fresh celery to a salad, and 3.) I was making chicken salad.
I don’t “do” any of those things since I firmly decided as a child that salads with mayonnaise (aside from egg and tuna and only if my mom or I make them) weren’t touching these lips. I’ve avoided them at all costs.
And I’m talking “avoided them” to the point of making potato salad with ranch dressing. (By the way, it’s freaking delicious!!)
Yet, I had this bubbling curiosity to make this salad when it came up for Project Pastry Queen this week.
So when I say this lunch was a treat, I really mean it!
Crisp apples, meaty yet almost sweet pecans, shredded chicken, and squeeze of fresh lemon juice all sandwiched within a toasty croissant. That’s what I’m calling a great lunch!
I passed on the homemade mayo since Kyle has sensitivity to uncooked eggs and I didn’t want a ton of leftover mayo but I’ve been reading today that the mayo was something really special.
I also went really light on the mayo. I used maybe 1/3 cup as opposed to the 1/2 to 3/4 cup the recipe calls for. I wanted just enough mayonnaise to hold the chicken salad together without it being TOO MUCH MAYO.
You know what I mean?
What Kind of Bread for an Apple Pecan Chicken Salad Sandwich
Shawnda hosted this week’s Project Pastry Queen and you’ll see that she also served the salad on croissants for The Foodie Baby’s 1st birthday party. Croissants make a great sandwich vessel, especially when they’re fresh, toasted, and flaky.
I think this apple pecan chicken salad would also be great served on mini croissants as finger sandwiches for a cocktail party, bridal shower, baby shower, Mother’s Day brunch.
If you want to move away from serving this chicken salad on croissants altogether, a soft sandwich wheat bread would be really delicious too!
I’m thrilled with my picky self for making this salad and am even more thrilled that I’ve got leftovers for lunch this week!
How to Make Chicken for Chicken Salad
As you probably know, there are so many ways to cook chicken. For this chicken salad, you want to be sure to keep the flavor of your chicken fairly neutral. In other words, the blackened chicken you may have made for your chicken alfredo probably isn’t the flavor you want in this chicken salad.
Here are a few super easy suggestions for what type of chicken you can use for chicken salad:
- Roast or rotisserie chicken for chicken salad: I’m always wondering what to make with leftover roast chicken. You can definitely use leftover roast or grilled chicken to make this chicken salad! I’m all about using up the leftovers and while picking over a roast chicken is one of my least favorite kitchen tasks, it’s certainly worth the effort to make this chicken salad. And if you can’t or don’t have time to make a roast chicken at home, a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store will work perfectly fine for chicken salad!
- Grilled chicken for chicken salad: Grilled chicken would be a great choice for this salad too. It would add another flavor level, especially if you grill with charcoal.
- Poached chicken for chicken salad: Poached chicken sometimes gets a bad rap since many people equate it with boiled chicken. There are subtle differences between the two methods but poached chicken is perfect for chicken salad since the chicken remains tender. Simply add a couple inches of water to a shallow pan or skillet and add the boneless skinless chicken breasts. Bring the water to a boil, cover the pan, and turn the heat to a simmer. Cook the chicken for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 165° F.
- Oven roasted chicken for chicken salad: Roasting a whole bunch of chicken breasts on a large sheet pan in the oven may just be one of the best time-saving methods for meal prep out there. By roasting a large batch of chicken, you’ll have plenty of leftovers to toss on or in salads like this one, into pasta dishes, and in lunch containers all week long. It’s a hands-off method with little clean-up, especially if you line the sheet pan with foil before adding the chicken.
- 1 cup roughly chopped pecan halves
- 2 whole boneless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (about 4 cups shredded chicken)
- 1 Granny Smith apple, cored, peeled, and diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup red onion, minced
- ¼ cup parsley, chopped
- ⅓ - ½ cup mayonnaise (any variety
- ½ lemon
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a large bowl, mix the pecans, chicken, apples, celery, green onion, red onion, and parsley together. Stir in the mayonnaise, starting with ⅓ cup and adding more to your preference. Give the lemon a squirt or two over the salad and stir to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
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