This Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad is a flavorful, simple recipe to use up leftover chicken or turkey. Try it as an easy lunch or make-ahead dish in just about 20 minutes.
📋 About the Recipe
- Make ahead friendly: Chicken salad is best once chilled, making it a great recipe to meal prep for lunches throughout the week.
- Great recipe for leftover chicken: Repurpose any unseasoned or lightly seasoned leftovers you have on hand.
- Quick and easy: Have this recipe ready in 20 minutes or less.
- Hearty: This simple salad is packed with 25 grams of protein per serving thanks to the pecans and meat, making it filling enough to enjoy as a healthy, hearty meal.
A few notes about the ingredients:
- chicken - To make this recipe as quick and easy as possible, I recommend cooking your meat ahead of time and allowing it to cool. If you're starting with raw meat, I give full instructions for cooking boneless, skinless breasts for this simple salad in the recipe notes.
- cranberries - Dried cranberries or craisins add the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness. I don't recommend fresh or frozen cranberries as they will be too tart and sour.
- pecans - Pecans add a rich, buttery undertone to this cranberry salad without being overpowering in texture or flavor. They also add a nice crunch.
- grapes and apples - I recommend red grapes and a sweeter apple variety like fuji, gala, or honey crisp. Fresh fruit lends a sweetness and crispness without overpowering the flavor.
- celery - Adds a bold, refreshing crunch.
- mayonnaise, dijon mustard, lemon juice - The creaminess that ties all of the ingredients together! Feel free to adjust the amount of mayonnaise to your liking, but make sure all of your ingredients get coated to blend the flavors together.
- Dice the chicken: Dice your fully cooked, boneless skinless breasts into ¼"-½" inch cubes. Place in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the remaining ingredients: In the same bowl with the cubed chicken, add in the apples, celery, grapes, pecans, dried cranberries, scallions, and salt and pepper to the bowl.
- Mix to combine!
- Coat with mayonnaise mixture: Add in the mayonnaise, dijon mustard, and lemon juice and mix until evenly coated.
- Chill and serve: Chill until cool, then serve on your favorite bread or croissants.
Alternatively, try serving this apple pecan chicken salad with crackers, veggies, as a wrap, or as a simple sweet and savory salad with mixed greens.
⁉️ Substitutions and Alterations
- Chicken options: The best part of making homemade chicken salad is it's a great way to use up any leftover chicken you have on hand. The best chicken to use will be unseasoned or lightly seasoned so it doesn't overwhelm or clash with the other flavors. Rotisserie chicken or even leftover turkey from the holidays would even be great.
- Out of lemons? Try using ½ a tablespoon apple cider vinegar. I do not recommend using pre-bottled lemon juice as it does not have the same flavor.
- Adjusting the flavors: Make this salad your own. Feel free to add more or less of the apples, grapes, celery, pecans, dried cranberries, scallions, mustard, mayonnaise, etc. Use this recipe as a guide and adjust the measurements to your personal liking. There is a lot of freedom here!
❄️ How to Store
To store: For optimal freshness, store leftovers in an airtight, glass container.
How long does chicken salad last? This cranberry pecan chicken salad will last for 3-5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Can chicken salad be frozen? I do not recommend freezing this recipe. The texture of the mayonnaise and fruit will change once frozen and thawed and is not optimal. Chicken salad also takes just minutes to put together so freezing to save time is really not necessary!
Chicken salad is best enjoyed chilled or room temperature.
For optimal freshness, make your sandwiches right before eating. If you are preparing this recipe for meal prep, I recommend storing the bread and chicken salad separately, and preparing the sandwich as close to the meal time as possible. If you make sandwiches significantly ahead of time, the bread or croissants may become soggy.
Celery provides a great, bright crunch here but if you're out or don't enjoy celery, try diced red onions or additional apples.
💭 One More Tip
Dice your ingredients to relatively similar sizes. This is going to make for the most cohesive salad and create the best flavor in every bite.
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Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds) fully cooked (see notes)
- ½ cup diced apple (about ½ an apple)
- ½ cup diced celery (about 1 celery rib)
- ½ cup thinly sliced red grapes (about 10 grapes)
- ½ cup roughly chopped pecans
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallion mostly the green parts
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (about ½ a lemon)
- ¾ teaspoon honey dijon mustard
- Dice the cooked chicken breasts into ¼-inch to ½-inch cubes. Place cubed chicken in a large mixing bowl.
- Add apples, celery, grapes, pecans, cranberries, scallion, salt, and pepper to the bowl. Mix to combine.
- Top with mayonnaise, lemon juice, and dijon mustard. Mix well until the mayonnaise coats all the ingredients and the dijon mustard is fully incorporated throughout.
- Serve chilled on a sliced croissant or your favorite bread to create a sandwich. Or, serve with crackers on the side, scooped on top of sliced cucumbers, or as the protein on top of a mixed green salad.
- For the cooked chicken: You can use leftover chicken as long as it isn't seasoned too heavily with other spices. However, if you don't have leftover chicken - season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Allow to cool before dicing and adding to the salad.
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