Food52's You-Have-to-Try-This Chicken Salad

Sure, chicken salad is good with celery and mayo. But it's even better without!

A few years ago, Toby Cecchini published a tuna salad recipe in the New York Times that was unlike any I'd seen before. Divorced of mayonnaise, the tuna was left in large slivers, dressed with lemon and oil, and mixed with pepperoncini, dill, parsley and smoked almonds. There wasn't a scrap of celery in sight. The tuna held its own between lashings of pepper and flourishes of dill, and seemed like so much more than just tuna salad.

I wondered: why not apply the same method to chicken? I like a good mayonnaise-based chicken salad, but one with more candid flavors would be a great recipe to have around for when chicken salad and a glass of white wine feels like the perfect weekend lunch.

Chicken Salad

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • Salt
  • 4 cups cubed roasted chicken (I like to include some of the crisp skin)
  • 3 tablespoons slivered peppadew peppers
  • 1 cup marinated artichoke hearts (drained thoroughly)
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped smoked almonds
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • Lemon juice, to taste
  • 1/4 extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Sprinkle the onion with salt and toss to coat. Let sit for 15 minutes. Squeeze the onions to drain any juices.
  2. In a bowl, toss together the onion, chicken, peppadews, artichoke hearts and almonds. In a small bowl, whisk together the thyme, mustard and vinegar. Gradually whisk in the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the chicken and fold together. Squeeze in lemon juice to taste -- it will take a fair amount, probably 1/2 to 1 lemon. Let sit for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve.
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