Healthy Chicken Salad is a lightened up spin on classic chicken salad. It's creamy, full of flavor, and can be used for everything from sandwiches to wraps to green salads and more.
This easy chicken salad recipe made with Greek yogurt is actually good for you! Use it for sandwiches, salads, wraps, and more. This healthy chicken salad has all the flavor of the deli version but is mostly made with yogurt!
Classic chicken salad is a favorite when it comes to lunches. The only problem? Chicken salad is usually made with a ridiculous amount of mayonnaise making it high in calories and saturated fat.
But don't worry! We've got a healthier way to make a chicken salad that you will love.
This healthy chicken salad is made with a combination of Greek yogurt, light mayonnaise, and lemon juice. It's still creamy and delicious but has less than half the calories and fat as the classic recipes you will normally find.
Think of this as a base recipe for chicken salad. Everyone has their own chicken salad variations they love, so use this recipe as a jumping off point. Add some red grapes for sweetness, throw in some jalapenos for spice, add crunch with carrots, and get creative with all your favorite mix-ins.
It's also versatile for serving. Make sandwiches, salads, or use it as a dip for crackers and chips.
What You'll Need
Here is everything you need to make this tasty and healthy chicken salad.
- Cooked chicken: Any type of cooked chicken works in chicken salad. It is a great way to use up a leftover rotisserie chicken or grilled chicken. Canned chicken breast and poached chicken are also good options.
- Celery: Good chicken salad needs some crunch and celery is the best option since it won't get soggy even after a couple of days in the fridge.
- Greek yogurt: To keep this salad light and healthy, Greek yogurt is used in place of most of the mayo. Don't swap in regular yogurt since it isn't as thick. The higher fat you use, the less tangy the final product will be.
- Mayonnaise: Many recipes for healthy chicken salad use all yogurt, but that creates a really tangy salad. Combining mayo and yogurt creates the perfect balance of flavor that's creamy, rich, and only slightly tangy.
- Lemon juice: Most chicken salad recipes forget to include an acid. Adding just a touch of fresh lemon juice adds brightness and a great lemony flavor.
- Seasoning: To round out the flavors in the dressing, this recipe uses celery seed, onion powder, salt, and pepper. These can be swapped out for other spices and seasoning blends.
How to Make Healthy Chicken Salad
Check out these step-by-step instructions and tips for making lightened-up chicken salad.
- Make the dressing: Start by making a flavorful dressing by combining plain Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Make sure to taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning. The dressing gives all the flavor to the chicken salad so it should be bursting with flavor.
- Prepare the chicken salad: Make sure the chicken is fully cooled. Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and dice the celery. Toss the chicken and celery with the dressing, making sure the chicken is well coated. Also, check the texture and add more dressing if you like a creamier chicken salad.
- Refrigerate: Refrigerate the chicken salad for one hour or more before serving it for the best flavor. As the salad sits, the flavors combine and get deeper.
- Store in the fridge: Store the salad in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days. If you find the salad dries out at all, add a touch of mayo or Greek yogurt.
How to Make Chicken Salad without Mayonnaise
If you prefer to make your chicken salad without mayonnaise, you have a few different options. The first is to use all Greek yogurt in place of the mayo. Try full-fat Greek yogurt for a creamier option or use fat-free for the lowest calorie option.
Personally, I find Greek yogurt a bit too tangy on its own so I like to use a combination of Greek yogurt with mayonnaise or sour cream. Both options mellow out the tang of the yogurt.
You can also use mashed avocado in place of the mayonnaise to make avocado chicken salad. Season the avocado with salt and pepper to make sure it still has plenty of flavor.
Another option is vegan mayonnaise, which can give you a similar flavor without eggs.
Recipe Ideas and Variations
There are so many different options for adding flavor to this chicken salad with veggies, spices, herbs, and more. Here are some of my favorite options:
- Add extra crunch with carrots, red onions, cucumbers, or even chopped cabbage.
- Add fiber by folding in some drained chickpeas. This turns this salad into a super filling option and is delicious over some salad greens.
- Make your chicken salad spicy by adding some fresh or pickled jalapenos. You can also try pepperoncini peppers for a milder option. And for a simple option, just add some red pepper flakes or hot sauce.
- If you love fresh herbs, toss in some chopped dill, tarragon, chives, or cilantro.
- For some sweetness, try adding chopped apples, red grapes, dried cranberries, or raisins.
- Switch things up by adding some seasoning. Try steak seasoning, Everything Bagel seasoning, lemon pepper, Cajun seasoning, or curry powder.
Chicken salad is such a versatile option and there are so many different ways to serve it. Here are the ones I find myself making the most.
- Sandwiches and wraps: It's hard to beat a classic chicken salad sandwich. Grab your favorite whole wheat bread, pita, wrap, or even an English muffin. Layer in the chicken salad with tomatoes, lettuce, red onion, and sprouts.
- Salads: Another option is to serve this healthy chicken salad over a bed of salad greens. I like to use crunchy lettuce like Romaine and add diced cucumbers, tomatoes, extra celery, apples, and sprouts.
- Lettuce Wraps: For a low-carb option, grab a head of butter lettuce and serve the salad right inside the leaves. Top with extra veggies if you like.
- Stuffed cucumbers or tomatoes: Another delicious low-carb option is hollowing out cucumbers or tomatoes. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and fill them with chicken salad.
- Chicken salad melts: Instead of making a tuna melt, make an open-faced chicken salad melt with sliced tomatoes and some Swiss or cheddar cheese.
How long does chicken salad last in the fridge?
In general, chicken salad will last about 3 days in the fridge. If you need it to last longer, simply pack the dressing separately and combine the chicken, celery, and dressing when you are ready to serve it.
The dressing will keep for about 5-7 days in the fridge. Due to the mayonnaise and yogurt, chicken salad does not freeze well.
How to Cook Chicken for Chicken Salad
You've decided to make chicken salad, but how are you going to make the actual chicken? Here are some options for cooking the chicken for your chicken salad:
- Poached chicken: Poaching is an easy option. Start by adding the chicken breast in a single layer in the bottom of a large pot. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the chicken with broth or water until there is about half an inch of liquid above the chicken. Bring to a boil and then immediately turn down to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the chicken continue to cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove the chicken and chop or shred once cooled.
- Grilled chicken: Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Then grill for 4-6 minutes per side. Let cool and chop into smaller pieces for the salad.
- Slow cooker chicken: Place the chicken breast in a single layer on the bottom of your crockpot. Season with salt, pepper, and anything else you like. Cook on low for 2.5-4 hours.
- Baked chicken: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Brush the chicken with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray so that the chicken breasts touch each other but don't overlap. Cook for 18-20 minutes until they are cooked through to 165 degrees.
- Rotisserie chicken: If you don't want to cook the chicken, simply pick up a rotisserie chicken. Remove the skin and chop or shred the cooked chicken.
- Canned chicken: Another option if you don't want to cook is canned chicken. Make sure to fully drain the chicken before using it for salad and make sure not to oversalt, since canned chicken can be salty already.
Is chicken salad healthy?
Chicken salad can be a really healthy option assuming you don't use mountains of mayonnaise. This healthy version uses Greek yogurt to lighten things up and make it healthier.
The other ingredients in chicken salad tend to be healthy. Chicken breast is a great lean protein packed with vitamins and minerals. Greek yogurt has lots of protein and probiotics. Plus you can add as many veggies as you like.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most common questions about making a healthier chicken salad.
There are so many different ways to enjoy chicken salad from sandwiches to lettuce wraps and more. Here are some favorites:
- Lettuce wraps
- Whole grain tortillas
- Hollowed out tomatoes
- Over green salad
- Cucumber slices
- Low carb wraps
- Toasted sweet potato slices
- Pita chips
- Raw veggies
Here are delicious and healthy additions to chicken salad.
- Sliced almonds
- Red grapes
- Sunflower seeds
- Diced carrots
- Diced pickles
- Pickled jalapenos
- Green onions
- Dijon mustard
- Fresh herbs like parsley
- Red onions
Healthy Chicken Salad
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- 1.5 cups cooked boneless skinless chicken breast
- 1/4 cup celery, chopped
- 1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
- 3 tbsp reduced fat mayonnaise
- 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp celery seed
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* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
This is a base recipe for chicken salad. Add in all your favorites including shredded carrots, pickles, jalapenos, dried cranberries, and more.
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