This recipe for Cranberry Apple Chicken Salad is a lunchtime favorite in our house and for good reason. This is no ordinary chicken salad. Chicken, cranberries, apples, and celery all come together in a sandwich filling that’s creamy but with a little bit of crunch and a hint of sweetness. This is a traditional chicken salad recipe with a twist. And just loaded with bold bright flavors and full of tasty goodness! (Also, if you enjoy tasty homemade sandwich fillings, check out my recipe for zesty Egg Salad with Dill and Horseradish.)
And what I love about this Cranberry Apple Chicken Salad (beyond its deliciousness), is that it’s a good alternative to deli meat. Let’s face it, deli lunch meat is pricey for the good stuff and the cheaper deli meats are loaded with fillers and sodium. It’s just not something I make a habit of buying every week. So I love that I can make this flavorful but simple chicken salad recipe with canned chicken, a staple I always keep on hand. In fact, I like to keep a few cans of chicken in my pantry just for making chicken salad. And while this is definitely a recipe that works perfectly using canned chicken, you could also use leftover chicken or even a rotisserie chicken to make this homemade chicken salad.
So before we get to the recipe, let’s talk about a few of the ingredients:
Mayonnaise – Use whatever homemade or store-bought mayonnaise is your favorite. If you want to lighten up the recipe, go ahead and use low-fat mayonnaise.
Mustard – I prefer using stone-ground mustard with visible mustard seeds in it. Smooth Dijon mustard will also work in this recipe, but for the sake of flavor, I would avoid using regular yellow mustard.
Dill – I often use dried dill for this recipe, because I always have dried dill in my spice cupboard. I also find that dried dill is one of those herbs that really retains its flavor when dried, so I have no problem using it in place of fresh. But fresh dill really is lovely, so if you happen to have some, go ahead and use it in your chicken salad. You’ll need to use more of the fresh herb than the dried, so use one tablespoon of chopped fresh dill (or more if you love dill).
Onion – Any onion will do in this chicken salad, but I love to use a sweet red onion for this recipe.
Dried Cranberries – I prefer to use sweetened dried cranberries because they add a hint of sweetness to the salad, but if you prefer a little bit of tart, go ahead and use unsweetened dried cranberries.
Pecans – I consider this an optional ingredient, but if you love pecans like I do, you’ll definitely want to add some chopped pecans to your salad.
Apples – Use your favorite apple here. Something that is nice and crisp like a Honeycrisp apple works very well. You can choose to either peel the apple or leave the skin on.
- Instead of adding all of the ingredients to the mixing bowl at the same time, mix your sauce separately in a separate bowl or large measuring jug. This allows you to taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary (like maybe a little bit of salt and pepper, or an extra dollop of mustard).
- I like my chicken salad to be creamy but not overly so. If you like your chicken salad to be a bit on the wetter side, just add another spoonful or two of mayonnaise.
- There are a few members of my family who don’t enjoy the stringiness of raw celery. If this is you, too, you can fix this by using a vegetable peeler to lightly peel your celery which will remove the strings. This is a better alternative to leaving out the celery which really gives this chicken salad a lot of flavor and texture.
- I don’t specify how much salt to add because it’s really a matter of your taste and will vary depending on the type of chicken you are using. If you’re using fresh chicken that you poached yourself, chances are good that you’ll want to add a generous pinch of salt. But if you’re using rotisserie chicken or canned chicken, which already contains quite a bit of salt, you may find that your chicken salad only requires a few grinds of pepper and no additional salt at all.
- I like to serve this Cranberry Apple Chicken Salad either on a sandwich or on a bed of mixed greens. It’s also delicious on crackers for a quick lunch or snack.
If you try this recipe, I hope you love it. And follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram so you don’t miss a post.
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