A perfect chicken salad is a thoughtful balance of flavors and textures, with just the right mix of soft and crisp, savory and sweet. This festive cold-weather recipe is the perfect combination of ingredients, with cranberries and apples for pretty color and Grape-Nuts cereal for plenty of whole grain crunch. This stunner is destined to be a showpiece at your next holiday brunch!
Chicken salad might as well be a food group in the South — it will be a dark day when a celebratory shower menu is without it. There are plenty of ways that creative cooks make it there own, but part of the fun is in the tinkering. I’ve tasted countless versions and played around with all sorts of ingredients over the years, and I've come to realize that a good recipe all comes down to a pretty simple formula.
A respectable chicken salad recipe will always start with perfectly cooked chicken; all of the mayonnaise in the world can’t cover up overcooked bird. After that it's rather flexible, but there must be an adequate ratio of sweet, savory, crunchy, and soft. Fruit is always fabulous, so for this batch I used a mix of dried cranberries and diced red apples, which provide a brilliant red color, along with the sweet and tart. Celery adds a little bit of texture and some much-needed green.
Mayonnaise, at least to me, is non-negotiable (a dry chicken salad might as well be considered a cardinal Southern sin), although your preferred brand is your own business. For this recipe I supplemented the mayonnaise with a modest dollop of creamy Greek yogurt, which adds a light and welcome tang. Of course all of the quantities here are really to taste, you are welcome to add and subtract as you wish. But I do urge you to be generous with your seasonings, salt and fresh pepper can make or break this dish.
Since every good cook has some sort of "secret ingredient" in their chicken salad, I guess I might as well share mine. My trick for the very best chicken salad is Grape-Nuts cereal. The small, nutty morsels provide the perfect contrast to creamy chicken and sweet-tart fruit. Grape-Nuts is such an unexpected ingredient, but its irresistible crunch really can’t be beat. I also like that it is made with whole grains and is high in fiber and low in sugar. I warn you: once you try it in this chicken salad, you will want to put it on everything!
Chicken Salad with Grape-Nuts and Cranberries
4 cups cooked, cubed chicken breast
2 stalks celery, diced small
1 apple, cored and diced
1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise, or to taste
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup Grape-Nuts cereal
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (0% or 2%)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a large bowl, combine chicken, celery, apple, mayonnaise, cranberries, Grape-Nuts, Greek yogurt, kosher salt, and a generous amount of pepper. Fold ingredients until well mixed. Chill the salad for a minimum of 1 hour to let flavors marry.
We're creating a few delicious new recipes from The Kitchn starring Grape-Nuts, all of which are perfect for a cozy winter brunch. Check out our recent recipe, Oatmeal Pancakes with Grape-Nuts, and stay tuned for our Chicken Salad with Grape-Nuts and Cranberries.