This is chicken salad for the mayonnaise-hating crowd, although even if you happen to think mayonnaise is perfectly delightful, this is a nice alternative. It's got crunch, color, and a tangy dijon vinaigrette. Plus, it goes really well with some slices of bacon. Just sayin'.
I like to roast bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, and then shred the meat. It's easy, and the skin keeps the meat moist and flavorful. But if you've got some leftover meat from a roast chicken, some grilled chicken thighs, or any other chicken dish, this is a great way to use it up.
And, of course, no one says you have to make this into sandwiches. Serve it alone or over some lettuce if you'd like.
While I didn't grow up eating it, sometime during or right after college I fell in love with chicken salad. Chicken salad on whole wheat with lettuce and tomato was a constant staple in my lunchtime routine. But the chicken salad I knew and loved was a version blended with thick mayonnaise, sliced almond, celery, and raisins. Nothing else was even a consideration.
It's taken a while, but I'm glad I finally expanded my horizons on this front. Elizabeth's version of Italian chicken salad is light, with fresh, punchy flavors — from the vinaigrette and fresh parsley — that make it a lot more exciting. I also love the extra kick of crunch and saltiness from the bacon — perfect addition.
A simple red wine vinaigrette does a stand-up job of tying all the ingredients together into one cohesive salad. There's not a lot of it, but that's the point. It's meant just to lightly wet the ingredients and hold them together.
- Kelli, July 2015
Italian Chicken Salad
Makes enough for 6 sandwiches, or 5 1/2 to 6 cups of chicken salad
For the chicken salad:
3 medium (or 2 large) bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (about 2 1/2 pounds)
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion (from about a quarter of a medium onion)
1/2 cup chopped celery (from 2 medium stalks)
1/2 cup thinly sliced roasted red pepper
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Handful of chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
12 slices cooked bacon
12 slices hearty Italian or peasant bread
For the vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Rub some olive oil over the chicken breasts and season them with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, depending on how thick the breasts are. The skin does not need to brown; you just want the meat to cook through. Let cool slightly, then peel away the skin and shred the meat. You should have about 3 1/2 to 4 cups of shredded chicken. Drizzle the chicken with a bit of the juices from the pan, just to keep it moist.
Combine the onion, celery, red pepper, almonds, parsley, and shredded chicken in a large bowl.
To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and sugar. Stream in the olive oil, whisking vigorously, until combined. Pour the vinaigrette over the chicken salad and toss to coat.
Make the sandwiches, putting two slices of bacon on each, topped with one-sixth of the chicken salad.
- You can substitute 3 1/2 to 4 cups shredded cooked chicken for the chicken breast in this recipe.
This recipe has been updated — first published March 2009.
(Image credits: Kelli Dunn)