Recipe Review

The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Salad Is So Good, I Can’t Stop Eating It Straight from the Fridge

updated Sep 20, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from testing multiple recipes by The Pioneer Woman, it’s that she doesn’t shy away from unusual or unexpected ingredients. Sometimes it works (her bacon-wrapped meatloaf is incredibly moist), but often times it doesn’t (we weren’t fans of the turmeric in her pot pie or in her chicken and dumplings).

So when I saw that she once again offers a plethora of add-ons and ingredient alternatives in her chicken salad recipe, I wondered whether this time it would work in her favor. Her version calls for both plain yogurt and half-and-half, as well as a couple tablespoons of brown sugar. Would it be too sweet? Or would the tang of yogurt balance it out? Here’s what happened when I gave it a try.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn

How to Make The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Salad

This recipe calls for one whole cut-up fryer chicken, but at the time of testing the only chicken available to me was bone-in, skin-on breast. I scaled the rest of the recipe by half to accommodate the change. But no matter what type of chicken pieces you’re starting with, you’ll rinse them, place them in a large pot of water, then turn on the heat and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour. When the chicken is done, transfer it to a plate, remove the meat from the bones with your hands or a fork, and then chop it into bite-sized chunks and reserve in a bowl.

Next, you’ll chop a few stalks of celery and some scallions, halve some grapes, and place them all in the bowl with the chicken. In another bowl, combine mayonnaise, plain yogurt, half-and-half, lemon juice, 1 to 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, and salt and pepper. Throw in a small handful of fresh minced dill and adjust seasoning to taste. Combine the dressing and the chicken, mix until well-coated, and chill for a few hours or up to overnight.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

My Honest Review of The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Salad

In her description of the recipe, Ree says she wants to make our skirts fly up — and Ree, honey, I am Marilyn Monroe. This chicken salad took my palate on an adventure. After just the first bite, I could taste the cool tang of the yogurt, which gave it a pleasant creaminess. And although I was worried about the extra sugar, the sweetness was just right. I loved all the crunchy and sweet bits, but the thing that really sealed the deal was her use of fresh dill. This is the salad I would eat straight out of the bowl standing in front of the open refrigerator.

Because I only used white meat for this recipe, the chicken was the driest out of the four recipes I tried. But Ree’s heavy hand of mayo, yogurt, and half-and-half brought the moistness right back. Once I’m able to get my hands on dark meat, I’ll definitely use it here.

Credit: Amelia Rampe

If You’re Making The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Salad, a Few Tips

  1. Give it the Southern Living treatment. This salad would get a perfect score if the chicken was poached according to Southern Living‘s method. That tender texture combined with Pioneer Woman’s recipe would be the best of both worlds!
  2. Season the poaching liquid. A little salt or aromatics in the poaching liquid could really elevate the chicken flavor.

    Rating: 9.5
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn