Many people make a homemade chicken salad recipe using precooked rotisserie chicken, but finding a good canned chicken salad recipe can be difficult. The secret is to choose a good can of chicken and mix in ingredients that enhance the taste of the chicken, please the senses and mask any noticeable can taste.
Choose the Best Chicken
All canned chicken is not the same. Unlike tuna, there's no solid albacore or an equivalent to identify brands that use better meat. Yet, the chicken you use will make the difference between people coming back for more (and asking for your recipe) and chicken salad left uneaten on their plates.
Unless you've used canned chicken before and know your preferred brand, experiment with different cans of chicken, starting with chunked chicken breast, before you serve a canned chicken salad recipe to guests.
Drain chicken in the sink and scrape it out of the can onto a cutting board. If the chicken is in chunks, make them uniform in size or shred with a fork and spoon it into a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise and mix. If it doesn't hold together well, add another tablespoon of mayonnaise. Continue this until the salad has the creaminess you prefer, and test its creaminess again after adding mix-ins.
Homemade Chicken Salad Mix-Ins
There is a seemingly endless array of ingredients that enhance chicken salad, and the added flavor can help mask any can taste you might encounter. What goes best depends mostly on your taste. For example, celery adds a crunch that many people like against the creaminess of the salad, but if you hate celery, just leave it out. Ideas for mix-ins include:
- 1 cup red seedless grapes cut in half or quartered if very large. Chicken salad with grapes is probably the most popular homemade chicken salad recipe.
- 1 or 2 hard-boiled eggs chopped into small pieces
- l/2 cup diced green onion, including the dark green stems for color
- 1/2 cup sliced celery. To slice, turn the celery stalk over and cut thin, parallel slices up the stalk. This makes a pretty presentation and adds variety to the shapes of your mix-ins.
- 1/2 cup diced walnuts or pecans
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice to balance the sweetness of the grapes
- Salt and pepper to taste
Add a bit of curry powder for extra unusual flavor but not so much that it becomes curried chicken salad – about 1/2 teaspoon. You can use more of any ingredient you like, and double the amount of mix-ins if you want to stretch the salad to serve more people.
Coordinate a Side
An easy side that complements the chicken salad is a small bunch of grapes, placed simply on the plate. Other possible sides include:
- Fruit salad served in a small bowl on the plate so the juices don't run into the chicken salad
- Cucumber, onion and tomato salad with vinaigrette (use white onion, sliced, for variety)
- Toasted pita chips cut into wedges and served in a fanned arc next to the chicken salad
tomato and fresh mozzarella, sliced and arranged in an overlapping line on the plate next to the chicken salad. Add a drizzle each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar down the middle and top with fresh basil leaves.
Understand the Nutrition of Chicken Salad
Chicken is a very healthy meat, and chicken breast has less fat than darker cuts. One serving of Tyson Premium Chunk White Chicken in Water (about 5 servings in a 12.5 ounce can) has 13 grams of protein and no carbs, saturated fat or sugar.
One serving has 60 calories with only 10 calories from fat before you add the mayo. Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise adds 90 calories per tablespoon. Although they're fat calories, mayo is just oil and eggs with vinegar, salt, lemon juice and sometimes sugar.
With more people reporting sensitivity to wheat or dairy, it's helpful to know that chicken salad is gluten free (unless you serve it with pita or other bread made with wheat) and is dairy free (mayo doesn't include dairy products).
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is a freelance writer who lives in the Washington, D.C. area and writes about food for eHow.com and leaf.tv. She started baking on her own at age nine, creating appetizers at 10, and making family meals by 14. Barbara holds a B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh, where she often cooked elaborate meals and desserts for friends.