This super-fast chicken salad with cranberries is all about chopping and mixing a few ingredients. Tender chicken, crunchy walnuts and apples, sweet cranberries, and a tangy, creamy dressing – the perfect fall salad.
One of our favorite ways of using leftover rotisserie chicken; this recipe for cranberry chicken salad with walnuts checks all the boxes:
- Super quick
- Makes use of leftovers
You can make it for a quick lunch or dinner; you can pack in a lunch box to take to school or the office; it’s perfect for a picnic or a potluck party.
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What do you need?
- Chicken: Either leftover from roast or rotisserie chicken or freshly cooked breast.
- Dried cranberries
- Celery stalks
- Green apple
- Red onion
- Fresh parsley
- Dressing: Mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper. The recipe doesn’t need a lot of mayonnaise, but you can make it even skinnier by using low-fat mayonnaise or only Greek yogurt.
- Use raisins, dried currants, or dried cherries instead of cranberries.
- Replace walnuts with pecans, pine nuts, or almonds.
- The apple doesn’t necessarily need to be green; the only requirement is to be a crisp, juicy sort. Try Pink Lady, Fuji, Granny Smith, and so on.
- Replace apples with seedless, halved grapes; they are delicious as well.
- Make the dressing with only Greek yogurt or with sour cream instead of mayo and yogurt.
- Replace Dijon mustard with any other mustard you like; grainy mustard is excellent as well.
- Add other chopped herbs to the salad. How about fresh chives, dill, or basil?
How to prepare the chicken for the salad?
The fastest way to make this chicken salad with cranberries is with rotisserie or leftover meat. Either you’ve bought the cooked bird or roasted it yourself; if you have leftovers, you will be ready in about 10-15 minutes, depending on your chopping skills. However, if you don’t have leftovers, making this salad won’t take ages either.
Poach: place the breast in a small pot. Cover with chicken stock or water and a little salt. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (75 degrees Celsius) is reached. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, cut the breast in the middle, it should be white, not pink or red.
Cook from frozen: place the frozen breast into a small pot. Cover with stock or water and a little salt. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer gently for about 20 minutes or until the internal temperature is reached.
Skillet: Heat a little oil in a nonstick or cast-iron skillet and cook the breast for about 20-25 minutes turning it often.
How to make cranberry walnut chicken salad?
- Meat: If using freshly cooked meat, let it cool first. To speed up the process, chop it and spread the cubes on a large plate.
- Chopping: In the meantime, roughly chop the cranberries and the walnuts. Dice celery and apple. Finely chop the onion and the parsley.
- Dressing: Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl. Adjust the taste to your liking by adding more lemon juice (or a touch of white balsamic vinegar), salt, and pepper.
- Mix all the ingredients in a larger bowl.
- Refrigerate: Cover the bowl and let the salad rest in the fridge for about one hour before serving; this will allow the flavors to blend.
- For even more crunch and flavor, take the time to roast the walnuts or any other nuts you are using. Roast them in a dry skillet on medium heat. Stand by and shake the pan often; the nuts can burn within seconds if you are not paying attention.
- As soon as they are roasted and fragrant, transfer them to a large plate and let them cool. If you let them cool in the pan, they will continue cooking and eventually turn too dark.
Celery: If you don’t like celery stalks, leave them out.
Chopping: The walnut chicken salad should be chunky, yet the meat pieces should be bite-sized, small enough to spread on a slice of bread without them falling off it.
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How to serve?
- Serve as it is with a few slices of sourdough or crusty baguette. For a low-carb dinner, leave the bread; the meal will still be completely satisfying.
- One of my favorite ways of serving this dish is with crispbread, lettuce leaves, sliced tomatoes, and cucumbers – a delicious and super healthy dinner.
- Make sandwiches using good bread, dinner rolls, or croissants. Serve it to guests with crackers on the side.
How to store?
Refrigerate for 3-4 days in an airtight container. The fact that it keeps so well in the fridge allows you to make it ahead of time if you need it for a party or to take on a picnic.
I would not freeze the leftovers; mayonnaise doesn’t keep well in the freezer, nor do some other fresh ingredients.
Chicken Salad with Cranberries
- 9 oz cooked chicken about 2 cups (Note 1)
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup walnuts chopped
- ¼ cup celery chopped
- ½ green apple Note 1
- ¼ cup red onion chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1-2 teaspoon lemon juice more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces, not too large. Roughly chop cranberries and walnuts. Dice celery and apple. Chop the onion and the parsley finely. Mix everything in a bowl.
- Dressing: Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Adjust the taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Add to the salad and mix to coat the ingredients.
- Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
- Rotisserie or leftover chicken. If using fresh chicken breast, see blog post for cooking suggestions.
- Or red apple, a crisp sort.