Creamy Cranberry-Walnut Chicken Salad

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Creamy Cranberry-Walnut Chicken Salad
The other day Mike and I went to Al Mubarakiya, the old market here in Kuwait (if you’re interested, you can check out my photos of the old market here on my Instagram feed), with no intention of buying anything. For him, we came home with four pounds of mixed nuts, one pound of salted pistachios, and two pounds of fresh-roasted Turkish-ground coffee (ok, really the coffee is for both of us); and for me, we grabbed two pounds of raw walnuts and one pound of unsweetened dried cranberries. The problem is, there is a shop there that has the most insanely fresh coffee, nuts, and all manner of things of that sort. You walk in and you want to spend all day just smelling the air and sampling everything.

But of course I don’t think the shop owner would appreciate either of those things…

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So we usually get in (because we can’t just walk by), get our fill (of stuff we really don’t need but really can’t resist buying), and get out.

I was thinking about how to use my goodies, and the idea of chicken salad came to mind. It’s been way too long since I made a good chicken salad and I knew that had to be remedied. I decided there was no sense in re-inventing the wheel, so I took a peek at a quick Google search to see if there were any good-looking chicken salads of this sort hanging around the web. Turns out, there are.

When I saw that Deb from Smitten Kitchen had one, I didn’t even bother looking for inspiration from the other search results. Being the recipe goddess that she is, why would I need to look elsewhere?

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Deb talks about how her Cranberry-Walnut Chicken Salad is her ideal chicken salad…sans things like curry or turmeric. As I was reading her post, I nodded along in agreement, because even though in general I’m not curry-averse (although admittedly, I much prefer garam masala spice mix over curry spice mix), there is absolutely no place for curry in any chicken salad of mine. Deb and I could totally be besties.

My recipe here was inspired by Deb’s recipe (who loosely adapted her recipe from Gourmet’s recipe for Chicken Salad with Grapes and Walnuts), but I made a few tweaks to suit my tastes and based on what I had on hand. It’s a lovely autumnal recipe that’s absolutely perfect on top of salad greens for lunch, or along with toast and tea for breakfast. Like Deb suggests, I’m planning on making it after Thanksgiving with leftover turkey and pecans instead of walnuts.

No pressure, but Deb, if you want to pop by, I promise I’ll have this salad ready.

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Creamy Cranberry-Walnut Chicken Salad
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 2 servings
  • About 1¼ cups cooked, chopped chicken breast (see Note below)
  • ½ cup (60 g) toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons (30 g) unsweetened dried cranberries (see Note below)
  • 1 large stalk celery, finely chopped
  • ½ medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • ½ cup (105 g) mayo (or ¼ cup mayo + ¼ cup Greek yogurt)
  • 1 tablespoon organic raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey (see Note below)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  1. Toss together all ingredients in a large bowl; serve chilled.
Chicken: This salad is the perfect use for leftover chicken or turkey, or for a store-bought rotisserie chicken. But it is delicious enough to warrant poaching chicken breast if you don’t have leftovers on hand. To do so, for enough chicken for this recipe, place ½ lb (225 g) raw boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a single layer in the bottom of a medium saucepan; add chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water so that the chicken is covered by about 1 inch of liquid. Add a splash of vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar for this) and a generous pinch of sea salt and black pepper, along with any seasonings you like, such as carrot, celery, onion, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, etc. Turn the heat on medium and bring to a simmer; turn the heat down slightly to keep it at a simmer, and cook until the chicken is fully cooked (there should not be any pink), about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain off the water, cool the chicken, and then chop it to use in this salad.

Dried Cranberries and Honey: If you’re using sweetened dried cranberries, feel free to omit the honey or adjust to taste.

Serving Suggestions: Serve on top of salad greens or with toast.

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    • says

      Dixya, I usually do a 50/50 combo of Greek yogurt and mayo (but for this batch, I had leftover homemade mayo in the fridge, so that’s what I used…it was so yum :) ). In a 50/50 combo, the Greek yogurt lightens it up a bit and adds protein, and mayo keeps it super creamy. 100% Greek yogurt should work fine if you like it a little bit on the tangy side (and you can pick a more mellow yogurt…I’ve noticed some brands are much tangier than others). The other thing I’ve noticed about using 100% yogurt is that when you refrigerate leftovers, the whey tends to separate to the bottom, making the salad look a little watery…you can either drain it off, or stir it back in before serving. Hope you enjoy this salad if you give it a try! :)

  1. says

    Love this salad. But I am in the curry camp. Just a touch of curry flavors chicken so well – cumin, coriander, cayenne, and a sprinkle of cinnamon! Otherwise i must use chives or a lot of herbs. But that’s why cooking and eating are so fun!

  2. Eha says

    The cranberry/walnut combination really appeals and makes this more than a little different from the usual chicken salads . . .for me it will be 100% Greek yogurt also as I do not use mayo ~ shall check for the tartness and balance it . . .


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