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Cranberry walnut chicken salad is packed with flavor and easy to make with leftover chicken (or turkey)! It has nutty crunch from walnuts, bursts of sweet/tart cranberries, and a savory creamy dressing.

creamy chicken salad with dried cranberries and walnuts on bed of romaine lettuce

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.) We had absolutely no intention of buying anything. Famous last words, lol!

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, lol). 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, lol!

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.

overhead view of cranberry walnut chicken salad with toast and tea

Inspiration For This Salad

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 did a quick Google search to see if there were any good-looking chicken salads 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?

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 love curry (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 (update: this curried chicken salad has stolen my heart since then!). 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). However, I made a few tweaks to suit my tastes and to use what I had on hand. 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.

creamy chicken cranberry walnut salad with sliced toast to make sandwich

Ingredients and Substitutions

Ingredients Explained

In this section I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas where applicable. For the full recipe (including the ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.

  • Cooked chopped chicken breast – This recipe works well with rotisserie chicken or any leftover turkey or chicken you have on hand. You can also poach chicken to use here; I give instructions on how to do so in the notes of the recipe card below.
  • Walnuts – Toast the walnuts to bring out their nutty flavor and aroma. You can substitute with any type of nut you like; pecans and almonds are also delicious.
  • Unsweetened dried cranberries – If you can’t find unsweetened dried cranberries, you can use sweetened dried cranberries and omit the honey.
  • Celery – Celery adds a little bit of crunch to this creamy salad.
  • White onion – I like to use sweet white onion here; you can also use red onion. It adds savory flavor and more crunch to this salad.
  • Fresh parsley – You can swap out the parsley for any fresh herbs you like, such as basil, tarragon, cilantro, etc.
  • Mayo – This creamy chicken salad uses mayonnaise as a base. To bump up the protein, you can use Greek yogurt instead (or half mayo + half Greek yogurt).
  • Apple cider vinegar – We use a bit of vinegar to balance the flavor.
  • Honey – Honey adds a touch of sweetness (you can omit the honey if you use sweetened dried cranberries instead of unsweetened).
  • Salt and black pepper – Salt elevates the flavor of everything and black pepper adds a subtle piquancy.

Instructions

  1. Toss together all ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Serve, or store covered in the fridge for up to 3 days before serving.
top view of creamy chicken salad with fruit and nuts on lettuce on white plate on rustic wood table

Walnut Cranberry Chicken Salad FAQs

How Do You Serve Chicken Salad?

There are a ton of different ways you can serve this recipe! Here are a few ideas:

  1. On top of salad greens for lunch.
  2. Along with toast and tea for breakfast.
  3. Made into a sandwich, wrap, or stuffed inside a pita.
  4. Tossed with pasta that’s cooked to al dente and cooled.
  5. Along with crackers and cheese slices for an adult version of Lunchables.

Can You Freeze Chicken Salad with Mayo?

No, I don’t recommend freezing chicken salad with mayo. I find that the texture of mayo gets weird after it’s frozen and thawed.

Pro Tip: You can freeze leftover chicken and thaw it to make this salad!

How Long Does Rotisserie Chicken Salad Last?

If you make this salad the same day you roast or buy a rotisserie chicken, this salad will keep for about 3 days covered in the fridge.

front view of bowl of creamy chicken salad with cranberries and walnuts

How to Poach Chicken Breast

This salad is the perfect use for leftover chicken, 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 poach chicken breast:

  1. Place the chicken in a single layer in the bottom of a medium saucepan.
  2. 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 typically 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.
  3. Turn the heat on medium and bring to a simmer (uncovered).
  4. 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.
  5. Drain the water, cool the chicken, and then chop it to use in this salad.

More Chicken Salad Recipes to Try

white stoneware bowl with chicken cranberry walnut salad and toast in background

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Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad Recipe

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time0 minutes
Yields: 3 servings
Cranberry walnut chicken salad is packed with flavor and easy to make with leftover chicken (or turkey)! It has nutty crunch from walnuts, bursts of sweet/tart cranberries, and a savory creamy dressing.

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Ingredients
 

  • 1 1/4 cups cooked chopped chicken breast or about 1/2 pound/225 grams raw boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup walnuts toasted and chopped
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened dried cranberries
  • 1 large stalk celery finely chopped
  • 1/2 medium white onion finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup mayo or 1/4 cup mayo + 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Toss together all ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Serve, or store covered in the fridge for up to 3 days before serving.

Notes

Serving Suggestions

  1. On top of salad greens for lunch.
  2. Along with toast and tea for breakfast.
  3. Made into a sandwich, wrap, or stuffed inside a pita.
  4. Tossed with pasta that’s cooked to al dente and cooled.
  5. Along with crackers and cheese slices for an adult version of Lunchables.

To Poach Chicken Breast (If You Don’t Have Leftover Chicken)

  1. Place the chicken in a single layer in the bottom of a medium saucepan.
  2. 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.
  3. Turn the heat on medium and bring to a simmer (uncovered).
  4. 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.
  5. Drain the water, cool the chicken, and then chop it to use in this salad.

Nutrition

Calories: 349kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 15g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.02g | Cholesterol: 56mg | Sodium: 559mg | Potassium: 329mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 328IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 44mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Chicken Cranberry Walnut Salad, Chicken Salad with Cranberries and Walnuts, Chicken Walnut Cranberry Salad, Cranberries in Chicken Salad, Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad, Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad Recipe

Share it with me on Instagram and leave a comment to let me know your thoughts!

creamy chicken salad with cranberries and walnuts recipe pin

This post was first published on An Edible Mosaic on November 12, 2013. It was updated with more information on February 24, 2020.

Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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Recipe Rating




12 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I absolutely love this recipe, Faith! What an awesome combination of flavors! ❤️

  2. Harriet James says:

    This is my favorite chicken salad. I eliminated honey and apple cider vinegar. I used chopped dill instead. Delicious!

  3. 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 . . .

  4. 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!

  5. Thats a delicious salad to make with a leftover turkey !! Beautiful clicks :)

  6. Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health says:

    i love chicken salad soo muchhhhh that sometimes I make a big batch and eat for lunch and dinner and wont get tired. I will definitely have to try with seasonal flair. Do you think replacing all yogurt would be okay?

    1. 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. Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health says:

        thank you so much. I will most definitely be trying it. I have noticed that with yogurt and will be careful :)

  7. This salad looks awesome, my dear! Perfect for the holidays…my family would eat this up in 2 seconds flat! Gorgeous photos, as always!

    1. Julia, You are so sweet, thank you so much! I had a lot of fun with this shoot…and I sort-of went crazy with the props! :)

  8. Looks just perfect! I usually make mine with all greek yogurt (not a mayo fan). Love the added sweetness

  9. A wonderfully seasonal salad and great combination of ingredients.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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