Sweet and salty, creamy and fresh, this is the best California chicken salad ever and you'll have it done in under 10 minutes! This healthy salad makes an easy and fast lunch that's under 400 calories and loaded with protein and vitamins. California chicken salad is also naturally gluten-free.
What Inspired This Recipe
Low in fat and high in all the good stuff, this is a great recipe that travels well. California chicken salad with grapes is a hit at potlucks or make a batch for easy work lunches during the week. Serve it on a bed of greens for extra crunch and color.(Chicken And Wild Rice Soup is another healthy, make ahead lunch recipe too.)
I love fruit in salads which is why this one makes my cut. If you do too, try my Thai Prawn Salad With Mango, Apple Walnut Salad and Rocket and Pear Salad . California chicken salad pairs well with this crispy Brie and Apple Grilled Cheese or a side of picante, pickled tasting Fermented Radishes.
California chicken salad ingredients are simple with just 4 in the salad and 5 (plus salt and pepper) in the dressing.
- Chicken - Any chilled cooked chicken is delicious in this recipe. I've used chilled, boneless, skinless chicken breasts that were prebaked with salt and pepper. Grocery store rotisserie chicken works great too and if you don't mind the softer texture, you can even use canned chicken. You'll need 3 cups of diced chicken meat. If you like using an air fryer you can cook and use these Air Fryer Chicken Strips for the salad.
- Grapes - Red and green are both delicious but be sure to use seedless grapes. Red looks more colorful, green will give a more monochromatic look. I choose mine based on what are the best, most juicy looking grapes at the store that day.
- Poppy Seeds - Poppy seeds give a great, tiny little crunch. There is no great substitute but if you can't eat seeds, it is ok to omit them.
- Pecans - Rich in flavor, pecans are the perfect nut for this salad. Toasting nuts lightly before using freshens up and enhances their flavor.
See recipe card for quantities.
Step By Step Instructions
This salad is really straightforward and will take you just a few minutes to toss together.
In a small bowl, add first 5 ingredients (the salad dressing ingredients).
Mix the salad dressing ingredients well until smooth and creamy, then season generously with salt and pepper.
To toast pecans, heat a skillet over medium heat and add nuts. (Don't add oil, a dry pan will toast pecans perfectly.) Stir or toss frequently until toasted, about 3-5 minutes. Note: Do not leave nuts cooking unattended, they toast FAST and can burn easily.
Slice cooked and cool chicken into bite size cubes and add to a large salad bowl.
Slice grapes in half and thinly slice crunchy celery. Add grapes, celery and pecans to the same bowl as the chicken.
Pour dressing over chicken salad recipe ingredients and toss gently to coat evenly.
Serve right away or keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
Garnish with celery leaves, minced tarragon or parsley or a handful of chopped pecans if desired.
Hint: You can use rotisserie chicken, grilled chicken, pan fried chicken or really whatever other leftover cooked chicken you happen to have or like for this salad recipe. It's the perfect way to use leftover chicken.
This salad is gluten-free and can easily be made dairy-free too.
- Dairy-Free - Use 1 cup mayonnaise instead of ½ mayo and ½ yogurt and reduce the salt as needed.
- Fruit Swap - No grapes, no problem! Dried fruit like "craisins" (dried cranberries) and dried cherries work great too.
- Nuts - Pecans are my favorite in this salad but if you are out, you can swap walnuts, slivered almonds or even hazelnuts as needed.
- Lower Fat - Use all low fat or non-fat yogurt instead of mayonnaise, adjusting honey, salt and pepper as needed.
5 Ways To Use Chicken Salad
Chicken salad makes a simple and delicious meal but it's a versatile recipe that suits many occasions. Here are some of my favorite ways to use this chicken salad recipe.
- In lettuce cups. Use small ones for appetizers or stuff large lettuce leaves with California chicken salad to make low carb lettuce wraps.
- In a croissant, toasted cheese bun or regular toasted bread for a sandwich.
- On crackers as an appetizer. (For gluten sensitive people, top rice crackers with this gluten free chicken salad recipe.)
- In halved red or orange bell pepper cups for an appetizer or side dish.
- Make a party sized sub stuffed with this chicken salad recipe then topped with and thinly slivered green onions. avocado slices and crispy lettuce. Secure sandwich with cocktail picks every few inches before slicing to serve.
- Apple Pecan Chicken Salad - Using the equivalent amount of cored and diced apple instead of the grapes is really delicious and stays crisp. I leave the peel on the apples for extra color and fiber.
- California Chicken Salad Deluxe - For extra California flavor, add in 1 diced avocado and ½ cup of crumbled feta cheese.
See this Chicken Skewer Recipes-Top 15 on my website for more healthy and easy chicken recipes!
Storage And Make Ahead
Dressing can be made ahead and kept in an airtight container in your refrigerator up to 4 days ahead. Chicken can also be cooked and cubed and stored covered the fridge for up to 2 days before making. Ideally, you should toss the chunky salad ingredients with the dressing no more than ½ hour before serving.
Higher fat mayonnaise and yogurt tend to keep a better consistency if being made ahead of time. If you've used low or no fat versions, give chicken salad a good stir once you are ready to use it.
Don't leave this out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. Promptly cover and refrigerate leftovers. Leftover California chicken salad will keep well in the fridge for 2 days and if kept properly chilled it will be safe for 5 days from when the chicken was cooked.
This recipe does not freeze well.
Yes. Any juicy grapes, red or green are delicious, just be sure to choose a seedless variety.
Again the answer is yes. Scoop up chicken salad with crackers for an easy lunch or scoop on a platter of crackers and garnish with some fresh snipped herbs (chives, celery leaves, tarragon or parsley are great) for an easy and satisfying appetizer.
3-5 days. This will depend on the variables like if the chicken salad was left out before refrigerating and if the chicken was fresh when the salad was made. If using freshly cooked chicken, you can leave it up to 5 days. If you are using leftover chicken, don't leave it longer than 5 days since the chicken was cooked. If in doubt, ere on the side of caution and use it within 3 days.
2 hours is the maximum before it should be refrigerated. If you are going on a picnic or to a potluck, you can stretch this time by keeping the salad on a bowl of ice or ice pack during travel and even while on the table for serving.
While I can't answer for all chicken salad, this California chicken salad is gluten-free. Regular mayonnaise is gf. If you are using a non-traditional mayonnaise, read the ingredients to make sure yours is gluten-free.
Not really...The salad dressing will separate and the grapes and celery will change texture.
If you need to make this ahead, I suggest cooking, cubing and freezing your chicken in an airtight bag. The nuts can be toasted and stored in another container up to 2 weeks ahead. The dressing can be made up to 4 days in advance and the celery and grapes should be cut within 24 hours of making the salad.
Absolutely yes! The ingredients are all safe for pregnant and nursing mothers. Like any meat product, be sure to keep the salad cold until serving to ensure it remains safe.
Chicken is a lean meat that can dry out easily. I follow the instructions from Whole Foods market with excellent results.
Place boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a baking pan and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Cover pan with foil and bake in preheated 375'F oven for 25 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165'F. Remove from oven and serve or let cool 30 minutes before refrigerating until ready to use.
(Whole Foods suggests adding ½ cup of water to raw chicken before baking but I did not and found my chicken juicy and flavorful.)
Season the salad dressing generously with the salt and pepper as it will be the flavoring for 6+ cups worth of ingredients.
Thanks for reading along. If you love this chicken salad as much as I do, I'd be so appreciative if you'd give it a star rating on the recipe card.
Have a wonderful day!
Cheers and happy cooking, Friends! Sabrina
Healthy California Chicken Salad Recipe With Grapes
- ½ c Low Fat Mayonnaise Regular or fat free can be substituted
- ½ c 2% Plain Yogurt Regular or fat free can be substituted
- 1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
- 2 tablespoon Honey
- 1 tablespoon Poppy Seeds
- Salt and Pepper to taste I use ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Chicken Salad Ingredients
- 4 Chicken Breasts, cooked (3 cups of cooked cubed chicken)
- ¾ cup Pecans, toasted
- 2 cups Seedless Grapes Red or green
- ¾ c Celery, sliced crosswise
- In a bowl, add mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar, honey and poppy seeds. Mix together well and season with salt and pepper. (Approximately ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper)
- Slice chicken into bite size cubes and add to a large bowl. Slice grapes in half and thinly slice celery and add to same bowl.
- Add pecans and then dressing to chicken mixture and toss gently until coated evenly.
- Serve right away or keep refrigerated until ready to serve.Garnish with minced parsley and a handful of chopped pecans if desired.
- Cook chicken to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods