Betsy and I only get back to Nashville (where she is from) occasionally. Nashville has some amazing restaurants, but usually for lunch one day we will swing through a local chain there called Bread and Company (now defunct). There’s more than one of them for sure but I’ve never seen it outside of Tennessee. This Crunchy Chicken Salad is a spin-off recipe from my favorite lunch there!
Bread and Co. is a great bakery and deli in general and they make really high-quality sandwiches and salads. Plus, they make something called fruit tea which is laced with mint and, I’m fairly certain, addictive drugs.
This crunchy chicken salad is a riff on one of their specialty sandwiches which is a basic chicken salad with loads of crunchy vegetables and pecans.
The nice thing about this salad is that it’s great as-is and stores well in the fridge for a few days but you can also make great sandwiches out of it on good toasted bread.
What chicken works well for this recipe?
You can absolutely cook chicken just for this salad. If you do that, I would recommend keeping it simple and lightly poaching the chicken in simmering, salted water for 12-14 minutes until it’s cooked through (breasts or breasts and thighs would work best). I usually kill the heat after 6-7 minutes when I poach my chicken and then just cover the pot and let the residual heat finish cooking the meat.
That will make it harder to over-cook the chicken and dry it out.
OR, you can use leftover shredded chicken for this salad or even just snag a rotisserie chicken from your local deli and use it for the salad. Any of the above will work just dandy.
- Have extra leftover chicken? You can also use it for this Thai Chicken Salad or these fast Buffalo Chicken Pinwheels!
Other ingredients for chicken salad
Other than the chicken, this salad is jam-packed with crunchy ingredients.
- Crispy red onions
- Chopped celery
- Pecans (or walnuts) – you can toast them lightly in a skillet if you want
- Sweet, seedless grapes which gives great texture and a pop of sweetness.
How to quickly slice grapes
When you’re slicing grapes you can either be a slow-poke and cut each grape in half individually or you can just put a flat plate on top of the grapes to hold them in place and use a sharp chef’s knife to do them all at once.
Just slice horizontally through the middle while putting some pressure on the plate and done deal!
How to toast pecans
Whether you use walnuts or pecans is pretty much personal preference. I actually made this Chicken Salad with Grapes two weeks in a row for Betsy (big hit) and used walnuts one week and pecans the next week. Both are awesome.
But, both are worth toasting. It makes the nutty flavors really pop on the final salad. You don’t need a ton of nuts to go a long way here.
Just toast them in a dry skillet over low heat to avoid scorching them. When they are lightly browned and fragrant, you can pull them from the heat and let them cool.
Finishing the chicken salad
Besides the grapes and the nuts, take your time dicing the other ingredients so they are evenly sized. It makes for a better-finished salad that way.
I think the original version of this salad was all mayo for the dressing, but I like a half mayo, half Greek yogurt mix for mine which is just a tad bit lighter and also has some tang to it.
A good shot of honey and a big pinch of salt and pepper finish off the dressing. Nothing fancy.
Stir everything together and you’re good to go!
It’s absolutely great on a bed of greens or lettuce or you can smash some of the salad between two toasted pieces of bread.
If you’re transporting the salad for lunch, I would pack it in a container and make the sandwich when it’s lunchtime. If you wrap up a made sandwich, it might get a bit soggy by the time you are eating it.
This salad ends up being a lot lighter than it looks actually thanks to all the crunch! It’s a great cold summer lunch option!
Substitution ideas for this salad
This is a pretty flexible chicken salad recipe so feel free to play around with it. Here are a few ideas!
- Use peanuts for the nuts for a more economical crunchy addition.
- Add other vegetables like cherry tomatoes or green onions.
- For a low-carb version, scoop the salad into Romaine lettuce leaves rather than on toasted bread.
- Want a hearty, vegetarian sandwich? Try this sliced egg sandwich with spicy mayo!
Storing this salad for later
This salad keeps well for a few days in the fridge. Store it in an airtight container and when you are ready to use it, just give it a stir to mix in any liquid that may have separated out of the salad (or you can pour it off).
If you use the salad in chicken sandwiches, it’s best if you make the sandwiches the same day you are serving them. The bread will get really soggy if you try to store the sandwiches overnight.
- Need a sandwich walkthrough? Check out my Ultimate Chicken Salad Sandwich!
Crunch Chicken Salad
- 4 cups shredded cooked chicken, 1 pound
- ¼ red onion, sliced thin
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- ½ cup walnuts or pecans, toasted
- 1 cup red seedless grapes, halved
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- 3 tablespoons honey
- Salt and pepper
- If you don’t have leftover chicken, poach chicken in lightly salted simmering water, until it’s just cooked through, probably 12-14 minutes. Then let cool and shred or chop.
- For walnuts or pecans, toast in a dry pan over low heat until fragrant and lightly browned. Then let cool and chop. Also chop other ingredients, taking care to try to dice stuff evenly.
- Whisk together mayo, greek yogurt, honey, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Stir dressing into onion, celery nuts, grapes, and parsley. Fold in chicken last. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve salad on a bed of greens or on toasted bread with greens. Leftover salad will keep in the fridge for five days.