This unique chicken salad is filled with toasted walnuts, tart cranberries, and a tangy dressing. Our healthy cranberry chicken salad can be served in a wrap, on a baguette or croissant, or try it on top of a bed of greens for a light and healthy lunch. It truly is delicious.
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I love a good homemade chicken salad recipe, but I do get tired of the plain jane chicken salads out there. But adding cranberries and walnuts gives this chicken salad a satisfying texture and fun flavor profile.
It is versatile, I pack it for work lunches and have served it as the main course at a bridal luncheon with a mixed green salad, homemade crescent rolls (gluten-free!), blueberry iced tea, and strawberry lemon bars (also GF). And everyone was raving.
Why we love this recipe:
- Naturally gluten free
- Can easily be made dairy free (see variations below)
- Can be made ahead as part of your meal prep and keeps for 5 days in the fridge
- Quick lunch with less than 10 minutes of hands on time
Obviously cooked chicken is the main component of this dish. I recommend poaching or baking your chicken. You can use chicken breast or chicken thighs. But If I am being honest, I almost always use a plain rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.
Canned chicken can be substituted but if I am being honest, it isn’t my favorite texture. Or make use of your Thanksgiving leftovers and use that leftover turkey.
• Cooked Chicken
• Dried Cranberries- I prefer the low sugar to keep this recipe a bit healthier
• Walnuts- Pecans and slivered almonds make nice substitutions if that is what you already have on hand
• Shallot- Or use green onions if you can’t find shallots
• Plain Greek Yogurt- Not sweetened
• Dijon Mustard
• White Wine Vinegar - Champagne and cider vinegar both work in a pinch
• Fresh Rosemary- Or use other fresh herbs like thyme or sage
• Kosher Salt
• Black Pepper
See the recipe card for quantities.
⏲️How to Make Cranberry Chicken Salad
This recipe is quick and easy to make, assuming you have leftover chicken or a rotisserie chicken on hand. I do recommend letting it rest for at least 30 minutes after dressing to allow the flavors to come together.
STEP 1- Toast
Warm a small saute pan over medium heat. Do not add oil, we want a dry pan to toast the walnuts (do this same process if using pecans or almonds). Toasting the walnuts will bring out their oils and amplify their natural nutty flavor.
Add the walnuts to the pan and gently shake the pan every 30 to 60 seconds until they are lightly golden and smell fragrant. This should take about 3 to 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow the walnuts to cool.
STEP 2- Combine
In a large bowl, we are going to combine all the chunky ingredients. You will need 2 cups of diced chicken, see our tips below for the perfect size for eating. The shallots and celery should be finely diced, i.e., smaller than your cranberries.
Toss the chicken, dried cranberries, walnuts, celery, shallots.
STEP 3- Dress
I prefer to mix the dressing separately, so the salad is evenly coated, and the seasonings are spread out.
In a small bowl whisk together the Greek yogurt, mayo, mustard, vinegar, fresh rosemary (finely minced, please), and salt and pepper. You can adjust the seasonings as needed.
Pour over the salad and toss to coat. Chill for 30 minutes before serving.
This cranberry chicken salad recipe typically serves 2 when served as a salad or 3 to 4 when making sandwiches.
🥗WHAT TO SERVE WITH Cranberry Chicken Salad
- Stovetop Flatbreads (Vegan, Dairy Free, Gluten Free)
- Cream of Celery Soup (Vegan, Dairy Free, Gluten Free)
- Creamy Summer Squash Soup (Vegan, Dairy Free, Gluten Free)
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tip
When planning to make chicken salad sandwiches dice the chicken into very small pieces. When making salads, larger shredded pieces of chicken will be easier to eat with a fork.
Dairy-Free Chicken Salad
To make this recipe dairy-free simply skip the Greek yogurt and increase the mayo to ¾ cup.
Chicken Salad without Eggs
Mayonnaise is mainly made of eggs. But I find that it can be just as satisfying with an egg-free mayo. My preferred brand is Just Mayo.
Vegan Cranberry Chicken Salad
In addition to doing both the egg-free and dairy-free substitutions, you can substitute a vegan main for the chicken. Rather than going for expensive TVP substitutes or tofu, I prefer canned jackfruit. Less than $2 a can!
If you are new to working with jackfruit, check out our BBQ Jackfruit Salad for all the details on how I like to bake canned jackfruit.
No special equipment is needed for this recipe. But when packing as a salad for lunch I like to take my greens in a big glass container and my chicken salad in a smaller container. This will prevent the greens from wilting.
🌡️Storage and Food Safety
This chicken salad can be made up to 5 days in advance. If using leftover chicken, the counting begins on the day you cooked the chicken. For example, if the chicken was cooked 2 days ago the salad has a 3-day shelf life.
Store the salad in a sealed airtight container in the fridge.
If you make your chicken at home, rather than purchasing pre-cooked chicken, please remember the following rules:
- Cook 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
- Never leave cooking food unattended
💬Frequently Asked Questions
Mayonnaise has a tendency to break (the oil and egg separate) when frozen and thawed. My recommendation is to not freeze this cranberry chicken salad.
Like all chicken salads, this recipe can be served over a green salad, in flour-based or lettuce-based wraps, on a croissant, or other types of bread. We also love it as a snack with crackers or crudites.
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Cranberry Chicken Salad
- 2 cups cooked chicken shredded or diced
- ¾ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup walnuts chopped
- 1 stalk celery finely diced
- ¼ cup shallot finely diced
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary minced
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
- Place walnuts in a dry sauce pan over medium heat. Shake the pan every minute or so to prevent burning. Toast until golden brown and fragrant.¼ cup walnuts
- Add the chicken, cranberries, walnuts, celery, and shallot to a mixing bowl.2 cups cooked chicken, ¾ cup dried cranberries, ¼ cup walnuts, 1 stalk celery, ¼ cup shallot
- In a small bowl mix together the mayo, yogurt, mustard, vinegar, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Pour over the chicken and vegetables and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill for 30 minutes before serving.½ cup Greek yogurt, ¼ cup mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
- This recipe makes 3 to 4 salad size portions or 4 to 5 wraps or sandwiches.