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A Southern Staple

Justin Fox Burks

Let’s talk about Chicken Salad. 

This Southern picnic and lunchtime staple is simple to prepare and uses everyday ingredients you probably have in your kitchen.

The first place to start this conversation is with the chicken.  You have several options. 

Traditionally, chicken salad is made with poached chicken breasts.  The process of poaching the chicken in boiling water helps keep the meat moist and tender. I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but you can certainly use bone-in, skin on if you wish.

Store-bought rotisserie chicken or leftover roast chicken can also be used as a short-cut.  If using pre-cooked chicken, plan on about 4 cups of meat for this recipe I have provided at wknofm.org.

For the dressing, many just use mayonnaise.  I like to add a dash of sour cream and lemon juice to the mayo base for more depth of flavor.

There are many twists to a chicken salad.  I like mine a little sweet and with some texture to it. Halved grapes add a delicious touch of sweetness and chopped Southern pecans add a bit of crunch. Walnuts could be substituted for the pecans of your prefer.

Another bonus to chicken salad is that it can be made up to one day in advance.  Simply store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve. If you decide to bring it on a picnic, be sure to keep it chilled.  The best way to do this is to tuck a few freezer packs around your bowl.

And since in the South we like things sweet, serve your chicken salad with a glass of sweet tea for the perfect Southern meal.

This is Jennifer Chandler with The Weekly Dish. Bon Appetit!

Southern Chicken Salad

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery (about 1 stalk)
  • 1 cup red seedless grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.  Add the chicken and bring the mixture back to a boil.  Lower the temperature to medium and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Drain well. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it into bite size pieces.  Refrigerate until cool.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, and lemon juice until well combined. Place the prepared chicken, celery, grapes, and pecans in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine.  Add the dressing and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve chilled.

Serves 6.

Recipe reprinted with permission from The Southern Pantry Cookbook by Jennifer Chandler.

Jennifer Chandler graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris at the top of her class. She is a freelance food writer, restaurant consultant, and author of four cookbooks.