I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know chicken salad existed when I was growing up (now, TUNA salad I was familiar with…). But when I moved to Atlanta and began having catered rep lunches, I fell in love with it. The best part is how many variations there are. There’s regular, Southern-style, with mustard, with curry, Waldorf, just about anything really.
We were in Texas visiting family four or five years ago, and my Aunt Tina (who has other amazing talents, like cake baking/decorating) made this chicken salad. It’s in the
(Blair) Waldorf family, and is the best chicken salad I have EVER had in my life. The combination of cider vinegar, honey, and white pepper in the dressing is the secret, I think.
It’s like crack. Sweet, tangy, mayo-covered crack.
My mom and I both begged the recipe off of her, and have made it a few times—including about 8 gallons of it (no, seriously) for my sister’s wedding reception dinner. It’s really easy, though kind of time consuming and makes quite a bit. Great for big groups, like picnics and family get-togethers.
Handwritten—this is how you know it’s a good recipe. You want a BIG bowl. We’re going to make a mess. Measure out the mayo. I love Duke’s (what good Southerner doesn’t?) but any mayo will do. We used light Miracle Whip for this one.
Add the poppy seeds.
Throw in the honey…
…and the apple cider vinegar.
Then stir all the dressing ingredients together well.
Chop up the grapes.
A few extra grapes never hurt anyone.
Add them to the dressing.
Chop up the celery—it’s best to make them very small pieces, and even. Usually most people don’t want to taste and feel LOTS of celery.
Throw them in as well.
For the chicken, you can use pre-cooked chicken or just boil chicken breasts (what I do. I’m lazy so I just use boneless, skinless chicken breasts; my mom uses split chicken breasts and then just has to remove the rib bone once they’re cooked.
Cut or shred the chicken into small pieces and add to the big bowl. I’m not usually super exact on the amount of chicken, the recipe is a little flexible.
Toast the pecans. We used just plain pecans (no butter or sugar) in the oven at 400 for like five minutes.
Chop those into tiny pieces. We used one of those chopper tools that makes it really easy. Add to the mixture.
Now mix everything all together. You might have to add a tiny more mayo if your salad is super dry, but don’t automatically assume that—if you let it sit a little while the celery and grapes tend to add a little moisture in themselves.
It’s awesome right away, but best if you let it sit in the refrigerator overnight or for a few hours at least. It gets chilled, but also the flavors all sink into and enhance each other. Like lasagna, but with mayo.
Keeps for 3 days to a week in the fridge.
It’s good on pretty much everything—by itself, on crackers, croissants, bread, salad, etc. And with crunchy cheetos.
Aunt Tina’s Awesome Chicken Salad
- 8-9 chicken breasts or 2 chickens cut up into pieces
- 1 cup celery (chopped)
- 1 cup red seedless grapes (sliced in half)
- 1 cup toasted chopped pecans
- 2 1/2 cups light mayo
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
- 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
Mix dressing together. Add chicken and other ingredients, mix well. Best if kept in refrigerator overnight.