This recipe was originally posted on March 25, 2011 and was updated on March 4, 2021.
Growing up, chicken salad was something we had pretty often. It was affordable and the way Mom made it, it ended up creating two meals. She’d cook a whole chicken, then use the broth and part of the meat to make chicken and rice. Then she’d use the remaining chicken to make chicken salad. Double whammy!
Now there are as many ways to make chicken salad as Carter’s has liver pills. (Have y’all ever heard that phrase?) And most of them are pretty delicious. My preferred recipe actually depends on my mood. Sometimes I like my chicken salad with a little curry powder in it. Other times I want it a little sweet with some grapes or apples. And then sometimes, I want it simple and straightforward – kinda like my mom makes it. This is that recipe: simple, straightforward, and crazy delicious. Let’s get started…
So how should you cook your chicken? The recipe simply calls for chopped cooked chicken. It’s vague for a reason. The reality is that you can use most any cooked chicken for this recipe. Boiled, roasted, even grocery store rotisserie chickens work brilliantly. I’ve even used leftover fried chicken with the breading picked off to make chicken salad. Of course each of the methods will impart some different flavors, but I find that kinda fun.
Typically, though, I just simmer 2 to 3 large chicken breasts in salted and peppered water until cooked through and then chop them to get the 4 cups needed for the recipe. If you go this route, be sure to cook the chicken at just barely a simmer. A full rolling boil will often lead to tough, dry chicken. And using a meat thermometer means you get the chicken cooked perfectly to 165°F without overcooking it.
Toasted nuts have more flavor! While I don’t include this as part of the recipe, I strongly suggest you toast your pecans before adding them to this salad. I actually toast nearly all my pecans before adding them to recipes. Toasting them intensifies the flavor and makes them crunchier, which is great in this salad. Just scatter them on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350°F for about 5 minutes if they’re chopped – closer to 10 minutes if their whole. Then allow them to cool before adding them to the mix.
What’s the deal with creole mustard? I started using creole mustard years ago when I found it at my local grocery store. It’s a simple way to add tons of flavor to your dishes. The thing is, it’s a little hard to find. If you can’t get your hands on it, a spicy brown mustard will work just fine.
Pecan Chicken Salad
- 4 cups chopped cooked chicken
- 2 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped
- 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
- 1/4 medium sweet or white onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 2 tablespoons pickle relish (You can use dill or sweet. I much prefer the dill.)
- 2 teaspoons creole or spicy brown mustard
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- salt and pepper to taste
- Place the chicken, eggs, celery, onions, and pecans in a large bowl.
- In a medium bowl, make the dressing by whisking together the relish, mustard, and mayonnaise.
- Add the dressing to the chicken mixture and toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate to allow the flavors to meld for at least an hour. Serve on crackers, sandwiches, etc.