Ditch the ordinary with this Cranberry Chicken Salad. Featuring a fiesta of sweet, tangy flavors this recipe combines tender chicken breast, tart cranberries, crunchy pecans, and a creamy dressing for a chicken cranberry salad that’s perfect for sandwiches, wraps, or simply served with crackers for a light and flavorful meal.
This creamy chicken salad with cranberries is incredibly versatile! Keep it in the fridge for quick, protein-packed snacks and easy grab-and-go lunches! Or, stuff it in lettuce leaves, serve it on a buttery croissant or try it on apple slices for a light, delicious meal! Continue to read on for helpful tips on preparing perfect creamy cranberry chicken salad! And, don’t miss the in-depth step-by-step photos at the bottom of the post!
Update: This post was originally published in November 2019. I’ve made updates to the post below to include more information about chicken salad with cranberries and walnuts. Plus, I’ve added step-by-step photos and a recipe video to show you exactly how easy this chicken salad is to make!
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About this cranberry chicken salad
Say hello to your new favorite creamy chicken salad, my friends! This chicken salad is anything but boring or bland! It’s incredibly flavorful, yet super simple to prepare! And, while it makes a wonderful on-the-go, ready-to-eat lunch or a light delicious dinner, it’s also the perfect addition to any holiday celebration!
This creamy salad features tender chicken, chewy dried cranberries, salty toasted nuts, crunchy celery and delicate scallions. Tossed in a silky, creamy, slightly sweet mayonnaise and Greek yogurt based dressing, this chicken salad is robust in flavor and loaded with texture! It’s creamy, crunchy, savory, sweet, salty, slightly tart and 100% delicious! If you love chicken salad and have been searching for a new way to shake things up, look no further, because this light and creamy cranberry salad has got it going on!!
And, this festive salad is extremely easy to make and only requires 15 minutes of hands on preparation! Plus, it’s made with easy to find ingredients and totally customizable! Try it with fresh poached chicken, rotisserie chicken or leftover chicken! Throw in some apple for crunch or a little jalapeño for a touch of heat! However you make it, this salad is guaranteed to get rave reviews!!
What’s in chicken cranberry salad?
This easy cranberry chicken salad recipe is creamy and bursting with delicious flavors! This recipe relies on a few simple, fresh ingredients and pantry staples to create a festive, beautiful chicken salad that’s irresistibly tasty!
Below are the ingredients I typically use. However, this recipe is extremely flexible! Be sure to scroll down and read about how to adapt this recipe to your specific taste!
Ingredients in this recipe
- Chicken: I prefer to poach my own chicken breasts. It’s incredibly easy to do and produces moist, tender chicken every single time! Plus, you can easily infuse the poaching liquid with aromatics for added flavor! I’ve included instructions for how to poach chicken in the recipe below. However, you can use rotisserie chicken or leftover cooked chicken if you like!!
- Cranberries: 1 cup of dried cranberries provide the perfect amount of chewy texture and tart flavor!
- Nuts: I typically use 3/4 cup of walnuts, but you can use your favorite nut (see below for ideas). I highly recommend toasting the nuts to enhance their flavor and crunch!
- Celery: 2/3 cup of fresh celery adds a fresh, mild sweetness and delicious crunch!
- Scallions: Thinly sliced scallions provide a hint of less-intense onion flavor.
- Healthier Creamy Dressing: A pantry-friendly combination of mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, honey, fresh lemon juice, ground ginger and thyme creates the perfect creamy reduced-fat dressing!
What can you add to chicken salad with cranberries?
Want to make a few additions to this salad? Fantastic! I encourage you to make this recipe your own! The sky is the limit – you can add a wide variety of ingredients to customize this salad to your specific taste! Get creative and add your favorite ingredients! Below are a few ideas to get you started.
Substitutions and Variations
- Apple: Peel and dice an apple to add a fresh crunch! Try Fuji or Golden Delicious apples if you like things sweet or Granny Smith if you prefer a bit of tart flavor!
- Jalapeño: Slice or finely dice a jalapeño for a touch of spicy flavor!
- Raisins: Love dried fruit!? Add some raisins! Try brown raisins for a slightly sweet and fruity flavor or golden raisins for a stronger sweet and fruity flavor with a hint of tartness.
- Red onion: Finely dice a red onion to add a bit of pungent onion flavor.
- Bacon: Cook and crumble a few slices of bacon to give the salad a delicious savory, salty flavor!
- Seasonings: Dried spices and seasonings are an easy and economical way to customize a recipe! Try adding allspice, cinnamon, or my personal favorite – poppy seeds!
- Nuts: I tend to use walnuts in my cranberry chicken salad, but switch things up with almonds, pistachios, cashews or pecans!
- Dressing: I like to use a combination of mayonnaise and Greek yogurt for a dressing that’s incredibly creamy with less calories. You can skip the Greek yogurt and use all mayonnaise! Or, try using sour cream instead of yogurt if you prefer a bit of tangy flavor! If you are looking to make this dressing even healthier, Avocado Oil Mayonnaise is a wonderful heart-healthy alternative!
Can I use chicken in a can?
You can use any type of cooked chicken to make cranberry walnut chicken salad! While fresh, poached chicken will yield the most flavorful, moist salad, you can use leftover cooked chicken or rotisserie chicken to make cranberry chicken salad! If using rotisserie chicken, make sure you remove the skin and either shred or roughly chop the chicken.
If you are in a pinch, you can absolutely use canned chicken to make homemade chicken salad. Make sure you purchase a high-quality brand of chicken and thoroughly drain the chicken before using it. Please note: Using fresh, leftover or rotisserie chicken will make the best chicken salad. Canned chicken works if you are in a bind or want a quick snack, however the overall texture and flavor of the chicken salad will be slightly subpar.
Is this cranberry chicken salad recipe healthy?
Is this recipe high in protein?
This easy cranberry chicken salad recipe is low in carbs, high in protein and packed with omega-3 rich walnuts! The exact amount of protein in chicken salad will depend upon the precise amount of ingredients and brands used. This chicken salad recipe contains approximately 19 grams of protein per serving.
Does this chicken salad meet my dietary requirements?
This recipe for cranberry chicken salad with walnuts is totally flexible and it can easily be adapted to meet your dietary needs!
- To make salad Whole 30: Make sure you use whole30-compliant mayo and no sugar added dried cranberries.
- For Paleo chicken salad: Omit the Greek yogurt and substitute a paleo-friendly mayo. Also, make sure you also use no sugar added dried cranberries.
- To make Keto-friendly chicken salad: Make sure you use zero sugar added dried cranberries.
- For Gluten free chicken salad: Double check and make sure your Greek yogurt is free of any gluten-containing additives.
How to make recipe for chicken cranberry salad?
Creamy cranberry chicken salad is easy to make and only requires 15 minutes of hands on preparation! This salad can easily be customized according to taste! If you are pinched for time, use rotisserie or canned chicken! If you have time and are looking to save a few dollars plus create the most tender chicken salad, I highly encourage you to poach your own chicken!
Making chicken salad with cranberries
- Make the mayonnaise dressing: in a medium-sized bowl, add the mayonnaise, yogurt, honey, lemon juice, ground ginger, thyme, 1 teaspoon of salt and a scant ½ teaspoon ground pepper. Whisk to thoroughly combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt, pepper, lemon or honey.
- Prepare the chicken salad: In a large bowl, add the cubed chicken, nuts, cranberries, celery and scallions. Toss to combine. Add enough dressing to coat. Gently stir to combine. Taste and add more mayonnaise dressing, salt and pepper if desired.
- Serve or store: Enjoy the cranberry chicken salad immediately or store it in the refrigerator. (See below for tips on storing!)
Tips for the best chicken salad recipe with cranberries
You can use any type of cooked chicken for this easy chicken salad with dried cranberries. I like to make my own so I can control the salt and seasoning, which is why I always poach it. I have included instructions on how to poach chicken in the notes section of the recipe below.
- Chicken: You can use any type of cooked chicken to make this chicken salad. Poached chicken breast will produce an incredibly flavorful, moist chicken salad. However, I love using leftover roast chicken as well. Or, you can take the simple route and use rotisserie chicken instead. Just make note that you’ll need approximately 4 cups of cooked chicken. If using rotisserie chicken, make sure you remove and discard the skin, then chop the chicken meat into bite sized pieces. While you can use canned chicken, I recommend using leftover cooked chicken or rotisserie chicken instead to ensure the best texture and flavor.
- Nuts: Make sure you purchase toasted nuts or toast them yourself! Toasting nuts really enhances their flavor and texture, allowing this sweet chicken salad to shine! To toast nuts: Place nuts in a small, dry skillet (do not add butter or oil). Place the skillet over medium heat and toast, stirring frequently, until nuts are golden and fragrant. Make sure you stir frequently and watch carefully as the nuts can go from toasted to burned very quickly!
- Mayonnaise: Full fat mayonnaise will yield the best tasting craisin chicken salad. Lower fat mayonnaise is thinner and will result in a more watery chicken salad. If you are looking for a healthier option, try using Avocado Oil Mayonnaise!
Step-by-step photos: Making the best chicken salad with dried cranberries
Serving craisins chicken salad
How to serve chicken cranberries salad?
Chicken salad is incredibly versatile and one of my favorite refrigerator staples! It’s perfect for grab-and-go lunches, protein-packed snacks and quick dinners!
7 ways to serve cold chicken salad:
- Apple Slices Snack: Add a small scoop of salad to the top of apple slices for an easy, healthy snack!
- Crudité: Serve chicken cranberry salad as a dip with crackers, celery and mini sweet peppers!
- Entree: Serve creamy chicken salad plain for a light, protein-rich meal.
- Salad: Scoop chicken salad over a bed of lettuce and top with croutons for a bit of crunch.
- Lettuce Wraps: Tuck creamy salad inside lettuce cups for a low carb lunch or snack.
- Sweet Potato Appetizer: Place a small scoop of chicken salad on top of roasted sweet potato rounds and top with a slice of crispy prosciutto for an easy, yet elegant appetizer.
- Sandwich – Use chicken salad as a filling for sandwiches. You can use white bread, hearty wheat bread, pita bread or a croissants!
What goes with cranberry chicken sandwich?
This cranberry chicken salad recipe is hearty, delicious and works as a stand alone meal. However, sometimes you just want more than plain chicken salad or a simple chicken salad sandwich! Luckily chicken salad plays well with others and pairs great with a wide variety of side dishes! Below are some of the best ways to serve chicken salad (sandwiches).
If it’s cranberry season, and you are looking for a way use up those fresh berries, try these recipes:
- Baked Camembert with Cranberry Compote
- Cranberry Baked Chicken & Rice
- Cranberry Relish
- Muffins with Cranberries
- Cranberry Margaritas
12 side dishes to pair with cranberries chicken salad:
- Fresh Fruit: Sweet fresh fruit balances out the heavy creaminess in this salad. Use whatever fresh fruit you love – grapes, strawberries, watermelon, and cantaloupe work great. And, consider macerating your fruit for juiciest flavor.
- Fresh Bread or Wraps: Chicken salad and bread go together like peanut butter and jelly! Try serving this salad in a flour tortilla wrap or on fluffy rolls, a baguette, artisan bread or croissants.
- Crudités (vegetable platter): Crunchy fresh vegetables are a great way to lighten things up and add a bit of crunch!
- Green Salad: If you’re serving a crowd, consider leafy salad with chicken to offset the creamy, rich chicken salad. I love these: Grilled Chicken and Pea Salad, Strawberry Spinach Chicken Salad, and Moroccan Chicken Couscous Salad.
- Coleslaw: Crisp coleslaw is another great side dish that will liven up any salad or sandwich!
- Soup: A big, warming bowl of soup alongside a chicken cranberry salad makes a perfect combination! Try creamy sweet potato soup or cheddar apple soup for a deliciously flavorful pairing!
- Pickles: Creamy salad and dill pickles are a simple, yet delicious combination! Delis serve this combination for a good reason – crisp, tangy pickles and rich salad are an amazing pairing!
- Vegetables: Steam or roast your favorite seasonal vegetables for a healthy side.
- Pita Chips: Chicken salad and chips are a classic combination for a very good reason.
- French Fries: Warm, salty french fries are my personal favorite side dish for chicken salad. Bonus points – sweet potato fries pair especially well with the flavors in this healthy chicken salad with cranberries and walnuts.
- Pasta Salad: Because one creamy, rich dish is never enough.
- Rice: While not an obvious choice, wild rice or brown rice is an easy way to elevate chicken salad.
How much chicken salad for a crowd?
This cranberry chicken salad recipe is the perfect dish to serve a crowd, especially around the holidays! This creamy salad will be a favorite among guests, so make sure you have enough to go around!
The exact amount of chicken salad needed per person will depend upon on how you are serving it. Below is an easy guideline to help you determine how much chicken salad per person you will need to feed a crowd.
Chicken cranberry salad as a main
If you are serving chicken salad plain as a main dish, you can figure that each person will eat 8-10 ounces of chicken salad.
- 4 people: 32-40 ounces (2 to 2.5 pounds)
- 6 people: 48-60 ounces (3 to 3.75 pounds)
- 10 people: 80-100 ounces (5 to 6.25 pounds)
- 16 people: 128-160 ounces (8 to 10 pounds)
Craisin chicken salad as a sandwich or wrap
If you are serving chicken salad with craisins on a sandwich or ini a wrap, you can plan on 4-6 ounces of salad per person.
- 4 people: 16-24 ounces (1 to 1.5 pounds)
- 6 people: 24-36 ounces (1.5 to 2.25 pounds)
- 10 people: 40-60 ounces (2.5 to 3.75 pounds)
- 16 people: 64-96 ounces (4 to 6 pounds)
Storing this recipe for chicken salad with cranberries
How long will cranberry chicken salad keep?
Chicken salad is the perfect dish to have on hand for easy snacking and lunches on the go!
Store chicken salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Properly stored, chicken salad will last 3-4 days.
Can I freeze chicken salad recipe with cranberries?
Cranberry chicken salad does not freeze well as the mayonnaise will separate once the salad is defrosted.
However, you can prep ahead! Poach the chicken breasts, dice and freeze the cooked chicken to have on hand! Cooked chicken will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost chicken in the refrigerator overnight. When you are ready to make the cranberry chicken salad, dice the chicken, add the fresh ingredients and toss with the dressing.
Versatile, easy to make and loaded with flavor, this creamy cranberry chicken salad recipe is sure to become a family favorite!
Until next time, friends, cheers!
More creamy chicken salads!
The best Chicken Salad recipe with dried cranberries👇
Cranberry Chicken Salad recipe
- 1 Large Mixing Bowl (for making the chicken salad)
- 1 Small mixing bowl (for making the salad dressing)
For the Chicken (SEE NOTES)
- 1 pound Cooked Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts - large dice (substitute: cooked chicken thighs)
For the Salad:
- 1 cup Dried Cranberries (about 5.25 ounces)
- 3/4 cup Toasted Nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios or pecans) – coarsely chopped (about 3 ounces) (SEE NOTES)
- 2/3 cup Celery – thinly sliced or small diced (about 2 medium ribs)
- 1/3 cup Scallions – thinly sliced (about 3 scallions)
- 2/3 Cup Mayonnaise (SEE NOTES)
- 1/3 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt
- 2 TBS Honey
- 1 ½ - 2 tsp fresh squeezed Lemon Juice – to taste
- heaping 3/4 tsp EACH: Ground Ginger & Dried Thyme (can use 1 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves)
- Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper
Optional for Serving: Sandwich bread, Rolls or Croissants; Bibb Lettuce, Thinly Sliced Apples
- Make the Salad Dressing: In a medium-sized bowl, add the mayonnaise, yogurt, honey, lemon juice, ground ginger, thyme, 1 teaspoon of salt and a scant ½ teaspoon ground pepper. Whisk to thoroughly combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt, pepper, lemon or honey.
- Prepare the Chicken Cranberry Salad: In a large bowl, add the cubed chicken, nuts, cranberries, celery and scallions. Toss to combine. Add enough dressing to coat. Gently stir to combine. Taste and add more mayonnaise dressing, salt and pepper if desired.
- Serve or store: The cranberry chicken salad can be enjoyed immediately or stored in the refrigerator, in an air-tight container, for 2-3 days.
- Chicken: You can use any type of cooked chicken to make this chicken salad. Poaching your own chicken will produce an incredibly flavorful, moist chicken salad. However, you can substitute 4 cups of cooked chicken instead. If using rotisserie chicken, make sure you remove and discard the skin, then chop the chicken meat into bite sized pieces. While you can use canned chicken, I would either use leftover cooked chicken or rotisserie chicken to ensure the best texture and flavor.
- Nuts: Make sure you use toasted nuts! Toasting nuts really enhances their flavor and makes the chicken salad shine! To toast nuts - add nuts to a small, dry skillet (do not add butter or oil). Place skillet over medium heat and toast, stirring frequently, until nuts are golden and fragrant. Make sure you stir frequently and watch carefully as the nuts can go from toasted to burned very quickly!
- Mayonnaise: Full fat mayonnaise will yield the best tasting chicken salad. Lower fat mayonnaise is thinner and will result in a more watery chicken salad. If you are looking for a healthier option, try using Avocado Oil mayonnaise.
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