Global takes on chicken salad
There are two kinds of chicken salad. One is the mayonnaise-based mixture of cooked chicken meat with a few flavor and textural elements such as celery, pecans, dried cranberries and typically served in a sandwich or scooped onto a bed of salad greens. The other is a composed entree salad that features pieces of cooked chicken alongside or atop crispy vegetables and/or greens.
Textural elements might include noodles — soft or fried crispy — fruit, nuts and the like tossed with a dressing and served on a plate or in a large bowl. Neither is superior. They are just different approaches to eating (usually cold) chicken off the bone in combination with pretty much whatever you choose (as in whatever you happen to have in your refrigerator and/or pantry). A light, non-mayonnaise-based dressing usually brings everything together.
Either approach is a terrific way to put together a quick, tasty summer meal. Whether using leftover chicken or cooking it specifically for the dish, all of the ingredients can be prepped ahead of mealtime, stored and then tossed together immediately before serving. Flexible. Flavorful. Fast. Here are some options for both types.
Lunch’s Green Apple Chicken Salad is an example of the former. The green apple and celery make it reminiscent of a Waldorf salad, but currants (or raisins) are used instead of fresh grapes, the walnuts are omitted and instead, diced chicken breast gives it a bit more substance -- and a lot more protein. This recipe calls for previously cooked chicken, making it a good go-to the day after making (or buying) a roast chicken.
Apricot Chicken Salad can also be considered a variation on the Waldorf salad as it includes celery and grapes, however it swaps dried apricots for the apple and adds the chicken. A no-fat-added cooking process, low-fat mayonnaise and nonfat milk powder make this a good choice if you are concerned about cholesterol and other fats in your diet.
The Curious Palate’s Chicken Salad is yet another mayonnaise-based chicken salad, but the dressing is actually made from aioli — a garlicky mayonnaise — mixed with pesto, both of which are homemade (and can be store-bought if you prefer). If the devil is in the details, this recipe gives you the opportunity to preside over them all, from roasting the chicken to making the aioli and the pesto that make up dressing before putting it all together and garnishing with almonds and dried cranberries.
Developed for Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant Chinois on Main, this Chinois Chicken Salad is not the original “Chinese” chicken salad, but one of the better known, hailed by some as one of the best they’ve ever had. The only actually Chinese dimension of what we in California call Chinese chicken salad is the condiments used to make the dressing — soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, rice vinegar and, in this case Chinese mustard — and the fried wontons that add extra crunch.
In a similar vein, Thai-Inspired Chicken Salad With Rice Noodles uses hallmark ingredients of Thai cuisine such as fish sauce, Thai basil, Thai chiles, lime juice and cilantro — and the trademark balance of salty, sweet, spicy and sour. Starting with precooked chicken breasts makes easy work of preparing this dish.
Steamed Chicken Salad With Sesame Sauce features flavors of Japan. The chicken is quickly steamed in the microwave with sake, green onion and ginger before being shredded. The cool crunch of the cucumbers offers a nice contrast to the chewy, gingery chicken and the moderately spicy dressing.
Not-quite mayonnaise-based because it uses yogurt instead, Curried Chicken Salad on Nan is more reminiscent of Southeast Asian curries than of Indian ones, with flavors of lemongrass, lime, green onion and cilantro. Poaching the chicken with lemongrass infuses it with that flavor but using store-bought chicken works well here, too.
This deliciously simple dish combines diced chicken with red onion, celery, currants and apple for a nice crunch, great color and a wonderfully fresh combination of flavors.
YieldsServes 4 to 6
The Chinese flavor in this salad from Wolfgang Puck's Chinios on Main comes from the dressing ingredients — Chinese mustard, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil and rice vinegar.
This lo-fat salad uses lean chicken breast, a cooking technique that adds no fat or calories (steaming) and leaves off the skin, saving even more calories.
YieldsMakes 5 cups
A light, refreshing dish, the cool crunch of cucumbers and the gingery chicken is balanced by the nutty, mildly spicy sesame dressing.
YieldsServes 2 to 4
This wonderful chicken salad from Mar Vista's The Curious Palate restaurant features almonds, dried cranberries, scallions and Rocky Jr. chicken.
YieldsServes 6 to 8
This curried chicken salad is more reminiscent of Southeast Asian curries than of Indian ones, with flavors of lemongrass, lime, green onion and cilantro.
This flavorful, healthful and quick salad features Thai ingredients such as fish sauce, lime juice, Thai basil, mint and hot chili. It tastes even better the next day.