Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad

Summertime is most definitely chicken salad season, and I don’t mean the old chicken plus mayo plus celery version. Although there’s definitely nothing wrong with that. But there are SO many chicken salads out there that are a perfect fusion of all that great summer produce that (yahoo!) springing up all around us. (Remind me that I just said that in about 6 weeks when I am complaining about being surrounded by my basil.) Mediterranean Chicken Salad, with fresh string beans and tomatoes. Tarragon Chicken Salad, with the delicious sweet taste of fresh tarragon. And one of my absolute faves, Chicken Salad with Corn, Fresh Thyme and Goat Cheese Dressing. Yum, yum and yum again.

The great thing about chicken salad — one of the great things — is that you can throw it together in practically no time if you remember to toss a few chicken breasts on the grill every time you fire it up this summer. Bathe them in a little Italian salad dressing, or even just some olive oil and vinegar with fresh pepper, and grill them until they are just cooked, about 4-5 minutes per side. Then store them in the fridge until you are ready to use them later in the week. When chicken salad time rolls around, tear the chicken with your fingers so you have some nice bite sized pieces, and then you are ready to roll.

This particular chicken salad is loosely based on a recipe from Cooks Illustrated, and features chopped cheddar cheese, chopped apple, dried cranberries, candied walnuts and romaine lettuce, tossed with a simple viniagrette. In this case, I had a bag of mixed candied nuts left over from something, and that’s what I used. (Chicken salad is all about improvisation.) Toss it all together in pretty much whatever portions you like (I like LOTS of chicken) and summertime, super-easy dinner is served!

Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad
  • 1 pound boneless chicken breast, cooked and shredded
  • 1 large head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar, cut into small cubes
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into small chunks
  • 1 cup candied or spiced walnuts (or any variety of nuts that you like)
  • ½ red onion, sliced thin
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 shallot, peeled
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  1. Process all dressing ingredients except oil in food processor until shallot and garlic are finely chopped. Add oil and continue to process until emulsified.
  2. Combine all salad ingredients and toss with ½ to ¾ cup dressing. Divide salad among plates and serve.

Recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated



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  1. You know how much I love it that this doesn't have mayo? A lot. A. Lot.

  2. Brilliant! Stockpiling extra when grilling makes perfect sense.

  3. I found this amazing article , “Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad Recipe – Framed Cooks”, incredibly pleasurable and the post ended up being a good read.
    Thanks for your effort,Clint

  4. Can this chicken salad be put on croissants? If I put romain leaves down first then the salad on top of that, do you think this will work?
    Thank you,

    • I think that would be amazing! And yes, I’d put the lettuce down first, so the salad has something to nestle into. Great idea!

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