~ This Healthy Chicken Salad with Grapes is bursting with delicious flavors and textures! Juicy grapes, crisp apples and crunchy pecans, all topped off with a you’d-never-guess-it’s-healthy Greek yogurt dressing (secret ingredient alert!). Absolutely fabulous as a weekday sandwich or at a casual picnic, but also special enough for a bridal shower, Mother’s Day tea or ladies’ lunch. It’s so versatile … and we’ve got lots of tips and serving ideas, too! ~
This Recipe Is: • Ready in 30 Minutes or Less • Make Ahead • Gluten Free •
Somewhere out there is a waiter I really need to thank. No idea who he is – I’ve never actually met the guy.
But he’s the key to the secret ingredient that truly elevates this chicken salad recipe to new heights.
Before I tell you about my waiter and his secret, though, you probably want to see how easy this recipe is to make, right?!? I hear ya! Check out our video tutorial (and I bet you’ll spot the secret ingredient in there, too)!
So back to my waiter story and how this recipe came to be …
You see, back when my twins were tiny toddlers, I loved packing up lunches and heading out on big adventures … well, as big as the zoo or the park gets – and really, with two little ones, that was adventure aplenty!
If you’ve been through the toddler years, you know that a mom’s lunch is usually scraps left over from whatever the kiddos just ate. So you’ll understand when I say that an ultimate treat in those days was when, alongside PB&J for the kiddos, I’d throw together a fruity, healthy chicken salad for myself. I’m not kidding – as a frantically busy young mom, that pretty much qualified as deliriously indulgent nirvana (as did Blueberry-White Chocolate Muffins, but that’s another story).
I’d quickly chop some refreshingly juicy grapes and crisp-sweet apples, toss in some crunchy pecans, and head out the door a happy woman, my chicken salad nestled between the sippy cups in the cooler.
But then I learned a
life-changing chicken-salad-perfecting secret!
Drumroll, Please … The Secret to the Best (Healthy!) Chicken Salad …
On the topic of chicken salad (because, you know, I’m pretty much always talking about food), my dear friend said to me one day, “Oh – well, you always use tarragon, right?”
“Oh, yes,” she assured me – tarragon was the key to the best chicken salad ever.
And that’s where my nameless, faceless waiter joins our story. My friend explained to me how, while attending a ladies’ luncheon at a local country club, she’d once enjoyed the most fabulously delicious chicken salad recipe she’d ever tasted. The kind waiter whispered to her the secret …
… Yep, you guessed it … tarragon! Always use tarragon!
Now, I’m entrusting that whispered secret to you. Tarragon. Trust me on this.
From that day forward, the juicy grapes and crunchy pecans in my chicken salad were always joined by just a little hit of tarragon. And that, my friends, is the subtle yet decisive difference!
The Joys of Greek Yogurt Dressing (No One Will Ever Guess!)
After Gretchen and I started THK, though, I wondered if I could make one more tiny improvement – a little nutritional upgrade that would make this a truly healthy chicken salad recipe. (Ya know – to earn the coveted THK stamp of approval!)
I really wanted to jettison the reduced-fat and olive oil mayos I’d been using through the years, and swap in Greek yogurt. Because, really, once you discover the versatility of fat-free, protein-packed Greek yogurt, you get kinda caught up in the exciting possibilities! (Ummmmm … ok … I realize that makes me sound like a total food nerd. I own that.)
So, anyway, I wanted to upgrade to Greek yogurt, to make this a healthy chicken salad with yogurt dressing. Wouldn’t that be a total win?!? But I was absolutely unwilling to compromise on nirvana-esque flavors.
Could I do it???
I looked back at some of our other recipes, like our Greek Yogurt Coleslaw (one of our most popular recipes ever!) and our Fruit Salad with Greek Yogurt Dressing, and I got to work stirring, adding, mixing and tasting.
The resulting creamy, tangy-tart dressing melds perfectly with the sweet fruit. My family didn’t notice the change at all! It was still absolutely delicious, so they didn’t care one bit that I’d made a teeny nutritional upgrade. I’m betting you and your family will feel the same!
And I guess that’s actually my second secret of the day: Greek yogurt. ‘Nuff said. Lucky you – two secrets today!
The Perfect Chicken for Our Chicken Salad with Grapes and Pecans
One important note on the chicken for this recipe: I don’t want you to get hung up on what chicken to use, or to avoid making this because you never seem to have chicken on hand at the right moment. No, no. You need this chicken salad in your life – so do whatever it takes to make that happen!
What’s the perfect chicken? You’ve got lots of options!
If you’re grilling some chicken breasts or poaching, sautéing or roasting chicken one day, cook up a couple of extra chicken breasts so you can enjoy this salad for lunch all week. Easy! I just recommend that, for this recipe, you don’t use chicken that’s got prominent flavors from marinades or spices, since those might overpower the beautiful flavor profiles of the fruit and tarragon in the salad.
But you wanna know one more little secret? (Ooooohhhhh … that’s three secrets today!)
Rotisserie chicken. (If you hang out around THK much then you probably know that when I’m short on time, I often grab a perfectly cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store – we have lots of delicious rotisserie chicken recipes!)
The breast meat from one rotisserie bird (skin removed, of course!) is just about the perfect amount for this recipe. Easy just got even easier! Love that.
So, if you’re keeping track … that’s one killer-good (healthy!) chicken salad recipe, plus three secrets! A mighty good day here at THK!
And, we all have a waiter to thank.
If you see him, be sure to send my regards.
- 2 cups diced, cooked, skinless chicken breasts (see note)
- 1 cup halved red grapes (or quartered if the grapes are large)
- 1 cup diced apple (we prefer crisp, sweet apples in this recipe)
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard
- For serving: spinach or other leafy greens and whole grain wraps or toasted bread for sandwiches; greens as a base for a salad plate; or whole grain crackers or endive spears for serving as an appetizer
- In a medium bowl, combine chicken, grapes, apples, pecans, and celery, stirring gently to combine.
- In a small bowl, whisk together Greek yogurt, cider vinegar, tarragon, sugar, kosher salt, and mustard.
- Pour yogurt dressing over chicken mixture and gently stir to combine evenly.
- Serve as desired – as a wrap, sandwich, salad plate or appetizer.
Chicken: As we mentioned in the post, nearly any boneless, skinless chicken breasts will work in this recipe, as long as they're not overly flavorful from spices or marinades. We recommend simply cooking a couple of extra chicken breasts whenever you're making chicken, so you have extra cooked chicken for this recipe without any extra work. A store-bought rotisserie chicken is another easy option, and the skinless breast meat from one rotisserie chicken should be approximately the right amount for this recipe.
To serve as an appetizer: If you're planning to serve this chicken salad as an appetizer (with crackers or endive spears), you may wish to chop the chicken, grapes, apples, pecans, and celery a little smaller than if you're serving this as a sandwich or salad plate, to create a more finger-food-sized presentation.
Make-ahead tips: You can prepare this salad a few hours or even a day ahead, and refrigerate until serving. Leftovers can be refrigerated for another day or two.