We Tasted 6 Store-Bought Chicken Salads, and These Are Our Favorites

Grocery store chicken salad is a convenient option when pressed for time.

Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups
Photo: Cooking Light

You can smear it on crackers, spread it in sandwiches, drop a scoop on a salad, or even stuff it in tomatoes. Chicken salad is one of our favorite light protein sources and, bound together with a generous portion of mayonnaise, this simple Southern dish is so easy to love. No summer cookout is complete without a bowl of cool chicken salad, and this classic dish is a favorite choice at ladies' lunches and bridal showers. Whether you're a chicken salad purist or crave lots of fruity, nutty mix-ins, there's no wrong way to enjoy this Southern classic.

While we'd always prefer to whip up a batch of homemade chicken salad, sometimes we find ourselves pressed for time, and grocery store chicken salad is simply the most convenient option. To determine which store-bought chicken salad we'd happily pluck off the shelves, we conducted a blind taste test of six popular grocery store chicken salads (with Southern Living editors graciously volunteering as the testers). So for those days when you're just too busy to swing by the deli, here are our top store-bought chicken salad choices.

The Contenders

Whole Foods Sonoma Chicken Salad

Whole Foods is known for its specialty prepared foods, and its Sonoma Chicken Salad remains one of the market's classic dishes. Customers love this chicken salad so much that you can even find the recipe online to make for yourself at home. With pecans, grapes, and poppy seeds mixed in with the bite-sized chicken chunks, this chicken salad takes the classic dish up a notch. The testers reviewed this Sonoma Chicken Salad quite positively; they enjoyed the tangy flavor and the hearty, chunky texture of the chicken. Overall, this chicken salad is a great basic option for serving.

Whole Foods Classic Chicken Salad

The Whole Foods Classic Chicken Salad is essentially the Sonoma Chicken Salad without all the fun mix-ins. This makes it a great option for those allergic to nuts, but it also means you're missing out on those flavorful grapes and poppy seeds. The Classic Chicken Salad is made with poached chicken, celery, and mayo, and testers commented that this version packed a strong dill flavor. If you're going to Whole Foods, we'd choose the specialty Sonoma Chicken Salad over the classic version. Basic doesn't have to be boring, and the Sonoma Chicken Salad is fun and flavorful without venturing too far outside the box.

Publix Classic Chicken Breast Salad

The Publix Classic Chicken Breast Salad had a smoother, more blended texture than some of the other options. This chicken salad is pretty much as basic as it gets, with cooked chicken breast, mayonnaise, and celery as the main ingredients. Relish and red pepper are also added to give it a little zing, however, testers found this chicken salad to be a bit bland compared to the more dynamic, fruit- and nut-packed chicken salads. While some noted flavors of dill, the testers did not pick up on any spice from the red pepper.

Trader Joe's Wine Country Chicken Salad

This chicken salad is big and bold, with an extra-chunky texture and large hunks of cranberry and celery mixed in. Visually, this chicken salad shows off the most color. Multiple testers commented that TJ's Wine Country Chicken Salad harbors a bit of sweetness, with its large pieces of fruity cranberry and subtle notes of honey on the finish. The poppy seeds and pecans offer a nice contrast in texture to the tender chicken. This chicken salad would pair well with some wine and cheese.

The Favorites

Mrs Stratton's Premium Gold White Meat Chicken Salad

If you're looking for a classic chicken salad, meet your new grocery store go-to. Mrs Stratton's Premium Gold White Meat Chicken Salad is super-smooth in texture, which makes it easy to spread. Testers noted that this spreadable chicken salad would be great for sandwiches. One tester commented that it tastes the closest to homemade, and if you really want to dress it up, you can add in freshly diced celery for more crunch. This chicken salad's smooth consistency and classic taste earned it a gold star from our testers.

Archer Farms Rosemary Chicken Salad

Archer Farms Rosemary Chicken Salad takes home the title of our testers' favorite chicken salad of the bunch. This chicken salad boasts a smooth, creamy texture, and the flavorful pairing of dried cranberries with aeromatic herbs won the crowd over. Although it was a blind tasting, testers guessed almost immediately that the secret ingredient to this chicken salad was rosemary. In addition to this herbaceous touch, Archer Farms also tosses in green onions and Parmesan cheese to make this an Italian-inspired chicken salad.

Although it won out as the favorite choice, the addition of rosemary to this chicken salad was controversial among our testers. Some thought the herby flavor was too strong and didn't belong in a chicken salad, while some said that it may not be classic, but it sure is good. All parties agreed that this chicken salad tastes fancy and quite special. For an unconventional, yet delightfully delicious chicken salad, pick up a container of Archer Farms Rosemary Chicken Salad at Target.

Classic Chicken Salad Recipes

Chicken salad is a favorite with Southerners because it's easy to pull together with what you have on hand, it can be decadent or healthy, and be served for lunch or dinner, making it the flexible meal option we always need. To make chicken salad at home, there are so many different kinds to try, but these 21 recipes include a range of classics from Chicken Salad with Grapes and Pecans to Old-Fashioned Chicken Salad.

Chicken Salad Making Tips and Tricks

We've gathered some tips and tricks along the way for making chicken salad, starting with the kind of chicken meat to use. Although dark meat has more flavor, white meat is preferred for salad, "you want the mild taste and firmer texture of white meat so that the creamy dressing and mix-ins really shine," writes Southern Living Senior Food Editor Lisa Cericola. For easier preparation and well-flavored chicken, Ina Garten share's her tip to roast instead of boiling chicken breasts. To prevent a watery chicken salad, add ingredients like celery with its fibrous content, last. Adding crunch and texture takes basic chicken salad to the next level, when adding fruit, we like grapes, available year-round, for crunchy freshness.

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