This classic chicken salad is a Southern lunch staple, but it is also fitting for afternoon teas or book clubs. The recipe was inspired by a favorite dish served at the former Sweetbriar restaurant in Gadsden, Alabama.

Gallery

Credit: Will Dickey

Recipe Summary

active:
20 mins
chill:
1 hr
total:
1 hr 20 mins
Servings:
6
Yield:
8 cups
Advertisement

Homemade chicken salad—specifically our Chicken Salad with Grapes and Pecans recipe—is pretty much the perfect make-ahead lunch recipe. It's also always a hit when we tote it along to gatherings.

Since it gets better as it sets, feel free to toss together this chicken salad recipe with grapes and pecans on Sunday to enjoy for lunch the first few days of the work week. Meal prep for the win! Or mix up a big batch the day before your next party, picnic, or potluck. No matter when or where you serve it, this 20-minute meal is a winner.

Ingredients for Chicken Salad With Grapes and Pecans

ingredients for Chicken salad With Grapes and Pecans in bowl
Credit: Will Dickey

This Chicken Salad with Grapes and Pecans recipe requires just a few affordable, refrigerator and pantry staples. To prepare this picnic-winning recipe, round up:

Mayonnaise and Sour Cream
Light or regular; we call for a one-to-one ratio of these creamy ingredients to act as the delicious "glue" to bind together all of the components of this chicken salad recipe. If desired, substitute plain Greek yogurt (any fat level) for the sour cream—it's equally tangy, higher in protein and probiotics, and slightly lower in calories.

Fresh Lemon Juice  
For the best tangy flavor punch, stick with fresh-squeezed rather than store-bought citrus juice from a bottle. Any lightly-colored vinegar should also work in a pinch.

Salt and Pepper
Start with a little less than 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper, take a taste test, and add more as desired to reach the seasoning level you prefer.

Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breasts, Cooked and Chopped 
Grill, slow cook, pressure cook, bake or saute; any cooking method will do. Alternatively, you could save time by using leftover chicken from earlier in the week, or pick up a rotisserie chicken at the supermarket to slice and dice. If you prefer your meat in strands rather than cubes, shred the chicken.

Red and White Seedless Grapes, Halved 
Any variety of seedless grape that looks fresh at the market will do. Can't find any fresh grapes that look great? Swap in a handful of dried cranberries or cherries for a pop of sweetness instead. (For more mix-in variations, see "Community Tips" below.)

Chopped Pecans, Toasted 
What kind of nuts go best in chicken salad? We're partial to pecans, but chopped, toasted almonds or walnuts, or even a handful of sunflower seeds would also be delicious if you prefer one of those instead.

Lettuce Leaves
These are for serving! Read on for bonus ideas for how to share this Chicken Salad with Grapes and Pecans.

How to Toast Pecans

To toast pecans for this Chicken Salad with Grapes and Pecans, you have two options: In the oven (AKA this is how you roast pecans for chicken salad) or on the stovetop (which will save you a couple minutes).

Oven: Preheat the oven to 325°F. While that warms up, line a large sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Spread the nuts in a single, not-too-crowded layer, on the prepared sheet pan. Bake until the nuts begin to smell fragrant and appear slightly browner; about 5 to 8 minutes.

Stovetop: Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Spread the nuts in a single layer. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 to 6 minutes or until the nuts are fragrant and lightly toasted.

Allow the toasted nuts to cool enough to handle; chop into small pieces to add 1 cup to this chicken salad recipe with grapes and pecans, then transfer the rest to an airtight container. Store at room temperature for up to two weeks or freeze in a freezer-safe zip-top bag for up to four months.

How to Make Chicken Salad With Grapes and Pecans

Step 1: In a large bowl, use a spatula or spoon to mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Start with just a pinch of those seasonings, give the chicken salad a taste, and add more as desired.

a bowl of ingredients for Chicken salad With Grapes and Pecans
Credit: Will Dickey

Step 2: Toss in the chopped or shredded chicken and grape halves, then use the spoon or spatula to fold the chicken salad mixture gently to coat everything evenly in the mayo-sour cream blend.

chicken, grapes, and salad dressing in a bowl
Credit: Will Dickey

Step 3: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, aluminum foil or a lid, and allow the chicken salad to chill for at least 1 hour. Stir in pecans just before serving.

stirring pecans into chicken salad
Credit: Will Dickey

Step 4: Serve Chicken Salad with Grapes and Pecans atop lettuce leaves, if desired, or see additional serving ideas for this chicken salad recipe with grapes and pecans below.

How to Serve Chicken Salad With Grapes and Pecans

Chicken Salad Per Person
This Chicken salad recipe with grapes and pecans makes six generous servings, or about 1 1/3 cups per serving. Feel free to double or triple as desired to feed a large group.

Serving Ideas

Serve this chicken salad recipe as explained below, piled atop or tucked inside lettuce leaves, or:

- Stuff inside a halved croissant or English muffin
- Sandwich between 2 slices of toasted bread
- Pair with crackers for scooping
- Tuck into a pita half or two
- Roll inside a tortilla for a chicken salad wrap
- Spoon it onto one piece of toast for an open-face sandwich

How to Store Chicken Salad With Grapes and Pecans

This is one salad recipe that actually gets better over time! Well, a limited time. Feel free to mix it up the night before you plan to share it; the flavors meld beautifully and after a night of "marinating" in the fridge. Store this Chicken Salad with Grapes and Pecans in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. Freezing is not recommended.

How Long Does Chicken Salad Last?

Aim to eat all of the refrigerated leftovers of this chicken salad within 4 to 5 days, max. To reduce risk for any foodborne illnesses, transfer all extra servings to an airtight container and refrigerate within 2 hours, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends.

Editorial contributions by Karla Walsh.

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Stir together 1/2 cup mayonnaise and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Add chopped chicken and grapes, tossing gently to coat.

    Advertisement
  • Cover and chill at least 1 hour. Stir in pecans just before serving.

Tips

This recipe first appeared in our August 2006 magazine.

Advertisement