Is Chicken Salad an American Thing?


Chicken salad is undoubtedly a classic recipe. Diced chicken is tossed with a creamy dressing and dotted with crisp celery, green onion, and fresh grapes.

Chicken salad is really easy to make and a great way to use up leftover chicken breast from a whole roasted chicken. You can also poach the chicken in chicken broth or use my air fryer chicken breast recipe to make this salad.

Is chicken salad an American thing?

Yes, chicken salad is a classic American dish that first originated when Liam Gray, proprietor of Town Meats in Wakefield, Rhode Island, mixed leftover chicken with mayonnaise, tarragon, and grapes in 1863. She began making it at night after her children were asleep and delivering it by basket, door to door, to potential customers.

Ingredients for Chicken Salad

  • Chicken: Chop 12 ounces of cooked chicken breasts from 1 whole roasted chicken. You can also use rotisserie chicken to save time.
  • Mayonnaise: I use light mayo to reduce the calories, but feel free to use your favorite mayo.
  • Celery: Chop celery for some crunch and veggies.
  • Red Onion: Swap red onion for scallions or chives.
  • Chicken Broth: If the chicken salad is a little dry, stir in two tablespoons of broth.
  • Dijon Mustard for a little tang
  • Seasoned Salt and Black Pepper for flavor

The Best Chicken Salad Dressing

This is similar to the dressing we love for our popular Broccoli Salad, except we didn’t add any sugar or honey since the grapes add plenty of sweetness. This dressing is creamy, tangy and adding sour cream makes it lighter than just using mayo.

  • Mayonnaise – use real mayo for the best flavor.
  • Sour cream – we use full-fat sour cream, but you can substitute it with low-fat sour cream or fat-free Greek yogurt.
  • Lemon juice – be sure to use freshly squeezed and not from concentrate.
  • Dill – finely chopped fresh dill is our favorite, but you can substitute with 2 Tbsp of finely chopped fresh parsley.
  • Salt and Pepper – added to taste

What Makes This Chicken Salad Special

The “secret sauce,” so to speak, of this chicken salad, is the tablespoon of plum preserves my mom adds to the mayo-based dressing. You could use any berry jelly or jam, but as we always have a lot of plum jam on hand (thanks to several plum trees), that’s what mom reaches for first.

Mom balances out the sweetness from the dab of jam with a bit of lemon juice.

Make Ahead and Storage

You can make this salad a day or two ahead of time if you wait to add the lettuce until right before serving. The salad will keep for several days in the fridge, but the lettuce will lose its crunch and get all wilty, so you may want to leave the lettuce out if you expect to have leftovers.

Do you have a favorite chicken salad recipe? Please let us know about it in the comments.

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