Chicken salad is one of my guilty pleasures. I don’t eat it often, mostly because of the whole calorie bomb factor, but I want to eat it all the time. A couple of months ago, after a tough day, I decided to throw caution to the wind and ordered a chicken salad hoagie from Wawa. It was heavenly. That is, until the angel on my shoulder innocently wondered exactly how damaging my mayo based revelry really was. Wouldn’t you know, Wawa provides nutritional information on their website. All I can say is…ouch. I enjoyed the first half of that sandwich. The second half was just as delicious but not nearly as enjoyable. I hate that.
Today’s recipe is my solution. I think this chicken salad is perfection. The dressing is a perfect balance of creaminess, sweetness and acidity. The chicken is roasted on the bone to ensure it stays juicy and flavorful. Crispy and crunchy accents abound in the form of veggies, seeds and nuts. I’ve tried a lot of “light” chicken salad recipes and have been disappointed in many of them. Greek yogurt is almost always used as a stand in for mayo (and makes an appearance in my recipe, too.) But the problem is, I know the difference between Greek yogurt and mayo. Using Greek yogurt alone results in an overly tangy, distinctly yogurt-y salad. No thanks. I use equal parts low-fat mayo and nonfat Greek yogurt to reap the lower calorie, protein rich benefits of the yogurt while enjoying the luscious creaminess of mayo. The dressing is rounded out with honey, apple cider vinegar and poppy seeds. I’ve stuck to traditional add-ins in this recipe, such as finely diced celery, shallots and almonds. However, if you want to get creative, you could add diced apples, halved grapes, dried cranberries, carrots or any type of nut you prefer. You could also get creative with the herbs you use- basil or tarragon would be delightful.
The abundance of mayo in traditional chicken salad can hide a lot of sins, particularly dry chicken. We’ll make sure that’s not an issue here by roasting bone in, skin on chicken breasts. This way we ensure the chicken stays moist, but still get the benefit of lean breast meat (we toss then skin.) As the chicken roasts, whisk together the dressing, dice the veggies and toast the almonds. Once the chicken is done and cool enough to handle, shred either with two forks or your fingers. I like the chicken in my chicken salad to be finely chopped, so that’s what I do. If you like bigger pieces, you do you. When you’re ready to serve, you have a multitude of options. I think it’s adorable as a light lunch or hors d’oeuvre on top of cucumber slices. I’ve been packing this chicken salad for work lunches this week on a bed of greens. Or, you can take advantage of all those calories you’re saving and serve on a nice toasty baguette. That will be a sandwich you can enjoy start to finish without a shred of guilt after.
Lighter Chicken Salad
- 3 lb bone in, skin on chicken breasts
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 1 tsp black pepper, divided
- 3 stalks celery, finely diced
- 1 large shallot, finely diced
- 2/3 cup sliced almonds
- 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise (I use Hellman’s Light)
- 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
- 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 1 tsp poppy seeds
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat chicken dry and place on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil, 1 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper over chicken. Roast 35-40 minutes, until meat registers 160 degrees. Once meat is cool enough to handle, shred using hands or two forks, then finely chop.
While chicken is roasting, toast almonds, chop vegetables and prepare dressing. To toast almonds, place them in skillet over medium heat and toast about 8-10 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned. Watch closely to ensure they don’t burn. To prepare dressing, whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar, honey, poppy seeds and remaining salt and pepper.
Once chicken is chopped, combine with vegetables, dressing and parsley in a large bowl and toss until ingredients are evenly coated with dressing. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately or chill to serve later.