Easy and low fat Healthy Chicken Salad that is a must for hot summer days, lunches and quick dinner. It is also low in calories and sodium but big on flavor.
Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe
My goal with this healthy chicken salad was to keep it super simple, so we can pull it off any time. Cold and creamy, with celery and red onion, this healthy salad is flavorful, protein packed and tasty.
During our Southern California road trip I had chicken salad for lunch at Legoland. While an 8 oz serving cost US $10 and made my teeth cringe from sodium, it was extremely satisfying in 115 degrees F heat.
Is Chicken Salad Healthy?
Traditional chicken salad with mayo contains 310 calories, 25 grams of fat and 700 milligrams of sodium per 1/2 cup serving. Yikes!
iFOODreal chicken salad is only 145 calories, 11 grams of fat and 186 grams of sodium. That’s a huge nutrition difference.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Cooked chicken: You can use any leftover cooked chicken. If you have Instant Pot, meal prepping chicken in batches becomes a simple task. Follow this Instant Pot chicken breast recipe for fresh chicken, or this Instant Pot frozen chicken breast recipe if you forgot to thaw chicken.
- Mayo and yogurt: Yogurt adds creaminess with less calories – I recommend to use more than 2% fat for better taste. And IMHO, a bit of mayo makes chicken salad real. 🙂
- Celery and red onion: These veggies add crunch and flavor. White or green onion are OK too.
- Nuts: I used pecans and toasting them lightly on a skillet adds more crunch and flavor. You can use any nuts like cashews, almonds, pine nuts and walnuts.
- Fresh herbs: Parsley, dill, basil or even cilantro add a lot of flavor making missing mayo unnoticeable.
Tip: Add grapes. As much as I love grapes I know they are expensive. And I would like to keep this recipe simple.
How to Make Healthy Chicken Salad
- Cook chicken breasts if you don’t have leftovers already. If you love dark meat, you can make baked chicken thighs or Instant Pot chicken thighs.
- Toast nuts in a small skillet on low-medium heat just until fragrant and brown-ish. You will smell them. 🙂 Cool and chop.
- Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl: Toasted pecans, chicken, celery, onion, parsley, yogurt, mayo, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir gently to mix and adjust salt to taste, if necessary.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours as salad tastes best cold. Just like avocado egg salad, potato salad or pasta salad.
How to Serve and Store Chicken Salad
Refrigerate salad for up to 5 days. I like to place it in a glass container or bowl with tight plastic lid.
I have not tried freezing chicken salad but I don’t think chicken salad freezes well. It has a lot of fresh veggies to go limp once thawed. But maybe because they are coated in mayo and yogurt… Let me know if you try. 🙂 We never have any leftovers to freeze.
- Chicken salad sandwich with sprouted whole grain/wheat bread like Ezekiel.
- Add greens: lettuce, spinach or kale leaves.
- Low carb on swiss chard leaves or any lettuce. Kind of like chicken lettuce wraps.
- Whole grains: Serve with cooked quinoa or brown rice.
Low Fat and Low Calorie Chicken Salad?
I cut back mayo in half and add 1/2 cup plain (Greek) yogurt to make salad creamy, reduce saturated fat and calories. I recommend to use 2% and higher fat content yogurt because non-fat yogurt lacks flavour and is flat. Healthy fats are good for you, in moderation.
Tip: Buy organic or avocado oil mayo. It goes a long way and you avoid consuming GMO canola oil that comes with “regular” mayo.
More Healthy Chicken Recipes
- Grilled chicken salad
- Chicken and tomatoes
- Healthy chicken tacos
- Chicken tostadas
- Instant Pot white chicken chili
- Lemon chicken
Healthy Chicken Salad
- 1 lb 3 cups cooked chicken, cubed
- 3/4 cup 3 large celery stalks, diced
- 1/4 cup red onion finely chopped
- 1/4 cup parsley or dill finely chopped (optional)
- 1 cup pecans, almonds or cashews
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt 2+% fat
- 1/4 cup mayo I used avocado oil mayo
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp any vinegar except balsamic
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Ground black pepper to taste
- In a small skillet, add pecans and toast on low-medium heat until fragrant and brown-ish, stirring often. Transfer to a cutting board, let cool a bit and chop coarsely.
- In a medium bowl, add toasted pecans, chicken, celery, onion, parsley, yogurt, mayo, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir gently to mix and adjust salt to taste if necessary.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours as salad tastes best cold.
- Serve with greens, quinoa, brown rice or make a chicken salad sandwich with whole wheat bread.
Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days. I have not tried freezing the salad and am not sure fresh veggies and herbs will hold up well to it.
- How to cook chicken for salad: You can use my baked chicken breast recipe. If you have Instant Pot, you can make Instant Pot frozen chicken or Instant Pot whole chicken and use breasts from it. Or just make Instant Pot chicken breasts.
- Onions: White or green onion would work well in place of red.
- Sweet addition: Add sliced grapes or chopped apple if you wish. Grapes are pricey often, so I keep them out.
- Use any mayo: I use avocado oil mayo because it is healthier and we always have it on hand. Olive oil mayo or vegenaise work as well.
- Please do not use 0% yogurt: It tastes chalky and salad will taste flat. Plain regular or Greek yogurt with fat content 2% and higher work.
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