Easy and low fat Healthy Chicken Salad that is a must for hot summer days, lunches and quick dinner. Low in calories and sodium with Greek yogurt and a touch of mayo – this lightened up version retains all the flavor of a classic chicken salad. Enjoy in a lettuce or tortilla wrap, on whole grain sandwich bread or in a green salad!
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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 recipe 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. Of course, I kept thinking we can do better, of course. 🙂 Same goes for healthy white chicken chili, mac and cheese and chicken curry. Homemade versus restaurant’s always tastes and nourishes better.
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. Swapping Greek yogurt with just a touch of mayo for all mayo makes this a healthified Greek yogurt chicken salad that has authentic taste while at the same time easy on your waistline!
Why This Chicken Salad Healthy Works?
- Authentic taste: By still using a touch of mayo, you retain classic chicken salad taste.
- Fresh ingredients: Herbs such as parsley or dill add loads of flavor you would be missing if you used dried.
- Easy: By using leftover chicken, this salad recipe can be on the table in 15 minutes.
- Healthy: No guilt here as this salad only contains 145c and 11g of fat compared vs. 310c and 25g of fat in the original!
- Budget friendly: I omitted grapes as they tend to be a costly fruit and you can use whatever nuts you have on hand in your pantry!
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 if you forgot to thaw chicken. Shredded chicken, works too!
- 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 healthy chicken salad recipe real. 🙂
Buy organic or avocado oil mayo. A little goes a long way and you avoid consuming GMO canola oil that comes with “regular” mayo.
- Celery and red onion: These veggies add crunch and flavor. White or green onion are OK too.
- Nuts: I used pecans and toasted them lightly on a skillet to add 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 while making missing mayo unnoticeable.
Add grapes if they are on sale or you have them! (As much as I love grapes I know they are expensive so I did not include them as part of the recipe – and I would like to keep this recipe simple.) Interested in a southern chicken salad? Include chopped air fryer hard boiled eggs in the mixture!
How to Make Healthy Chicken Salad
- Cook chicken breasts if you don’t have leftovers already from meal prepping. Air fry chicken breast or make Instant Pot shredded chicken. 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 this salad tastes best cold. Just like avocado egg salad or healthy potato salad.
Serving Recommendations for Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad
- Chicken salad sandwich: With sprouted whole grain/wheat bread like Ezekiel.
- Over salad greens: Lettuce, spinach or kale leaves, or add a scoop to spinach salad recipe or lettuce salad.
- Low carb: On Swiss chard leaves or any lettuce. Kind of like chicken lettuce wraps or try it will grilled romaine!
- Whole grains: Serve with cooked quinoa or brown rice or in a whole grain tortilla.
- Soup and salad: A classic restaurant combination with lentil spinach soup or broccoli cheese soup.
- Cold pasta salads: As part of a picnic spread with healthy pasta salad or tomato pasta salad.
- With a vegetable platter: Fresh raw veggie such as carrots, peppers, snap peas, cucumber with healthy veggie dip or hummus or ‘hot’ veggies such as zucchini sticks and roasted asparagus.
- Cold beverage: Refreshing on a hot summer day when washed down with healthy iced tea or healthy iced coffee.
Low Fat and Low Calorie Chicken Salad FAQs
To make 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.
Really, this is somewhat of a loaded question! I would not recommend eating original chicken salad everyday as the fat, calories and sodium content are quite high.
Eating healthy chicken salad everyday, might be acceptable, but I still believe in everything in moderation. It’s good to mix it up with other easy healthy lunch ideas.
You can and we did! We added a touch of mayo to the Greek yogurt to keep the authentic chicken salad taste – you can use all Greek yogurt, but you might miss that authentic taste. Sorry, not sorry, that taste is key for me same story in healthy shrimp salad.
Making Chicken Salad Recipe in Advance
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.
More Healthy Chicken Recipes
- Grilled chicken salad
- Healthy chicken tacos
- Chicken tostadas
- Asparagus stuffed chicken breast
- Healthy lemon chicken
Browse all 65 clean eating chicken recipes to discover even more!
Healthy Chicken Salad
- 1 lb cooked chicken 3 cups 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: Here is how to bake chicken breast. If you have Instant Pot, you can make Instant Pot frozen whole chicken or Instant Pot whole chicken and use breasts from it. Or just make Instant Pot chicken breast.
- 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.