Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad

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This cranberry walnut chicken salad, with tender chicken breast, crunchy walnuts and tangy cranberries is great on its own or in lettuce wraps. Perfect for picnics or a quick lunch!

cranberry walnut chicken salad served in lettuce wraps

I have been making this classic cranberry walnut chicken salad for years! It’s my go-to for road trips, brown bag work lunches, picnics, and my solution for leftover chicken breasts at least 75% of the time.

Although you might think of chicken salad as summer food, we enjoy this salad year-round. It makes an inevitable appearance every year, at some point during that lost week between Christmas and New Years, when time stands still and we try to spend as much time as possible in our pajamas. And we have more leftover turkey than we know what to do with.

cranberry walnut chicken salad in lettuce wraps on a plate

Although this easy chicken salad recipe is a great way to use up leftover chicken or turkey, if I’m making chicken breasts for dinner, I’ll sometimes cook up a couple of extra chicken breasts to chop up for this salad for the next day.

Why You’ll Love This Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad Recipe

  • It is an easy recipe and it only takes a few minutes to toss some chicken with a simple dressing and a few add-ins.
  • If you’ve been looking for a healthy chicken salad recipe – this is a great option. Chicken breasts are a good source of protein, the tart cranberries are a good source of antioxidants, and walnuts are not just for the crunch, they’re full of omega fatty acids.
  • It has the perfect texture! The tart cranberries, crisp celery, and crunchy walnuts go great with the creamy dressing.
  • There are so many different ways to serve it, from these simple chicken salad wraps to an easy sandwich on a croissant or two simple slices of bread. Or keep it low carb by serving it on its own with some crunchy veggies, or on some lettuce leaves like you see here.
  • You can customize with whatever you have on hand. Sub the sweet cranberries for raisins, or chopped fresh apples or grapes. Use almonds or pecans instead of walnuts. You can also use leftover turkey or leftover rotisserie chicken instead of cooking chicken breasts from scratch.
cranberry walnut chicken salad served in lettuce wraps

Ingredient Notes

ingredients for cranberry walnut chicken salad pictured and labelled

Olive oil

I like to use a good quality extra virgin olive oil to cook the chicken breasts. You can also substitute with canola oil, vegetable oil, or avocado oil.

Chicken

Use cooked chicken breasts that have been shredded or chopped into small pieces. You have many options here. You can pan-fry them, grill them, bake them, or poach them. I usually pan-fry them.

Chicken breast meat is a good source of protein, and tastes best in this salad, in my opinion. But can also use leftover rotisserie chicken or leftover turkey.

Walnuts

Walnuts add a crunchy texture and nutty flavor to the chicken salad. You can also substitute with pecans or almonds.

Celery

Crunchy celery adds a crisp texture and fresh flavor to this cranberry walnut chicken salad.

Shallots

Shallot provides a subtle onion flavor without overpowering the dish. You can also substitute with red onion or green onions.

Cranberries

Dried cranberries add a sweet and tart flavor to the cranberry walnut chicken salad. You can also substitute with dried cherries or dried raisins.

Mayonnaise

Use a good quality mayonnaise for the best flavor. You can also use sour cream. And if you want an extra healthy cranberry walnut chicken salad, you can use plain Greek yogurt – it also tastes great!

White wine vinegar

White wine vinegar adds a tangy flavor to the dressing. You can also substitute with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.

Fresh herbs

Fresh herbs add a bright and flavorful touch to the dressing. You can use any combination of herbs that you like. I’ve kept it neutral here with parsley, but you can also use fresh rosemary, tarragon, basil, oregano.

How to Make Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad

  1. Pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness, season with salt and black pepper on both sides and cook in a skillet over medium heat for around 6-8 minutes per side until no longer pink in the center.
Two cooked chicken breasts in a frying pan.
  1. Transfer the cooked chicken to a cutting board and let it rest before chopping it into small pieces.
chopped chicken breast on a cutting board
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the creamy dressing using half a cup of mayonnaise, white wine vinegar, shallots, chopped fresh herbs (optional), salt, and black pepper.
herbs and spices for cranberry walnut chicken salad in a big bowl
mayonnaise added to the bowl to finish the creamy dressing
  1. Add the chopped chicken to the bowl with the dressing, along with some celery, walnuts, and dried cranberries.
chopped chicken, walnuts, celery, and dried cranberries in a big bowl
  1. Toss the salad together and season with additional salt, black pepper, and herbs if desired.
mixing the chicken salad in a big bowl with the dressing
  1. Serve the cranberry walnut chicken salad on a bed of lettuce leaves, in a bun or croissant, or make a sandwich with two slices of bread, OR make these chicken salad wraps.
picking a spoonful of walnut cranberry chicken salad from a bowl

Recipe Tips

  • Cook chicken ahead of time. This will make the salad assembly even quicker and easier. You can also use store-brought rotisserie chicken.
  • Chop the ingredients finely. This will help the salad to blend together better and make it easier to eat.
  • Let the cranberry walnut chicken salad chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. This will allow the flavors to meld together and the dressing to thicken.
cranberry walnut chicken salad in a bowl with a spoon in it
  • Use toasted nuts for best flavor. You can toast your walnuts in the pan or oven before adding them to the salad.
  • If you like a creamier salad, you can add more mayonnaise or use a mix of mayonnaise and sour cream!
  • Allow the chicken to cool down completely before combing it with the dressing and other ingredients.

Storage Instructions

Properly stored, this cranberry walnut chicken salad will last for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator. Store the salad in an airtight container to prevent it from drying out or absorbing other flavors in the refrigerator.

I don’t recommend freezing this salad because of the mayonnaise. The mayo will change the texture of the salad once thawed, and the celery and walnut will also lose their crunch!

More Easy Salads that are Perfect for Picnics and Easy Lunches!

Mediterranean Israeli Couscous Salad

Apple Pecan Salad

Sweet Potato and Feta Salad

Creamy Taco Macaroni Salad

How can I make cranberry walnut chicken salad healthier?

To make cranberry walnut chicken salad healthier, use light mayonnaise or Greek yogurt, add chopped fruits and vegetables, and use whole-wheat bread or tortillas to make a sandwich.

What can I serve cranberry walnut chicken salad with?

You can serve cranberry walnut chicken salad as a sandwich or wrap, in a croissant, on crackers, or on lettuce cups. You can also serve it on it’s own with raw vegetables or pita bread.

Why is my chicken salad watery?

If you add fresh fruits or vegetables to your chicken salad, they may release some water and make your chicken salad watery. Be sure to pat them dry before adding them to your salad. Chilling your cooked chicken before using in the salad can also help prevent this, as will chilling the prepared chicken salad before serving.

picking a spoonful of walnut cranberry chicken salad from a bowl

Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad

This cranberry walnut chicken salad is great on its own or in a sandwich. The cranberries provide a tangy contrast to the creamy dressing, and the walnuts add a welcome crunch.
5 from 5 votes
Print Pin Rate Save
Course: Lunch
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 22 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 337kcal
Author: Ann Otis

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1b chicken breasts
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1.5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsely, tarragon, basil or whatever you like
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Add your chicken breasts to the pan, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook chicken about 8 minutes per side, or until cooked through.
  • Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let it rest while you make the dressing. Chop chicken into 1/4 inch pieces and allow it to cool before combining with the dressing.
  • In a large bowl, combine the dressing ingredients (mayonnaise, vinegar, shallot, herbs, salt, and pepper).
  • Add chicken, walnuts, celery, and cranberries and toss until well coated. Chill until ready to serve. Serve in a sandwich, wrap, on a bed of lettuce etc.

Video

Notes

Storage Instructions
Properly stored, this cranberry walnut chicken salad will last for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator. Store the salad in an airtight container to prevent it from drying out or absorbing other flavors in the refrigerator.
I don’t recommend freezing this salad because of the mayonnaise. The mayo will change the texture of the salad once thawed, and the celery and walnut will also lose their crunch!

Nutrition

Calories: 337kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 18g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 12mg | Sodium: 770mg | Potassium: 101mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 150IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 21mg | Iron: 1mg
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9 Comments

    1. Apple cider vinegar would work great! Iā€™m thinking even lemon juice would be good, just to add a little acidic balance šŸ™‚

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