California Chicken Salad

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This creamy, crunchy and sweet California Chicken Salad is the perfect on the go lunch. Serve it with bread, buns, in a salad or even as a dip with your favorite chips or crackers. 
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Bowl of California chicken salad with two spoons.

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • This California Chicken Salad recipe comes together in minutes when using a store bought rotisserie chicken.
  • Filled with fresh flavors of juicy grapes, crunchy celery and hearty pecans all tossed in a slightly sweet dressing. 
  • So many ways to serve it! 
  • This recipe requires almost zero prep and can be ready in as long as it takes you to chop up your ingredients and mix it all together. 
  • It not only packs protein but has tons of delicious flavors. 
Bowl of unmixed California chicken salad ingredients including red onion and grapes.

What is California Chicken Salad?

This classic chicken salad is a west coast favorite of mine! I wanted this to be easy and time-friendly so I used store-bought rotisserie chicken. Once the chicken was prepped, I added sweet red grapes, crunchy celery and pecans. No chicken salad is complete without a creamy dressing, so for this one I used a Greek yogurt based homemade poppyseed dressing. Toss it all together and voila! you have a classic California chicken salad worthy of any restaurant menu.

Do I have to use a rotisserie chicken?

Of course not! Feel free to use any shredded chicken for this recipe. If cooking the chicken yourself, use boneless skinless chicken breasts and shred it yourself using two forks or a hand mixer (try it, you will be amazed). You can also use the canned chicken from Costco, which I love! Linked here in my Macro Friendly Costco Haul. If you use shredded chicken or boiled chicken I suggest you add rotisserie seasonings to your chicken prior to combining it as it will be bland. A good spice combination would be salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, thyme and onion powder. 

Make ahead of time for meal prep!

This creamy chicken salad recipe is even better the next day making it perfect for meal prep. If you plan to serve it the day of, make it at least 2-3 hours ahead of time and chill it in the fridge for when you’re ready to serve it. Some of my favorite ways to meal prep this chicken salad are: Wrap in a pita, serve over a bed of greens, make lettuce wraps, put inside a toasted bun with lettuce and tomato, or as an open face sandwich with sprouts and avocado. There are SO many possibilities with this one, get creative!

California chicken salad piled high on a bun.

Can you make this recipe dairy and gluten-free?

To make this California Chicken Salad recipe dairy and gluten-free use your favorite dairy-free yogurt and milk.

Ingredients and Substitutes:

These are the main ingredients and substitutions. See recipe card below for full ingredients list and instructions for California Chicken Salad. 

Rotisserie Chicken: you can substitute with any boneless, skinless shredded chicken breast. See the note above regarding seasonings. Rotisserie chicken makes this recipe quick and easy to prep. 

Seedless Red Grapes: your favorite grapes will do although to avoid seeing the Dentist I’d recommend always choosing seedless. 

Red Onion: you can omit entirely if needed. 

Celery: celery adds a great crunch to this recipe but you can omit entirely if needed.

Pecans: toasting your pecans adds a delightful crunch and earthiness to the dish. You can use untoasted as well or even swap with sliced almonds. 

Bowl of unmixed California chicken salad ingredients including chicken and celery.

These are the main ingredients and substitutions for the Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing. See recipe card below for full ingredients list and instructions for California Chicken Salad. 

Greek Yogurt: after tasting many Greek yogurts over the last year I can say Fage is my go to. You can substitute with your favorite non fat 0% Greek yogurt or dairy free alternative. 

Dijon Mustard: Dijon mustard adds the perfect amount of spice to this recipe. If you need to substitute I would choose a grainy mustard not yellow. 

Syrup: to add sweet and cut the tang of the Greek yogurt this recipe calls for light pancake syrup. You can find this near other syrups or swap with 100% pure maple syrup or honey. 

Milk: any milk will do. I am using 2% but you can use almond or coconut for a dairy free alternative. 

Poppy Seeds: these are traditionally in the California Chicken salad but can be omitted if needed. 

Glass bowl of California chicken salad.

How to make this chicken salad

Step 1

Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and place the pecans on a baking sheet. Toast for 5 minutes while you prep the California Chicken Salad ingredients. 

Step 2

Remove all the meat from the rotisserie chicken and discard the skin and bones. From a medium sized rotisserie chicken I removed 1 lbs. 4.7 oz. of meat. Shred, chop and place in a large salad bowl. 

Step 3

Quarter the seedless red grapes, dice and chop the celery and red onion and add to the chicken. 

Step 4

In a small bowl mix the poppy seed dressing ingredients together well. 

Step 5

When the pecans are toasted, chop and add to the chicken. 

Step 6

Pour in the dressing and mix together well to get everything evenly coated. 

Step 7

Serve on bread, buns, lettuce cups, in a salad or wrap, or simply eat it by itself. Nutrition facts are for chicken salad only. 

California chicken salad sandwich.

Optional Add ins:


Feel free to toss in any other goodies you like into your chicken salad. Cherry tomatoes, mandarin oranges, bell peppers, green onions or even feta cheese are great options. Store your leftover California chicken salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. 

If you like this recipe be sure to check out some of our other easy meals!

Bowl of California chicken salad with two spoons.

California Chicken Salad

Danielle Lima
This creamy, crunchy and sweet California Chicken Salad is the perfect on the go lunch. Serve it with bread, buns, in a salad or even as a dip with your favorite chips or crackers. 
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings
Calories 218 kcal

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Ingredients
  

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, pulled from the bone (20 oz.)
  • 1 cup (150g) seedless red grades, quartered
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 red onion (100g), chopped
  • 45 g chopped pecans, toasted

Poppy Seed Dressing

  • 1 cup  Fage Non Fat 0% Greek Yogurt (210g)
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. lite pancake syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • 1/2 tsp.  salt
  • 1 tsp. poppy seeds

Instructions
 

  • Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and place the pecans on a baking sheet. Toast for 5 minutes while you prep the California Chicken Salad ingredients.
  • Remove all the meat from the rotisserie chicken and discard the skin and bones. From a medium sized rotisserie chicken I removed 1 lbs. 4.7 oz. of meat. Shred, chop and place in a large bowl.
  • Quarter the red seedless grapes, dice and chop the celery and red onion and add to the chicken.
  • In a small bowl mix the poppy seed dressing ingredients together well.
  • When the pecans are toasted, chop and add to the chicken.
  • Pour in the dressing and mix together well to get everything evenly coated.
  • Serve on bread, buns, lettuce cups, in a salad or wrap, or simply eat it by itself. Nutrition facts are for chicken salad only.

Notes

  • All nutrition facts are an estimate.
  • I used a skinless rotisserie chicken. Choosing a rotisserie chicken with skin on will change the nutritional information.
  • Add your chicken salad to wraps, pitas, sandwiches and salads. So many options!

Nutrition

Serving: 150gCalories: 218kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 16gFat: 11gSodium: 984mgFiber: 0.7g
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

11 Comments

  1. Do you know the weight of chicken? I usually cook mine in the Instant Pot and shred it so I’m not sure the weight of a rotisserie chicken. Thanks! This looks delicious – can’t wait to try it!

  2. 5 stars
    This has become my go-to lunch! I make a full batch and eat off it all week over salads, with veggies, or in wraps/sandwiches. Love this lightened up high-protein option!

  3. 5 stars
    I rarely rate recipes mainly cause I am bad at remembering to do so!! But this chicken salad is so bomb, I have been enjoying it so much this week!

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