Chicken Salad with Apples and Walnuts

This chicken salad with apples and walnuts gives a sweet flavor and some crunch to your favorite lunchtime salad or sandwich.

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Looking down on a bowl of chicken salad with a spoon sticking out of it.

A Chicken Salad for the Fall

I love a good chicken salad. The Best Chicken Salad is my go-to, but sometimes it’s nice to add some different flavors and textures to the salad. That’s exactly what happens with this chicken salad with apples and walnuts. The apples and dried cranberries add a sweet note and the toasted walnuts along with the apples give you a nice crunch that you don’t usually find in chicken salad. It’s perfect for the fall when apples are in season.

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Ingredients on a wooden cutting board - red onions, cranberries, celery, walnuts, a lemon, parsley, chopped apple and a bowl of mayonnaise.

What Apples to Use

The best apple to use for this salad is the one you really like. No joke. I like an apple with a sweet flavor and nice crisp bite – like a Honey Crisp, but you might prefer a tart Granny Smith or a Red Delicious. You can always take a look at my Apple Varieties Chart if you need some guidance, but mostly just pick the apple you like to eat. 

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Looking down on a cutting board with a chef's knife and cut up chicken, with other ingredients.

How to Prepare Chicken for Chicken Salad

The chicken for chicken salad just needs to be cooked, but ideally it should be moist and tender. Leftover chicken is perfect, but if you’re cooking the chicken specifically for the salad, I recommend using a technique that will ensure it remains moist. In the recipe, I talk you through my easiest poaching method for chicken, but you could also try air-frying chicken breasts  with just salt and pepper – also easy and the results are moist. When it comes to cutting the chicken into pieces, you have options. You can cut the chicken into bite-sized chunks, you can shred the chicken with two forks, or you can buzz the chicken in a food processor a few times to get it even smaller. It’s entirely up to you.

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A bowl of chicken salad ingredients with a wooden spoon sticking out of it next to a second bowl with a mayonnaise dressing and whisk.

Dressing for Chicken Salad

The dressing for this chicken salad with apples is mayonnaise-based. Just stir together the mayo, Dijon mustard, celery seed and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Use as much or as little of it as you like on your chicken and save any leftovers to dress another salad another time.

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A mound of chicken salad on a lettuce lined plate on a wooden table with serving spoon next to it.

How to Serve Chicken Salad with Apples

More options… Chicken salad makes a delicious salad to have as one of a group. You serve it with a Beet and Orange Salad, a Tomato and Cucumber Salad and a simple Arugula Parmesan Prosciutto Salad for a nice variety of salads. Or, you could make it into a sandwich on your favorite bread – soft bun, sourdough bread, no knead bread, pita bread or baguette. So many choices, so few lunchtimes.

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A chicken salad with apples sandwich on a brioche bun with chips on the side.

How to Store Leftovers

If you have any leftovers, store them in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator (less if you’re using leftover chicken).

 

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Chicken Salad with Apples and Walnuts

  • Prep Time: 30 m
  • Total Time: 30 m
  • Servings:
    8

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup chopped red onion
  • ¾ cup walnuts coarsely chopped
  • salt
  • 2 pounds chicken breast
  • 3 ribs celery chopped
  • 2 apples diced
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon celery seeds
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Start by preparing your ingredients. Place the diced red onion in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Let it soak for 20 minutes (or longer) to make it less pungent and then drain the water away.
  2. Toast the walnuts by tossing them in a dry skillet over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes or on a sheet pan in the oven at 350ºF for 10 minutes. Set the toasted walnuts aside.
  3. Poach the chicken breasts by bringing a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water with salt and add the chicken breasts. Let the water return to a boil and then simmer for 2 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover the pot with a lid and let the chicken sit for 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Let it cool for 10 minutes, then cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces or shred the chicken with two forks. Place the chicken in a large bowl.
  4. Drain the red onion and pat it dry with a clean paper towel. Add the onion to the bowl with the chicken, along with the toasted walnuts, celery, apples, dried cranberries and parsley.
  5. Combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and celery seeds in a small bowl. Add the dressing to the bowl and stir to coat everything with the dressing.
  6. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Chill until ready to serve.
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