In Search of the Perfect Chicken Salad

After converting to a healthier lifestyle over a year and a half ago, finding new and interesting recipes that are healthy, yet tasty, has become a challenge.

Mostly, I’ve just gotten lazy and bored.

Chicken is by far the best protein source, with the exception of Edamame – that’s soy beans to the lay person. But I’m really fussy about my chicken; I will only eat boneless, skinless chicken breast meat – probably helped butcher one too many chickens in my youth. And before you mention fish, just know I don’t eat anything that comes out of water. The lazy and boring part comes into play about now. I’ve grilled or baked chicken breasts a number of different ways, but after a while, it all starts to taste and look the same. Plus its a HUGE hassle to cook two to four ounces of chicken for lunch – I really have issues with leftover chicken, long story. Needless to say, I often opt for a handful of roasted soy nuts or a slice of low fat cheese and an apple for lunch – see, lazy.

Cranberries and pecans and chicken, oh my! By Darla Welchel

A few weeks ago, Clint and I were cruising through SAMS, checking out all the samples – you know, eating lunch – when we discovered a taste of pure ambrosia. It was a cranberry chicken salad with pecans – my mouth is watering now just thinking about it.  The chicken salad not only contained cranberries and pecans, but was mixed with a honey poppyseed dressing. Although it was pricy, over $11 for a meager container, we had to have it. It was so scrumptious, that we were getting back in line for another taste. SAMS’ marketing gurus know what they are doing with the free samples; they paired the chicken salad with 100% whole wheat mini pita flatbread. Of course, we bought some of those as well – one wasn’t any good without the other, right? We figured that this expensive purchase would get us through lunches for the next week or so.

Wrong. Try a couple of days.

The only sensible and economical solution was to figure out the combination of ingredients and make our own perfect chicken salad. We had the canned white meat chicken and pecans, so we were two thirds of the way to our goal. We found dried cranberries in the bulk organic food section at Crest. The dilemma was the honey poppyseed dressing; we found several different brands of poppyseed dressing, but none with honey. Okay, we are both educated people – no, seriously we are – the simple solution would be to add our own honey. While we were excitedly going over the contents of our new favorite dish, we recalled that the purchased version also had celery.

With ingredients in hand and a very large bowl, I began the process: drain and fork the chicken, check; chop pecans and celery, check; add cranberries, check. The only scary part was the dressing. Adding too much honey could ruin the feast, whereas too little was easy enough to overcome.  I opted to mix it in smaller batches and finally came up with a 7:1 ratio of dressing to honey. The results – perfection! This dish might not be an exact duplication of the more pricy container, but it was less than half the cost of the SAMS version.

This week I can be as lazy as I want with my lunches, but it will be anything but boring.

Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad

4-13 oz. cans of white chicken

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1 cup diced celery

1 cup dried cranberries

15 oz. poppyseed dressing

2 oz. honey

Drain and fork chicken to separate. Add pecans, celery and cranberries; mixing thoroughly. Add poppyseed dressing alternately with honey. Mix and serve on pita flatbread or other whole grain bread. Store in air-tight container. Enjoy!


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. stuffitellmysister
    Jan 23, 2012 @ 21:49:57

    this sounds (& looks) delicious! cannot wait to try it!


    • Darla Welchel
      Jan 24, 2012 @ 01:57:57

      It is delis; and when you have a batch made up, you will gobble it down till its gone! But it makes the perfect easy meal.


    • Darla Welchel
      Dec 05, 2013 @ 03:19:27

      Theresa, the ingredients listed Honey Poppyseed; we went off the list of ingredients and adjusted to taste, this is what we came up with! It is great and so much cheaper! Be sure to use the canned chicken at SAMS to save money. 🙂 Yes, grapes would be good, but the cranberries are awesome!


      • Theresa
        Dec 05, 2013 @ 20:51:08

        I made this salad for lunch today. It was awesome. I used the dried cranberries that I got from Sams. I also used the light poppySeed dressing. My husband also thought it was very good. I will be making this again. Thanks for researching this recipe and sharing it.

      • Darla Welchel
        Dec 06, 2013 @ 18:35:26

        you are very welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Theresa
    Dec 05, 2013 @ 02:40:13

    I saw the chicken salad at Sams, no sample that day but it looked so good, I thought I would try to make it. I never thought of using poppyseed dressing. I will try it tomorrow. Seedless green grapes would be a nice addition.


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