We try to stay pretty active all year long, but during June, July and August, it kicks into high gear. Whether it’s a trip to the beach to swim and play volleyball, a long evening walk through the countryside, hanging out at the park having a picnic, or even a full day of yard work, it’s always nice to have a go-to meal to help keep us fueled. I know it may seem like a no-brainer or even kind of funny, but chicken salad — the standby of baby showers and grocery store delis — is a fantastic thing to bring along on an adventure, or keep in your fridge as an after-workout meal.
This chicken salad includes chopped natural unflavored almonds, and uses Greek yogurt with a bit of seasonings as the dressing, making it super protein-packed. The protein (and fiber) help keep us fuller, longer. The yogurt gets major bonus points because it has way more protein than using mayo or sour cream, and you can’t beat that yummy tang. (Thick, plain yogurt is a staple at our house!) And almonds are always on our list of snacks — with loads of protein, fiber, and healthy fats, they are great to keep on hand to chase away the “hangries.”
Now back to the salad — it’s up to you how to serve it. You can use it to top Romaine leaves or another leafy green, scoop it up with your favorite crackers, or use a few hearty slices of bread, or a whole grain tortilla, to turn it into a sandwich or wrap. You can even add chicken salad to a hollowed out tomato or bell pepper, or serve it on a bed of mixed greens. So many options! And speaking of options, this recipe makes a very good, basic chicken salad. I’ve included some variations below because it’s fun to change things up once in awhile so you don’t get bored. The possibilities are endless.
It’s a big timesaver to use leftover cooked chicken for this recipe — rotisserie is perfect for this, or you can cook a few extra chicken breasts for dinner one night to use in the salad and get you through with a week’s worth of snacks or lunches. And if you want to turn this into a heartier meal, maybe for dinner, then I recommend serving this up with a side of grilled or roasted veggies to get even more plant-powered goodness into your day. But it’s easy as can be to make ahead and will keep for days and days in the fridge. And it really is one of the best things to pack into your cooler to keep you fueled all season long.
Protein-Packed Chicken Salad
2 cups cooked chicken, diced
1/2 cup natural almonds, chopped
2 celery stalks, diced
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
7-8 ounces Greek yogurt
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Romaine lettuce leaves, whole grain bread, tortillas, or crackers, for serving
Place diced chicken, almonds, celery, and green onions into a mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk together Greek yogurt, lemon juice, honey, if using, garlic powder, and a good pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour into the bowl with the chicken and stir well to combine. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Store in the fridge in an airtight container until ready to serve.
To serve, spoon some of the chicken salad onto a a lettuce leaf, make a sandwich or wrap, or serve with crackers.
Makes 6 servings.
– Add 1/4 cup dried fruit (raisins, diced apricots, cranberries, cherries, blueberries, etc.).
– Add 1 teaspoon curry powder plus 1 cup halved grapes or 1 small, diced green apple for another classic version.
– Use 1/2 cup diced cucumber instead of, or in addition to the celery.
– Substitute diced fennel bulb for the celery and add 1 small, diced green apple plus 1 tablespoon of chopped fennel fronds.
– Amp up the savory by adding 1/2 cup sliced or diced olives and 1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes plus 1 tablespoon dried or 2 tablespoons fresh Italian herbs (oregano, basil, marjoram, etc.).
– To make Ranch chicken salad, add 2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley.
– Add 1/4 cup finely chopped herbs — your favorite! Mint and parsley are especially good.
– Take it to the border by adding in 1 teaspoon chili powder, use lime juice instead of lemon, substitute corn for the celery, and top with tomato slices, avocado, and cilantro. If you want it spicy, add a diced jalapeno!
– Sub the chicken for a vegetarian option by using white beans or chickpeas — two 15-ounce cans, drained, work nicely. You can mash the beans a bit, or leave them whole.
– Add 1-2 teaspoons each of Dijon mustard and honey for a delicious Honey Mustard Chicken Salad.
Oh my. These pictures are making my mouth water! Time to go mix up a batch and then head to the beach. How about you? What are you eating to fuel your activities these days?
Credits: Photos and recipe by Lindsey Johnson.