Easy Chicken Salad - Better than Panera

This easy, classic Chicken Salad recipe with grapes and sliced almonds is the best I’ve ever had and makes the most amazing sandwich on a croissant ever. Perfect for a graduation parties, a ladies luncheon, brunches, bridal or wedding showers, baptisms, and pretty much any event you can think of!  Actually tastes better than the Chicken Salad Sandwich at Panera!

The Best Chicken Salad Recipe for Sandwiches

This chicken salad recipe is one of my favorites when I go to Panera. I mix it up every now and then by adding apples or using pecans, but most often I make chicken salad with celery and red grapes in it (but you could use green if you prefer). 

I just love the crunch of the celery and the bursts of sweetness from the grapes! Be sure that the grapes you are using are crunchy because soft grapes are less than ideal for the best chicken salad. 

Another thing that sets this recipe apart is using the fresh dill.

This is one of my go-to summer meals because it’s cool and refreshing, AND you can make one big batch and it will stay good in the fridge for 5 days. 

How to prep chicken for this Chicken Salad Recipe

I prefer a rough chop on my chicken for chicken salad sandwiches, but some people prefer the meat to be shredded. Either approach works so go with what you like best!

Also, when it comes to what chicken to use for this recipe, you have a few options.

  1. Pre-cooked rotisserie chicken:  We love the rotisserie chickens from Costco and they make my life so much easier some nights. It totally works for chicken salad.
  2. Oven-roasted chicken breasts:  This is my favorite method and I’ve included instructions in the recipe on how I do this. Simply seasoned with salt & pepper, it doesn’t take much time and like I mentioned earlier, I’ve quadrupled the batch of chicken when making this recipe for a crowd, which is easier for me than breaking down multiple whole chickens.
  3. Poached chicken breasts:  When my mom would make this while I was growing up, she would always just poach the chicken breasts in a large pot of water until they were cooked through, then shred the meat. I think this might be a Southern approach to chicken salad, but I don’t know for sure.

4. Canned chicken:  Okay, so this is not my favorite, but it’s not terrible and it definitely works if you have canned chicken in food storage that you want to use up or you are looking for the easiest chicken salad option.

If making chicken salad sandwiches, slice each croissant in half and layer a piece of green leaf lettuce and a scoop of chicken salad on each roll. Or you can just use regular bread. I think it’s especially good with a whole grain bread with seeds on the crust. Or serve the chicken salad over a bed of mixed greens with sliced tomato and avocado.

Variations for this Recipe: Chicken Salad

One of the great things about chicken salad and why I love this recipe so much is that it is easily customizable. You can change it with the seasons or just use ingredients you have on hand.

Sometimes I change things up and make chicken salad with apples or cranberries instead of with grapes, especially in the fall. 

Or instead of making my chicken salad with sliced almonds, which I don’t always have on hand, I will use chopped pecans. And of course you can omit the nuts altogether if you have food allergies or just don’t care for nuts in your chicken salad.

Use chopped red onions instead of green onions.

You could also lighten up the chicken salad a bit by replacing part of the mayonnaise and sour cream called for in the recipe with Greek yogurt. I wouldn’t replace all of it because that would significantly affect the taste of the final chicken salad, but replacing half of the mayonnaise works pretty well for a healthy chicken salad recipe. 

Add diced avocado. Because honestly, what isn’t better with a little avocado?

Easy Chicken Salad

This easy, classic Chicken Salad recipe with grapes and sliced almonds tastes just like the Panera Chicken Sandwich. Perfect for a graduation parties, a ladies luncheon, brunches, bridal or wedding showers, baptisms, and pretty much any event you can think of!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Southern
Servings 8 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 4 cups cooked, roughly chopped or shredded chicken
  • 2 tbls olive oil (if you are cooking chicken and not using canned or rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 ½ cup red grapes, halved
  • 1 ½ cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 3 thinly sliced green onions use the green & white parts
  • 2 tbl fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 cup Dukes mayo
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 juice from a lemon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 8 croissant rolls if doing a tea party you can use mini croissant rolls
  • green leaf lettuce

Instructions
 

  • If using uncooked chicken breasts, preheat oven to 400°F. Rub chicken breasts with the olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Place the chicken on a baking sheet and bake for 22-26 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165°F when tested with an instant read meat thermometer placed in the thickest part of the breast. Roughly chop or shred the cooked chicken.
  • In a large bowl, add the cooked chicken, grapes, celery, green onions, almonds, and dill, then gently toss to combine.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  • Add the dressing mixture to the chicken mixture and gently stir until everything is evenly coated. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or even overnight.
  • If making chicken salad sandwiches, slice each croissant in half and layer a piece of green leaf lettuce and a scoop of chicken salad on each roll. Or serve the chicken salad over a bed of mixed greens with sliced tomato and avocado.
Keyword chicken, easy meal, sandwich
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