Before I get to this amazing loaded chicken salad (or tuna salad), a brief rambling is in order.
I wrote a long preface to this post, but was told to ditch it. Too personal, too revealing, too much apologizing for being gone so long, they said. So, I gave in and ditched it. All that matters is that I’m finally here, so let’s celebrate with sandwiches or wraps, whichever you prefer.
Sloppy and blurry, but oh so good.
Did you just hear the dull, hollow thud after I said that? Yeah, it’s there, an apropos response to sandwiches after 8 months away from blogging, not counting my last post, and my brief appearance to pay tribute to my dear, late friend, Lis.
For my second post back, I wanted to make something spectacular, and I tried, and I failed…twice. It was the most disgusting thing I’d ever put in my mouth. Then I felt sick again, so I gave up and made this easy loaded chicken salad, which really isn’t much of a recipe when compared to some of the crazy recipes I usually churn out, but it’s the best I can do for now. Plus, I can sit and chop, so win-win.
I’ve been making this chicken (or tuna) salad since I was 12 and learned how to roast peppers. I add roasted peppers to all of my mayo based salads because it makes them remarkably better; the sweet, roasty undertones adding a nuance and pop that’s out of this world. You get your crunch from the celery, so nothing is missing texture-wise.
Back in the day, when I’d make chicken salad, I used to mix some of those ranch seasoning packets into the mayo before mixing it in with the chicken and veggies. I thought I had discovered something brilliant, but people have been mixing ranch seasoning packets with mayo long before me; they just add buttermilk and call it ranch dressing. This time I decided to go as a fresh as possible, eliminating the salt lick packs they call ranch seasoning. I’m not at all mocking those who use them; it’s just personal preference. If I had them around, I’d probably eat the powder right out of the package and blow up like a Macy’s parade float. In other words, they’re really tasty, but I like to have control over the amount of salt that goes into my food.
That said, I also switched out most of the mayo for Greek yogurt, but, by all means, use all mayo or all yogurt in this chicken (or tuna) salad, because either way is delicious.
Doesn’t it look good? Not beautiful, just good in the way a big, fat sandwich or wrap should be. No matter what the vessel (the above photo is this amazing pumpernickel bread from a fantastic ‘hidden treasure’ bakery on the lower east side), I think this is the best chicken or tuna salad in the world. Yes, I said it – the best chicken or tuna salad. There goes my “nothing is best” theory, huh? Well, as I wrote back then, what’s best for some may not be best for others since it’s all a matter of personal taste.
But, I still think this is the best chicken salad recipe I’ve ever come up with and ever tasted. BIASED? Yep.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may have noticed that I like my sandwiches big, overstuffed and messy, If the filling falls out while eating it, even better. However, this tuna or chicken salad is so pretty, it would make delightful, dainty, crustless tea sandwiches too, but when it comes to this chicken or tuna salad, I’ll always choose the former, with lots of napkins.
No need to pick up after me, I’ll get to it eventually.
Best Chicken Salad Recipe
- 3 to 4 cups shredded or chopped chicken (I use a roast chicken and a mix of white and dark meat) or 4 cans of white albacore tuna, drained
- 2 green onions, both the light and lower dark green parts, sliced thinly
- 1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
- 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
- 1 small carrot peeled and grated or shredded (sometimes I steam the carrot shreds, about 1 to 2 minutes, for more flavor)
- 1 or 2 stalks of celery, peeled (this is the best way to add it to salads, no strings), thick white end cut off, split vertically three or four times, finely diced, LIKE THIS
- 1 very small red onion or one-quarter of a large red onion, diced LIKE THIS (or 1 large shallot, diced)
- 1 to 3 avocados, depending on how many sandwiches, each half slightly mashed, seasoned with a little salt and pepper to taste
- Garlic Greek Yogurt Ranch Mayo (recipe follows). the amount depending on how 'wet' you like your chicken salad
- kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, if needed.
- ⅔ cup Greek Yogurt (Use all mayonnaise instead of yogurt, if desired)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise (if using all mayonnaise, just 2)
- ¼ cup chopped. fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh chives
- 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh dill weed
- 1 garlic clove chopped and smashed into a paste with a pinch of kosher salt, LIKE THIS
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ cup buttermilk (more or less, taste as you drizzle it in and stir, or 2 teaspoons buttermilk powder **) You can omit all the buttermilk, if you like. It's still great without it since yogurt is already tangy. If using all mayo, you need to use it.
- salt and pepper to taste
- Combine the first 7 ingredients in a large bowl. Mix in as much of the Greek Yogurt ranch mayo as you desire.
- The Secret - Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (I refrigerate it overnight) before serving to allow the flavors of the chicken salad and yogurt ranch to really blend or shall I say 'sing'? Because it really does sing! You'd be amazed at the difference it makes, not unlike beef stew eaten the day after it's cooked. Season it with extra salt and pepper after letting it chill, if need be.
- Serve as sandwiches, slightly mashing an avocado on top or spreading the avocado on one or both slices of bread (which I should have done for photos - neater) then layering boston or butter lettuce and tomato, if desired, or roll into whole wheat flour tortilla wraps or flatbread. Keep it low-carb and gluten-free by serving as is on a salad plate or spooned into a ripe avocado half.
- Place Greek yogurt in a strainer lined with cheesecloth (or a paper towel) over a bowl. Cover the strainer and allow excess liquid to drain for about 1 to 2 hours. You'll be replacing the liquid with buttermilk to make it 'ranch'. (While it's draining, start roasting the peppers and prepping the rest of the vegetables for the salad).
- If you're using all mayonnaise, obviously you can skip the above step.
Also, to make it even easier, but just as delicious, I've made this without straining the yogurt, just mixing in all the ingredients but the buttermilk into plain Greek yogurt and/or mayo, with great results..so that gives you three dressing choices!
- In a medium bowl, stir together strained Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, parsley, chives, dill, garlic paste,, garlic powder, and onion powder. Stir in buttermilk. Add more or less buttermilk for desired taste and consistency. I like it thick, like, well..mayo. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Wrap and refrigerate for several hours before adding it to salad, if you have the time. Even more flavor!
** You can usually find buttermilk powder in the baking or dried milk aisle in supermarkets. If not, you can order it online.