This lightened up walnut cranberry chicken is the perfect sweet and savory addition to fresh sliced bread, a green salad, or wrapped up in a tortilla!
Chicken salad is one of those foods that can be made 100 different ways. Meaning that I either love it or I hate it. My ideal chicken salad is full of creamy light dressing, a fresh crunch, and sweet chewy berries.
So I always feel like a food snob when I ask, “Well, what’s it made of?” When chicken salad is on the menu. Sorry (but not really sorry ), I am all for eating what we actually enjoy, not just settling.
This cranberry walnut chicken salad is a variation of one that my mom has made for years. The poppyseed dressing adds the most delicate sweetness to the mix, so that is one thing that I absolutely did not change (and I highly recommend that you leave that ingredient just how it is too!).
So if you are also a sweet, fresh, crunchy, and chewy berry chicken salad far, then you absolutely need to give this a try! A whole batch only lasts a couple of days in our house- lunch, breakfast, dinner, a snack…it hits the spot every time.
How to Make Chicken Salad with Cranberries and Walnuts
1.Cook and chop your chicken. For chicken salad, I really prefer to use chopped chicken versus shredded chicken. It’s a texture thing for me. You can easily poach your chicken breast, prepare it in the slow cooker or pressure cooker OR like I did- just bake it.
To bake chicken breast for cranberry walnut chicken salad
Just preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, season your chicken breast with salt and pepper and place in a pan. Bake the chicken breast for 20-40 minutes (depending on the thickness) until the inside temperature is 160-165. You want the temperature to reach 165, but if you remove it at 160 or slightly over, it should hit 165 after it rests an additional 10 minutes or so.
2. Toast your chopped walnuts.
How to Toast Walnuts
- Preheat the oven to 375 (or if you are toasting right after baking your chicken, just leave the oven on).
- Place the chopped walnuts on a baking sheet.
- Toast for 4-5 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice. Make sure to check every minute or so, as the walnuts toast quickly and can easily burn.
- Remove from oven and let cool.
3. Finely chop the celery and red onions.
4. To make the dressing: Mix the greek yogurt, poppyseed dressing, and mayonnaise together until the mixture is smooth. Set aside.
5. Add chopped cooked chicken, dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, celery, red onion, garlic powder, poppy seeds, salt and pepper into a medium mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
6. Gently fold the dressing into the chicken mixture until everything is well coated and combined. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow flavors to meld. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley if desired.
FAQS Tricks and Tips for Making Walnut Cranberry Chicken Salad
If it Seems Dry: This recipe has not resulted in a dry chicken salad for me, but if it seems a bit dry for your tastes, try adding a couple of tablespoons of greek yogurt and/or poppy seed dressing until it is the level of creaminess you enjoy!
Chicken Any Style: You can make your chicken any way you like and decide to chop or shred it. If you want to make it even easier, buy and chop a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store! I havent made it with rotisserie chicken, but it would definitely make prep a whole lot easier!
Lightened Up: The chicken salad recipe my mom makes calls for 1 cup of mayonnaise. I wanted to make a chicken salad that allowed the flavors of the other ingredients to pop, instead of being toned down with mayonnaise. The plain greek yogurt adds a bit of tang, tastes lighter, and really lets the flavor of the toasted walnuts and cranberries shine.
Easy Prep Ahead Tips for Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad
Pre-Cook Chicken: Baking, poaching, or slow cooking your chicken breasts on the weekend and having ready to go in the refrigerator shaves off 30 minutes of hands off prep time when you want this to come together quickly.
Make Now, Eat Later: This walnut cranberry chicken salad really does taste better then longer it sits in the refrigerator. You can safely eat this up to 4 days after you make it.
How to Serve Walnut Cranberry Chicken Salad
A walnut cranberry chicken salad croissant
This is the classic way to eat any chicken salad, and with this walnut cranberry chicken salad, it does not dissappoint!
A chicken salad sandwich on hearty bread
As a sandwich, I would not recommend using a flimsy regular ol’ sandwich bread. Choose something hearty like sunflower, a thick whole grain bread, or a sourdough bread.
A cranberry walnut chicken salad wrap
Place a blanket of crunchy romaine on a tortilla, add a few spoonfuls of cranberry walnut chicken salad and wrap it up for a delicious, fresh, and satisfying wrap.
A Leafy Green Chicken Salad
This chicken salad with cranberries and walnuts really has all the elements to a delicious salad already in it. All you are missing is a leafy or crunchy bed of greens! You won’t even need any dressing, but if it seems a bit dry for your tastes, just top with some extra poppy seed dressing!
Did you make this recipe? Be sure to rate it below and tell me what you think!
Walnut Cranberry Chicken Salad
- 3/4 cup plain greek yogurt I used plain, non-fat
- 1/3 cup poppyseed dressing
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 4.5 cups chopped, cooked chicken about 3 chicken breasts chopped
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/3 cup chopped walnuts toasted
- 1/3 cup minced celery approx 1/2 of one stalk
- 1/4 cup minced red onion approx 1/4 of a medium sized red onion
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp poppy seeds
- 1/4 tsp salt & pepper
- chopped parsley, for garnish optional
- Combine the greek yogurt, mayonnaise, and poppyseed dressing in a small bowl. Stir until all dressings are mixed well.
- Add chopped cooked chicken, dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, celery, red onion, garlic powder, poppy seeds, salt and pepper into a medium mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
- Add the dressing to the chicken mixture. Stir well. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour for flavors to meld. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Not ready to make it just yet? Add this recipe to your favorite Pinterest board to save for later!
Want more Quick and Easy Meal Ideas? I’ve got you covered with a few tasty recipes below!