Cranberry Chicken Salad
Looking to elevate your next Summer picnic? Try my Cranberry Chicken Salad, using fresh cranberries, orange (peel and all!) and honey this recipe brings a punchy tart and sweet flavor that is a fun and light twist to the classic chicken salad.
Why do we only think of cranberries around Thanksgiving? Cranberry sauce and turkey is great, but I think we should be eating these nutrient dense and flavor bursting fruits all year long! Due to their notoriously tart and sharp flavor they are typically enjoyed as sweetened fruit juice, jam, sauces, and now as the star of my Cranberry Chicken Salad!
Cranberries are about 90% water and the rest is simple carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamins and minerals. The skin of cranberries are high in insoluble fiber, which helps move food through our digestive system and can reduce symptoms of constipation. Cranberries are also rich in vitamin C, which is an antioxidant and essential for maintenance of skin and bone.1
Cranberries are also rich in plant compounds, mostly flavonol polyphenols, which are found in the skin of the fruit. Most of these nutrients are lost when the berries are processed to make juice and even when drying. The best way to get all the nutritional benefits is to enjoy the whole cranberry, like in my Cranberry Chicken Salad1
The bioactive compounds found in cranberries are proven to be effective in the prevention of urinary tract infections (UTIs)––a common bacterial infection, especially among women. The research shows that the consumption of cranberry juice can reduce the recurrence of UTIs among women.2
When making the salad dressing I recommend first thawing the frozen cranberries in the refrigerator overnight or in the microwave (about 1 minute). Add the thawed cranberries, honey and a clean, fresh orange cut into quarters–– peel and all!––into the food processor. Trust me, when the peel is finely minced it will mellow out the cranberry tartness and give a great mouthfeel.
Where do Cranberries grow?
Cranberries require cold winters, sandy soil and abundant fresh water to produce a bountiful crop. Lucky for us, this environment known as a bog is abundant throughout the northern United states and Canada. Wisconsin is the largest producer followed by Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington. Outside of the U.S., Canada and Chile also grow a significant amount of cranberries.
Cranberries are harvested in the Fall, from mid-September through early November. Cranberries can be harvested with a dry or wet harvesting method. Dry harvesting uses walk-behind machinery that collects the berries, which are then sorted and graded for the fresh and frozen fruit market. This was most likely the method of harvesting for the cranberries in my Cranberry Chicken Salad!
Wet harvesting is how about 90% of cranberries are harvested for use in sauces, juices, processed foods and supplements. Since cranberries have pockets of air inside the fruit, they float in water and are removed from their vines with an “egg-beater” like device which are then collected and processed.3
Rotisserie Chicken-Meals Made Easy!
By using a rotisserie chicken we can keep our oven off, and our Cranberry Chicken Salad can be ready in just a few minutes! Depending where you purchase your bird, it can be heavily seasoned with salt. Some grocers sell an “unseasoned” variety that will be low or no salt. If this option is not available to you I suggest to remove the skin. The skin of the chicken is also high in saturated fat, so depending on your eating pattern, it may be beneficial to toss the skin.
Shred the Bird
After you remove all the meat from the rotisserie chicken, there are a few techniques to prepare it for my Cranberry Chicken Salad. First, you need to decide the texture you like for your salad, do you want it to be chunky (yes please!) or finely shredded? The first method is to take two forks and shred the meat. The next technique is to place the chicken in the bowl of a stand mixer or use an egg beater, and whisk the chicken for finely shredded results. Lastly, you can shred it using your hands!
After shredding the rotisserie chicken with your new found method of choice all that needs to be done is add in the dressing! The key to this recipe and my Healthy Chicken Salad is using Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise, which has less fat and more nutrients! Enjoy my Cranberry Chicken Salad over a bed of greens, in a wrap or sandwich or simply by itself.
- Cranberries 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits. Healthline. Published February 15, 2019. Accessed June 30, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/cranberries
- Kontiokari T, Sundqvist K, Nuutinen M, Pokka T, Koskela M, Uhari M. Randomised trial of cranberry-lingonberry juice and Lactobacillus GG drink for the prevention of urinary tract infections in women. BMJ. 2001;322(7302):1571. doi:10.1136/bmj.322.7302.1571
- How Cranberries Grow: Fall | Massachusetts Cranberries. Accessed June 30, 2020. https://www.cranberries.org/how-cranberries-grow/fall
- 2 cups fresh or frozen and thawed cranberries
- 1 orange or 2 clementines quartered
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 rotisserie chicken meat removed and chopped/pulled apart into bite size pieces
- 3 celery sticks diced
- 1 granny smith apple diced
- ½ cup walnuts or pecans chopped
- Optional: 1/3 cup parsley chopped
- In a food processor, add cranberries, orange, and honey and process until minced and combined well.
- In a large bowl, add cranberry mixture, yogurt, mustard, salt, and pepper and combine.
- Add chicken, celery, apple, and walnuts to the bowl and mix well. Optional: garnish with parsley.