Healthy Chicken Salad with Apples
It’s almost time for picnic season, which means we’ve got to get our packable recipes ready to go! Healthy chicken salad is one of my favorite protein-based salads because it’s filling, can be served in lots of different ways, and I can add or take away ingredients, depending on what I’m craving or what’s in my fridge. This recipe is awesome because it’s not like the typical, mayo heavy salad. I’ve lightened it up with Greek yogurt and a burst of lemon juice. Yum!
How to Make Healthy Chicken Salad
Start this recipe by cooking up some chicken. I like to grill my chicken to get extra browning and flavor. Feel free to grill your inside, but if weather permits and you have a grill, enjoy some time outside grill them up in the sunshine! Another option is to get a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, then just cut out that step entirely!
While the chicken is cooking, prep the rest of the salad ingredients and mix together the dressing. This dressing is bursting with bright flavor—fresh lemon juice, along with chopped granny smith apple, provides acidity and freshness that keeps you coming back for another bite.
Why Does Grilled Chicken Taste Better?
Like I mentioned above, grilling your chicken can provide move flavor than boiling it. If we want to get technical really quick, I’ll explain to you why! When chicken is grilled, it browns on the outside, which is a result of a process called the Maillard reaction. This involves a complicated chemical reaction between amino acids and sugars, producing a brown color and distinct umami flavor.1 Because this reaction only happens at high temperatures, this result only occurs when using cooking techniques like grilling, searing and roasting. Boiling chicken won’t produce this reaction because water can’t get hot enough to allow the reaction to occur. This is why you get more flavor with grilling, roasting and searing! Ok, science lesson is over now.
Mayo vs. Yogurt
The yogurt in this recipe really lightens up the traditional take on chicken salad. Greek yogurt is always in my house because it’s the perfect healthy alternative to other creamy condiments like mayonnaise or sour cream.
Aside from being deliciously creamy, yogurt is also great because it provides a few more nutrition related benefits that mayo does not. Yogurt is made by the fermentation of lactose in milk by bacteria cultures. This creates lactic acid, which provides yogurt with its thick texture and tangy taste.2 Because of this, some yogurts have live bacteria or probiotics in them, which have been found to help improve digestive health.2 Yogurt also has tons of calcium in it, making it an ideal food to support and improve bone and teeth health.2 Have I convinced you to try this swap yet?
How to Serve
Dishes that can be served in multiple way are always a win for me. This healthy chicken salad recipe is definitely one of those dishes! You can eat it plain with a fork, wrapped up in a tortilla or lettuce wrap or piled high in between your favorite sandwich bread. Put a scoop on top of some salad greens or use celery or crackers to scoop it up. No matter how you eat it, I know you’ll love it!
If you’re looking for more chicken based recipes, check out my super-fast chicken burgers with vegetables or healthy chicken meatballs with coconut cream sauce!
- Jayasena DD, Ahn DU, Nam KC, Jo C. Flavour Chemistry of Chicken Meat: A Review. Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences. 2013;26(5):732-742. doi:10.5713/ajas.2012.12619. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/ PMC4093335/
- Elliott B. 7 Impressive Health Benefits of Yogurt. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-benefits-of-yogurt#section1. Published January 20, 2017. Accessed March 28, 2020.https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-benefits-of-yogurt#section1
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Olive-oil cooking spray
- 1 pound 2 small whole breasts boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 3/4 cup plain nonfat greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped chives
- 1 tablespoon freshly chopped tarragon optional
- 1 Granny Smith apple
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 cup finely diced fennel
- 1/2 cup finely diced celery
- 2 cups red seedless grapes cut in half
- Fiber Rich Crackers or other bread/crackers
- Combine salt and pepper in a bowl. Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle chicken with some of the salt mixture; place in pan. Reduce heat to medium; cover. Cook until chicken is cooked through, about 12 minutes (flip halfway through cooking time). Remove from pan; set aside. Note: can also grill chicken on an outdoor grill, same procedure applies.
- In a bowl, combine yogurt, mustard, chives, tarragon, and remaining salt mixture. Core the apple, and cut into 1/4-inch dice. Place in a medium bowl with lemon juice, and toss to combine. Add fennel, celery, and grapes. Cut reserved chicken into 1/2-inch pieces. Add to salad with yogurt dressing; stir to combine.
- Serve on crackers of toast.