Classic Apple Pecan Chicken salad will become one of your favorite go-to chicken salad recipes. Loaded with must-have crunchies like apples, buttery pecans, shallots, and celery; then lightly dressed in a bright lemon, tarragon mayonnaise dressing.
I have been making this recipe for years, an irresistible recipe perfect for bridal and baby showers, or simply for meal prep during the week, but read on for many more ways to use chicken salad.
In my opinion you cannot have too many chicken salad recipes, this Sherried Chicken salad with grapes, classic Southern Tuna Salad, and this Blackberry Grilled Chicken Salad while more of a traditional salad, is still the bomb!
Why we love this Apple Pecan Chicken Salad
- FRESH | This Chicken Tarragon Salad is beyond fresh, incorporating veggies and fruit available year round, and the fresh tarragon takes it over the top!
- EASY | Simple recipes are my favorite, with just a few ingredients and about 15 minutes, you will have tarragon chicken salad at your fingertips.
- MEAL PREP | I adore recipes you can prep once but enjoy all week, line individual containers with a piece of lettuce (I love butter lettuce) and a scoop of chicken salad with tarragon; lunch ready when you are!
I started making this recipe for chicken salad with tarragon about 20 years ago, I think it might have been from a Silver Palate cookbook, these are awesome cookbooks!
Then Whole Foods started making Tarragon Chicken Salad, it’s a match made in heaven! Save a lot of money and make your own homemade chicken tarragon salad. And of course you have Wendy’s and Arby’s also making this Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, this is better, promise!
Simple Ingredients & Substitutions
- COOKED CHICKEN BREAST | I used rotisserie chicken, makes it so much quicker and easier! But, also try this Instant Pot Chicken Breasts (fresh or frozen) from my friend Nikki.
- CHOPPED PECANS | In this salad in particular I love pecans, but you might also try slivered almonds, cashews, pistachios and even sunflower seeds.
- APPLE | I used Honeycrisp apples here; but also try Pink Lady (aka Cripps Pink), Gala, Fuji and Granny Smith, all will hold up beautifully in a chicken salad.
- CELERY | I am not a huge celery fan, but when chopped nice and small it provides a delicious crunch. Don’t like celery, check out my substitute for celery in chicken salad!
- SHALLOT | Also try red onion, chopped or minced tiny! Both are excellent flavor additions.
- MAYO | Use a good quality mayonnaise here, because the flavor shines through. I love Chosen Foods Avocado Oil Mayo – heart healthy, gluten free and dairy free mayo and delicious!
- LEMON | You will use the zest and the juice from the lemon, adds a citrus note which brightens the salad tremendously! Only have bottled lemon juice? It won’t be quite as bright and fresh, but will still work.
- FRESH TARRAGON | Fresh is amazing, but I have also used dried tarragon and it works great too! Remember though, the 3:1 rule when substituting dried for fresh herbs.
Let’s Make Tarragon Chicken Salad with Apple and Pecans
Step 1 | Toasting Pecans
Start by melting butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add chopped pecans and stir around until toasted and fragrant, don’t walk away they can burn fast. Will take 4-5 minutes.
Set aside and allow to cool while assembling the rest of the chicken salad with tarragon.
Step 2 | Making Mayo Dressing
Toss in chopped apples and chopped celery.
Step 3 | Assemble Chicken Salad
Add chopped or shredded chicken (if just baked, cool for 10-15 minutes until just warm to touch), and ½ cup of the pecans (reserving the balance for serving).
Stir in shallots with chicken mixing all ingredients until combined. Want to take the “bite” out of raw onions, check out this simple hack.
Cover and chill a few hours before serving — though I have certainly rushed this and eaten it straight out of the bowl! The flavors have time to marry when you let it chill together.
How long does chicken salad last in the fridge?
Chicken Tarragon Salad is a great meal prep recipe, as it stores and lasts well in the fridge.
Keep in a large sealed container, or split into portion sized containers. Lasts up to 5-7 days refrigerated.
How to Freeze Chicken Salad
Typically, recipes with mayonnaise don’t freeze great, as you will get some curdling or separation when thawed. But I have successfully frozen apple pecan chicken salad.
Freeze in an airtight container or freezer baggie (be sure to squeeze out as much air as possible), freeze up to 2 months, thaw overnight in fridge, stir well, adding a touch more mayonnaise if needed to rehydrate.
Frequently Asked Questions
Tarragon while more of a tender leaf than rosemary has a tough stem that you don’t want. Using your fingers, pull backwards on the leaves from the stem, stripping them off. Simply chop with a sharp knife into small pieces.
Tarragon is a distinctive aromatic herb, along the lines of fennel and anise, though I do not believe quite as strong.
Indeed it is! Just make sure your mayo and if using rotisserie chicken is also gluten free!
With only 8 carbs, 31 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber, this fits well into a low carb diet.
As long as your mayo is dairy free and you omit the butter, or use a dairy free alternative in the pecans, this recipe is fully dairy free.
9 Unique Ways to Serve Chicken Salad
Chicken salad can be eaten in many ways, most traditional is on a bed of lettuce or as part of a sandwich. Read on for 9 unique ways to serve chicken salad! Whether you are serving as an appetizer or a meal, gluten-free, dairy-free, low-carb and Keto; there is an option for you below.
- Luncheon Chicken Salad | Using a slice of green or red leaf lettuce, or butter lettuce, wash and pat dry, then scoop a few cookie sized scoops onto the lettuce. Serve with crackers, croissants, potato chips, grapes, veggies, you decide.
- Brioche Tarragon Chicken Salad Sandwich | Layer a slice of washed lettuce, scoop and slice in half. Brioche is a soft, delicious, rich egg bread amazing for sandwiches!
- Chicken Salad Croissant Recipe | Slice mini or regular sized croissants, layer a slice of butter or green leaf lettuce and scoop on desired amount of chicken salad.
- Pita Stuffed Chicken Tarragon Salad | Stuff into a pita pocket for an easy on the go sandwich.
- Chicken melts | You have heard of tuna melts, try tucking chicken salad onto a pre-toasted English muffin half, cover with cheese or keep plain. Place in middle of oven on broil for 2-3 minutes until warmed slightly.
- Appetizer | Using pre-baked phyllo shells, crostini, crackers, or baked wontons (like these Artichoke Wontons). Place spoonfuls of cold chicken salad, sprinkle with a few extra pecans and chopped chives or additional chopped tarragon.
- Lettuce Wrapped Chicken salad with apples and pecans | Using a sturdy piece of lettuce (rinsed and patted dry), I like using iceberg, romaine or green or red leaf lettuce, place scoop of chicken salad on; roll and eat! Great for low-carb and gluten-free!
- Cucumber or Zucchini Boats | Slice rounds of cucumbers or zucchini and place small spoonful of chicken salad on top, or scoop out seeds of half cucumber or zucchini and fill with chicken salad.
- Tea Sandwiches | Using a 2-3 inch round biscuit or cookie cutter, slice soft bread and top with chicken salad and second slice of bread, or use mini croissants. Or keep open faced.
Substitute for Celery in Chicken Salad
I get it, it took me years to like celery. You can omit if you don’t like it at all, or if you want to replace that crunch try these below.
- Chop additional apples, or try firm pears too
- Chopped carrots, radishes, zucchini or cucumbers
- Dice bell peppers, mini peppers or tomatoes
- Try dried fruit, like dates, raisins, figs, Craisins, or apricots chopped
- Finally, add more nuts; like almonds, cashews, pistachios, sunflower seeds.
More great recipes
- Tender Tarragon Butter Carrots | the flavors are amazing!
- Harvest Wild Rice Salad | Delicious anytime of year!
- Sweet Maple Apple Pecan Salad | another amazing & delicious spring salad
- Antipasto Pasta Salad | another great meal prep recipe!
- Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad | ditto!
- Shawarma Chicken Bowls | amazing, fresh flavors!
- Or perhaps if you are serving small sandwiches for a shower or tea, make these easy Hammy Sammies, Philly Cheesesteak Sliders or these Roast Beef Sliders.
Like this recipe?
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Apple Pecan Chicken Salad with Tarragon
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- 1 tablespoon butter replace with plant based butter for dairy free, or simply toast in pan dry until fragrant
- ¾ cup pecans chopped (also try almonds, pistachios, cashews or sunflower seeds)
- 1 cup mayonnaise | make sure gluten and dairy free if that is important
- 3 tablespoons fresh tarragon chopped (1 tablespoon dried)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice fresh squeezed, may be replaced with bottled juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 cups cooked chicken breast chopped or shredded (use rotisserie chicken, baked or grilled chicken)
- 1 medium-large apple cored, seeded and chopped | I used Honeycrisps, but use Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, Pink Lady or your favorite sweet crisp apple.
- 1 cup celery finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons shallot minced | may use red onion in place, see notes for how to take the bite out
- Start by melting butter in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add chopped pecans and stir around until toasted and fragrant, don’t walk away they can burn fast. Will take 4-5 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool while assembling the rest of the chicken salad.
- Toss in chopped apples and chopped celery. Add chopped or shredded chicken (if just baked, cool for 10-15 minutes until just warm to touch), and ½ cup of the pecans (reserving the balance for serving).
- Stir in shallots with chicken mixing all ingredients until combined.
- Cover and chill a few hours before serving — though I have certainly rushed this and eaten it straight out of the bowl! The flavors have time to marry when you let it chill together. Toss remaining pecans on top of salad for serving.
Replace butter with favorite plant based butter or toast dry in pan. Make sure your rotisserie chicken, pre-baked chicken and mayo are all gluten and dairy free. Substitute for celery in chicken salad? I get it, it took me years to like celery. You can omit if you don’t like it at all, or if you want to replace that crunch try these below.
- more chopped apples, or try pears too
- chopped carrots, radishes, zucchini or cucumbers
- Finely dice bell peppers, tomatoes
- Try dried fruit, like dates, craisins, apricots chopped
- Finally, add more nuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, sunflower seeds.