Easy Deli Chicken Salad – A Classic Deli-Style Recipe

Get set for a delicious twist on your lunch routine! Check out my no-fuss Deli-Style Chicken Salad. It’s all about simple, tasty ingredients coming together for a satisfying meal that won’t keep you tied to the kitchen.

Zoomed in of deli chicken salad in a white ramekin on a linen napkin with a deli container labeled "chicken sal" behind it.

I started to make this deli chicken salad a few years ago for my husband and me to take to work for lunch. It’s the best chicken salad for meal prep. It comes together quickly and with simple ingredients like chicken breast, red onion, lemon juice, celery, and simple pantry staples. This is one of my favorite chicken salad recipes because you will most likely have all of the ingredients on hand already.

You need a rotisserie chicken, some leftover chicken, or chicken breasts. I usually like to poach chicken breasts for this recipe unless I’m short on time, so I’ll grab a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store. I hope you love my homemade chicken salad recipe as much as I do! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section, and I’ll be sure to respond as quickly as I can! 

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Meal-prep friendly –  For those who prioritize efficiency in the kitchen, this deli chicken salad is a meal-prep dream come true. Its simplicity and quick preparation make it an excellent option for batch cooking, ensuring you have delicious, ready-to-go meals throughout the week. 
  • Many ways to enjoy – Whether you prefer a light and fresh lettuce wrap, a classic sandwich, or even as a topping for crackers or a bed of greens, the possibilities are endless.
  • Quick and easy – With its simple ingredients and straightforward instructions, this deli chicken salad recipe is a time-saver, perfect for those busy days when you want a delicious meal without spending hours in the kitchen.

What Is Deli-Style Chicken Salad?

Deli chicken salad typically refers to a cold salad made with cooked chicken meat, chopped into bite-sized pieces, and mixed with various ingredients to create a flavorful and satisfying dish. The exact ingredients can vary but commonly include mayonnaise, celery, onions, and seasonings such as salt and pepper. Some variations may incorporate ingredients like pickle relish, mustard, or herbs to enhance the taste. Deli chicken salad is often served on sandwiches, wraps, or as a side dish. I grew up eating this type of chicken salad, and now it’s one of my favorite recipes to feed my family. 

Ingredients

Ingredients (shredded chicken, mayonnaise, dijon mustard, diced red onion, diced celery, salt, pepper, garlic powder, brown sugar) all in individual glass bowls on a wooden cutting board. Overhead shot.
  • Mayonnaise – Adds a creamy texture and a bit of richness, holding everything together.
  • Dijon mustard – Brings a zesty kick, adding some sharpness and depth to the flavor.
  • Lemon juice – Fresh and citrusy, it brightens things up, giving a nice, tangy twist to the chicken salad recipe.
  • Garlic powder – Infuses a subtle garlic flavor, contributing to the overall savory goodness of the deli chicken salad. 
  • Brown sugar – Offers a touch of sweetness, balancing out the savory and tangy elements.
  • Celery – Crisp and refreshing, it brings a satisfying crunch and mild veggie flavor.
  • Red onion – Adds a bold kick and vibrant color, enhancing the overall taste.
  • Shredded chicken breast – The main star, providing lean, protein-packed goodness for a hearty and satisfying chicken salad.

Substitutions

  • Mayonnaise – Greek yogurt or a combination of Greek yogurt and sour cream can be a healthier alternative.
  • Celery – Cucumber or jicama can offer a similar crunch and freshness if you’re out of celery.
  • Turkey leftovers – For a turkey twist, use shredded leftover Thanksgiving turkey instead of chicken, giving your salad a delightful holiday flavor.
  • Add grapes – Halve or quarter some seedless grapes (red or green) and fold them into the mix. Grapes’ natural sweetness and juiciness will add flavor and a pleasant contrast.
  • Add nuts: –Chopped nuts like pecans, walnuts, or almonds can provide a satisfying crunch. Toast them for an extra layer of flavor before adding to the salad, enhancing texture and taste.

Step by Step Instructions

Mayonnaise, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and garlic powder being mixed in a bowl to make the dressing for deli chicken salad.

Step 1: Combine mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl.

Whisk mixing a mayonnaise-based dressing for deli chicken salad in a glass bowl.

Step 2: Whisk the ingredients together until well combined, creating a flavorful dressing.

Diced celery added to a dressing for deli chicken salad in a glass bowl.

Step 3: Add the finely chopped celery to the dressing. Then, gently fold in the finely diced red onion.

Diced red onion pile ontop of diced celery ontop of mayo-based dressing in a glass bowl.

Step 4: Then, gently fold in the finely diced red onion.

Silicone spatula mixing dressing for deli chicken salad (mayo based dressing with diced celery and red onion) in a glass bowl.

Step 5: Mix the dressing with the diced red onion and celery until it is combined.

Shredded chicken breast in a glass bowl

Step 6: Finally, add the shredded chicken breast to the bowl.

Silicone spatula mixing deli chicken salad in a glass bowl.

Step 7: Mix the chicken salad until everything is evenly coated by the dressing.

Zoomed in of deli chicken salad in a white ramekin on a linen napkin with a deli container labeled "chicken sal" behind it.

Step 8: Chill the chicken salad in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Serve your deli chicken salad on its own, in a sandwich, as a lettuce wrap, or with your preferred accompaniment.

Deli chicken salad in a white ramekin on a linen napkin with a deli container labeled "chicken sal" behind it.

Tips and Notes

  • Chicken prep – Use cooked and cooled shredded chicken for convenience. Rotisserie chicken or leftover roasted chicken works great. you can also poach chicken and then use a mixer to shred it. 
  • Mayo and mustard ratio – Adjust the mayo and Dijon mustard amounts based on your preference for creaminess and tanginess. Feel free to add more or less according to your taste.
  • Lemon zest – For an extra burst of citrus flavor, consider adding a bit of lemon zest along with the lemon juice.
  • Make the dressing first – Making the dressing first ensures a smooth chicken salad. Trust me on this!
  • Chill time – Let the salad chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld. This enhances the overall taste.

Recipe FAQs

My favorite way is using a stand mixer. However, you can shred chicken using two forks or your hands. Cooked and cooled chicken breasts can be easily shredded by pulling the meat apart.

Yes, you can make the salad ahead of time. It often tastes better after chilling for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors meld.

Deli chicken salad in a white ramekin on a linen napkin with a deli container labeled "chicken sal" behind it.

Serving Suggestions

  • Wine pairing – Consider a light and crisp white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio for a chicken salad sandwich. The bright acidity complements the flavors of the salad without overpowering.
  • Classic chicken salad sandwich – Spread the deli chicken salad between slices of your favorite bread for a classic and satisfying chicken salad sandwich.
  • Lettuce wraps – Enjoy the chicken salad in crisp lettuce leaves for a lighter, low-carb option. Drizzle extra dressing and sprinkle chopped nuts for added flavor and texture.
  • Crackers and cheese platter –  Serve the chicken salad on a platter with an assortment of crackers and cheese for a delightful appetizer or snack.
  • Stuffed pita pockets – Fill pita pockets with the deli chicken salad and fresh greens for a portable and flavorful lunch.
  • On a bed of greens – Serve the chicken salad over a bed of mixed greens for a refreshing and nutritious salad bowl.
  • Crostini appetizer – Slice a baguette into thin crostini, toast, and top with the deli chicken salad for an elegant appetizer at gatherings.

Storage Instructions

Store leftover deli chicken salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days for the best quality and freshness. For the best taste, serve the deli chicken salad chilled. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld.

Zoomed in of deli chicken salad in a white ramekin on a linen napkin with a deli container labeled "chicken sal" behind it.

Easy Deli Chicken Salad – A Classic Deli-Style Recipe

Allie Hagerty
Deli chicken salad, a classic dish, made with everyday ingredients. Perfect for sandwiches, wraps, and side dishes!
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Time to Chill 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Lunch
Cuisine American
Servings 6 servings
Calories 393 kcal

Equipment

  • measuring spoons
  • measuring cups
  • Knife
  • cutting board
  • large mixing bowl
  • whisk
  • silicone spatula

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup diced celery finely diced
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion finely diced
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast shredded/pulled

Instructions
 

  • Combine mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl. Whisk the ingredients together until well combined, creating a flavorful dressing.
  • Add the finely chopped celery to the dressing. Then, gently fold in the finely diced red onion.
  • Finally, add the shredded chicken breast to the bowl. Mix the chicken salad until everything is evenly coated by the dressing.
  • Once all the ingredients are combined, taste the salad and adjust the salt and pepper according to your preference.
  • Chill the chicken salad in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Serve your deli chicken salad on its own, in a sandwich, as a lettuce wrap, or with your preferred accompaniment.

Notes

  • Make the dressing first – Making the dressing first ensures a smooth chicken salad. Trust me on this!
  • Chill time – Let the salad chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld. This enhances the overall taste.

Nutrition

Calories: 393kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 25gFat: 31gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 17gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 88mgSodium: 788mgPotassium: 471mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 81IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 16mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Chicken, lunch
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

3 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Made this for meal prep this week and it is so delicious, I don’t know if I’ll be able to save it for lunches!

  2. 5 stars
    The best chicken salad recipe. Took this to a birthday party and it disappeared very quickly … probably should have made a double batch!

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