Sonoma Chicken Salad is a one of my favorite recipes to share with other women. For some reason, women in the south LOVE chicken salad. And there’s even an entire chain of restaurants devoted to everyone’s favorite bridal luncheon staple. As a personal chef, I make it for weekly clients, baby showers, and bridal showers on the regular. But this is not a kid-friendly recipe – this is a southern lady staple.
The key to making chicken salad consistently and quickly is a store-bought Rotisserie chicken. These chickens are a gift to busy mamas from the grocery-store gods. They’re completely ready to eat and are not much more expensive than buying a whole chicken. Especially if you shop at Costco, where they act as a loss leader for the warehouse. There are a million ways to use a rotisserie chicken (and here are fifteen) but my favorite is Sonoma Chicken Salad. It’s sweet, savory, and healthy to boot.
Store-bought chicken salad is almost always disappointing. It frequently is bland, has too much mayonnaise, and sells for a premium. The Sonoma Chicken Salad sold at one of my nearby stores sells less than one cup of chicken salad for over six dollars! And it has whole grapes in it. WHOLE GRAPES – don’t even get me started on that ridiculousness. The beauty of Sonoma Chicken Salad is the balance of sweet and savory, and if you have whole grapes, you completely upset that balance. I used to only use diced apple for chicken salad because I thought slicing grapes was too tedious. But now that I have a toddler, it’s a daily occurrence anyway, so I might as well slice extra for myself.
The beauty of this recipe is that it’s completely adaptable to your ingredients on hand. No grapes? Use diced apple. No apple? Use dried cranberries or raisins. Don’t like red onion? Throw in some celery. No celery in the fridge? Just skip it then. You can sub almost any toasted nut for the pecans, and the poppy seeds just add color and texture, so if you’re out, just skip it. In my view, a recipe is just a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. So I hope you’ll make my Sonoma Chicken Salad at home and hide it from the rest of the family. It’s all yours, mama!