If you love chicken salad, you’re not alone.
Did you know there are now restaurants, such as the 111 locations of the “Chicken Salad Chick,” only serving chicken salad dishes?
Yep, chicken salad is just that awesome that it can be a stand-alone like its cousin the chicken wing.
Yet, the rich chicken protein and fatty mayo that traditionally make the base of most chicken salad recipes create quite a conundrum on what side dishes to serve with it at home.
Plus, there’s the fact that some people like their chicken salad as a solo act, and others prefer it on a bed of leafy veggies or some type of starch.
So, let’s explore what goes into a chicken salad and what’s best served as the side dish for some of the most popular varieties.
What Goes Into A Chicken Salad?
You take a recipe like chicken parmesan as an example.
It’s rather consistent. Sure, some may use different coatings for the battering, pasta shapes, or tomato sauces for a different taste, but the main ingredients remain the same – fried chicken breast, tomato sauce, and pasta.
Chicken salad isn’t one of those kinds of recipes.
There are hundreds of different ingredient combinations.
Let’s look at the main ingredient categories of what goes into a chicken salad:
The main ingredient is, of course, chicken.
It’s usually finely diced or chunk for texture purposes. It’s past this point that the variations begin.
It starts with what kind of chicken to use. Most recipes call for a poached chicken.
You can go with a rotisserie chicken; grilled chicken; and use white, dark, or both meats. According to this chicken salad recipe by the American Heart Association, you can even use canned white meat chicken.
You need some sticky wetness to hold the chicken salad together.
Traditionally, the dressing part is light or regular mayonnaise. Whether you’re on a special diet for weight or health or just don’t like mayo, there are a plethora of alternatives for the dressing element of your chicken salad recipe.
According to Our Everyday Life, some popular more healthy alternatives to mayo are Greek yogurt and sour cream.
Do keep in mind, that the consistency, texture, and taste will be different depending on which you use.
Want to freeze your chicken salad? First read this post: Can Chicken Salad be Frozen Successfully?
3) Veggies / Fruit / Nuts
Here’s where chicken salad goes a little crazy.
Traditionally, chicken salad recipes mostly called for some onion and celery. Pecans and grapes were the traditional optional fruit and nut additions.
But, the sky is the limit here.
You can add scallions, diced carrots, strawberries, chickpeas, leeks, dates or raisins, walnuts, water chestnuts, slivered almonds, dried cranberries, avocado, apples, pineapples, and so forth.
Some people even add seeds, such as pumpkin or sunflower.
The Side Dish Problem With Chicken Salad
As you can see, the recipe combinations for chicken salad are endless, and we didn’t even cover how it’s seasoned with spices, cheeses, and sauces.
That versatility is great not to get bored with the main dish.
With such a smorgasbord of recipe options, it also makes figuring out what to serve as a side dish rather complicated.
To figure it out, look at the ingredients you use in the chicken salad and how it will be served.
This will tell you if a side dish will clash or mesh with your chicken salad entree.
What Side Dishes Go Great With Chicken Salad?
1. Mozzarella, Tomato, And Basil Stacks
This side dish looks absolutely stunning alongside a beautiful scoop of chicken salad.
So long as you don’t put some sort of cheese crumble in your chicken salad, this dish will pair perfectly. Plus, it’s simple to whip together.
Slice a ball of mozzarella and an heirloom tomato in ovals. Create stacks with one slice of each before topping with a fresh basil leaf. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil.
Give it a dash of salt and pepper.
2. Cheese Crisps
This is another simple and quick side dish that will go perfectly with any chicken salad that doesn’t have cheese as an ingredient.
Grab your favorite shredded cheese.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place one tablespoon of cheese in a mound every two to three inches apart.
Bake until crisp.
3. Roasted Veggies
If your chicken salad sticks to the more simplistic style of celery and onions for the veggie component, then adding some roasted veggies can make a great side dish.
They’ll even stand up good if you’re putting your chicken salad on a bed of greens.
Corn, beets, and asparagus make for good roasting veggies that avoid unnecessary adding to an existing bed of green leafy veggies.
On the other hand, let’s say your chicken salad will be served on starchy bread or crackers.
Did you know that some veggies have quite a bit of starch (carbs) in them?
Adding starchy veggies to an already carb-heavy meal is nutritionally disproportionate and bloating.
It can also cause blood sugar irregularities, especially in diabetics. According to the American Diabetes Association, this list of veggies are non-starchy.
So, if you already have a starch via bread or crackers, then go with a roasted low-starch veggie like roasted artichoke hearts or eggplant.
4. Spring Rolls
These crispy rolls of joy make a great side dish for chicken salad, especially recipes that nix both the bread and leafy green serving style.
They compliment pretty much any recipe ingredient, too. If you’re doing a heart-healthy chicken salad with Greek yogurt, then you can always bake your spring rolls to keep in alignment.
Simply sprinkle some lemon juice and pepper over a bowl of shredded cabbage and string carrots.
Wrap in egg roll wrappers, give it a gently egg-wash, along the seam, and bake until golden brown.
Add a little sugar and lemon juice to your Greek yogurt and you have an egg roll dip that instantly compliments the flavor of your chicken salad.
5. Coleslaw Or Cucumber Salad
If your chicken salad is mayo-based, then it’s a good idea to switch gears and go with a nice extra virgin olive oil cucumber salad with cherry tomatoes.
It’s light and refreshing, and you can add a touch of apple cider vinegar to balance fruit-heavy chicken salad that may be on the sweeter side.
The dill pickle in coleslaw can also give that bit of sourness to counterbalance sweeter versions of fruity chicken salad.
Also, do keep in mind that the alternatives mentioned above for mayo can be used to make your coleslaw, too.
6. Fruit Salad
If you prefer to keep your fruit out of your chicken salad, then a fruit salad can be the perfect side dish.
Use apples, oranges, pineapple, and strawberry, which all have a subtle sweetness that compliments the chicken.
Look for a fruit salad recipe with nuts and cream cheese if you decide to keep those ingredients out of your chicken salad.
A nice ambrosia salad recipe can work well.
Whether you’re making a chicken salad sandwich or using greens under your chicken salad, a cup of soup always makes a nice pairing.
Some people will gasp at soup as a side dish since it’s so often used as an main course in home cooking.
According to Audio English, the definition of a side dish is that it’s “subordinate” to the main course.
To achieve this subordination, keep your soup simple and the portion no larger than a cup.
Since you’re already heavy on protein, avoid meat-based and pea soups. A butternut squash or tomato soup is rich and creamy without the unnecessary heaviness.
If you’re not serving a starch with your chicken salad, potato soup with a dollop of sour cream and light sprinkle of cheese works well.
8. Deviled Eggs
Some recipes will call for boiled and diced eggs in chicken salad.
Sometimes, it can be a real pain deciding if you want a fruity and nutty chicken salad or an egg and veggie chicken salad, right?
Why not have the best of both worlds by going with the fruity chicken salad with a side of deviled eggs?
Hard boil your eggs while you finely dice onions, celery, and pickles.
Mix the veggies with some light mayonnaise. Cut your boiled eggs in half from top to bottom.
Remove the yolks and add to your veggie mixture. Use a fork to cream the mixture before stuffing and sprinkling with paprika.
The tart deviled eggs provide a great contrast to sweeter chicken salad recipes.
In closing, now you have eight sides that work according to how exactly you prepare your chicken salad.
As you move on to new side dish ideas, just remember these tips:
- Figure out what chicken salad recipe you’re using before picking your side.
- Pick your side dish to contrast your chicken salad by adding ingredients to the meal that the main dish isn’t already offering.
- Don’t forget that the side dish should be unique, but still subordinate to the main dish.
- Pick your side dish to compliment your chicken salad by adding flavors that pair well and don’t clash with the main dish.