This Easy Apple Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad is one of my favorite ways to use up leftover chicken and make a delicious recipe with simple ingredients for a great lunch or light dinner! It’s one of my easy recipes for all the seasons of the year and I love it more every time I make it!
For years I’ve been missing out on chicken salad! I don’t like mayonnaise AT ALL and so I’ve been skipping the classic chicken salad for decades! It was only recently that I came across a healthy chicken salad recipe that got me thinking all the different ways you could actually make an easy cranberry chicken salad recipe and have it be tasty chicken salad! I had never even heard of using yogurt instead of mayonnaise in the chicken salad! And just like that, the light bulbs went off in my head and I knew I could totally change the creamy dressing that goes onto chicken salad into a recipe with ingredients I loved and would be happy to eat!
Ingredients for Easy Apple Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad:
Feel free to use what you already have on hand and make substitutions. Fresh ingredients will always taste the best, but sometimes the easy way is to use what you have on hand!
Serves: 6 Sandwiches/People
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt – I used full-fat Greek Yogurt – I think it adds a delightful creaminess!
- 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup
- 2 Tbsp Cranberry Juice (Mine was actually Cranberry Pomegranate juice – any kind of cranberry juice will do!)
- 1/3 cup Cream Cheese – I like to get the already whipped kind, as it’s MUCH easier to incorporate into the dressing. Especially if you forget to lay stuff out ahead of time to soften. I’m looking at myself on this one!
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries – I like to use dried cranberries for this recipe. I’m not really looking for the tart of the fresh cranberry. I want sweet cranberries, and for that, you really want to go with the dried sweetened variety. Having said that though – the tart of fresh cranberries would be delicious too!
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup diced apple – I used Granny Smith Apples because I love crunchy apples in my chicken salad.
- 1/3 cup chopped celery – Finely chop some fresh crunchy celery. It gives a great taste and crunch all at the same time.
- 2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced – If I don’t have leftover chicken breast to use, I’ll make some instant pot chicken breasts in a snap and they will be ready for chicken salad really quickly.
- Salt and Black Pepper, to taste – I actually don’t add either if my chicken is already seasoned. If my chicken isn’t seasoned, I might add just a pinch of black pepper and around 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
- 6 croissants
Equipment for Easy Apple Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad:
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- Santoku Knife – You don’t have to go out and buy a nice knife. BUT, if you were in the market for a knife, this is the one I couldn’t do without, and the one I go for time and time again. It’s wonderfully and beautifully made. I’ve had this knife for over 10 years and it’s my favorite thing in my entire kitchen. You truly do get what you pay for in knives. These are made in Germany but are widely sold in the United States now. You can go way higher in quality as well, this is just a starting point.
- Cutting Board – I’ve had these for years and I love them. Mine are red! They are the perfect sizes, easy to store, and have a little groove around the edges to stop juices from flowing all over. This is the cutting board I go to time and time again when I’m cooking.
- Flat Whisk – I adore this OXO Good Grips Flat Whisk. If I couldn’t have anything else in the kitchen, THIS is the gadget I’d keep. It’s the best whisk I’ve ever had and the flat part of the design is such a game-changer for making things in the pan! I could not recommend this more! This is the only brand I’ve ever had, and I’m a big fan of all the OXO products.
- Mixing Bowls – These nesting mixing bowls are fabulous. They store easily and the lids come in so, so handy! I adore them and I love the colors!
- Spatula Set – This is the greatest set ever. Not only does it have several handy spatulas, it has a few tiny ones too, to help you get every single scrape out of jars and containers!
Cooking and Assembly Instructions:
This recipe couldn’t be easier! Chop, drop in a bowl, and stir to combine!
Chop up all of your ingredients.
In a smaller bowl, combine cream cheese, yogurt, maple syrup and cranberry juice to make the dressing for the chicken salad.
Combine cranberries, pecans, diced apples, celery, and chicken in a larger mixing bowl. Add in about half of the dressing and stir to combine. You can decide from there how much more dressing to add. If you like it more creamy, add more dressing. If you like just a little dressing like me, stop there.
I use the leftover dressing as a fruit dip! It’s delicious that way too!
Serve on sliced and warm croissants.
Substitutions & Tips:
There are TONS of ways you can change this recipe up and make it your own! Don’t like an ingredient? Eliminate it! Have other ingredients on hand? Use them instead!
I like to use up leftover chicken in this recipe. It also works great with leftover turkey. If you don’t have chicken that’s already made, take some help from the store and grab a rotisserie chicken at the deli!
I’m not a mayonnaise girl, at ALL. So I don’t use it in this dressing. Chicken salad is traditionally made with a mayonnaise-based dressing. If you find yourself missing that tang, feel free to substitute mayonnaise and sour cream for the Greek yogurt and cream cheese in this recipe. You could even add a squirt of dijon mustard in for a dash of extra flavor.
If the dressing is too sweet for you, you can always squeeze in some lemon juice to give it a little zip!
If nuts are not your thing, or there is an allergy, feel free to omit them from the recipe. My husband is not a fan of nuts in chicken salad. I’m not a fan of chicken salad without nuts. It takes all kinds!
If you don’t have pecans on hand, feel free to substitute in almonds, walnuts, pistachios, or even cashews! I would use walnuts first and have a cranberry walnut chicken salad. YUM!
More Chicken Salad Recipes
Do you like out of the box Chicken Salad Recipes? Here are some others I found that look AMAZING!
- Curried Chicken Salad by The Pioneer Woman
- Cajun Chicken Salad by Amanda’s Cookin’
- Chicken Salad Deviled Eggs by Ginger Casa
- Buffalo Chicken Salad by Skinnytaste
- Croissant – I love my chicken salad on a warm croissant as a sandwich!
- Lettuce Wrap – If sandwiches aren’t your thing — or you are working on being a bit healthier – try this chicken salad in a lettuce wrap! Use romaine, iceberg, or butter lettuce for an awesome chicken salad lettuce wrap!
- Lettuce Cups – On that same lettuce note, you can also just serve a scoop of the chicken salad in a lettuce cup and enjoy it that way, too!
- Crackers – Serve a scoop of chicken salad with butter crackers or whole wheat crackers for a different take on the recipe!
- Bread – If you don’t love a croissant, you could always have the cranberry chicken salad on just plain whole grain bread that you toast! Regular slices of bread can get soggy if you don’t toast them ahead of time.
This chicken salad can be kept in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. The apples may turn a little brown, but the salad will still be delicious! It’s fine to leave the salad at room temperature for up to an hour or so, but after that, I’d put it in the refrigerator.
This delicious chicken salad is perfect to make to munch on through the week, but it’s also perfect to serve for the holiday season as well. It’s great in the Fall and into Christmas with all the cranberry and apple flavor! Definitely use it with your Thanksgiving Leftovers for sure!
Frequently Asked Questions:
Absolutely! Feel free to mix and match what you have on hand. The dressing recipe makes more dressing than you will likely need, so you’ve got some room to make some additions! Green onions or red onions would be a delightful addition to this salad. Also, carrots would be awesome. And maybe some fresh baby spinach too!
Sadly, no. This recipe will just not freeze well. But to be honest? I’ve never had any leftovers to attempt to freeze. This goes FAST at my house!
Of course! It’s a perfect appetizer for a party! Serve it in a bowl with crackers, lettuce leaves, endive leaves, celery sticks, carrot sticks, and crostini and you’ve got a party platter!
You’ve got so many choices! If it’s just the cranberries you don’t like, then feel free to substitute other dried fruits like raisins, apricots, plums, or cherries.
Absolutely! Feel free to use fresh fruit in this instead of dried cranberries. Fresh cherries or strawberries would be delightful!
Wrap Up – Easy Apple Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad
Creamy cranberry chicken salad is one of my new favorite things! It’s a departure from traditional chicken salad recipes and the deli-style salads that you might be used to — but I think that’s the best part of this recipe! This tasty recipe is an opportunity to be creative and to use up ingredients you might have on hand and need to use up. It’s wonderful for a quick lunch (or a quick snack!) on a bed of lettuce with crackers! It’s even a great topper for easy salads! This is by far my favorite chicken salad recipe. I can’t wait to hear what you think when you make it! Let me know what you think and what fun things you added to your salad for the best flavor!
Easy Apple Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad
- 1 chopping knife I like a Santoku knife
- 1 cutting board
- 1 wire whisk
- 2 mixing bowls
- 1 spatula
- ½ cup Greek Yogurt I like the full fat yogurt.
- 2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
- 2 Tablespoons Cranberry Juice
- ⅓ cup Cream Cheese I prefer the whipped variety for easy mixining
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup chopped pecans I suggest toasting the pecans for extra flavor!
- ½ cup diced apple I use Granny Smith for tartness.
- ⅓ cup diced celery
- ¾ pound cooked chicken breast cubed or shredded
- 6 croissants
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Chop up all of your ingredients.½ cup dried cranberries, ½ cup chopped pecans, ½ cup diced apple, ⅓ cup diced celery
- In a smaller bowl, combine cream cheese, yogurt, maple syrup and cranberry juice to make the dressing for the chicken salad.½ cup Greek Yogurt, 2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup, 2 Tablespoons Cranberry Juice, ⅓ cup Cream Cheese, ½ teaspoon salt
- Combine cranberries, pecans, diced apples, celery, and chicken in a larger mixing bowl. Add in about half of the dressing and stir to combine. You can decide from there how much more dressing to add. If you like it more creamy, add more dressing. If you like just a little dressing like me, stop there.½ cup Greek Yogurt, 2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup, 2 Tablespoons Cranberry Juice, ⅓ cup Cream Cheese, ½ cup dried cranberries, ½ cup chopped pecans, ½ cup diced apple, ⅓ cup diced celery, ¾ pound cooked chicken breast, 6 croissants, ½ teaspoon salt
- Store in the refigerator for up to 3 days.