Southern Style Chicken Salad Recipe | Renee's Kitchen Adventures

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Southern Style Chicken Salad Recipe

If you don't make anything else from this blog, find time to make this Southern Style Chicken Salad Recipe! And then make a whole bunch of chicken salad sandwiches!

In this chicken salad recipe, lean, boneless, skinless chicken breasts are poached in a "secret" ingredient, then pulsed in a food processor with seasonings, crisp vegetables, pickle relish, and hard boiled eggs to make the ultimate chicken salad sandwich spread. It's delicious on whole grain bread, crackers, or even eaten with spoon!

Southern Style Chicken salad recipe in white bowl in background with a chicken salad recipe sandwich on whole grain with lettuce in the foreground

scroll down for printable recipe

A few years back, I helped out my neighbors by working at their family owned Chick-fil-A restaurant for a short time. I handed out freebies and chicken samples for just a few months. It was fun! And, of course, I got to sample all of the goods myself.
One of the items I really enjoyed was their chicken salad. I heard the chicken salad sandwich isn't available at Chick-fil-A anymore. All good things come to an end, I suppose.
I've always been a huge fan of chicken salad. One of my all time favorite recipes for chicken salad is this Waldorf Style Chicken Salad. It's full of big crunch from apples and walnuts! And, I do love this not-so-ordinary Blueberry Pecan Chicken Salad too!
But, neither of these chicken salad recipes, as good as they are, are really suited for sandwiches. They are chunky and crunchy, not smooth and homogeneous.

This chicken salad recipe I'm sharing today, is perfectly suited for sandwiches. It reminds me a lot of the chicken salad recipe I enjoyed at Chick-fil-A. I wouldn't say it's a copycat recipe, but I would say it's pretty darn close!
It's a southern style chicken salad, full of crisp celery and onion, pickle relish, and yes, eggs! That's right, this Southern Style Chicken Salad Recipe has eggs in it! Have you ever had chicken salad with eggs?

If not, you are in for a treat!

southern style chicken salad recipe in white bowl to the left and a sandwich cut diagonally on a board with Southern style chicken salad and lettuce on whole grain bread to the right

But first things first, let's talk about cooking chicken breasts for this chicken salad recipe.

How to cook chicken breasts for salad recipes:

My favorite method for cooking chicken breasts for salad recipes is poaching. By definition, "poach" means to cook something by simmering it in a small amount of liquid. I find this method is best because it leaves the entire chicken breast soft and moist.

This is the texture you want for chicken salad recipes like this one. This method works well for boneless and bone in chicken breasts. But I prefer to use boneless skinless chicken breasts when I make chicken salad.

Southern Style Chicken Salad sandwich on wooden board with bowl of chicken salad in the background

What kind of liquid can I use to poach chicken breasts for chicken salad? 

You can use just about any liquid you like to poach chicken breasts. Water is fine, but chicken broth is better. Even fruit juices and milk make great poaching liquids! You can also add aromatics to the poaching liquid to give the chicken different flavor profiles. Sliced lemons, black peppercorns, and bay leaves are popular additions.

My secret ingredient is Sprite! I love poaching chicken breasts in Sprite! The lemon lime soda leaves a slightly sweet citrus flavor to the chicken which I think is just perfect in this chicken salad recipe!

How to poach chicken breasts for chicken salad recipes:

  1. Add chicken breasts to skillet with a lid. Sprinkle with salt.
  2. Add enough poaching liquid to the pan to completely cover the chicken breasts. 
  3. Turn on heat and bring liquid up to just boiling. 
  4. Cover pan and turn heat down to simmer. 
  5. Simmer until internal temperature of chicken breasts reach 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the meat. 
  6. Remove chicken from poaching liquid and allow to cool enough to handle. If poaching for this chicken salad recipe, let cool completely before turning them into chicken salad.  

Of course, if you don't want to or feel like poaching the chicken for this recipe any diced leftover chicken breast would work in any chicken salad recipe here on my blog.

Southern Style Chicken salad recipe inside the food processor after being mixed.

How do you make homemade chicken salad?

Once the chicken breasts are completely cooled the food processor will make easy work of combining everything. For best results, cube cooled chicken, hard boiled egg, celery, and onion to about the same size before adding to the food processor.

Make sure you use a food processor that is 6 - 9 cups or bigger for this chicken salad recipe. This recipe does make a lot of chicken salad! But, this recipe is also suitable to be halved to make a smaller amount if you like. 

Can chicken salad be frozen?

Chicken Salad cannot be frozen. The mayonnaise in the salad will not hold up and will break. The salad will be slimy and unappealing when defrosted.

Even more salad sandwiches to love!

chicken salad recipe, chicken salad with egg, southern chicken salad
Main Course
Yield: 12 servings
Author: Renee Paj
Southern Style Chicken Salad Recipe

Southern Style Chicken Salad Recipe

Prep time: 10 MinCook time: 15 MinTotal time: 25 Min
Southern Style Chicken Salad Recipe is boneless, skinless chicken breasts are poached Sprite, then pulsed in a food processor with seasonings, crisp vegetables, pickle relish, and hard boiled eggs to make the ultimate chicken salad sandwich spread.


  • 2 - 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poached, cooled and diced into 2" cubes (see poaching instructions in text above)
  • 2 large stalks of celery, cut into 2" pieces
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, cut into 2" pieces
  • 1/4 cup pickle relish (sweet or dill)
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup Mayonnaise made with Olive Oil
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 tsp. celery salt
  • salt and black pepper, to taste


  1. In 6 quart food processor or larger fitted with blade, add all ingredients. Process for several seconds, then scrape down sides and process until desired consistency.
  2. Store covered, in refrigerator.


Nutritional Information is an estimate.Serving size is approximately 1/4 cup

Nutrition Facts



Fat (grams)

10.35 g

Carbs (grams)

2.57 g

Sat. Fat (grams)

1.9 g

Protein (grams)

21.44 g

Fiber (grams)

0.31 g

Cholesterol (grams)

95.48 mg

Vitamin D

0.29 µg


15.46 mg

Sugar (grams)

0.92 g

Nutritional information is an estimate.

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  1. Hi! I use the exact same ingredients in my chicken salad! We’ve always used eggs, too. I’m glad to see a southern chicken salad posted. Good stuff! Thanks Renee!

    1. Hi Debbie! Thanks so much for dropping in! I love that you make your chicken salad like this. It really is a great salad, especially for chicken salad sandwiches!

  2. How much Sprite do you add to the poaching liquid?

    1. Enough sprite to cover the chicken breasts. Depends on the size of the chicken and the pan. If you use Sprite, it is the poaching liquid. You can also go half water or chicken broth and half sprite. Hope this helps!

  3. Renee - since you post southern recipes have this request for you. My GMIL used to make a wonderful dressing with homemade cornbread and eggs - I lost the recipe. Can you help?

    1. Hi Genera! Thanks for your question. I do have a few Southern type recipes here (because I love them), but I'm a northerner and I've never heard of that dressing. Sounds wonderful though! Should I stumble across something like that, I'll let you know here. Thanks for visiting and have a wonderful day!

    2. Are you talking about cornbread dressing normally served with turkey? If so, there are serval good ones on Pinterest. Susan from the DEEP SOUTH!

  4. Can I use can chicken already chopped and put in can? Sams club

    1. Hi! Thanks for your question. I have not tried it this way, but I don't see why it wouldn't work. Give it a try and let me know.

  5. If you don’t put the mayonnaise in the salad you can freeze the ground up chicken,onion,bell pepper,celery.I do it all the time for my daughter.She a teacher and likes to mix it up with mayonnaise for lunch.I use my Seal a Meal,drop it in freezer.

    1. Thank you for this comment. That's a great tip!

  6. May want to check your directions and clarify size of food processor needed. 6 quarts and 6 cups are very different lol. (I don't have one so was looking at buying one and was getting a little concerned about finding a 6 quart capacity) I can't wait to try this recipe!!

    1. Ah, thank you for catching my typo! I've corrected it on the recipe card.

  7. Just made this chicken salad and it came out delish! I halved the recipe because I only had 1 1/2 pounds of chicken. I used the Sprite to poach the chicken and it really made a difference. I substituted Miracle Whip for the mayo and added a small red pepper. This recipe is a keeper! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you so much for your review. I'm so happy you enjoyed this recipe! Love the addition of red pepper. YUM!


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