Easiest Chicken Salad [Two Ways!]

Easiest Chicken Salad [Two Ways!] | Sarah J. Hauser #lunch #weeknightdinner #chickensalad

Years ago when I used to blog on an old site (back in the ancient days of blogging), I spent a lot of time trying to come up with unique, fancy-ish recipes. They were still realistic for that stage of my life, because I didn’t have kids and spent a lot more time in the kitchen creating and experimenting. But so much of that has changed in the last four years. I still want to embrace my love for cooking and make room to create in the kitchen, but the way I do that looks a little more ordinary, a little more realistic, a little more simple.

I used to think that was a bad thing—as if complicated always meant better or if it’d been done before I couldn’t do it, too. Well, sometimes simplicity is a gift, and as it turns out, it’s all been done before. That’s no longer crippling to me but totally freeing. I get to share what I love to eat from my point of view without expecting it to be completely new and original. Believe me, I am fully aware that chicken salad is neither new nor original. All it takes is a quick Google search to find that out.

But this is a recipe we eat all the time, and we love it. So I’m sharing it.

Its simplicity means I can make it off the cuff when I need a last minute brunch, lunch, or even dinner. If you want to get a little creative, try experimenting with other additions like curry powder, apples, walnuts, or basil. Use leftover roasted chicken or freshly baked chicken breasts instead of the canned stuff, and serve it with bread for sandwiches or on top of greens for salad. Or, dig into leftovers the next day with your favorite crackers. Simple. Flexible. Easy.

Scroll down to get the recipe!

What’s your go-to easy lunch or dinner? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. You can get a beautifully designed printable version of this recipe alongside a roundup of brunch ideas for our upcoming Coffee + Crumbs Mother’s Day Brunch! Learn more about that and sign up here.

Easiest Chicken Salad [Two Ways!] | Sarah J. Hauser #lunch #weeknightdinner #chickensalad
Easiest Chicken Salad [Two Ways!] | Sarah J. Hauser #lunch #weeknightdinner #chickensalad
Easiest Chicken Salad [Two Ways!] | Sarah J. Hauser #lunch #weeknightdinner #chickensalad
Easiest Chicken Salad [Two Ways!] | Sarah J. Hauser #lunch #weeknightdinner #chickensalad
Easiest Chicken Salad [Two Ways!] | Sarah J. Hauser #lunch #weeknightdinner #chickensalad
Easiest Chicken Salad [Two Ways!] | Sarah J. Hauser #lunch #weeknightdinner #chickensalad
Easiest Chicken Salad [Two Ways!] | Sarah J. Hauser #lunch #weeknightdinner #chickensalad

Easiest Chicken Salad (Two Ways)
Yields about 6 servings

2 (12.5 ounce) cans of chicken (or about 3 cups of chopped cooked chicken)*
8-10 ounces red grapes, halved (about 1 ½ - 1 ¾ cups when halved)
1 ½ cups chopped celery
¼ cup mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Croissants, Dijon mustard, and arugula (optional for sandwich)
Arugula, diced avocado, and balsamic vinegar (optional for salad)**

If using canned chicken, drain the chicken. In a large bowl, mix together the chicken, grapes, celery, and mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve on a croissant, slice the croissant in half and spread each half with Dijon mustard. Add greens such as arugula and a large spoonful of chicken salad.

For a “chicken salad salad” version, serve a couple spoonfuls over a bed of arugula. Add diced avocado, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and enjoy!

*Not all canned chicken is created equal. Try to find some without additional flavorings or preservatives. I like using Trader Joe’s Premium Chunk White Chicken in Water.

**This salad version is gluten-free, dairy-free, and Whole30 compliant!


Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries

Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser

Lately the questions, "What can the baby eat?" and "What will my toddlers eat with minimal complaining?" seem to drive my meal planning. I feel like I've lost a bit of my joy in the kitchen. I still love cooking, of course, and I'm grateful I even have the luxury of choice in what I make for dinner. But I've found myself stuck in what's practical. I miss asking, "What can I make that nourishes body and soul? What can I make that delights?"

This dish is an answer to those questions. It's nourishing for body and soul, and it's one of my new favorite salads. It's got a slight kick from the arugula and Dijon but then richness from the goat cheese and sweetness from the cherries. Hearty, healthy, sweet, and savory.

And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food’…And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
— (Genesis 1:29-31)

I generally serve my kids at least a version of what we eat for dinner, but my twins often do better eating the components of a dish separated. For this one, I'll give them a scoop of plain quinoa, a handful of walnuts and dried cherries, and then add chicken or whatever else to their plates. That way, they try new foods and eat what we eat, but they also have something a little more palatable. (I don't know if that's the right way to feed toddlers. I could be doing it all wrong, but hey, we're all just figuring this out as we go, right?)

It's easy to get bogged down in the utilitarian that we forget the beauty of variety and the joy of cooking. After all, our God could have only provided the basics needed to keep us alive, but instead, he gave us thousands of foods with endless combinations. So every once in a while, regardless of how your kids eat, treat yourself to something you love, something that delights. After all, I think when we delight in God's good gifts, we can taste that the Giver himself is good. 

Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser
Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser
Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser
Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser
Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser

Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries
Yields 4 entree-sized portions

1 cup quinoa
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon honey
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crumbled goat cheese (optional)
Arugula or other salad greens (optional)

Rinse the quinoa thoroughly under cold water. (Quinoa has a natural coating that can taste bitter or soapy, but you can get rid of this coating by rinsing it well.) Add the rinsed quinoa and 2 cups water to a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high, and bring the water to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 10-15 minutes. 

Remove the pot from the heat, and let it stand for about 5 minutes (keeping it covered!). Uncover and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Set it aside to cool while you prep the dressing and other ingredients. 

For the dressing, in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid, add the olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, honey, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, and a pinch of black pepper. Cover and shake vigorously until all the ingredients are mixed well. 

In a medium bowl, add the cherries, walnuts, and rosemary. Add the cooled quinoa to the bowl, and stir everything together. Pour in about 1/4 cup of the dressing. Mix well. Add more dressing if desired, reserving some for serving. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste (I added about another ¼ teaspoon each of kosher salt and black pepper). 

Transfer the quinoa salad to a serving dish. Top with crumbled goat cheese, if using. Serve on its own or over arugula or other salad greens.* 

Drizzle each portion with some of the remaining dressing and garnish with fresh rosemary. Enjoy!

*Rather than serving the quinoa on top of greens, you can also add a few handfuls of arugula right into the quinoa mixture. Pour the rest of the salad dressing on it, and toss well. The arugula will wilt slightly with the dressing, so serve immediately. 


Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw

Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw

I enjoy watching football. OK, let me clarify: most of the time I enjoy watching football. And by most of the time I mean when I’ve finally given up hope that the Bears will actually do anything productive, flip the channel to another game, and momentarily pick a different team to root for. Fair-weather fan, I know. I fully admit it. But I’m a Bears fan just by marrying a Bears fan, so I don’t have to watch every painful second of every game, right?

Regardless of where your team loyalties lie, half the fun of game day is getting together with friends and family - and you can’t watch football without food. I think it’s physically impossible. Just like movie night and buttered popcorn or Chicago baseball and a Vienna Beef hot dog, the experience of watching football requires the appropriate fare. Super Bowl weekend and pulled pork sliders certainly fits that requirement.

This recipe for Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders is made in the slow cooker, so if you’re having a big crowd over, you don’t have to worry about prepping food while everyone arrives. (It also freezes well, so you can save leftovers.) The coffee flavor complements the pork and isn’t overpowering, so even those who aren’t coffee fans will love it. It’s sweet, savory, and smoky with a hint of spice at the end. Top the pork with a tangy, creamy homemade slaw, serve it on slider buns, relax on the couch, and savor the day the Falcons’ beat the Patriots.

Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw

Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders
Yields about 20-24 sliders (10-12 servings)

1 (4-5 pound) pork butt roast
3 Tablespoons finely ground coffee
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
20-24 slider buns

In a small bowl, mix together the coffee, chili powder, brown sugar, garlic powder, salt and cayenne pepper. Thoroughly rub the spice mix all over the pork butt roast. You should end up using most, if not all, of the spice rub. 

Place the spice-rubbed pork in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for about 6 hours. The pork is ready when it can be easily pulled apart. 

Use a couple forks to shred the meat, and remove any large pieces of fat. Give everything in the slow cooker a good stir so the spices, juices, and meat are thoroughly mixed together. 

Serve the pork on the slider buns, and top with the red cabbage slaw and a few chopped green onions. Serve and enjoy!

Red Cabbage Slaw
Yields about 10-12 servings

1 medium-sized cabbage, shredded (about 8 cups) 
2 large carrots, shredded (about 2 cups) 
4 green onions, chopped
2 limes, juiced (about ¼ cup of juice) 
¾ cups mayonnaise
3 Tablespoons honey (plus more to taste)
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt (plus more to taste)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (plus more to taste)

In a large bowl, mix together the cabbage, carrots, and most of the green onions (reserving a few for garnish when serving). 

In a separate bowl, make the dressing by whisking together the lime juice, mayonnaise, 3 Tablespoons of the honey, vinegar, salt, and black pepper. 

Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture, and stir until everything is fully incorporated. Season with additional honey, salt, and pepper to taste. 

Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. When you’re ready to serve, give the slaw another good stir to redistribute the dressing. Serve on top of the pulled pork and garnish with the reserved green onions. Enjoy!

Quick Tip: Why not have pulled pork for breakfast? Save some of the meat, and top it with an over-easy egg the next day. Check out this recipe for more info!


This post was also featured on the FreshGround Roasting blog, and ingredients were provided by FreshGround Roasting. All opinions are 100% my own.