Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple

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By Julia Sayers

When I heard we were going to be doing a story on six different types of chicken salad for our March/April issue, the first thing I did was call my mom. Chicken salad is one of her absolute favorite Southern foods, both to make and to eat. She loves to try new variations any time we go out to lunch, but she holds her chicken salad to a high standard. Real, white meat chicken is an absolute must, and the dressing should have a perfect balance of mayo to add-ins. If you can impress her with it, you’ve gained her approval for all of eternity. She refuses to eat at any place that can’t make a good chicken salad and even has a list of all the places that make the best. In fact, her absolute favorite place is O’Carr’s in Birmingham, Alabama, where I live, so every time she comes to visit me, we have to go.

Lunchtime Favorite
For Southern women, chicken salad is a tradition. We were raised eating chicken salad made from our mothers’ or grandmothers’ recipes, and in time that recipe is passed down to us. A ladies luncheon just wouldn’t be the same without chicken salad served on a buttery croissant or over a bed of fresh greens.

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Classic Flavors, with a Twist
For Paula especially, chicken salad holds a very special meaning. It’s what saved her and her boys from near homelessness and jumpstarted her cooking career. Now, 25 years later, we pay tribute to the original dish that is so special to Paula. We came up with six creative and fresh ideas and even went through 40 pounds of chicken testing these salads. They’re creamy, sweet, spicy, fresh, crunchy, and everything else you would expect from Traditional, Chutney, Tex-Mex, Greek, Thai, and Caribbean chicken salads. And don’t worry, none of those 40 pounds went to waste—our staff was eating chicken salad for about two weeks.

We all enjoyed getting the opportunity to do such a fun story and hope all you Southern ladies will love the recipes as much as we did. Of course, nothing beats traditional chicken salad, but sometimes it’s fun to switch up the routine. And I think I can say with 99% certainty that my mom would give her stamp of approval to these recipes.

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Get the recipes!
To get all the recipes, you can pick up a copy of our March/April issue of Cooking with Paula Deen, or you can check out a few here.

If you have a favorite chicken salad recipe, feel free to share it in the comments below. We love hearing from you!

Julia Sayers grew up with a love and appreciation for good food, instilled in her by her Italian family. She learned to cook from family recipes, passed down from her mother and grandmother. As she grew older, she decided to pursue a career in journalism to express her passion for food through writing. After working for newspapers, a travel magazine, a cookbook publisher, and even as a dolphin photographer in the Florida Keys, Julia came on board with Cooking with Paula Deen as the Associate Editor. She loves that she gets to work with food everyday, whether it be writing about it, tasting delicious goodies in the test kitchen, or overseeing photoshoots.
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Leave a Comment

Reader Comments:

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hi! wink i was wondering if you could share the recipe for the chiken/grape salad-the one that is pictured on the croissant above? thanks! wink sandra

By Sandra Neuheimer-Huller on April 19, 2014

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I just want to say this I don't even know if is the right page all I ever wanted to say to Paula Deen welcome back I have missed you. You are my favorite home down girls keep your head up and hang on and feel the love. P.S. from a woman of color.

By Anonymous on April 13, 2014

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I miss your show so much i would run home from work just to hear your southern charming voice. you make cooking fun and entertaing please keep me posted for when you get another show the food network isnt the same without you and your family. you have a wonderful personality. stay blessed paula you are the best grin Annette McHenry Pittsburgh Pa. Steeler Country

By Annette McHenry on April 02, 2014

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Paula Thank you so much for sending me all these e-mails and recipes. Please hurry and come back to the TV show. I love all you're recipes and really love watching you and you're family on the shows. I'm waiting for the Chicken Salad recipe.

By Ella Mae Jordan on March 30, 2014

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I eat allot of chicken and am always looking for real good new recipes. Your sandwiches look really good. Post them please.

By Ratha Hunt on March 29, 2014

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My Chicken Salad includes Chicken cooked and chopped of course, Mayo,Celery finely chopped, Dried Cranberry's, finely chopped Onion, a small amount of sweet pickle finely chopped, and either Pecans or Walnuts either one will do and I use whatever I have at the time. This is great on a Croissant or buttered toast. This by far the best recipe I have ever made and eaten in my life. I have had Chicken salad sandwich all my life and this is the best.

By Marilyn Sharum on March 29, 2014

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Just heard Harrah's in Tunica is closing. They just could not make it after they took Paula's buffet out.

By Jackye on March 28, 2014

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I just wish the truth would be told on how she has lost her weight. I too am diabetic and would love to know how she did it. Of course she can afford having someone do her cooking, etc., but I'm just wayyyyyyyyyy too old to go into an aggressive excercise program. But she looks fantastic! And I wish her the very very best.

By Judi Lewis on March 28, 2014

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I love chicken salad too.... the boys call this my "girlie" chicken salad but all of my dear friends love it.. super simple and light..Enjoy!! Tam’s Chicken Salad 2 ½ cups chicken (I use frozen breasts or tenders) Italian Dressing Marinate chicken overnight, drain marinate and bake 350 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour, cool and chop or cube. Add.. 2/3 cup chopped celery ¼ tsp. garlic powder ¼ tsp. black pepper 1 ½ cups grapes sliced in half. 2 Tbsp lemon juice ½ cup mayonnaise (can use light) Combine all ingredients and chill.

By Tammy Kelly on March 28, 2014

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Jessie - You can find three of the recipes at this link: http://www.cookingwithpauladeen.com/articles.php?id=322 For the others, they are in the March/April issue of Cooking with Paula Deen, on newsstands now!

By Julia Sayers on March 27, 2014

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Please tell me were I can get this recipe for the chicken salad! It looks so good......

By Anonymous on March 27, 2014

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I was born in 1943, and, yes, we Southern Ladies do like our Chicken Salad. My Grandmother & Mother made it best, but my favorite memories are from eating it at the local Woolworth's lunch counter with my Grandmother after shopping. It HAD to be on toast. The worst part of the experience was knowing that a line 2 or 3 deep was standing behind you, looking over your shoulder and judging how quickly you would eat and give them your seat. Best drink with it? A fountain Coke! Yum! Mickey Mc Donald Thanks for the memory.

By Anonymous on March 27, 2014

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I love your recipes. Keep sending me them. I love all different ideas. Thank you so much

By sandygok on March 27, 2014

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Hello, where do I find the recipe s for these,yummy looking chicken salad recipes? Thank You,Jessie Schneider

By Jessie Schneider on March 27, 2014

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When I found out I was alergic to eggs I did some tampering.. closest to my moms homemade chicken salad 1 1/2c cooked diced chicken breast..1/2 c minced celery..3 green onion thin sliced...juice of one lemon...1/8 tsp garlic salt...1/2 c fresh avocado mashed smooth...2 TBSP toasted pecans...1TBSP sweet relish. mix all together let set for 20 minutes then enjoy...only downside..you have to eat it that day or the avocado gets brown and looks unappetizing.

By Rachel Hero on March 27, 2014

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I love chicken salad. I have made my traditional with eggs and celery and added Italian Olive Salad so it doesn't take much mayo. I saw a recipe somewhere that had a chicken salad with celery and apple (no egg) and was mixed with a poppyseed dressing. It was yummy, but I used a Sweet Vidalia Onion salad dressing once because I was out of the poppyseed on and now I am hooked on the Vidalia one--and it comes in low fat too.

By Susan Gaillot on March 26, 2014

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Miss seeing you on TV.I have tried a lot of your receipts.Hope to see you again Betty

By Betty Sager on March 26, 2014

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waiting on your return I really miss your show.I wish I could make all the foods you have mastered,I have tried a lot of them and they are great.I just cant afford to buy everything for most.I'm working on it saving as much as I can.I will and I say I will not stop working hard in the kitchen MUCH RESPECT MRS WEBBER

By lashonda webber on March 26, 2014

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Would love this recipe far chicken salad looks so good but Paula always has great ones

By Patricia on March 26, 2014

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Paula Deen
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hi! wink i was wondering if you could share the recipe for the chiken/grape salad-the one that is pictured on the croissant above? thanks! wink sandra
Sandra Neuheimer-Huller in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 19, 2014 at 10:37 am

Where do I buy these magazines
in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 8:22 am

I WISH I COULD COOK. COULD I COME WORK FOR JUST ROOM AND BOARD AT YOUR NEW RESTURAUNT IN PIGEON FORGE FOR THE SUMMER? I WENT TO COLLEGE NOT FAR FROM THERE - HIWASSEE COLLEGE. YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO PAY ME, I WOULD WORK FOR FREE JUST FOR THE EXPERIENCE. TAMMY LEVAN 19 SPENCER WAY KINGS PARK, NY 11754 HAPPY EASTER! CHRIST IS RISEN!
TAMMY L LEVAN in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 4:31 am

Hi Bubbles, You have some great tips. Can't wait to read your other blogs! Please give Aunt Peggy a big hug from me and here is one for you! (((HUGS))) See you in May!
Jaci Pardun in 10 Quick Household Tips on April 18, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Paula, I am glad to know that I am not the only person who makes Easter Baskets for their adult children and mail them across the United States. My Daughter lives in Long Beach, CA and I not only sent her a basket but her husband and my granddaughter Reese. We also buy special Russel Stover Bunnies for each child too. My husband has the list in his phone... Sara .. Cookies 'n Crème.... Sidney and Stephen.. Peanut Butter Etc. It one of my favorite things to do for my kids.. no matter how old they get. And passing it along to my Grandchildren. It's even more special to me knowing we share a family tradition. Blessings and Happy Easter!!
Sharon Cason-Card in A Basketful of Traditions on April 18, 2014 at 11:03 pm