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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Reader Comments:

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Dear Paula, I am so glad to here that you are comming back. I knew that you would be back. I am a big fan of yours and i think you have a beautiful family. love it when you have your family come on the show.

By kathleen prinza on June 24, 2014

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Paula, I miss your show so much. I always enjoyed your happy attitude and really fun recipes. Please let me know if you are coming back. It would make so many people so happy. Love, Mary

By mary on June 13, 2014

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I love Paula , LOVED your show . want you back on tv with your happy laughter and you all The recipes are great ,great everything I remember from my Mom and the south. Miss You By Martha Austin on June 13th 2014

By Martha Austin on June 13, 2014

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PAULA: LOVE YOUR VARIATIONS OF CHICKEN SALAD. YOU ARE THE BEST. REALLY MISS SEEING U COOK. I AM ALL FOR REALLY HOME TRADIONAL RECIPES FROM GRANNIES. YOU MUST TRY A SMIDGE OF SOUR CREAM IN SOME OF YOUR RECIPES.I USE IT IN JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING. IT WAS THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF A TUNA SALAD I HAD AT THE UNIVERSITY WHERE MY DAUGHTER ATTENDED, WHEN HAVING LUNCH THERE. I ASKED FOR THEIR SECRET OF THE SANDWICH BEING SO TASTY.I USUALLY CHOP VERY FINE ONION IN MOST SALADS I MAKE.CAN'T COOK WITHOUT ONION OR GARLIC IN MY COOKING. GIVES IT THAT EXTRA TOUCH.AND OF COURSE SEASONING IS IMPORTANT AS WELL.MY CHILDREN ALWAYS LOVE EATING AT MOTHERS HOUSE.

By HELEN DISKEVICH on June 13, 2014

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I would like to know where Paula gets her clothes. I love the tunics she wears.

By Phyllis Clark on May 01, 2014

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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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Paula, I love watching you and your family. I miss seeing your show, I watched you everyday. My son lives in Charleston S.C. He took me to the Lady & Sons to eat. Oh my goodness! People are always telling me that I look just like the cooking lady Paula Deen. I always tell them that you are my hero. May God Bless You Mary Ann
Mary Ann Tharp in A Summer of Burgers on August 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Add a few spoonfuls of parmesan cheese to the flour and cornmeal breading and it kicks the tomatoes up another notch. Bev
in Crispy Fried Green Tomatoes on August 15, 2014 at 10:33 am

I just bought Paula's Peach Salad Dressing and wondered if anyone has a good recipe that they use it in?
Melissa in Taste Testing 101 on August 13, 2014 at 8:36 am

Congrats Bobby. Loved the family picture miss you Paula on TV will be watching online. Jack is getting big. Looks like his mom but Matt aka moose has your face. Your eyes cheeks hair even falls to his face like yours except to the left. Good luck on your next venture. You give us other 60+ yr women strength to move on. Keep up the good work.
Carol Bryant in Love at Last on August 11, 2014 at 6:12 pm