This cranberry chicken salad is a sweet and tangy twist on your classic chicken salad! Shredded chicken breast, dried cranberries, celery and red onion are tossed in a mayo dressing flavored with lemon. Using pre-cooked chicken, you can make this delicious salad in only 10 minutes!
Note: this post was originally published in 2021 and updated in 2022 with new photos and improved instructions.
Chicken salad is a versatile and easy to make dish that you can serve in so many ways: on a bed of leafy greens, in a wrap or sandwich, or with crackers for a quick snack. If you love chicken salad like me but want to up your chicken salad game, you have to try this easy recipe for cranberry chicken salad!
This recipe for chicken salad with cranberries starts with shredded chicken breast, lots of dried sweetened cranberries, plus celery and red onion for crunch. Then, the salad ingredients are tossed with a creamy mayo-based dressing that also includes a hint of grainy mustard and a splash of lemon to brighten the flavors.
This chicken salad can be mixed up in only about 10 minutes, as long as you have your chicken prepped ahead. (And, this recipe is perfect if you have leftover dried cranberries - perhaps from making my recipe for brussels sprouts salad with cranberries?)
This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. If you make a purchase through the link, it won’t cost you more but I may earn a small commission. I only recommend products that I personally use and love!
- Cooked chicken breast: this can be chicken you prepared just for this recipe, leftover chicken, or even rotisserie chicken. I talk more about chicken options and suggestions for cooking the chicken in the Tips and tricks section below!
- Red onion: I like the color and flavor of red onions for dishes where the onion is used raw. But, if you don't have red onion, feel free to substitute another type, such as white or sweet onion.
- Parsley: fresh parsley adds a nice note of, well...freshness to the chicken salad! But, if you don't have fresh parsley, feel free to leave it out, or sub with another leafy herb you like. Chives, or even celery leaves would be nice!
Step by step photos
Here's a quick breakdown on how to make cranberry chicken salad. For the full instructions, please see the recipe card down below!
1. First, prep the veggies. Finely chop the onion and parsley. Thinly slice the celery. Set the veggies aside for now.
2. Next, shred the cooked chicken breast. Or, if you prefer, chop the chicken into about ½ inch cubes.
3. Now make the dressing. In a large bowl, whisk together the mustard, kosher salt, black pepper, lemon, and mayo.
I love using this adjustable measuring cup (affiliate link) for thick foods like mayo (also great for peanut butter!). You can see if there are any air pockets in the side and it's easy to push the mayo out of the cup without having to scrape any off the sides.
4. Finally, add in the shredded (or chopped) chicken, cranberries, onion, celery and parsley. Stir everything together to combine evenly with the dressing. Taste the salad and adjust the seasoning if needed.
You can serve the salad right away, or, chill for at least 1 hour for the best flavor!
Tips and tricks
How to prepare chicken for chicken salad
- Chicken salad is so versatile; you can make it with chicken breast that you have prepared especially for the salad, or, you can use leftover chicken or even store-bought rotisserie chicken.
- If you are preparing the chicken breast yourself, rather than buying it cooked or using leftovers, try poaching the chicken. Poaching keeps the chicken very tender and juicy in the salad (as long as it's not overcooked!). I recommend this poached chicken tutorial!
- However, poaching is not the only method you can use to prepare chicken for chicken salad. As long as the chicken is cooked through (to at least 165 degrees F), you can use any method, such as grilling, pan-frying, or baking.
- If you want to use leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken, just be mindful of the level of seasoning going on in the chicken. If it's already very well seasoned, pull back on the salt in the dressing and add more as needed to avoid making the chicken salad too salty.
Other tips and tricks
- Check over the dried cranberries before adding them to the salad; if you see any cranberries that have formed large clumps, break them apart before adding them to the cranberry chicken salad. The cranberries are sticky and don't break apart easily once mixed in with the salad.
- Be sure to taste the salad after mixing; if you think it needs it, you can add a bit more lemon, mustard, salt and/or pepper to suit your tastes!
Here are a few ideas to add some additional flair to your cranberry chicken salad:
- For extra crunch, toss in a handful of chopped roasted almonds, pecans, or cashews!
- Amplify the sweetness by adding in some diced apple. Fuji and Gala apples are great for a sweet and mild flavor. Or, for a sweet yet tangy flavor, try Granny Smith or Pink Lady apples.
- Try swapping out the mayo for plain Greek yogurt. As I discovered when developing this Greek yogurt tuna salad recipe, Greek yogurt is a great sub for mayo in salads. And, this is especially true when there is sweetness to balance the yogurt's tart flavor (so the cranberries will do just the trick here!).
- Have some leftover Thanksgiving turkey? Shred or chop it up and use it in place of the chicken breast!
- You can store any leftover cranberry chicken salad in the fridge for 3 - 4 days. Store it in the original bowl tightly covered, or in an airtight food storage container.
- The 3 - 4 day shelf life is for chicken that has been freshly prepared. If you're using leftover chicken, you must account for that time when determining the shelf life. For example, if using leftover chicken that is 2 days old, the shelf life would then be 1 - 2 days.
- After 1 - 2 days in the fridge the cranberries in the salad will lose a bit of their chew as they absorb liquid from the salad, but the chicken salad will still taste delicious!
Yes you can definitely make this cranberry chicken salad ahead of time! In fact, I think it tastes best after an overnight in the fridge (or a minimum of 1 hour if you're in a hurry). Just make sure to cover it tightly so it doesn't get dried out.
This chicken salad will keep in the fridge for 3 - 4 days if using fresh chicken. See the Storage instructions section above for more info.
As I mentioned in the intro, this chicken salad with cranberries is very versatile and can be served many ways. This makes it great for meal prepping too because you won't get bored! Serve it atop a green salad, in wraps, sandwiches, or on crackers.
Because of the cranberries, this chicken salad also has a festive autumn/winter vibe, so you could even serve this chicken salad inside little tart shells for an easy holiday appetizer!
Technically you could freeze this chicken salad (as in, doing so would not make it unsafe to eat). However, I don't recommend freezing it, because the mayo will break down once frozen and thawed, spoiling the smooth and creamy texture of the dressing.
If you’ve tried this recipe, please leave a star rating and/or review in the comments section below, I would love to hear from you! You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. And sign up for my weekly newsletter to get recipes delivered straight to you!Print
Cranberry Chicken Salad
This cranberry chicken salad is a tangy and sweet twist on the classic chicken salad.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings 1x
- Category: main course, entree
- Method: mix
- Cuisine: American
- 1 ½ pounds (680 g) cooked chicken breast, chilled (about 5 cups shredded, see note 1)
- 1 cup (113 g) dried sweetened cranberries
- 1 rib celery
- ½ cup (66 g) finely chopped red onion (from about ¼ medium red onion)
- ¼ cup (8 g) finely chopped parsley
- ¾ cup (107 g) mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste (see notes 2 - 3)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
- Finely chop the red onion and parsley. Thinly slice the celery. Set vegetables aside.
- Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces (or, cut the chicken into ½ inch cubes). Set aside.
- In a large bowl, add the mayonnaise, grainy mustard, lemon juice, kosher salt and black pepper. Whisk to combine.
- Add the chicken, dried sweetened cranberries, celery, onion, and parsley to the bowl. Stir to combine the dressing with the salad ingredients.
- Taste the salad and add more salt, pepper, and/or lemon if needed. Serve immediately, or, for the best flavor, cover the salad and chill for at least one hour or overnight.
This recipe is a great use for leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken. If cooking the chicken fresh, I recommend poaching it. Here is an easy tutorial on poaching chicken breast.
If using chicken that is already well seasoned, such as store-bought rotisserie chicken, season the dressing with salt sparingly at first and add more as needed.
This recipe was developed using Diamond Crystal kosher salt. To substitute regular table salt, start with ½ teaspoon and add more if needed.
The nutrition information below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator, and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical, health, or nutritional advice. The nutrition counts of your dish will vary based on the brands and exact amounts of ingredients used. See our full nutrition disclosure policy.
- Serving Size: ⅛ recipe
- Calories: 253
- Sugar: 3.7 g
- Sodium: 432 mg
- Fat: 17.3 g
- Saturated Fat: 2.3 g
- Carbohydrates: 5.3 g
- Fiber: .6 g
- Protein: 18.2 g
- Cholesterol: 62 mg
Keywords: cranberry chicken salad, chicken salad with cranberries