The Best Classic Chicken Salad Recipe

The juiciest, most flavorful chicken salad. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Why It Works

  • Cooking the chicken sous-vide allows you to cook it to a lower temperature than traditional methods, guaranteeing moister meat while maintaining food safety standards.
  • Adding aromatics to the sous-vide bags packs the chicken with flavor before you even begin to dress it, allowing you to use less mayonnaise in the end.
  • Homemade mayonnaise is more flavorful and lighter than store-bought mayonnaise.

The sous-vide cooker is the best way to guarantee the juiciest, tenderest, most flavor-packed chicken salad. Adding aromatics directly to the cooking bag guarantees more flavorful results.

Recipe Facts



Active: 20 mins
Total: 90 mins
Serves: 3 to 4 servings

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  • 1 3/4 pounds whole bone-in, skin-on split chicken breast halves (2 to 3 breast halves)

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 whole lemons

  • 4 whole sprigs of tarragon plus 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon leaves, divided

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade, plus more to taste

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, plus more to taste

  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves

  • 1 tablespoon minced chives

  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion (about 1/2 medium onion)

  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery (about 2 stalks)

  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)


  1. Season chicken generously with salt and pepper. Slice 1 lemon into 1/8- to 1/4-inch slices. Place chicken in zipper-lock bags or vacuum bags and add whole tarragon sprigs and lemon slices. Remove air from zipper-lock bags by closing the bags, leaving the last inch of the top un-sealed. Slowly lower into a pot of water, sealing the bag completely just before it fully submerges. If using a vacuum bag, seal according to manufacturer instructions.

  2. If Cooking in a Sous-Vide Precision Cooker: Preheat a sous-vide cooker to 150°F. Add chicken and cook for at least 1 hour and up to 4. Transfer to an ice bath and let chill for 15 minutes.

  3. If Cooking in a Cooler: Heat 2 quarts of water in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it registers 155°F on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer to a small cooler, add chicken, and seal cooler. Cook for at least 1 hour and up to 4, topping up with boiling water as necessary to maintain temperature of 150°F. Transfer to an ice bath and let chill for 15 minutes.

  4. Add 2 tablespoons juice and 1 teaspoon zest from remaining lemon to a large bowl. Add mayonnaise, mustard, minced tarragon leaves, parsley, chives, red onion, celery, and garlic and mix with a rubber spatula. Keep refrigerated until chicken is ready.

  5. When chicken is cooked, remove from bags and discard tarragon stems and lemon slices. Remove skin and bones from chicken and discard. Cut meat into 1/2-inch cubes and add to bowl with mayonnaise. Fold gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more mayonnaise, mustard, or lemon juice to taste if desired. Serve with lettuce or in sandwiches.

Special equipment

Sous vide precision cooker or a small beer cooler

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
443 Calories
18g Fat
5g Carbs
63g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3 to 4
Amount per serving
Calories 443
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 18g 23%
Saturated Fat 4g 18%
Cholesterol 174mg 58%
Sodium 747mg 32%
Total Carbohydrate 5g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 63g
Vitamin C 8mg 42%
Calcium 54mg 4%
Iron 2mg 14%
Potassium 638mg 14%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)