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Southern Chicken Salad

Southern Chicken Salad

Serves: 14

Hands On Time: 

Total Time: 


16 cups water
1 cup vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup salt
1 bay leaf
1 (.75-ounce) package fresh tarragon, one sprig saved and remainder of leaves roughly chopped
5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 ribs celery, finely diced (about 2 cups)
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
Juice of 2 lemons, plus more, as needed
Halved croissants, for serving (optional; see note)


In a stockpot, combine the water, vinegar, 1/4 cup salt, bay leaf and tarragon sprig. Heat the water to between 180 and 190 degrees over medium heat.

Carefully add the chicken and poach until the chicken is no longer pink in the center and reaches 160 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain, discarding the cooking liquid. Let the chicken cool to room temperature and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. 

In a large bowl, combine the diced chicken with the celery, cherries, hazelnuts and chopped tarragon.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the mayonnaise mixture to the chicken and stir well to combine. Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional lemon juice. Spread onto croissants, if desired. Serve.


Per 1/2-cup serving: 244 calories (percent of calories from fat, 58), 20 grams protein, 7 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 16 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 55 milligrams cholesterol, 213 milligrams sodium.

About the recipe

The secret to The Fickle Pickle’s chicken salad just may be the way the chicken is cooked. Never boiled, it’s poached in a highly seasoned broth at a temperature that will cook the chicken but never toughen the meat. It’s a good lesson for all chicken salad lovers.

At The Fickle Pickle you’ll find this salad seasoned with a bit more tarragon than called for here. Feel free to increase the amount of tarragon if you like. This recipe makes 14 cups of chicken salad, so unless you're entertaining or cooking for a crowd, feel free to divide the recipe in half.

We like to serve this chicken salad on a croissant, but feel free to eat it on fresh greens, sandwich bread or just straight up.

This recipe comes courtesy of the Fickle Pickle in Roswell, GA.