Dilly Chicken Salad

Dilly Chicken Salad on Sourdough bread with a slice of Swiss cheese.
Dilly Chicken Salad on Sourdough bread with a slice of Swiss cheese.

Many of my meat-based salads contain sweet relish, a leftover from childhood versions of such salads, I suppose. While those salads are satisfying, there’s something equally satisfying but more sophisticated about creating something altogether more savory. Dilly Chicken Salad, like so many recipes I make, resulted from stuff on hand, including some scraps left over from a Baja cole slaw—and a need to fix a lunch fast. 

Dear sweet husband brought home some canned chicken—not a favorite of mine, but it’s easy to work with. This particular version shreds easily, and I’ve used it in curries and barbecue sauce in the past with reasonable results. Fresh-cooked chicken would elevate Dilly Chicken Salad, but canned chicken works surprisingly well. Add a couple of spicy ingredients, a couple of crunchy ones and some dill relish and you’ve got a quick winner for a sandwich, atop lettuce or on its own. 

Garnish with a fresh parsley sprig and lay it out for a charcuterie board or use as an hors d’ouvre. You might even spread it on a cracker for a filling snack. After polishing off his sandwich, hubs ate more on a leftover piece of naan that served as a flour tortilla substitute for a Mexican meal the night before. 

We may be at home more because of the corona virus, but we travel the world at mealtime. Culinarily speaking, we toured several regions of Asia and the Americas this week. Last week, we travelled there and in Europe. I’m always looking for interesting recipe ideas from around the world to test and tweak. But today was just as fun because I also love creating things without a playbook.

For a healthier version of Dilly Chicken Salad, substitute mayonnaise with avocado. It will have a slightly different flavor, but it will still be delicious. You’ll want to cover it tightly with plastic to avoid exposure to air and help prevent the avocado from browning. There is no added salt in this recipe but be mindful of salt in ingredients you use for a lower sodium dish. I use jarred diced jalapeños for ease, but if you have fresh peppers on hand, by all means try fresh for better flavor and a bit more pep in the dish.

“He’d always had a joke for Francis in the confessional, a ‘sin’ that could be counted on to cause a young priest to grin behind the safety of the wooden shield. ‘Bless me, Father, for I put tuna in the chicken salad.’”

Kristin Hannah 

Prep time: 15 minutes 

Yields: about 2 cups


1 12.5 oz can chicken breast (about 2 C)

1-2 celery stalks, diced (about 1/2 C)

1-2 green onions, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

2 TBSP finely chopped radish

3 TBSP dill relish

1 TBSP diced jalapeños (jarred)

3 TBSP mayonnaise (I use olive oil based) 

1 TBSP dijon mustard 

Top with freshly ground pepper when serving


Drain chicken and place in bowl. Shred using a fork.

Chop celery into small squares and add to bowl.

Chop onion into narrow slices and add to bowl.

Chop radish into narrow bits and place in bowl.

Add relish, jalapeños, mayonnaise and mustard to mixture.

Stir well to ensure all ingredients blend together. Add more mayonnaise and mustard if needed to “glue” salad together.

Top with a little pepper when serving for an extra kick.

Dilly Chicken Salad at a glance.
Dilly Chicken Salad at a glance.

Serving Suggestion

This salad works well on its own, atop leafy greens or grains, in a sandwich or on a bagel or croissant.  Try it as a slider or on a cracker. 

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