To me there’s one problem with most chicken salads: too much chicken. Plain old chicken and mayonnaise seems like a lost opportunity when instead you could add in fruit, nuts and spice have something crunchy, savory, sweet, nutty, creamy and tastebud-tingly. In my house, curry chicken salad makes leftover chicken a reason for celebration.
The concept of a cold chicken salad, made bright yellow with curry powder, was in fact popularized in England as a celebratory dish for the coronation of young Queen Elizabeth in 1953. Today coronation chicken is a popular sandwich filling at London-based Pret a Manger, the ubiquitous purveyor of fresh, quick food-to-go.
Despite its long popular history in England, curry chicken salad isn’t quite as popular here, and even though Pret a Manger has come to the USA, coronation chicken did not make the transatlantic leap.
Fortunately curry chicken salad couldn’t be easier to make at home. And if you don’t like curry powder, you can have crunchy chicken salad without it as well. For crunch, I like a generous amount of celery and chopped apple, halved grapes and nuts. Chopped onions or scallions are also great, and I think dried cranberries or raisins add a toothsome bite of concentrated sweetness. But you can pick and choose what you like.
If you don’t have curry powder in the house, a bit of cumin and a dash of cayenne pepper is a good substitute, though it won’t give you the yellow color. The yellow in curry powder comes from turmeric, which along with cumin and coriander, forms the base of most store-bought curry powders. Curry powder is a Western term – in India a mix of spices mixes exists, but it is called garam masala.
As always, good ingredients are key to a great end product. For store-bought mayonnaise it’s hard to beat the brand known as Hellmans east of the Rocky Mountains or Best Foods west of the Rockies.
Pile ingredients in a mixing bowl. I like to shred my chicken, but you can dice as well.
I love a bit of chutney (mango is classic; this one is tamarind), a tangy fruit or vegetable preserve, to add a sweet-sour note. But if you don’t have any you can substitute a bit of lemon juice and a few extra raisins or dried cranberries. Taste as you go along and adjust seasonings as necessary.
Serve with sprinkle of slivered almonds.
Or in a sandwich with some nutty brown bread.
Or over a handful of fresh greens.
It’s not the royal version, but it’s still bloody good.
Crunchy curry chicken salad
One of my favorite uses for leftover chicken. Savory and sweet, crunchy and spicy – I can’t help snacking on it as I’m stirring it together.
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 cup halved grapes
- 1 cup diced apples
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
- 1/2 cup nuts (walnuts, pecans, cashews or almonds are all fantastic)
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 2 tablespoons chutney (mango or other)
- Put all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
- Serve alone, over greens or in a sandwich.
- This chicken salad is heavy on crunch, light on chicken. If you prefer a higher proportion of chicken, you can easily double the chicken or halve the other ingredients. Or add more nuts for extra protein.
- Add chopped onions, scallions or shallots if you like.
- If you don’t have chutney you can substitute a bit of lemon juice and a few extra raisins or dried cranberries.
- If you don’t have curry powder, you can use some cumin and a bit of cayenne pepper. It won’t be as colorful (unless you have turmeric to add), but it will taste good anyway.
Here’s the link to a printable version.