Now that the hotter months are approaching, cooler meals start to show up more on the menu. Chicken Salad is a good summer option. It’s creamy and delicious, while also packed with protein and healthy fats, if you take the time to make it yourself.
It’s funny that whenever I started cooking, chicken salad was one of those dishes that was a mystery to me, so I always went with the store-bought option. Ah, to be young and foolish again. Looking at the nutrition labels for prepared chicken salad, it’s packed with soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, modified food starch, and something called EDTA, which further investigation shows it to be a chemical called calcium disodium, which is used to protect flavors.
If you ask me, it does a lousy job of that, considering most of these tubs taste like glue paste. Not only does Calcium Disodium show up in all kinds of processed foods as a preservative/flavoring agent, but it’s also used in cosmetics, laundry detergents, and industrial germicides, because this stuff bonds to metals to prevent chemical reactions that might cause discoloration.
Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?
For some strange reason, our bodies do not have a clue what to do with this chemical and it’s poorly absorbed by the digestive tract. The FDA has even set a maximum daily limit for human consumption, but this stuff shows up in everything from salad dressings to canned beans, even canned soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. I wonder how the FDA tracks how many of each of those things a person eats in a day? I’ll just go ahead and leave that out of the chicken salad I make, and I’d highly recommend you join me.
I like my chicken salad to be smoky. If you have a smoker at home and want to slow smoke some chicken breasts or thighs, that would be a great option. If you are like me, or just pressed for time, you can grill your chicken and use smoked paprika to get that same great flavor. I have a small outdoor electric grill and the normal sized pasture raised chicken breasts I cook with take about eight minutes per side on it to be perfect and juicy.
If you still buy the mega mart Godzilla sized chicken breasts with the nasty white stripe fatty deposits running through the meat, you are going to need to pound it flat to achieve even cooking. Not to beat a dead chicken any more than I have to, but finding local raised birds living a pasture life will completely change the flavor, texture, and nutrition over big corporation chicken house jailbirds.
Make this a day ahead of time to let the flavors come together in your chill chest and you will never go back to store-bought industrial strength metal bonding chicken salad again.
To keep the chicken salad healthy and complex carb filled only, forgo the sandwich bread or flour tortillas. I prefer a crisp iceberg lettuce or Romaine lettuce leaf filled to the brim as a delivery vehicle for the smoky goodness, or I will pop a couple of Outer Aisle Cauliflower thins in the toaster to use as a wrap. These are very versatile, have a short ingredients list, and are an easy way to get good complex carbs and veggies in your meal. You can order these online or find them at Whole Foods markets:
For the mayo that goes in this recipe, if you aren’t making it homemade, read the ingredients carefully. Even the so called healthy mayos will sneak a bunch of unnecessary or unhealthy additives into their jars. I prefer Primal Kitchen for store bought mayo. This is what the ingredients list should always look like, short and all natural:
I like to pair my Smoky Chicken Salad wraps with a batch of my jicama fries, so I’ll put that recipe here again from a previous article. This is a quick and easy fix for store bought chicken salad, and one you might just find in a regular rotation for the summer.
Smoky Chicken Salad:
- 4 to 5 chicken breasts – pasture raised
- 1/2 cup avocado oil mayo
- 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1 tsp liquid smoke
- 1 tsp sea salt, divided
- 1 tsp black pepper, divided
- 1 tsp onion powder, divided
- 1 tsp garlic powder, divided
- 1 tsp smoked paprika, divided
Clean chicken of any visible fat, and pound flat if needed. Sprinkle both sides of the breasts with 1/2 tsp each of sea salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. Grill 8 – 10 minutes per side, or until the chicken hits a temp of 170 degrees. Once cooked, place the chicken on a platter and cover loosely with foil to rest for at least 10 minutes.
Mix all the other ingredients and remaining spices in a bowl until well blended, place in the fridge while the chicken is cooking and resting. Once the chicken has rested, cut on the bias and then chop into bite sized pieces:
Mix the cooked chicken into the mayo mixture and chill for 8 hours or overnight before enjoying in a wrap or lettuce leaf. Crumbled bacon and chopped green onions can make a nice topping.
- Jicama roots (2 – 3 depending on size)
- 1 tbsp avocado oil
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
First, you have to remove the skin. A peeler does the job nicely, but you might need a chef knife to slice off the root ends if they are too much for your peeler cut off. Once the jicama is peeled, cut it in half, place flat side down, and slice into sections. Then slice the sections into sticks. I find the standard homestyle fries size is best, because thin cuts tend to burn in the cooking process.
Jicama will vary wildly in size. I like to cut up enough to fill a large baking sheet. That can be 3 medium jicama or 1 giant one, depending on what your produce section has in stock. Once you have them cut, if you have an InstantPot and a steamer basket, add a cup of water, use the steam setting for 48 minutes, and… I don’t know… go walk the dog or take a nap until it’s done. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you’ll have to do this the old fashion way with a traditional steamer basket on the stove top, but that will require more attention. You’ll need to steam for about an hour or until the fries are pliable. They don’t need to be mushy, just bendy where they start to flex instead of snap.
Once the steaming is done, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the fries in a large bowl, drizzle a tablespoon of avocado oil and stir to coat. Then add the spices and stir again. Lay the fries out single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 28 minutes, then flip the fries, rotate the pan and bake for 18 more minutes. If your slices are on the thin side or you don’t have a full tray, start checking at the 12-minute mark or they can burn. Let cool for a few minutes and enjoy. Store leftovers in the fridge and eat them cold or throw in a hot skillet for a few minutes to heat.
I also have a super quick and easy dipping sauce I prefer to ketchup for these fries. It’s extremely versatile and can used on all kinds of foods:
Smoky Dipping Sauce:
- 1/2 plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup avocado oil mayonnaise
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp liquid smoke
Combine all ingredients and stir until well blended.
See the list of all the Shirtless Chef recipes at www.mysaline.com/shirtless.