If you’re not a fan of mayonnaise and celery in your chicken salad, try this no-mayo salad instead. It’s made with an olive oil-based dressing, and it’s delicious!
I really like classic chicken salad. I like the creamy mayonnaise-based dressing, the crunch from the celery. But not everyone likes the classic recipe and many people don’t want mayonnaise in their salad. If you’re one of them, or just feel like trying something new, this salad is perfect for you.
The medley of textures and flavors in this delicious no-mayo chicken salad is exquisite. Instead of mayonnaise, the dressing is based on olive oil and wine vinegar. With olives, red onions, and crumbled feta cheese, this is a unique, fresh-tasting salad. I think you are going to love it!
The ingredients you’ll need
The full list of ingredients and the exact measurements are included in the recipe card below. Here are a few highlights and comments about some of the ingredients:
Olive oil: I like to use extra-virgin olive oil in the dressing. But if you prefer a light and fruity olive oil, that should be fine too.
White wine vinegar: Another dressing ingredient. Red wine vinegar works too. But I don’t recommend using distilled white vinegar. It’s too acidic.
Dijon mustard: I add this traditional French mustard to the dressing for its wonderful flavor and also because it helps emulsify the dressing.
Warm water: Added to help mellow out the sharp flavors of the vinegar and mustard.
Red onion: Make sure it’s finely minced – no one wants to bite into a large chunk of raw onion!
Pitted olives: Black, green, or a mix of both. Whatever you like and enjoy! I find that Kalamata olives work really well in this salad.
Shredded cooked chicken: I normally use chicken breasts. Rotisserie chicken works too. Just be sure to remove the skin.
Feta cheese: You can crumble it yourself or buy it already crumbled.
Cilantro: If you’re not a fan of cilantro, fresh chopped parsley is also good.
How to make no-mayo chicken salad
It’s easy! The detailed instructions are included in the recipe card below. Here are the basic steps:
1. Bake your chicken breasts, then cool and shred them.
2. Prepare the dressing: In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, add olive oil, vinegar, water, garlic, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and dried thyme. Seal the jar well. Shake until the ingredients emulsify into a dressing.
3. In a salad bowl, add the shredded chicken, onions, olives, chicken, feta, and cilantro. Pour the dressing on top and gently toss to combine.
How to serve this salad
Served on its own or on a bed of shredded lettuce, no-mayo chicken salad is the perfect lunch. But sometimes, on hot summer nights when I don’t feel like cooking, I serve it for dinner. No one complains!
Since it’s a full meal, there’s really no need to serve it with anything on the side. But if you wish, you can serve it with some toasted and buttered almond flour bread. You can also stuff the salad inside lettuce wraps.
Variations and substitutions
This no-mayo chicken salad is excellent just the way it is. But here are a few ideas for you to vary the basic rcipe:
- Use basil instead of cilantro.
- Use fresh lemon juice instead of vinegar.
- Try crumbled goat cheese instead of feta.
- Add a tablespoon of capers.
- Add 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes to the dressing.
What about leftovers?
You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in an airtight container, for 3-4 days (but take into account how old was the chicken you used!). Give the salad a good mix before serving it.
More tasty chicken salads
Another variation on the classic salad is this excellent Chinese chicken salad. This Thai chicken salad with peanut dressing is incredibly flavorful. And avocado chicken salad is extra creamy and delicious thanks to the avocado.
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Chicken Salad (No Mayo)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon hot water
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 large chicken breasts cooked and shredded (1 lb. cooked weight)
- 1/4 cup red onion minced (1 oz)
- 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives sliced (2 oz)
- 1/4 cup feta crumbled (2 oz)
- 1/2 cup cilantro chopped
Prepare the dressing:
- In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, add the olive oil, vinegar, water, garlic, Dijon, kosher salt, black pepper, and dried thyme.
- Seal the jar well and shake it until the ingredients emulsify into a dressing.
Prepare the salad:
- In a salad bowl, add the chicken, onions, olives, feta, and cilantro. Gently toss to combine.
- Let the salad rest in the fridge for one hour (or overnight – it improves in the fridge). Mix again before serving.
- Serve the salad as is in bowls, on a bed of shredded lettuce, or in lettuce wraps.