Chicken salad is such a lovely, light dish. Well, it’s usually light feeling. But when you get it on a croissant at a restaurant you will be shocked at the number of calories. It is particularly shocking because there are such healthy things in it–the chicken, fruit bits, nuts, what could go bad? It’s the mayonnaise, it gets you every time. Most recipes call for enormous amounts of mayo, and they don’t use the low fat kind. But chicken salad doesn’t have to be so fatty when you make it yourself. Adding in soy sauce and wine vinegar helps the mayo cover more evenly instead of clumping. You also don’t need as much as it calls for, and just use light. Right there you’ve saved yourself a couple hundred calories!
I think the thing I love most about chicken salad is that it can be the perfect combo of creamy and crunchy, savory with a bit of sweet. You can make chicken salad with whatever you have around and it will still be delicious. And it is so easy. Just chop it up, mix it in, and let it sit. This recipe is based on the chicken salad recipe found in the Colorado Cache Cookbook. This is a classic cookbook, especially for those in Colorado. It has a great collection of traditional, home style recipes, as well as fancy ones that the Junior League ladies felt would give them status. My family has been using this recipe since I was little, and it is great. But I thought that I could lighten it up a little bit, as well as add a little of my own flavor.
This recipe is unusual among chicken salad recipes because it calls for water chestnuts. For the longest time this is the only recipe that I had that called for the little white crunchy things. In addition to the celery and apples, it gives the salad a unique flavor and great crunch.
These little things are not nuts at all, but aquatic vegetables. They originate in Asia, and are used extensively in Asian recipes. The Chinese use them the most, but they are also found in all other Southeast Asian countries. The plant grows in marshes, and are often planted in paddies like rice. The technical term for the little bulb that grows under the ground/water is a corm, which I think is fun to say. They are unique because they retain their crunchy texture even after being cooked or tinned. This is because their cell walls are cross linked, as well as being strengthened by phenolic compounds. It’s not devoid of nutrition, either. It has a lot of carbs, as well as dietary fiber, Vitamin B, Potassium, copper and manganese. I’ve always wondered why they were called chestnuts when the little white things that we see do not look like chestnuts. When you look at one before it is peeled you will see why.
I have named it Everything But the Kitchen Sink becuase I put so many good tasty things in it that it is more accessories than chicken.
Everything But the Kitchen Sink Low Fat Chicken Salad
- A rotisserie chicken, or 4-6 cooked chicken breasts
- A handful of grapes, quartered
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1/2 sweet/tart apple, chopped (like Jazz or Pink Lady–not too sweet)
- 3 whole water chestnuts, minced (you can find them canned in the Asian section of your grocery store)
- 2-3 Tbsp minced onions
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)
- 1 small can crushed pineapple
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp minced fresh ginger (you can also use candied ginger for a twist)
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup low fat mayo
- 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
- If you have a rotisserie chicken, just pull off all of the meat and break it into bite size pieces. Make sure you save the carcus for chicken stock! If you are using breasts, chop into pieces.
- Chop everything else up and put in the bowl with the chicken.
- Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Feel free to adjust the seasonings as you like (my mom doesn’t like curry, for example).
- For best flavor let it sit overnight covered in the fridge.