The Secret Ingredient You Need For Creamier Chicken Salad

Chicken salad is easily one of the great American culinary inventions. Originating in Wakefield, Rhode Island in 1863, the first recipe consisted of chopped chicken, mayonnaise, tarragon, and grapes. Since its conception, the brunchtime and lunchtime favorite has taken on countless variations, from coronation chicken spiced with curry to the famous Neiman Marcus chicken salad, which has been a favorite of ladies who lunch since the 1950s. 

Many agree that it's the super-creamy consistency of the latter that has taken this otherwise simple dish to the culinary hall of fame. And, the secret ingredient is one that can be implemented in any chicken salad recipe — just a hint of heavy cream.

Those who have tried to find extra creaminess in the dish may have added things like more mayonnaise or yogurt, which will work; however, those ingredients could potentially impart too much of their flavors into the mix. Instead, a thick liquid like heavy cream will give the salad an ideal consistency without the dish becoming gloppy. Even better, the mild flavor will be virtually undetectable, making the rest of the ingredients really stand out.

Heavy cream adds texture

Whether you prefer the meat in your chicken salad to be chopped into diced pieces or shredded, a touch of cream will coat each morsel and give the dish incredible texture. Helen Corbitt, who invented the famed Neiman Marcus chicken salad recipe, used half a cup of cream in her recipe, which also consisted of one pound of cooked chicken breast, mayo, celery, grapes, and toasted almonds. If you want to try it, start by adding one tablespoon of heavy cream at a time until you get the consistency you like.

If you don't have heavy cream around, you can make a terrific substitution by transforming milk with just one ingredient: melted butter. Crème frâiche and sour cream can also add some creamy texture to chicken salad, but be aware that you'll also be adding some tangy flavor, too. Another idea is to mix some diced avocado into the chicken salad. As the fruit breaks down, it essentially melts into the mixture creating a smooth, rich texture.

More ideas for super creamy chicken salad

Silky chicken salad texture can be achieved in more ways than just the addition of heavy cream. Consider whipping up a dressing, like green goddess or creamy cucumber. For the latter, blend together some cucumbers, buttermilk, crème frâiche, dill, shallots, lemon juice, and some olive oil until a dressing comes together. Pour this over small diced cooked chicken and combine everything together. So much flavor is in the dressing that you may not need or want many additional ingredients, although some crunchy toasted pine nuts would be delicious (the bonus being that the nuts will give a bit of creamy texture as well).

For a chicken salad idea that's a bit out of the box, try making an olive oil-based concoction. Combine some cooked chicken with olive oil, a good red wine vinegar, some fresh herbs, dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, and some salt and pepper. On a toasted slice of crusty sourdough bread, spread a good amount of fresh ricotta cheese and top with a pile of the chicken salad. You'll have a fantastic dish with the unexpected creaminess coming from the ricotta.