Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad

Looking for a delightful dish that effortlessly combines flavors and textures? Look no further than this Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing! Whether you’re craving a quick lunch fix or seeking a fancy dinner starter, this salad ticks all the boxes. With its blend of tender chicken, tangy cranberries, crunchy pecans, and creamy poppy seed dressing, every bite is a symphony of flavors and textures. Let’s dive into the recipe and discover how to whip up this culinary masterpiece in no time!


Salad Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or chopped
  • 6 cups mixed salad greens
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted
  • Optional additions: sliced apples, feta cheese, or avocado

Poppy Seed Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Prepare the Salad Base: In a large bowl, combine the mixed salad greens, cooked chicken, dried cranberries, and toasted pecans. This forms the hearty and flavorful foundation of your salad.
  2. Whisk Up the Dressing: In a separate small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, milk, sugar, and apple cider vinegar until smooth and well combined. Then, stir in the poppy seeds, which add a delightful crunch and nuttiness to the dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste, ensuring a perfect balance of flavors.
  3. Bring It All Together: Drizzle the creamy poppy seed dressing over the salad mixture. Use a pair of salad tongs or a large spoon to gently toss everything together, ensuring that every ingredient is coated with the luscious dressing. Adjust the amount of dressing according to your preference, whether you prefer a light drizzle or a generous pour.
  4. Optional Enhancements: For an extra burst of flavor and texture, consider adding some optional ingredients to your salad. Sliced apples lend a crisp sweetness, while crumbled feta cheese adds a creamy tang. Alternatively, avocado slices offer a creamy richness that complements the other ingredients beautifully.
  5. Serve and Enjoy: Your Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing is now ready to be served! Transfer the salad to individual plates or a large serving bowl, garnishing with extra cranberries and pecans if desired. Serve immediately to savor the freshness and vibrancy of the ingredients.

Serving and Storage Tips:

Serving Tips:

  1. For an elegant presentation, serve the Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing on chilled salad plates or in a decorative serving bowl.
  2. Consider adding a sprinkle of freshly chopped herbs, such as parsley or chives, as a garnish to enhance the visual appeal of the dish.
  3. Pair this salad with crusty bread or artisanal rolls to create a complete meal that’s both satisfying and delicious.
  4. To make it a heartier meal, serve the salad alongside a bowl of soup or a side of roasted vegetables.

Storage Tips:

  1. Store any leftover salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.
  2. Keep the dressing separate from the salad until ready to serve to prevent the greens from becoming soggy.
  3. If adding avocado to the salad, it’s best to slice it fresh just before serving to prevent browning.
  4. To maintain the crunchiness of the pecans, store them separately and add them to the salad just before serving.
  5. Before enjoying leftovers, give the salad a quick toss to redistribute the dressing and ensure all the flavors are well combined.


  1. Grilled Chicken: Instead of using cooked chicken, try grilling chicken breasts or thighs seasoned with your favorite spices. The smoky flavor from the grill will add an extra dimension to the salad.
  2. Citrus Twist: Add a refreshing citrus twist to the dressing by substituting lemon or orange juice for the apple cider vinegar. The bright acidity will complement the sweetness of the cranberries and richness of the pecans.
  3. Nutty Crunch: Experiment with different nuts such as almonds, walnuts, or pistachios in place of pecans for a unique flavor profile. Toast them lightly for added crunch and depth of flavor.
  4. Creamy Addition: For a creamier dressing, mix in a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream along with the mayonnaise. This will add richness and tanginess to the dressing while still maintaining its creamy texture.
  5. Seasonal Twist: Incorporate seasonal fruits such as sliced strawberries, pomegranate arils, or diced mangoes for a fresh and colorful variation. Adjust the ingredients according to what’s in season for a salad that’s always in tune with nature’s bounty.
  6. Protein Swap: Replace the chicken with cooked shrimp, turkey, or tofu for a lighter or vegetarian-friendly version of the salad. Marinate the protein in your favorite spices or sauces for added flavor.
  7. Cheese Lover’s Delight: Crumble blue cheese, goat cheese, or gorgonzola over the salad for a creamy and tangy kick. The cheese adds a luxurious richness that pairs beautifully with the sweet-tart cranberries and crunchy pecans.
  8. Herbal Infusion: Mix finely chopped fresh herbs such as basil, mint, or cilantro into the dressing for an herby twist. The herbs will infuse the dressing with their aromatic flavors, elevating the overall taste of the salad.
  9. Whole Grain Boost: Toss cooked quinoa, farro, or barley into the salad for added fiber, texture, and nutritional benefits. These whole grains will make the salad more filling and satisfying, perfect for a wholesome meal.
  10. Spicy Kick: Add a pinch of red pepper flakes or a dash of hot sauce to the dressing for a spicy kick. The heat will contrast beautifully with the sweetness of the cranberries and richness of the pecans, adding depth and complexity to the flavor profile.


  1. Can I use leftover rotisserie chicken for this salad? Absolutely! Leftover rotisserie chicken works perfectly in this recipe and adds an extra depth of flavor to the salad.
  2. Can I make the dressing ahead of time? Yes, you can prepare the dressing in advance and store it in the refrigerator for up to a week. Just give it a good stir before using it on the salad.
  3. How can I toast the pecans? To toast pecans, simply spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for about 5-7 minutes, or until they are fragrant and lightly golden brown.
  4. Can I make this salad ahead of time? While it’s best to assemble the salad just before serving to maintain its freshness, you can prep the ingredients ahead of time and store them separately. Combine everything together with the dressing right before serving.
  5. Is there a substitute for mayonnaise in the dressing? If you’re looking for a healthier alternative, you can use Greek yogurt or sour cream in place of mayonnaise for a tangy and creamy dressing.
  6. Can I make this salad vegan-friendly? Yes, simply omit the chicken and mayonnaise from the recipe. You can use a vegan-friendly mayonnaise substitute or a creamy vegan dressing alternative.

With its tantalizing blend of flavors and textures, this Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing is sure to become a favorite in your recipe repertoire. Whether enjoyed as a satisfying lunch or as an elegant dinner starter, it’s a dish that never fails to impress. So, gather your ingredients and get ready to delight your taste buds with this irresistible salad creation!