This is the BEST Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad. It is so delicious and such a versatile recipe that’s perfect for any occasion! Whether you’re hosting a holiday gathering, serving for brunch, or need a quick and easy meal, this chicken salad with craisins will hit the spot!
It features shredded chicken breast (or leftover turkey), dried cranberries, crisp celery, sweet apples, and toasted walnuts for a mouthful of delicious flavors and textures! This cold salad is quick and easy to make, making it an excellent option for meal prep.
This cranberry chicken salad recipe is easily one of my favorite ways to make chicken salad. Not only is it a great way to use up leftover baked chicken breast or rotisserie chicken from a previous meal, but it’s also full of fresh fruits and vegetables and toasty walnuts with the most delicious dressing for a quick and delicious meal.
Why I LOVE this recipe!
- Simple ingredients – Just 5 main ingredients (chicken, walnuts, dried cranberries, apples, and celery) and a simple dressing to toss them in!
- Perfect for the seasons – While you can make this recipe any time of year thanks to the dried cranberries, it feels extra special during the Fall and Winter seasons with seasonal flavors like apples, cranberries, and warm toasty walnuts.
- Perfect for meal prep – You can make this early in the week and enjoy it in a sandwich, as a cold plate with added toppings, as a wrap, or in a lettuce cup. Plus, the flavors meld together as they sit and become even more delicious!
- Quick and easy – The only special step in this chicken salad recipe is toasting the walnuts in the oven for a few minutes. You could also dry roast them in a skillet. Other than that, you’re simply chopping a few ingredients and then tossing everything together in a bowl. Easy, simple, and delicious!
This chicken salad with apples, walnuts, and cranberries recipe is as simple as promised! Just a a quick roast on the walnuts, some chopping, and you’re ready for a family friendly meal that tastes as good as it looks!
In this section I am going to go through a few tips and tricks I use for how to make cranberry walnut chicken salad to get the absolute best and most delicious results.
Make sure to scroll to the bottom for the FULL recipe card.
Ingredients + Substitutions
- Cooked chicken – I love using leftover chicken from a rotisserie, but you could also use leftover turkey!
- Cranberries – Dried cranberries are best for this chicken salad recipe. You can use them as is or soak them in water first to plump them up. You could also use dried cherries.
- Walnuts – We will toast these first to bring out the best nutty flavor. You can skip this step, but it tastes so much better toasted. Feel free to swap for pecans or another nut of choice.
- Apples – I like to use a green apple because it is slightly tart, but feel free to use another type.
- Celery – Celery is perfect for bulking up your chicken salad and adding a fresh, crunchy texture. I like to finely dice the celery and apples to have more of each in every bite!
- Dressing – This mayo-based dressing is super simple, made with a splash of lemon juice, some salt, black pepper, and onion powder.
Make sure to see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the full quantities and ingredients list.
If you love this recipe as much as we do and want some quick ways to change it up for variety, these little tips will do the trick!
- Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad – Swap the walnuts for pecans and crunchy celery for green onions for another super simple chicken salad to make.
- Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad with Greek Yogurt – Want a healthy chicken salad recipe to try? Just swap the mayo for Greek yogurt and you’ll add an additional layer of protein and a little tang to this recipe while reducing the fat. It’s really delicious and wholesome, too!
- Cranberry Orange Chicken Salad – Orange and cranberry complement each other. Substitute mandarin oranges for apples and use orange juice instead of lemon juice in the dressing.
Recipe Step by Step
I am going to highlight a few key steps in the recipe here, but make sure to jump down to the recipe card for comprehensive instructions on how to make cranberry walnut chicken salad.
Mix together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl: mayo, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and onion powder.
In a separate bowl, combine the shredded chicken, chopped celery and apple, cranberries, and toasted walnuts.
Pour the dressing on top.
Toss everything together until it is well combined. Chill for 30 minutes.
- Cook the chicken if needed – If you don’t have any leftover chicken, the best kind to use for chicken salad is either baked, roasted, or poached. You can try my Dutch oven whole-roasted chicken, or baked chicken breasts, or if you like dark-meat chicken, my baked chicken thighs would be perfect!
- Let the chicken salad chill first – You can eat the chicken salad immediately, but it’s best to chill it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.
- Chop everything small – When it comes to chicken salad, I personally prefer smaller pieces of celery and apples. This way, the flavors are more evenly distributed and every bite is delicious.
- Plump up your cranberries! – If you like your cranberries more plump and moist, soak them in 1-2 tablespoons of hot water for 5-10 minutes, then drain, before adding to the chicken salad.
Recipe Short Cuts
If you need to make this recipe, but are extra short on time, here are a few ideas that can help make this recipe even faster!
- Use leftover chicken – Shred chicken from a previous meal. Or often you can find day old chicken at the grocery store too, and sometimes it is already pulled! As a super short cut, you can use canned chicken.
- Toast the walnuts ahead of time – Toast nuts and store until ready to use, for chicken salad or snacking!
- Pre chop your celery– Celery can be chopped 2-3 days beforehand and stored in the fridge.
- Meal prep – Make this cranberry walnut chicken salad ahead of time for a quick and easy lunch or meal later on. Just give it a quick toss before serving.
How to Serve Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad
One of the things that makes chicken salad so appealing is the wide range of serving options it offers. Whether you prefer it as a standalone dish for a quick protein boost or as a filling for sandwiches or wraps, chicken salad is a versatile and delicious choice. Here’s how I like to serve chicken salad with cranberries and walnuts, plus some side dish ideas!
Ways to Serve Cranberry Chicken Salad
- Cold plate – Serve over a bed of fresh greens with another cold salad like broccoli slaw, or potato salad, and any extras you may want.
- Sandwich – You can make a sandwich in so many ways, such as using hearty sliced bread, a sub roll, a croissant, a soft roll, or any other bread of your choice!
- Wrap – Fill a wrap with your favorite lettuce greens and make ahead of time for lunch on the go!
Side Dish Ideas
- Broccoli Cauliflower Salad
- Italian Quinoa Salad
- Rotini Pasta Salad
- Roasted Cauliflower Soup
- Chicken Wild Rice Soup
- Baked Potato Soup
Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad Leftovers
If you have leftovers after making this recipe, then it is your lucky day! They save well and are perfect for meal prep too!
To save leftovers, separate into meal sized portions and then place in an airtight container and store:
- in the refrigerator for 3-4 days
Can I use fresh cranberries instead of dried in chicken salad?
Fresh cranberries would be much too tart for chicken salad. Dried is best.
What can I use instead of apples?
The subtle crunch and sweetness of the apples can be replaced with other fruits like pears, mango, or grapes.
Do you have to roast the walnuts?
No, it isn’t required to toast the walnuts, but doing so does add a really deliciously nutty flavor to them.
More EASY Chicken Salad Recipes
If you enjoyed this recipe, I really hope you will take a moment to grab a few more easy recipes for another busy night!
You can check out all of my easy chicken salad recipes here, or see a few of our readers favorite recipes below.
- Curry Chicken Salad
- Rotisserie Chicken Salad
- Famous LOADED Chicken Salad
- Chicken Salad with Grapes
- Pesto Chicken Salad
- 3 cups shredded chicken, or diced (I used rotisserie)
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 green apple, diced
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries, (like Craisins) see note
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
For the dressing
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- Preheat oven to 350. Bake the walnuts for 5-8 minutes until they are toasty and starting to brown on the edges.
- While the walnuts toast, make the dressing by whisking together the mayonnaise with the lemon juice. Then add the salt, pepper, and onion powder and mix to combine. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the chicken, celery, apple, cranberries, and toasted walnuts. Pour the dressing over the top and toss until everything is evenly coated in the dressing.
- The Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad can be eaten immediately or chilled for 30 minutes to an hour to let the flavor develop. Serve on toast or with crackers.