Sweet Daddy D’s Curry Chicken Salad with apples and cranberries in a lemon curry dressing is perfect for a simple family lunch or dinner but fancy enough for company. This light recipe uses lean chicken breasts with chopped apples and Craisins (dried cranberries) tossed in a refreshing savory lemon curry dressing. It's this special dressing that compliments and balances the sweetness of the golden delicious apples and dried cranberries. This is a quick, no-angst recipe that everyone will love.
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Chicken Salad on the Bayou??
This may not seem like a Creole or Cajun recipe, but it’s perfectly suited for anything from a large gathering to a quiet lunch on the screen porch, both things people of South Louisiana love to do. In fact, this dish was a favorite of fans of Leah Chase, the Queen of Creole Cuisine. Miss Leah’s famous Curried Chicken Salad was made using chicken tenders and fresh grapes, but it’s the curry dressing that set it apart. Curry Chicken Salad with Cranberries and Apples can be the centerpiece of a Cold Tray with pickled beets, marinated asparagus, cole slaw, potato salad, and so many other light and cold offerings. This sweet and savory chicken salad is absolutely delicious and will hit the spot with friends and family.
Why Does this Recipe Work?
This recipe has a few things going on at one time. Tender, juicy chicken breasts make this a hearty dish, but the balance of the savory lemon curry dressing with the sweet, crispness of dried cranberries and fresh apples seals the deal.
Craisins add just the right amount of sweetness, along with the apple, to counter the tart lemon and savory curry notes. Their texture pairs well with the crisp apple. If you're looking for something different, you can substitute fresh white or red seedless grapes (sliced in half lengthwise or whole) or raisins. You could even leave them out altogether. Want to be a bit fancier? Try adding candied pecans, sliced almonds, or cashews.
Here's What You Need
Here are some of the key ingredients for this recipe:
Note on Curry Powder: Curry Powder is a major factor in this recipe's flavor profile. I use a mild version like this one. A suitable substitute for the 4 Tablespoons of Curry Powder in this recipe would be 2 Tablespoons of Chili Powder, 2 Tablespoons of Tumeric, and 1 Tablespoon of Allspice. For more information on Curry Powder, check out the Hints and Tips (FAQ) section below.
Note on Apples: I use Golden Delicious apples when developing this recipe. They are sweet, crisp, and juicy. Gala and Fuji Apples are good substitutes.
Note on Craisins: I like using Craisins in this recipe because of the sweetness and texture, which I think pairs well with the crunchy texture of the apples.
Here is some of the equipment I used in making this recipe:
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To accurately track Internal Temperature, I use a Thermopen by Thermoworks.
Here's What You Do
First, you have a beer. Even with a simple recipe, it turns out best if you prepare your ingredients and yourself before you start. It’s the perfect time for a beer while you read the recipe all the way through. Learn what you need and what you are going to do with each ingredient. Prep the cook then perform your mise en place.
Mise En Place
Prepare the ingredients and place them in small prep bowls before you assemble the recipe.
- The raw chicken should be patted dry with a paper towel.
- Check out the Note below about rinsing raw chicken.
- I usually do not trim any excess fat from the breasts at this point so that flavor is incorporated.
- Set the chicken aside.
- Measure the chicken seasonings into a small prep bowl.
Note on rinsing chicken: The FDA does not recommend rinsing raw chicken because of the potential to contaminate the food preparation area. Rinsing does not eliminate potential bacteria, but it will be eliminated by cooking. If you can't resist rinsing raw chicken (which I usually can not resist) hold the chicken low in the sink and use a very low stream of water, being careful not to splash. A better method is to rinse the chicken in a large bowl of cold water. Make sure to clean your food preparation surfaces: I use white vinegar or diluted bleach water to clean all the surrounding food preparation surfaces when dealing with raw poultry. And wash your hands!!
- Zest the lemon and squeeze the lemon juice.
- Measure the mayonnaise and cumin powder.
- Peel and dice the apples, and discard the core.
- Chop the celery into small pieces.
- Measure the dried cranberries.
Cook the Chicken Breasts
What happens in this step? This recipe is great when the chicken is fully cooked, but still tender and juicy.
Place the chicken breasts onto a prep tray or large bowl and apply the seasoning mix.
Fill a large stock pot with cold water and bring it to a boil. Add the seasoned chicken and bay leaves (also add any seasoning that has remained in the bowl). As the water regains a boil, lower the heat to a heavy simmer for about 20 minutes or until the internal temperature of then the chicken is 170 degrees.
Remove the chicken breasts to a bowl or prep tray and place them in the fridge for about 30 minutes to cool completely.
Pro Tip: Make sure there’s enough water to cover the chicken by about 2 inches. This will make a simple, flavorful stock that can be used for other recipes, like cooking rice. If you'd like to reserve the cooking water, skim the impurities (it's actually some of the protein coming to the surface). This can be frozen in an airtight container until you're ready to use it.
Prepare the dressing
What happens in this step? Here we'll make the flavor vehicle for the chicken and other ingredients. A creamy, savory dressing with lots of lemon and curry.
Mix all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup. Add some kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste. Mix well and refrigerate the dressing until needed.
Construct the Salad
What happens in this step? How you prepare the cooked chicken will impact the texture of the salad: bite-size pieces that are either chopped or shredded and chopped. The amount of dressing you mix into the chicken will impact the texture and creaminess of the overall dish.
Prep the Cooked Chicken
Trim any remaining excess fat from the chicken. Chop (or shred) the chicken into small, bite-size pieces, no larger than about ½ inch cubes. Place the prepared chicken in a large mixing bowl.
Combine the ingredients
To the mixing bowl with the chicken, add the celery, apples, and dried cranberries. Mix well.
Add the dressing a little at a time, starting with about half. Blend everything together well. Add more dressing according to your taste.
Once the chicken salad is mixed, you should place it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes or longer while it gets cold and the flavors meld together.
Hints and Tips (FAQ)
I think this recipe is best with white breast meat. Boneless skinless breasts are perfect, but you can also use breast tenderloin. If you love dark meat, you can use thighs or a mixture of thigh and breast meat. You can also use meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken or leftover baked, grilled, or even fried chicken! Make sure to de-bone and de-skin cooked chicken.
Leftover chicken salad can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days if stored in an airtight container. Leftover dressing can likewise be kept in the fridge for 3 to 5 days, also if stored in an airtight container or jar. I do not recommend freezing leftover dressing or chicken salad.
Curry Powder is not one spice, but a blend of spices that originated in British India. It's different than the well-known "Curry" dishes of India. It generally has a yellowish-brown hue and provides a distinct and unique flavor that is subtle and earthy with a sweet savoriness. It's a major contributor to the flavor of any recipe and can take over if used in excess. The principal ingredients of curry powder are turmeric, coriander, cumin, bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, and Allspice. Black pepper and Red Chilli Peppers are common ingredients that add spice. A curry powder's flavor will stretch from mild to very hot, depending upon the individual ingredients used. The curry powders available in most supermarkets are on the mild side, but it would be fun to explore various blends to experience the variety of flavors available.
Interested in some other Cold Salads from Sweet Daddy D?
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Yeah You Right!
Curry Chicken Salad with Cranberries and Apples
Here's What You Need
For the Chicken
- 4 large chicken breasts Boneless/Skinless
- 2 tablespoons curry powder
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoons ground black pepper
For the Salad
- 2 stalks celery sliced
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 2 golden delicious apples chopped
For the Dressing
- 2 cups mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons curry powder
- zest of 1 lemon
- Juice of ½ Lemon
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon Ground Pepper
Here's What You Do
To Cook the Chicken
- Season the chicken breasts and place in a large stock pot and; cover with cold water by about 2 inches.
- Bring to a boil over high heat, lower heat to a heavy simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken is 170 degrees.
- Remove the chicken breasts from the stockpot and place it in the fridge to cool completely, about 30 minutes.
To Make the Dressing
- Zest the lemon and squeeze the lemon juice
- Mix the mayonnaise, lemon zest, cumin and lemon juices in a bowl and mix well. Add kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste.
- Refrigerate while mixing the remaining ingredients.
To Make the Salad
- Peel and dice the apples and chop the celery into small pieces.
- Chop the chicken breasts into small pieces, no larger than about ½ inch cubes. Alternately you can shred the chicken breasts.
- Mix the chicken breasts, celery and apples in a bowl.
- Add the dried cranberries and mix well.
- Add the dressing and mix well, Start with about half the dressing and when mixed well, add more according to your taste.
This article was originally published in April 2018. I have revised and republished it here with improved structure, updated information, and revised images. I hope this will provide you with more useful information about this recipe.