Waldorf Chicken Salad is the perfect brunch recipe—delicious, eloquent, and easy to make with tender chunks of chicken, apples, grapes, nuts, and celery in a creamy dressing. Super easy to make and will impress everybody.
Waldorf Chicken Salad is savory and sweet while being a great combination of flavors and texture. Leftover chicken can become a simple classic meal. Think of it as a cold chicken salad recipe with grapes, nuts, and apples.
I always think of it as a fancy "brunch" recipe, but it is an excellent dish for many uses. Served on a bed of greens, in a sandwich or warp—it's a perfect brunch, homemade light lunch, picnic, or easy dinner.
High 4 to lower 5 depending on your needs at the time.
What is Waldorf Salad?
Waldorf salad was created at New York City's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in 1896 by Oscar Tschirky, the maître d'hôtel. The original recipe contained only apples, celery, and mayonnaise. Chopped walnuts later became part of the dish.
Chicken is the most common add-in, making this salad a main dish worthy brunch classic, fancy light lunch, or easy family dinner. But there are numerous variations.
You want about two cups of diced or shredded cooked chicken. Leftover rotisserie chicken should be fine.
You can cook the chicken any way you want, but keep it moist. If you have a couple of small or one large raw skinless boneless chicken breasts, trim and bake for about 35-40 minutes in a 350° oven to an internal temperature of 165°.
A lot seems to be made of what apple to use for this or that. I believe it is more a matter of individual taste. So probably the apples you have is fine.
I think an apple that is firmer and tarter is the best choice here. So if you are buying apples just for this recipe, then good choices are Ida Red, Fuji, Honeycrisp, Gala, or Granny Smith apples.
While the original Waldorf salad did not have nuts, they are standard now. Chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds are also commonly used.
Toasting the nuts does add a lot of extra taste, and I highly recommend it, but it is optional.
Mayonnaise is the most common dressing, but Greek yogurt and sour cream are occasionally used. You can make it your own with a combination. I like to use light mayonnaise.
Celery is a must for the crunch it provides.
Grapes, like celery, are a mandatory ingredient and provide sweetness to the other savory elements. Use seedless red grapes, but green grapes are fine. Some people will substitute raisins or dried cherries for the grapes. A few versions will use cranberries.
Lemon juice is added to keep the apple from turning brown and will add a bit of taste.
I like a bit of red onion, but it is an optional ingredient.
👨🍳How to Make Waldorf Chicken Salad
- Toast nuts for 4-5 minutes in a frying pan.
- Prep an apple, grapes, and celery. Mix in a large bowl and coat with lemon juice.
- Mix the cooked chicken, nuts, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper into the large bowl.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
Waldorf chicken salad should be served very cold to bring out the crunchiness. Serve it on a bed of Romaine or leaf lettuce, in a wrap or sandwich, or just straight up on a plate or in a small bowl.
Recommended side dishes are a fresh fruit salad or a garden salad.
That hour does two things: it will allow the flavors to come together and improve the crunchiness when served cold.
The fresh apple needs a splash of lemon juice to prevent browning of the apple when exposed to air.
Leftover Waldorf salad can be stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. It will not freeze well.
📖 Brunch Recipes
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🖼️Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
You need about 2 cups of cooked chicken. Rotisserie or other leftover chicken works well, or bake a large breast.
Chop ½ cup of walnuts, but almonds or pecans will work. Optional: toast them over medium heat in a small nonstick pan for 4-5 minutes to increase crunchiness.
Clean, core, and chop one firm apple. Do not peel.
Clean and trim one rib of celery. Dice into relatively small pieces.
Clean and cut in half 1 cup of red seedless grapes. Optional: ½ cup finely chopped red onion (about ½ medium-sized onion).
Combine apple, celery, and grapes in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and mix well to coat.
Add onion, nuts, and ½ cup of mayonnaise—salt and pepper to taste (about ¼ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon pepper). Mix well, cover, and refrigerate for at least one hour to allow all ingredients to cool and blend flavors.
Serve on a plate, in a wrap or a pita, on crackers, on a salad, or in a sandwich.
Waldorf Chicken Salad
- 2 cups diced chicken
- 1 firm apple
- 1 rib celery
- 1 cup grapes
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ cup chipped nuts - Walnuts, almonds, or pecans. Toasting is optional.
- ½ cup red onion finely chopped - Optional. About ½ medium size onion
- ½ cup mayonnaise - low-fat suggested
- salt and pepper to taste
- You need about 2 cups of cooked chicken. Rotisserie or other leftover chicken works well, or bake a large breast.
- Chop ½ cup of walnuts, but almonds or pecans will work. Optional: toast them over medium heat in a small nonstick pan for 4-5 minutes to increase crunchiness.
- Clean, core, and chop one firm apple. Do not peel.
- Clean and trim one rib of celery. Dice into relatively small pieces.
- Clean and cut in half 1 cup of red seedless grapes. Optional: ½ cup finely chopped red onion (about ½ medium-sized onion).
- Combine apple, celery, and grapes in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and mix well to coat.
- Add onion, nuts, and ½ cup of mayonnaise—salt and pepper to taste (about ¼ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon pepper). Mix well, cover, and refrigerate for at least one hour to allow all ingredients to cool and blend flavors.
- Serve on a plate, in a wrap or a pita, on crackers, on a salad, or in a sandwich.
My Private Notes
- This is an easy recipe to scale to your ingredients and needs.
- You need about 2 cups of cubed or shredded chicken. So leftover or rotisserie chicken works well. Or you can bake a couple of small or a large skinless chicken breast at 375° for about 35 minutes until an internal temperature of 165°.
- Walnuts are the classic nut used, but pecans or almonds work fine. Toast the nuts a bit to add flavor if you have time.
- Use a firm apple or just the apple you like. I suggest Granny Smith or Ida Red as good choices.
- Lemon juice is used to prevent the browning of the apple.
- Good refrigerated for 3-4 days. Not a good candidate for freezing.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Editor's Note: Originally Published June 30, 2010. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.