Potato and chicken salad with salsa verde can (Credit: Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey)

Potato and chicken salad with salsa verde can be an easy weeknight entree as well as picnic fare.

4 Creative chicken salad recipes

What color is your chicken salad? The option-happy dish enjoys year-round rotation but seems to come into its own in warm weather. With the right combination of ingredients -- starting, say, with a rotisserie bird -- you can skip cooking altogether.

Avoiding mayonnaise these days? Greek yogurt or mashed avocado can stand in as a creamy component, or you can go the vinaigrette route.

Is crunch a must-have? Besides the stalwart celery, a world of nuts and radishes and greens is at your disposal. Natural sweetness can play off any tang or tartness once you include grapes, mango, dried fruit or a touch of honey.

You've got your favorites. Still, you might be able to find a few more in this new batch.

Potato and chicken salad with salsa verde

This hearty salad, adapted from "No Time to
(Credit: Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey)

This hearty salad, adapted from "No Time to Cook: Fresh and Easy Recipes for a Fast Forward World" by Donna Hay (Hardie Grant, 2008), can be an easy weeknight entree as well as picnic fare. Adding a fresh herb -- in this case, a mint sprig -- to the cooking water is a small step that makes a big difference.

For the salsa verde:

1 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves
½ cup loosely packed dill sprigs
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Freshly cracked black pepper

For the salad:

6 fingerling potatoes
1 sprig mint
Kosher salt
2 cooked chicken breast halves, cut into thick strips or shredded
1 tablespoon capers (preferably salt-packed), rinsed and drained
2 ounces baby arugula leaves

1. To make the salsa verde, combine the parsley, mint, dill, oil, mustard, lemon juice and pepper in a food processor; pulse just until coarsely chopped. (The salsa verde can be refrigerated for up to a week.)

2. Place the potatoes, the sprig of mint and a generous pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Add enough cool water to cover by at least 1 inch, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are just tender enough to pierce with a sharp knife.

3. Drain, cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and return them to the (empty) saucepan over low heat, along with the chicken and capers. Toss to incorporate and cook just long enough to warm everything through. Turn off the heat. Add the salsa verde to the saucepan and toss gently to coat.

4. Divide the arugula between plates. Top with the dressed salad. Serve right away. Makes 2 servings.

Chutney chicken salad

Chutney-based chicken salads are classic, especially when fresh
(Credit: Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey)

Chutney-based chicken salads are classic, especially when fresh mango is involved. This one, adapted from "The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/Park Avenue Potluck: Recipes From New York's Savviest Hostesses" by Florence Fabricant (Rizzoli, 2007), contains peanuts and scallions for crunch. The recipe is even easier with a store-bought rotisserie bird and can be made ahead and refrigerated a day in advance.

5 cups cooked chicken, preferably white meat, cut into bite-size pieces
¾ cup chopped scallions
1 cup flesh from 1 large mango, diced
⅓ cup Major Grey's mango chutney (available at specialty grocers)
¼ cup regular or low-fat mayonnaise (do not use nonfat)
Juice of 1 lemon
1½ cups plain, whole-milk Greek-style yogurt
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
⅓ cup roasted, salted peanuts, lightly crushed, for garnish (optional)
⅓ cup chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish (optional)

Combine the chicken, scallions, mango, chutney, mayonnaise, lemon juice, yogurt and soy sauce in a serving bowl; stir to blend well. Just before serving, garnish with the peanuts and cilantro, if desired. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Pecan chicken salad

This classic combination of pecans, celery and grapes
(Credit: Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey)

This classic combination of pecans, celery and grapes is adapted from "The New Basics Cookbook" by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins (Workman, 1989). You can refrigerate the chicken salad for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days before serving.

3 cups low-salt chicken broth
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, patted dry
1 pound seedless green grapes, some cut in half
1½ cups pecan halves, toasted (see note)
1 cup diced celery
1 cup chopped fresh dill, plus a few sprigs for garnish
1 cup regular or low-fat sour cream (do not use nonfat)
1¼ cups regular or low-fat mayonnaise (do not use nonfat)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 bunches watercress (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring broth to a simmer. Arrange the chicken breast halves in a single layer in a shallow baking dish, then pour in the broth. Lay a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper over the baking dish; bake for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Use tongs to transfer the chicken to a plate to cool; discard the broth. Shred the chicken into bite-size pieces, placing them in a large mixing bowl as you work, and add the grapes, pecans, celery and chopped dill; toss to incorporate.

2. Whisk together the sour cream and mayonnaise in a medium bowl, then scrape it into the bowl with the chicken. Toss to coat, then season well with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

3. To serve, arrange beds of watercress on individual plates, if desired; top with equal portions of the chicken salad. Garnish with sprigs of dill. Serve right away. Makes 12 to 14 servings.

Note: To toast pecans, spread them on a rimmed baking sheet; toast at 325 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice, until the nuts are fragrant and lightly browned. Cool completely before using.

Saffron chicken, lemon and green bean salad

In this recipe, adapted from "The Food You
(Credit: Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey)

In this recipe, adapted from "The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life" by Ellie Krieger (Taunton Press, 2008), a quick marinade imbues the chicken with a bright color and flavor. But the subtle star of the dish is the lemon peel, mellowed and tenderized by poaching. The lemon can be poached and refrigerated up to 5 days in advance. The salad can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

1 lemon (preferably unwaxed), scrubbed well
1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed
Pinch saffron threads, crumbled
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
¼ cup olive oil, divided
1¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon honey
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Use a fork to prick the lemon in 3 or 4 places. Place in a small saucepan along with 1 teaspoon salt. Cover with water; bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to low, cover and cook until quite tender, about 50 minutes. Drain and cool.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together the saffron, mint, garlic, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon oil and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt in a gallon-size plastic zip-top bag. Add the chicken and seal. Massage to coat; let it marinate (at room temperature) while you prep the beans.

3. Steam beans over simmering water until crisp-tender and a brighter shade of green, about 4 minutes. Cool, then cut into ½-inch pieces, transferring them to a mixing bowl as you work.

4. Grease a large skillet with cooking oil spray and place over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the marinated chicken. (Discard any remaining marinade.) Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, then turn the chicken over and cook 6 to 8 minutes longer, or as needed, until the chicken is cooked through and nicely browned. Cool, then cut into bite-size pieces, transferring them to the bowl of green beans.

5. Slice off and discard the ends of the lemon, then cut the fruit in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the flesh and pulp. Cut the remaining peel (with pith) into thin slices, then into ¼-inch pieces, adding them to the bowl as you work. Add the thyme.

6. Whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and the honey in a liquid measuring cup, then whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to form an emulsified dressing. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the lemon-chicken mixture and toss to incorporate. Serve at room temperature. Makes 4 servings.

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