Chicken Apple Salad (Without Mayo or Dairy)
Bursting with crunchy veggies and an easy, flavorful dressing, this healthy chicken apple salad is made without mayo or dairy, and makes the perfect make-ahead salad or meal on the go. Simple to make and oh-so satisfying, you’ll want to make this one again and again!
Note: This post was originally published with the title “One-Bowl Harvest Chicken Salad (Dairy-Free, Mayo-Free)”, we’ve changed the name and updated it to improve the post but it’s the same great recipe!
About this Chicken Apple Salad (Without Mayo or Dairy) Recipe
Lately I’ve been receiving quite a few requests for easy, make ahead, healthy lunch options that can be taken on-the-go.
And I get it! Falling into a lunch rut can be easy to do, and taking the time to prepare an entire meal mid-day everyday isn’t always an option.
But let me tell you… this easy prep chicken apple salad is your answer!
I’m obsessed with this simple salad and eat it so often that I feel like everyone needs to know about how to make it themselves at home.
Since you can make it ahead of time & store it in the fridge, it’s perfect for lunch, a light dinner, or to bring to a potluck or picnic.
The combination of the hearty chicken, sweet apples, crisp celery, crunchy cashews and the shallot & white wine vinaigrette is so refreshing – make it once and I have a feeling you’ll be hooked!
If you’ve never had a mayo-free chicken salad before, then you’ve got to try this one! The easy homemade dressing is light, tangy and adds plenty of flavor without needing any added mayo, yogurt or dairy.
Process & Tips
This salad is super simple to make in one bowl with just a handful of ingredients.
I love that it can be made ahead in batches and it’s one of those rare recipes that somehow tastes even better the next day, making it perfect for meal prep!
The trick to less prep and less mess is to make the easy chicken salad dressing in the bowl before you add your other ingredients (it also ensures you don’t miss a single drop of all that flavorful vinaigrette).
Then you just add in your chicken, chopped veggies and cashews and lunch is ready!
Since we’re using already-cooked chicken and some common pantry staples, we’re saving lots of time too.
Personally, I like to roast up a double batch of 5-Ingredient Garlic Rosemary Chicken to use in this salad, but store-bought rotisserie chicken also works.
This dairy free chicken salad recipe is very versatile, so feel free to play around with the ingredients to fit your taste or work with whatever ingredients you happen to have on hand. You can even turn it into a tuna salad by using 2 cans of drained tuna in place of the chicken!
What’s the Best Apple to Use for Chicken Salad?
Sweet, crisp, crunchy, and fresh apples work best for using in chicken salad.
Since we’re enjoying it raw, I often reach for a variety that I enjoy snacking on and that can hold up well with a vinaigrette or dressing.
For the best flavor and texture, I find that the best apples to use for chicken salad are Fuji or Gala apples (or anything similar to those) but you can of course use any apple you like the taste of.
If you like more of a tart flavor, you can go with an apple like Granny Smith – I just recommend not skipping the honey in the vinaigrette recipe below so that you can better balance all the flavors.
Of course, this chicken apple salad is delicious sandwiched between slices of bread or served on top of freshly toasted bread for an open-faced sandwich.
But I often enjoy it just on top of some leafy greens (like arugula or baby spinach) for a simple healthy salad.
It makes a super tasty filling for any wrap – simply use a large tortilla, stuff into a pita pocket or even use it to make some quick lettuce wraps.
It also makes a great healthy appetizer for a brunch or party to set out in a large bowl, served with crackers and fresh cut vegetables on the side for dipping.
Ingredients & Modifications
Cooked chicken: You can use cooked chicken breasts or cooked chicken thighs for this chicken salad, both work great in this recipe. I like to roast up a double batch of 5-Ingredient Garlic Rosemary Chicken to use in this salad, but store-bought rotisserie chicken also works.
Apple: I prefer a crisp, crunchy and sweet apple for this recipe such as Gala or Fuji apple. But you can use any apple you like the taste of.
Celery: Fresh celery works best for this recipe, and together with the apple it adds a really nice, lightly crunchy texture to the chicken salad.
Cashews: I used chopped, roasted, salted cashews for this recipe but you can use any kind of nut you like such as walnuts or pecans. Feel free to use pumpkin seeds (or simply omit the cashews entirely) for a nut-free version.
Arugula: I love serving this with some extra chopped greens like arugula (or you could also use another tender green like baby spinach) but its an optional ingredient in this recipe.
Shallot: The finely chopped shallot plays really well with the other flavors & textures in this chicken salad. It also infuses some lovely flavor into the dressing. You could also substitute 2 tablespoons of finely chopped red onion for the scallion.. And if you can’t have or don’t like onions, you can leave it out.
White wine vinegar: Since we’re not using traditional mayo in this chicken apple salad, the homemade dressing we make from the mustard, honey, salt, vinegar, and olive oil helps to flavor and bind all the ingredients together instead. I like the neutral flavor profile of white wine vinegar in this but you could also use a white balsamic or apple cider vinegar instead.
Whole grain mustard: I like the flavor and texture of a whole grain mustard but you could also use Dijon mustard or spicy brown mustard in its place. This homemade vinaigrette recipe is very versatile and forgiving, so feel free to customize it to your liking.
Honey: The light sweetness of the honey really helps to balance the acidity of the vinegar, and the savory ingredients like the mustard & shallot in this recipe. But it is entirely optional, so feel free to omit it for a low sugar, low carb, or Whole30 friendly option.
Extra virgin olive oil: I like the subtle flavor from the olive oil in this dressing but you can also use any other neutral oil you like – such as avocado, canola or vegetable oil.
Kosher salt: Look for kosher salt with the regular iodized salt at the grocery store (it has a subtler flavor). Use less iodized salt if that’s what you have on hand.
Tips for Storing Leftovers
This recipe is perfect for meal prep!
Leftover chicken apple salad will keep well in the fridge for up to 3-5 days.
Be sure to store it in a tightly sealed, lidded container to keep everything nice and fresh!
Chicken Apple Salad (Without Mayo or Dairy)
For the vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey, optional
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small shallot, very thinly sliced
For the chicken salad
- 2 cups chopped apple, from about 2 medium apples
- 2 cups chopped celery, from about 8-10 stalks
- 2 cups chopped cooked chicken breasts or thighs, from Garlic Rosemary Roasted Chicken or store-bought rotisserie
- ⅓ cup chopped roasted, salted cashews
- 4 cups arugula or spinach, optional
- In a large bowl, whisk together the mustard, honey, salt, vinegar, and olive oil until well combined.
- Add the shallot, stir and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
- Add the apple, celery, cooked chicken, and cashews, stirring until well combined.
- Serve over greens if you like.
I just made this and like always, SO delicious!
So happy you enjoyed, Meara!
This is not a "Whole 30" recipe… it has honey.
Andrew, the honey is optional. Feel free to omit it.
This looks good. We are going to a potluck where the daughter can’t have anything dairy, and this looks and sounds perfect. Thank you for this!
ps. You might want to edit stocks to stalks (celery) 🙂 Easy enough typo to make.
Graes, yay, hope this is a hit at the potluck and with your daughter. Thanks for the catch on the typo! 🙂
Look $amazing and this new year I ‘m gonna try this, my family will love it.
Thanks for the dish.!!!!
Check out my official website to know who am I
I will be making this over the weekend, and am looking forward to it. Just wondered if you’ve calculated any nutritional values (calories) on this?? If not, no worries!!
Hi Jeff, I don’t have the nutritional values, sorry about that. Hope you enjoy this one!
Fantastic recipe! I added dried cranberries, cut the amount of oil in half, and used chicken tenders that I baked in the oven, and it was a hit – everyone wanted the recipe!
Katie, yay, I’m so glad you enjoyed this one! Love the addition of dried cranberries. 🙂
Thanks for the great recipe! I had leftover chicken breasts that I needed to do something with. I like chicken salad, but don’t care for mayo and don’t have any in the house. I made this a couple of hours before eating and it is delicious! There were some ingredients I didn’t have (shallots, celery) and some I chose to leave out (honey) and some I found substitutes for (no white wine viniegar, but did have a lime in the refrigerator). Again, thanks! This recipe is a keeper!
Yay, so glad you enjoyed this one and that you adapted it to make it your own!
Another winner salad recipe, thank you Robyn! Made this to have for my lunches last week and I looked forward to lunch each day! Great crunch and the flavor and texture of the dressing was perfect!
Yay, Stephanie, so happy to hear you enjoyed this one–it’s a classic around here! Cheers!
I had a romaine/spinach salad w/olives, feta, mushrooms,zucchini,celery, carrots, green pepper and broccoli left over along with a rotisserie chicken- I added more spinach and made the dressing with seasoned rice vinegar (deleted honey) and added cracked pepper and it was AMA🎶ING!!!!
Yay, so glad you enjoyed this one, Kelly. thanks so much for leaving a review!
This looks perfect to take to a gf, dairy free family. My question is about the apples. Will they turn brown if I make the night before? Thanks!
Hi Julie, since there’s acid in the dressing from the vinegar I’ve found that the apples don’t turn brown, as long as everything is well mixed and then sealed in an airtight container overnight in the fridge. Hope that helps!
Sounds so good with all those crunchy textures! I can’t wait to try it.
Yay, I hope you enjoy this one, Lisa! We love the crunch factor around here!