Tarragon Chicken Salad is a unique twist on the iconic deli chicken salad, adding in complementary fresh ingredients as well as offering two elegant presentations to choose from. And you can prepare it the day before serving, making it perfect for a luncheon or casual busy day dinner.
What’s in Tarragon Chicken Salad
One of my favorite lunch dishes is chicken salad, in all its various forms. Since I was a little girl, deli style has been a particular favorite. You know the one – hunks of cooked chicken tossed with a mayonnaise-based dressing and sometimes celery and green onion. My mom’s version of chicken salad takes the basic ingredients (cooked chicken and mayo), and combines them with fresh mushrooms, juicy tomatoes, sweet green peas, bright red onion and crunchy cucumbers. And, fresh tarragon, basil and Dijon mustard are blended into the mayonnaise. It’s all served atop crispy chopped Napa cabbage.
How to present Tarragon Chicken Salad – version 1
Mom’s original recipe (that’s in our cookbook “A Well-Seasoned Kitchen®”) presents all these colorful, flavorful ingredients layered together in a pretty glass trifle dish or deep glass bowl. To begin, place cabbage on the bottom, then add mushrooms, chicken, onion, peas and then cucumber. Spread dressing on top, and then finish it with halved tomatoes.
You can also create individual layered salads, using mason jars. And, it can be completely assembled the day before serving!
How to present Tarragon Chicken Salad – version 2
Recently, I came up with another way to serve this elegant chicken salad. Instead of layering the ingredients vertically, I arrange them horizontally, in rows – like a Cobb salad. You can prepare one large salad on a platter, or individual servings in shallow bowls (like pasta bowls).
Other main dishes salads to try
- Chicken, Artichoke Hearts, Quinoa and Brown Rice Salad
- Tuna, White Bean and Tomato Salad
- Chicken and Orzo Salad with Peanut Dressing
- Curried Chicken Pasta Salad
- Tuna Salade Niçoise
- Grilled Tarragon Chicken with Pasta, Pecans and Spring Greens
- Layered Salmon Salad with Avocado Dressing
- Smoked Salmon Chopped Salad
- Tuna and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad
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- 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise (or 3/4 cup mayonnaise and 3/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon – see Note
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil – See Note
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1 medium head napa cabbage, chopped – see Note
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms (white or cremini)
- 2 1/2 cups shredded, cooked chicken (around 1 purchased rotisserie chicken)
- 1/3 cup chopped or sliced red onion
- 1 package (10 ounce) frozen peas, thawed & drained
- 1 medium cucumber, peeled & chopped
- 1 pint grape or small cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, tarragon, basil and pepper. Season to taste with salt and more pepper (may not need any salt). Set aside.
Chicken Salad Assembly – Layered Version
- Spread the chopped cabbage in the bottom of a shallow, 3-quart casserole or serving dish (a pretty 9-by-12 inch dish works well). Sprinkle lightly with salt.
- Top with the mushrooms, then chicken, then onion, then peas and scatter cucumber over the top. Again, sprinkle lightly with salt.
- Spread dressing evenly over the top. Garnish with cherry tomato halves, cut side up (you may not need the entire pint – it depends on the size of the tomatoes).
- Cover and chill salad at least 4 hours or overnight.
Chicken Salad Assembly – Rows in Bowl Version
- Spread the chopped cabbage in the bottom of a large shallow platter or 8 large, shallow individual bowls. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
- Arrange remaining ingredients in rows – onions, then peas, then cucumber, chicken tomatoes and ending with mushrooms. Again, sprinkle lightly with salt.
- Cover and chill salad(s) at least 4 hours or overnight.
Place dressing in a pretty bowl and serve on the side.
Note on cabbage: Napa cabbage is oval-shaped and lighter in color than regular cabbage, and the leaves are wrinkly and slightly curled on the edges. If you can’t find it, substitute baby (or regular) bok choy or regular green cabbage.
Note on herbs: Try to use fresh tarragon and basil rather than substituting dried herbs for this recipe – it will taste much better!
- Category: main dish, make ahead
- Method: No cook
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: make ahead salad, layered salad, easy main dish