Lemon Poppy Seed Chicken Salad with Mint

I love chicken salad, but have struggled to find a recipe with a tasty creamy dressing that isn’t loaded down with fat.  I’ve substituted plain yogurt for mayonnaise, but am usually disappointed by both the flavor and texture.  I’ve been playing around with recipes for a while, trying plain and curried versions, and finally put together a dressing that I really like.

I use low-fat lemon yogurt as the main ingredient, but add a little bit of low-fat mayonnaise  for added creaminess (the saltiness also offsets the tart yogurt a bit).  The only other ingredients are a little cider vinegar and poppy seeds. I got the idea for poppy seeds from a chicken salad recipe on the Whole Foods website. I tried their recipe once, and liked the crunchiness of the poppy seeds combined with the other ingredients. I’m never sure just how much dressing I’m going to need, so my proportions were based on using a whole (6-ounce) container of lemon yogurt. I wound up having some left over, which I’ll use for more chicken salad or maybe in a fruit salad later in the week. It should keep just fine in the fridge.

I like some kind of sweet fruit in my chicken salad – usually raisins or dried cranberries. However, organic grapes were on sale this week at Whole Foods, so I used them instead. For more crunch, I use celery (also organic).

After putting the salad together, I thought it still was missing something. I have some mint growing in a container on my patio, so I picked a bit, chopped it up, and added it to my bowl. It complemented the other flavors perfectly, and for the first time I was completely satisfied with my homemade chicken salad.

For the dressing, combine in a small bowl:

  • 6 ounce container of low-fat lemon yogurt (I used Wallaby organic yogurt)
  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. cider vinegar (preferably unfiltered)
  • 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds

Combine in a larger bowl the ingredients for the chicken salad – I don’t give proportions since they don’t matter – it’s all according to taste:

  • diced cooked chicken (I usually buy a cooked whole rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. I discard the skin, pull the meat from the bones and chop or pull apart the meat)
  • grapes, cut in half (substitute or add to this raisins or dried cranberries)
  • celery, cut into 1/4-inch slices (or smaller, according to your taste)
  • chopped fresh mint (if you make enough salad for leftovers, I suggest adding the mint only to what you plan to eat right away)
  • dressing to taste
  • salt to taste (with a rotisserie chicken often no extra salt is needed)

A note on ingredients for this recipe: Recently, I’ve had a hard time finding lemon yogurt. I bought Wallaby organic this time because it was the only low-fat creamy lemon yogurt I spotted. I would use greek yogurt if I found lemon greek yogurt. At times I’ve not been able to find it at all – in this case I substitute lime yogurt (it seems “key lime” is a more common flavor these days).  Also, while I like to shop and eat local as much as I can – I’m not a stickler for always using organic food. But both grapes and celery are part of the “dirty dozen” – those fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residues. Finally, to save time, I usually buy a whole rotisserie chicken. It’s also fine to grill or poach chicken for the chicken salad.

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