Cranberry chicken salad recipe is for easy on-the-go lunches and the kids lunch box! The whole family loves this creamy, tangy and crunchy chicken salad! It keeps in the fridge for up to 4 days, but it probably won’t last that long in your house!

bowl with cranberries chicken celery and pecans

You’re looking at my new resolution to stop eating leftover kid food and scraps from my kids’ plates for my meals. I take incredible care of my kids by putting a lot of thought into the meals they consume, so why don’t I do this for myself? Why do I make sure my kids’ meals each have protein, a carb, a fruit, and a vegetable, but I don’t take care of myself in this same way? Enough, I say–I have to do better! No more crusts of bread and mushy kiwi slices for lunch, I say!

We can take care of our loved ones better if we take care of ourselves better. So, I dreamed up the perfect lunch for myself. I needed something healthy, crunchy, easy, fast, and of course, delicious. I love snacking on crackers with my kids, so this cranberry chicken salad with apples and pecans is something I can scoop on a cracker. And then, I can use the leftover dried cranberries to make white chocolate cranberry cookies while the baby naps!

I thought this recipe was overly simple, and I wasn’t going to share it with you, but then my kids started gobbling it up, and I thought you might be able to use it for yourself or your kids’ lunch boxes! Pack it with some homemade healthy fruit snacks, and the vegetable quotient for the day is reached.

Cranberry chicken salad ingredients:

  • chicken: I use 2 small boneless skinless chicken breasts, just like I did for my avocado chicken salad. If you have leftover rotisserie chicken, use it here and save yourself a step!
  • dried cranberries: Dried cranberries come with a small amount of sugar on them to balance out their tartness, and it’s the perfect amount. If you’re watching all sugar in your kids, use the unsweetened ones. If you have fresh ones, try my cranberry orange bread or my shortbread cranberry bars.
  • apples: Any variety of apple that’s sweet and crunchy works. 
  • celery: Celery brings so much crunch to the table! Chop it very finely for little kids.
  • pecans: You can use pecans, slivered or sliced almonds, or even walnuts, if you prefer.
  • mayo: I use the mayonnaise made with avocado oil, but it’s really your choice here.
  • Dijon mustard: A small amount of Dijon elevates the flavors here, but doesn’t scare away the kids, I promise.
  • salt and pepper: A good cooking lesson is to taste your food before serving, and add more salt and pepper. It almost always helps!

Steps to make chicken salad:

  1. First, you want to cook the chicken breast. While it cooks, gather and dice the remaining ingredients for the salad: apples, celery, cranberries and pecans.
    white bowl with shredded chicken cranberries apples celery and pecans
    To cook the chicken from scratch, place it in a pan covered with water or chicken broth. I always prefer chicken broth, and then sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Bring it to a boil and then immediately lower the heat to the lowest setting, and place a lid on the pan. After 15 minutes, use a meat thermometer to ensure the chicken is 165-degrees Fahrenheit. Drain the chicken, let it cool, and then shred it.
  2. To make the salad dressing, whisk together the mayo, Dijon, salt and pepper in a small jar.
    hand pouring salad dressing in bowl with apples celery and pecans
  3. Pour the salad dressing on top of all of the ingredients, and toss. Yes, you can toss this salad with dressing for up to 2 days before serving, because it slightly softens the apples and celery as it sits, and the flavors improve.
    chicken salad in a bowl with dressing in the middle and wooden spoon
  4. Toss the salad together, and then store it in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. If I pack this in a kid’s lunchbox, I add an ice pack from the freezer to keep the mayo at a safe temperature.
    chicken salad tossed together with apple slices on top

And speaking of lunches, sometimes, I just have to pack myself one. It makes me more likely to eat it, and less likely to subsists on the crusts on grilled cheeses and grapes from the bottom of the bag. You know what I mean, moms!

chicken salad in lunch box with crackers and grapes

If you like this, you might like my lemon aioli chicken salad with pistachios and dates! It’s a little fancier than what a kid is used to, but your adult palate will love it! 

Yield: 2 cups

Cranberry Chicken Salad

chicken salad tossed together with apple slices on top

Creamy cranberry chicken salad is a family favorite!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 32 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 small apple, diced
  • 1/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup toasted pecan halves
  • For the dressing:
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (whole grain or regular)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

    1. Place the chicken breasts in a 2-quart saucepan that has a tight-fitting lid. Add 2 cups of chicken broth (or water)--it will almost cover the chicken, but not quite. Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and place the lid on the pan.
    2. After 12 minutes, test the internal temperature of the chicken--it should be 165-degrees Fahrenheit. When the chicken is at temperature, remove it from the pan and let it rest until it's cool enough to shred.
    3. Place the shredded chicken into a serving bowl.
    4. Add the sliced celery, chopped apple, cranberries, and pecans to the bowl, too. Toss to combine.
    5. Now, mix together the dressing: whisk together the mayonnaise, Dijon, salt and pepper. Give it a taste, and if you think it needs a little sweetness, you can add a drizzle of honey.
    6. Add the dressing to the bowl, and toss everyrhing together.
    7. This chicken salad keeps for 2 days tightly wrapped in the fridge. For lunch boxes, use an ice pack to keep it properly cool.

Notes

chicken: I use 2 small boneless skinless chicken breasts, just like I did for my avocado chicken salad. If you have leftover rotisserie chicken, use it here and save yourself a step!
dried cranberries: Dried cranberries come with a small amount of sugar on them to balance out their tartness, and it's the perfect amount. If you're watching all sugar in your kids, use the unsweetened ones. If you have fresh ones, try my cranberry orange bread or my shortbread cranberry bars.
apples: Any variety of apple that's sweet and crunchy works. 
celery: Celery brings so much crunch to the table! Chop it very finely for little kids.
pecans: You can use pecans, slivered or sliced almonds, or even walnuts, if you prefer.
mayo: I use the mayonnaise made with avocado oil, but it's really your choice here.
Dijon mustard: A small amount of Dijon elevates the flavors here, but doesn't scare away the kids, I promise. I like the whole grain Dijon, but either is fine.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 397Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 65mgSodium: 1056mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 3gSugar: 13gProtein: 21g

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