Grandma’s Secret Ingredient Chicken Salad Recipe

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The cat is out of the bag! (Or should it be the chicken?) Either way, I am so excited to share my Grandma’s Secret Ingredient Chicken Salad Recipe with you today! One of her most requested recipes, this simple, versatile chicken salad is perfect for every brunch, lunch, shower and potluck!

My Grandma's Secret Ingredient Chicken Salad recipe is one of her most requested! This easy elegant chicken salad is perfect for lunch, brunch, showers and potlucks!

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One of my favorite things about this blog is being able to record our family recipes.

My Aunt Lori’s Apple Jelly Crockpot Meatballs and her Sloppy Joes for a Crowd.

My father-in-law’s rock star recipe for Roasted Turkey Breast.

My mom’s Calico Beans aka the best baked beans EVER.

My grandma’s Strawberry Shortcake is legendary in our family. I kid you not. These empty bowls from my recent trip to Ohio don’t lie. (This was just round 1!)

If this is what happens with Grandma's strawberry shortcake, you know her Secret Ingredient Chicken Salad recipe has got to be epic!

So, her chicken salad recipe – with a surprising ingredient that has changed my chicken salad world forever – is most definitely a keeper.

Grandma’s Secret Ingredient Chicken Salad Recipe

My Grandma's Secret Ingredient Chicken Salad recipe is one of her most requested! This easy elegant chicken salad is perfect for lunch, brunch, showers and potlucks!

Lots of tender cooked chicken.

Crisp diced apples.

Fresh celery.

Crunchy pecans.

All stirred in a creamy combination of slightly tangy sour cream, rich mayo and … Cool Whip!!

*Mic drop.*

Once you try my Grandma's Secret Ingredient Chicken Salad recipe, you won't make it any other way!

There you have it. Cool Whip. Crazy, right?

I was understandably skeptical when I jotted down her chicken salad recipe.

Cool Whip?


But after my aunt and cousins returned from a bridal shower where everyone RAVED about this chicken salad (and everyone else wanted to know if there were any leftovers), I knew I had to give it a try.

Everyone RAVES about my Grandma's Secret Ingredient Chicken Salad recipe!

The additional of the Cool Whip keeps the chicken salad moist and the creamy mixture bright and white. But don’t worry … the Cool Whip does not make this chicken salad overly sweet. I am not really a mega fan of sweet flavors + meat and I ate this for 5 days in a row for lunch.

I love this recipe because it so versatile! Switch it up to include your favorite flavors:

  • Sub in halved grapes if that is what you have in your fridge.
  • Toasted almonds would be a great replacement for the pecans.
  • And if you like onions in your chicken salad, throw some in.

But whatever you do … don’t skip the Cool Whip!

Serve it with crackers, on a croissant, in crispy wonton cups, or even over a lettuce leaf or salad if carbs aren’t really your thing.

But if carbs are your thing?  A buttery croissant piled high with my Grandma’s Secret Ingredient Chicken Salad Recipe? Is pretty fantastic.

Grandma's Secret Ingredient Chicken Salad Recipe - the secret is in that cool, creamy dressing. And you are going to LOVE it!

 More recipes from my grandma’s kitchen!

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Grandma’s Secret Ingredient Chicken Salad Recipe

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4.3 from 12 reviews


My Grandma’s Secret Ingredient Chicken Salad Recipe is one of her most requested! This versatile, creamy chicken salad is packed with fresh flavors!


  • 3 cups cooked chicken (diced)
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced apples or grapes
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup olive oil mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 4 oz. Cool Whip, thawed
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  1. In a large bowl, combine chicken, celery, apples and pecans.
  2. Stir in mayonnaise, sour cream and Cool Whip and combine well.
  3. Add salt & pepper to taste and stir again.
  4. Refrigerate until serving.
  5. Serve over lettuce, with crackers or on croissants.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: main course
  • Method: none
  • Cuisine: American


  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 328
  • Sugar: 5.4 g
  • Sodium: 192.4 mg
  • Fat: 21.3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 8.3 g
  • Protein: 25.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 84.6 mg




Its easy! I will show you how.

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  1. Chicken Salad was out of this world! Added grapes pineapple tidbits, onion and honeyed Pecans to it . Had to decrease the dressing to 1/3 cup of both the mayo and sour cream and 2/3 cup of cool whip as it would have been too much otherwise. This will be my go to recipe for future brunches!

    1. I haven’t but I imagine it would be delicious! Bacon is a fairly dominant flavor, so I would chop it very small and maybe add just 1/4 cup? I’d love to hear back if you make a bacon version 🙂

    1. Hi Eileen – Cool Whip is basically an imitation lightly sweetened whipped cream but I haven’t substituted regular whipped cream in this recipe. If you do I would love to hear how it turns out. Thanks so much for stopping by from Australia!

    2. Certainly you have the sqwert whipped topping in a can…sometimes I must hide it behind the fruit/veggies or it disappears all on its own and it always seems to happen during a potluck gathering

  2. I have always made my chicken salad with just a tad bit of honey. We like the sweetness in chicken salad. I ran across your recipe and thought I would try it. What a hit! My bunch likes it as much as my own recipe. Thanks for sharing! This is a big hit at my house. 10 Star recipe.

  3. My family is not a fan of sour cream. Can you definitively taste sour cream in this? I love chicken salad and would love to try this.

    1. Hi Gwen – I honestly don’t think the sour cream is too forward, but you could certainly reduce the amount and add a little more mayo or Cool Whip. Hope your family loves it as much as mine does – thanks SO much for stopping by Shaken Together today!

  4. Can this be made ahead of time and frozen? I’m preparing food for a week long vacation on a houseboat.

  5. I made this for lunch when my daughters and her two children came for lunch. My grandson said it was the best chicken salad he’d ever had. It was excellent and it seemed even more flavorful when I had the leftovers for lunch the next day.

  6. Can you clarify just how much Cool Whip is used? Am I using 4 ounces, or just 2? I’m not sure why the directions are confusing me. Maybe it’s Soon-to-Be-a-Grandma Brain.

    1. Hi Erin! It’s 4 oz (or half of a small 8 oz tub) of Cool Whip. I’ve updated the recipe card for this post so it’s a little more clear. Thanks so much for stopping by and I hope you enjoy this family favorite!

  7. This is EXCELLENT! Best I’ve ever eaten! My husband is not fond of any chicken salad, but he loves this!! So far I’ve used left-over grilled chicken & left-over baked chicken. DELICIOUS!! Thanks for sharing your recipe! ♥️

  8. OH MY!! DELCIOUS doesn’t cover it!! Best chicken salad I have ever had! DEFINITELY will make time and time again!

  9. This is a really good recipe for chicken salad! I’ve never made it before but with the temp being so hot like it is, it sounded so good to make today. And then to really take it to the next level, I thought I’d toast the pecans and left them in the oven a little too long so I had to toss those out. Heated up the oven and the house for nothing!! But will definitely be making this again! ❤️

    1. Next time try toasting your pecans in the microwave. I use a microwave safe dish and put pecans in a single layer. Cook 20 seconds at a time and stir after each cycle.

    2. I wouldn’t put grapes in if I had it on bread. Used water chestnuts and cranberries. you can toast pecans over the stove. Low heat.. I burnt a pan of pecans so watch carefully. Delicious!

    3. Next time you might try toasting the pecans in the microwave. I have not tried it yet but I came across a recipe today for roasting nuts in the microwave.
      • 1 cup whole walnuts, or your desired nuts
      • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
      • fine sea salt (optional)
      1. Toss one cup of nuts with the vegetable oil. Spread the oiled nuts out in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate.
      2. Toast in one-minute intervals, stirring between each interval. One cup of nuts will take can take anywhere from 3 to 8 minutes overall, depending on the quantity and size of the nuts used.
      3. To make salted nuts: Toss toasted nuts with fine sea salt to taste.

  10. I’ve made this recipe twice without the cool whip. Today I wanted to try it with the cool whip, see what this secret ingredient is about. Big mistake. It’s tasted like I was eating ice cream with crackers. So gross: I’ll just stick to the recipe without it. I followed the recipe exactly the same. I even added extra chicken to see if I could get rid of that sweetness.

    1. Hi Nadya. I, too, do not like it terribly sweet, so instead of cool whip, I use whipping cream. If you do not like anything sweet (like fruit) in it, just add, celery, red bell pepper and red onion. It’s outstanding with the (pre-whipped) whipping cream.

  11. I love chicken salad and I am usually pretty critical of some but this was delicious! You don’t taste the cool whip and it gives a bright white look! I used pecans and red onions. No apples. I will definitely make this again!

  12. I just made this recipe and used about 3/4 of the Cool Whip container. It was really good before refrigerated. It can’t wait to try it after refrigerating. I’m taking it to my Dr.s office tomorrow for their lunch. I’m taking croissants to serve it on. Hope they enjoy!!

  13. I have made a chicken salad in the past with cool whip that was really good, but could not find the recipe, so looked online and found this. First of all, there was way too much dressing. Fortunately, I had mixed it separately so did not mix it all with the chicken.
    I thought it was too sweet and tasted too much like cool whip. If I make it again, I will reduce the amount of cool whip and increase the amount of mayo. The flavor was lacking, so I added some onion.

  14. I have never used cool whip (which is sweet) but I have used pre-whipped heavy cream. The grapes (or other desired fruit serve to sweeten the salad) but that is just IMHO. Thank you for sharing your recipe with us!

  15. I just made this chicken salad. It is wonderful to say the least! I did not add the sour cream my husband doesn’t like it. Added the celery and a lil more grapes. Only have of the cool whip. Came out great. I will be making this again!! Thank you Madya!

  16. This is delicious! I added some dried cranberries and chopped green onion. Love the secret ingredient- makes it that extra special something!

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