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An awesome chicken salad made with chopped apples, celery, and dried cranberries, using a tahini-based dressing instead of the traditional mayonnaise base. The apples and cranberries are a yummy pop of sweetness against the hearty tahini dressing. Super quick and easy, holds up well, gluten-free, dairy-free, and absolutely delicious!

Chicken salad is such a great, easy way to use up leftover chicken. It’s hearty enough to pack for lunch or a picnic and still taste awesome when you eat it. It can be made a day ahead of time and refrigerated, which makes it great for parties, company, or meal planning.

What is Tahini? Is it healthy for me?

Tahini is most well known for its starring role in hummus. Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds, lemon juice, salt, and sometimes garlic. It is easy to make on your own and the ingredients don’t need refrigeration, so it will last a while once you make it. But, if you don’t want to make it yourself, Tahini can be found in the international aisle of the grocery store or an international market. Check your ingredients for artificial fillers, but most tahini that you buy at the store is made with good, clean eating ingredients. Tahini is traditionally gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and nut-free. Sesame seeds are seeds, not nuts! (However, some people who are allergic to peanuts are also allergic to sesame seeds.)

Tahini contains lots of protein, more than milk and many other nuts, and it’s a great source of vitamins B and E. Most diets would benefit from an addition of tahini! If you’d like to try incorporating it into your diet, this recipe is a great way to give it a try.

Is chicken salad gluten free?

As you know, the Mediterranean Diet is generally not a gluten-free diet. Healthy grains with gluten like whole wheat are eaten and encouraged, as they are rich in fiber, protein, B vitamins, and minerals. (Read more about the health benefits of whole grains here). However, for those diagnosed with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, or who aren’t eating gluten for any reason, may ask themselves, does chicken salad have gluten? You will be happy to know that this chicken salad recipe does not contain gluten. (Some less traditional versions of tahini may contain gluten as a binder, so definitely check your tahini before mixing the dressing!) To make the whole meal gluten free, make sure to eat this on lettuce cups, on its own with a fork, or alongside gluten-free crackers or bread. Most chicken salad is made with mayonnaise, spices, and mix-ins like vegetables and fruit. As long as the mayonnaise is gluten-free, the whole recipe will likely be too! But of course, it’s easiest to know for sure if you make it yourself. This is the perfect recipe for that!

Is chicken salad dairy free?

The Mediterranean Diet allows moderate amounts of dairy, especially diary with other health benefits like yogurt and kefir. However, some people avoid dairy because of personal preference or for health reasons like lactose intolerance. Some chicken salad recipes do contain dairy. If the dressing is made with yogurt or cream or the mix-ins include any kind of cheese like feta, the overall recipe will have dairy in it. This recipe, however, is dairy-free, lactose-free, and milk-free. As someone who does not eat dairy, you can enjoy it without worry.

How to make vegan or vegetarian chicken salad?

Can you make this chicken salad vegan by leaving out the chicken? Yes, absolutely! Since Tahini is a great source of protein, this chicken salad could be an even better option for non-meat-eaters than a mayonnaise based alternative. Once you remove the chicken, the dressing to salad ratio will be off. Either cut the dressing in half or bulk up the salad, either with extra celery or apples or with new mix-ins like halved grapes, chopped carrots, or chopped yellow bellow peppers.

Can I freeze chicken salad?

We mentioned that chicken salad is a great make-ahead or meal prep meal. However, what if you want to make it far in advance? If you want to freeze it, you could do so by mixing together the chicken and mix-ins WITHOUT any dressing. You would freeze just the salad part and then whip up the dressing when you were ready to eat. While technically this would maintain food safety standards, celery and apples that have been in the freezer can become mushy when thawed. We think that the crispness of the veggies is an important part of chicken salad. So, can chicken salad be frozen? Technically yes, but it’s such a quick and easy thing to make that we recommend making it when you are ready to eat to avoid mushy veggies!

What goes well with chicken salad?

If you decide to make chicken salad for a party or for company, you may wonder what you could serve with the chicken salad. Chicken salad is a pretty forgiving flavor and can be paired easily with lots of different side dishes. We often pair chicken salad in lettuce cups with vegetables for dinner (in the picture, we are showing sauteed zucchini), but you could put it with any kind of raw vegetables like celery or carrots or with crackers. As the chicken salad itself is squishy, we prefer something with a little crunch. As mentioned in the recipe, this chicken salad is great on its own, served in crispy lettuce cups, alongside chips or crackers (for scooping up), or in a sandwich.

For the dressing:

  • 0.25 cup tahini
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • 1 TBS apple cider vinegar
  • 3 TBS hot water
  • salt and pepper to taste (we recommend 1/8 tsp of each)


Calories are based on 5 servings. Feel free to eat more or less depending on your hunger level! In a smaller serving size, we love eating this as a filling snack. This chicken salad is awesome in lettuce cups, scooped up with crackers, or in a sandwich. Enjoy!