Trader Joe's Copycat Chicken Salad Recipe

Any frequent shopper at Trader Joe's knows three things: They have some of the best prepared foods around, they're relatively inexpensive compared to other grocery stores, and pulling into the parking lot can raise your anxiety levels. This beloved shopping destination gets packed, especially during after-work hours and on the weekends. But, it's worth it to nab the latest releases before they sell out, and you don't even have to cook lunch or dinner when you get home. Offerings like kettle-cooked chicken soup, frozen mandarin orange chicken, or the many wraps offered in the refrigerated section made the long lines worth it.

Trader Joe's chicken salad is one of those must-grab items every time we visit the store. We've enjoyed several varieties over the years, from the reduced-guilt chicken salad made with Greek yogurt to the fun and funky curried chicken salad with warming spices, raisins, and cashews. But the one we just can't get enough of is their Wine Country Chicken Salad. It's one of the best store-bought chicken salads we've ever had, and it turns out it's remarkably simple to make. Our copycat recipe comes together in about ten minutes — maybe even quicker if you're using leftover rotisserie chicken to make it.

Gather the ingredients for our Trader Joe's copycat chicken salad recipe

We started by taking a peek at the ingredients label on Trader Joe's Wine Country Chicken Salad, and we were happy to see that it contained easy-to-find ingredients. The dressing is made with mayonnaise, honey, apple cider vinegar, cane sugar, poppy seeds, sea salt, and white pepper. All we had to do was figure out the specific quantities of each ingredient to get the dressing to taste like Trader Joe's

The rest of the salad is made up of chicken breasts, celery, sweetened dried cranberries, and pecans. We included roughly equal quantities of the celery, cranberries, and pecans (1/4 to 1/3 cup of each). Then, we measured chopped cooked chicken and added it to the mix until the ratio looked right.

The only ingredient we didn't use from the label was xanthan gum. According to Healthline, xanthan gum is a food-safe additive that's used as a thickener or stabilizer. We thought our dressing turned out plenty thick without it, and so we didn't see the need to include this hard-to-find ingredient.

Chicken breasts are the best chicken to use for Trader Joe's copycat chicken salad recipe

Trader Joe's uses chicken breast, so we didn't consider any other type of chicken when formulating our copycat recipe. Of course, you can make this Trader Joe's copycat chicken salad recipe with any cooked chicken, so don't feel like you have to run out to the grocery store just to grab chicken breasts. Make use of any leftover chicken you have in the fridge, including rotisserie chicken. Just keep in mind that shredded chicken will create a different texture in your chicken salad, and it won't taste like the original if you use dark meat like chicken thighs.

The ingredients label on Trader Joe's Wine Country Chicken Salad describes the chicken as "chicken breast with rib meat, chicken broth, [and] sea salt." So we followed suit and poached our chicken, covering three chicken breasts with chicken broth in a large saucepan. After adding a dash of salt, we brought the broth to a boil before reducing it to a simmer. After about 10 minutes, the chicken was cooked through to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. We let it cool and cut it into neat little cubes.

How to make the dressing for Trader Joe's copycat chicken salad recipe

While the chicken was cooling, we had plenty of time to whip up the dressing. The dressing is important in a chicken salad because it performs multiple functions. For starters, it has to be flavorful because it's the main thing you'll taste. It coats and seasons all of the salad ingredients, bringing them together to create a cohesive flavor. It also has to be thick enough to hold the salad together so it can be enjoyed on a sandwich, but not too thick that it creates an off-putting texture.

Making this dressing couldn't have been any easier: Simply combine the mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, poppy seeds, honey, sugar, kosher salt, and white pepper in a small bowl. It should come together in about 30 seconds using a whisk. You can make the dressing ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container, where it will be good for about a week.

Bring the ingredients together to make this Trader Joe's copycat chicken salad recipe

Once the chicken is cooked and the dressing is made, it couldn't be easier to make the actual chicken salad. Place the cubed (or shredded) chicken in a bowl and add 1/3 cup of sweetened dried cranberries. Then, grab a cutting board and chop 1/3 cup of celery. It should only take one stalk, maybe two if the stalks are small. Keep size in mind when you're chopping the celery. If you like big chunks of crunchy vegetables in your chicken salad, go ahead and create large diced pieces. Otherwise, chop the celery finely so it provides crunch without a burst of celery flavor. Finally, roughly chop 1/4 cup of pecans (it should be about an ounce of whole, shelled pecans).

After you've added the chopped celery and pecans, add the dressing to the bowl. Toss everything together until each piece is well coated in the dressing. Give the chicken salad a taste and season it with additional salt and pepper, as needed.

How to serve this Trader Joe's copycat chicken salad recipe

Chicken salad is extremely versatile in its use, but it must be kept cold. The dressing has a high mayonnaise content, which contains egg yolks and can spoil if it's not refrigerated. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends keeping perishable items in the refrigerator and throwing them away if they've been left at room temperature for more than two hours.

With that in mind, you can serve this Trader Joe's copycat chicken salad recipe in a variety of ways. Enjoy it simply on a bed of lettuce, creating a quick-and-easy lunch that also happens to be gluten-free. It tastes equally good when served with cooked grains like quinoa, brown rice, or pasta. Of course, you can always go the classic route and sandwich your Trader Joe's copycat chicken salad between two pieces of toasted bread. Use a buttery croissant to make the sandwich more decadent, or wrap it up in a tortilla, stuff it into a pita, or spoon your chicken salad into lettuce cups.

How does our recipe compare to the original Trader Joe's chicken salad?

Man oh man, this might have just become our go-to chicken salad recipe! It actually tastes better than Trader Joe's chicken salad because it contains slightly more pecans, filling each bite with nutty flavor. The dressing itself is sweet and tangy, and the poppy seeds really make it pop (both visually and texturally). The salad ingredients provide everything we craved in terms of texture and flavor. The chicken was moist and had the right amount of chew, and the cranberries were delightful and sweet. The celery brought the crunch, and the pecans brought it all together, making it more unforgettable than chicken salads made with boring old walnuts.

All in all, we would absolutely make this recipe again. We got pretty close to rivaling Trader Joe's price, too. The last time we checked, theirs was $4.49 for an 11.5-ounce container (or just shy of two cups of chicken salad). Our recipe makes twice as much chicken salad, and it cost about $13 to make. Not a terrible price difference, considering that we didn't have to stand in those long checkout lines to get our chicken salad fix.

Trader Joe's Copycat Chicken Salad Recipe
5 from 65 ratings
We just can't get enough of Trader Joe's chicken salad. Our copycat recipe comes together in about ten minutes — maybe even quicker. Here's how we did it.
Prep Time
Cook Time
how to make Trader Joe's copycat chicken salad recipe
Total time: 10 minutes
  • 3 cups chopped cooked chicken (about 3 chicken breasts)
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon white pepper
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped celery (about 1 stalk)
  • ⅓ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup chopped pecans (about 1 ounce)
  1. If you're starting with raw chicken breasts, place them in a large saucepan. Add a dash of salt and cover the breasts with chicken broth. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat before reducing the heat to a simmer. Cook until the chicken registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit, about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid (saving it for another recipe) and let the chicken cool completely before chopping into cubes.
  2. To make the dressing, combine the mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, poppy seeds, honey, sugar, kosher salt, and white pepper in a small bowl. Whisk until the ingredients are well combined. The dressing can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the cooked chicken, celery, cranberries, pecans, and prepared dressing. Toss the ingredients together until everything is well coated in the dressing.
  4. Taste the chicken salad and season it with additional salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. Store the chicken salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.
Calories per Serving 205
Total Fat 16.0 g
Saturated Fat 2.4 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 26.3 mg
Total Carbohydrates 8.4 g
Dietary Fiber 0.9 g
Total Sugars 6.7 g
Sodium 144.7 mg
Protein 7.5 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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