If you’ve relegated chicken salad to lunchtime meals, I’d like you to rethink its virtues. It’s ultra-flexible in terms of what you can put in it — even down to the main ingredient itself, which you can cook from scratch or take from what’s left over from your oven or the store rotisserie. And a large (aren’t they canoe size these days?) boneless, skinless breast half can stretch to four servings.

Here, the chicken is poached in water with a little onion for flavor. But if you use chicken broth instead, the meat picks up even more in that department. The dressing’s creaminess is mostly full-fat yogurt with a touch of mayonnaise. Celery, carrot and sesame seeds provide the crunch.

The chicken’s good over your favorite salad greens or stuffed into pita pockets, and it becomes something a bit more special when it is cradled in warm popovers, which are surprisingly easy to make. They are tender and craggy, made from a whisked batter of milk, butter, salt, flour and egg. I think they’re easier than pancakes. These can be done in a standard muffin pan, and when you get them going first they’ll be done by the time the salad is. See the NOTE, below.

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In testing, we used the roasted sesame seeds you can find on the Asian aisle at most grocery stores. We also tried the recipe with Sriracha-flavored sesame seeds, available at Whole Foods Markets: big hit! And they look great, too.


  • 12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 medium onion (optional)
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed
  • 1 cup plain full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
  • Salad greens, for serving

Step 1

If needed, defrost the chicken in the microwave until still chilled and firm. Cut it in half lengthwise (it will be easy to slice when still semi-frozen). Cut the 1/2 onion into rings, if using.

Step 2

Combine the chicken and onion, if using, in a medium saucepan and cover with water (or broth; see the headnote). Bring just to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, just until tender with no traces of pink left. Drain and cut into chunks; cover loosely to keep warm.

Step 3

Meanwhile, cut the celery into 1/2-inch dice. Trim and scrub the carrot, then cut into very thin slices, on the diagonal.

Step 4

Combine in a mixing bowl, along with the celery seed, salt, pepper, yogurt and mayo, stirring to incorporate. Add the warm chicken and sesame seeds, tossing gently to incorporate. Taste, and add more salt and/or pepper, as needed.

Step 5

Serve atop your favorite salad greens. Sprinkle each portion with more sesame seeds.

NOTE: To make the optional popovers, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter (microwave), and use half to grease the wells of a standard muffin pan. Use a fork to beat 2 large eggs in a mixing bowl, then add 1 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, the remaining melted butter and 1 1/4 cups half-and-half to form a lump-free batter. Divide evenly among 8 or 9 muffin wells; bake (middle rack) for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.

Popover recipe from TheKitchn.com; chicken salad recipe from “100 Creative Ways to Use Rotisserie Chicken in Everyday Meals,” by Trish Rosenquist (Page Street Publishing, 2015).

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

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The nutritional analysis is based on 4 servings, without popovers. To view the analysis that includes popovers, click on the printer-friendly version link, above.


Calories: 250; Total Fat: 14 g; Saturated Fat: 5 g; Cholesterol: 80 mg; Sodium: 280 mg; Carbohydrates: 8 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugars: 4 g; Protein: 23 g.