Contessa Chicken Salad

February 17, 2008 · 12 comments · Print This Post

in Appetizers, Dinner, Poultry, Snacks

It's a Miracle!

Did you eat Miracle Whip when you were a kid? Because I did. A lot. I vividly recall having a conversation with my doctor at one point about what kind of sandwiches I liked to eat. My cute response of Miracle Whip and Cheese on White Bread really didn’t seem to impress him very much. Whatever. If I was eating something other than Kraft Dinner, my mom was happy. I was beyond picky as a child. We’re talking plain pizza, plain cheeseburgers, no ketchup, and definitely not nasty mayonnaise.

I was actually such a strong defender of Miracle Whip that when I was in college I got into a heated argument with someone I didn’t even know while out sailing with my cousin and some of her friends. This person claimed that mayonnaise and Miracle Whip tasted exactly the same. I begged to differ. Loudly. In my defense I was most likely sleep deprived, dehydrated, and probably drinking at the time so let that be a lesson to you all. Don’t mess with Erin and her food when she’s in a bad mood.

Until a few years ago I still used Miracle Whip in chicken salad, much to the horror of many. But slowly I started to come around and now I’m a proper “grown-up” with proper mayonnaise in my fridge. So when Ina Garten ordered me to use “good mayonnaise” in her Contessa Chicken Salad, I managed not to let her down. I know in food blog land we’re always making sweeping claims that this dish or that bread is “the best thing ever.” I think we’re all pretty much immune to adjectives and “foodie speak” at this point, but at any rate I’m going to implore you to try this recipe. Just once. It’s really very very good and I can definitely see how they used to get away with selling it for the ridiculous amount of $20 a pound at the original Barefoot Contessa Store.

Contessa Chicken Salad (Originally published by Ina Garten)

2 split (1 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on (1 1/2 pounds) (Note: I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts. It’s all good!)
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup walnuts halves
1/2 cup good mayonnaise (Note: I used light mayo)
1/2 cup sour cream (Note: I used light sour cream)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves, divided
1 cup green grapes, cut in 1/2
Lettuce leaves, for serving
(Note: I gave in to temptation and bought some really good bakery made white bread. Mmm…white bread.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.Place the chicken breasts, skin side up, on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside until cool.

When the chicken is cool, remove meat from the bones and discard the skin and bones. Cut the chicken into a 3/4-inch dice.

Meanwhile, place the pecans and walnuts on a separate sheet pan and toast in the oven for 7 to 8 minutes until golden. Set aside to cool.

For the dressing, mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Fold in half the chopped tarragon leaves.

Place the diced chicken in a bowl, add the pecans, walnuts and grapes. Pour the dressing over the chicken and toss well. Sprinkle the remaining chopped tarragon leaves on top, and serve on a bed of lettuce leaves.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nicole February 17, 2008 at 10:05 am

Sounds really good, Erin! I grew up eating real mayo instead of miracle whip. I tasted miracle whip when I was a kid but thought it was weird. But at some point I started really liking it on tomatoes. Just sliced fresh tomato with a dollop of miracle whip. I don’t think of it as mayonnaise at all because the taste is not even similar. But as a ‘salad dressing,’ it’s not bad every once in a while. Oh, I also realized I like it on bologna sandwiches made on white bread. Those are also things I also rarely had access to as a child 🙂 I don’t really buy that stuff often but every once in a while I have a craving and I’ll buy a loaf of rainbow bread, a package of oscar mayer bologna and a small jar of miracle whip 🙂


2 Erin February 17, 2008 at 12:09 pm

Chicken salad is something I make at least once a week … and then nibble on it for sandwiches and salads the rest of the week … so I’ll definitely try this recipe! I also usually throw a few Craisins in my chicken salad so I may have to add a little to you/Ms. Garten’s recipe!


3 Donald February 17, 2008 at 1:01 pm


I am a mayo guy all the way. Can’t even do light mayo. It’s gotta be Kraft or Hellmans. Call me a mayo snob. Here is Atlanta, folks talk about Dukes mayo…ah nope! Not for me.

I too love a good chicken salad. I never thought of grapes though. I like to smoke the breasts using a stove-top smoker. I find that it really adds a flavor dimension.


4 FranticHomeCook February 17, 2008 at 1:39 pm

I saw Ina make this and I was jonesing to try it. Doubt I could sell it for $20 though.


5 Lys February 17, 2008 at 5:16 pm

A few months ago, I got some fabulous Chicken Salad from costco that had cranberries & walnuts in it (and it was $8.99 a pound *LOL*), but that inspired me to make my own version and I added a dollop of dijon, red grapes halved and a bit of herbs de provence (hey – I’m trying to use the big jar I had before I broke into the good little WS crock of Herbs de provence). Di-Vine. Chicken salad is one where you can get inspired to do whatever.

And I was a miracle whip gal too – until I started to learn my ingredients. Damn that Food Network.


6 a. grace February 18, 2008 at 4:47 am

i’m ashamed to admit that one of my favorite meals as a child was a white bread sandwich with american cheese and mayo. i’ve grown up into such a food snob that i wouldn’t dream of eating such a monstrosity today. 🙂


7 robin February 19, 2008 at 3:51 pm

A really good bakery white bread is so lovely. I always feel bad even putting anything on it, though I’d make an exception for this salad! 🙂


8 Kevin February 20, 2008 at 9:53 pm

That sandwich looks nice and creamy and tasty. The grapes make the sandwich really interesting.


9 Kristina February 29, 2008 at 4:10 pm

I LOVE Miracle Whip. Still. Especially in deviled eggs, or on a tomato sandwich (just tomatoes on bread with salt, pepper, and MW).

But I might try this (with fake chicken) since the sour cream could make up for the lack of MW…


10 Bob October 13, 2008 at 2:16 pm

I find that miracle whip and mayo is pretty close
to the same,but since I was raised on MW,I stick
with it.
The real treat we had growing up in Germany was
a German rye bread smeared with bacon grease and
additional salt. I made it out of child alive.


11 Josh November 15, 2008 at 2:23 am

Miracle Whip or nothing. Got to have that tangy zip.


12 Dan February 3, 2009 at 10:31 pm

Miracle Whip will give you nightmares. Miracle Whip is evil. It wants you. It is coming to get you.
You have been warned.


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