homemade chicken salad (or, my version of panera’s napa-almond-chicken-salad-sandwich)

In our last semester of law school, Bowl #2 and I started studying at Panera Bread from time to time and got hooked on their chicken salad sandwich.  

(And it’s good, you should try it!)  But we noticed that when either of us ordered it, it seemed like it was never enough just to tell the cashier that we wanted the “chicken salad sandwich.”  Because every time we did, the inevitable response was a really pointed (and sometimes urgent) clarification, “Do you mean the Napa Almond Chicken Salad sandwich?”

And then we’d be kind of bemused, and we’d be like, “I guess,” and they’d say “Okay, one Napa-Almond-Chicken-Salad-sandwich.”  And then when it was delivered to us, the busboy would inevitably say (again), “One Napa-Almond-Chicken-Salad-sandwich.”

Which was fine, except kind of confusing, because Panera doesn’t have another chicken salad sandwich.  They only have the Napa-Almond-Chicken-Salad-sandwich.  So what I want to know is, what if we said, no, just the chicken salad sandwich?  What would happen?

“Oh, well, then you can’t have it. We don’t have chicken salad.”

Anyway, now that summer has really kicked in, chicken salad seemed like the perfect lunch option to try out at home, given that it’s so cool and fresh.  What I liked best about Panera’s version was the sliced grape and, yes, the almonds, so I set out to find a recipe that included those. Unsurprisingly, the mythic Pioneer Woman had an elegantly simple recipe that included just that (well, with regular almonds) but with the ridiculously amazing addition of DILL, which is now my most favorite thing ever. Here is the recipe, with the very minor addition of diced apple. I also used Greek yogurt instead of regular, because that was what I had on hand.

Chicken Salad, adapted from The Pioneer Woman.

2-3 chicken breasts, boiled, then shredded or cubed (she recommends a whole chicken, but I am not so handy at the meats as she is, so I just use prepackaged breasts)
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
3 whole green onions, chopped
2 cups grapes, halved
1 small apple, diced
3-4 tbsp mayonnaise
2-3 tbsp Greek yogurt (or sour cream, regular unflavored yogurt, or buttermilk)
1/4 cup dill, minced
1/2 cup slivered almonds (they do not have to be Napa.)
1-2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil chicken breasts for about 10 minutes or when cooked through. Let cool, shred into large shreds with a fork, and then chop into bite-sized pieces.
2. Chop celery, green onions, grapes, and apple, and combine in a bowl with the chicken and almonds.

DSC_8242

DSC_8249
3. Whisk together mayo, Greek yogurt, brown sugar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and dill. I like to add quite a bit of salt and pepper, because the chicken can be bland otherwise — probably about 1/2 tsp pepper and almost 1 tsp salt, but definitely taste as you go.
4. Pour over the chicken mixture and toss until coated.

DSC_8252
I love dill. I love dill so much.

5. Let chill for a few hours or even overnight.
6. Serve on toasted bread with lettuce and tomato (or, if you forgot to buy that like I did, on its own).

DSC_8293
Mm, raisin cinnamon bread.  Also, yes, I do not own a toaster.
DSC_8264
More dill! No, more dill!

DSC_8301

Thank you so much for reading!

44 comments

  1. says:

    August 15, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    This reminds me of my Mum’s recipe. She sadly passed away before I could learn her secrets in the kitchen, but this recipe looks pretty close to what I remember. Thanks for sharing 😀

    • says:

      August 15, 2013 at 3:47 pm

      What a touching comment, Kellie. I’m so sorry to hear of your mother’s passing, but would be so happy if this recipe came close to what she made. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I hope that you enjoy the recipe if you try it!

    • Two Red Bowls says:

      November 18, 2013 at 5:17 pm

      I actually have no idea! I’m so sorry, Dolly. This only makes enough for about four sandwiches, so we usually go through it in a day or two. My guess is that both mayo and yogurt will separate/change consistency if frozen, though, so I would lean against freezing. I hope you still decide to make it, though!

    • tworedbowls says:

      January 22, 2014 at 11:24 am

      Hmm, I just punched it into a calorie counter and the chicken salad, with no bread, came out to about 400 calories per serving (and the full batch listed above, for four servings, would be about 1600 cals). For a lighter version, replace the mayo with all Greek yogurt — it will be more tart, but that cuts the calories down by a grand 90 per serving. Hope that helps!

  2. Kimmy says:

    March 4, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    Just made this today and it’s delicious! Omitted the almonds as some of my family members are allergic. Will probably add a few to mine separately 🙂

    • says:

      May 25, 2014 at 12:57 pm

      I’m so so happy you liked it, Kimmy!! This made my day when I read it (though my comment is super belated…) Thanks so much for letting me know 🙂

  3. Anonymous says:

    May 25, 2014 at 3:25 am

    I used to work at panera and they have another chicken salad sandwhich. It’s the chicken Caesar salad sandwhich. That’s why they clarify.

      • says:

        May 25, 2014 at 12:58 pm

        Hahaha! Glad that you solved the mystery for us 🙂 I hope you like this if you try it (especially since you’ll know better than anyone whether it matches up to the real thing!) Thanks for commenting!

  4. Maybel says:

    May 25, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    I wanted to eat the Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich tonight,but Panera was closed when I arrived there. I was drooling while reading this! Will have to make this sometime this week! Thank you for sharing!

    • tworedbowls says:

      October 10, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      Hi Felishia, you could try all Greek yogurt or regular unflavored yogurt in place of the mayo, although it would make the chicken salad considerably more tart and less creamy. Maybe skyr or a creamier yogurt? I also recently had a potato salad my aunt made with Vegenaise, which was surprisingly good. If you try a substitute, I’d love to hear how it turns out for you. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  5. emma says:

    December 24, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    My batch is chilling as we speak. I’m a Panera Bread fiend, and this is very reminiscent of there’s. I got some cranberry walnut bread to pair with the salad and I can’t wait to taste it all together. Soo yummy 🙂 Thanks a bunch!

  6. Samantha says:

    January 5, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    Love this article! I’m a huge fan of panera’s napa almond chicken salad and I looked online for a copycat recipe and found this! I’m so excited to make it. Also, not sure if you are an avocado fan personally, but if someone wants a healthy replacement to the mayo, avocado works great! I’ve used it a few times to make chicken salad! 🙂

  7. Anonymous says:

    February 18, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    This was great! I roasted bone-in chicken breasts in the oven with olive oil, kosher salt and fresh, ground pepper on 400 degrees until cooked through. I let it cool and then cubed it. I find that bone-in chicken has more of a chicken flavor than boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and the chicken is more moist. Thanks for the recipe! Fantastic!

  8. Anonymous says:

    June 8, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    Great Post and Great Recipe!!!! I worked at Panera for 5 years and this Recipe you have here is amazing. The cashier knew what you wanted when you said “Chicken Salad Sandwich”, because there isn’t a Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwich, it is a Chicken Caesar Sandwich. So feel free to make the comment you stated above, I thought it was good. Thanks again for the recipe!

  9. SONDRA says:

    June 11, 2015 at 5:52 pm

    OMG THIS IS BETTER THAN PANERAS HOWEVER HAVING TO BUY IN BULK, I DECIDED TO DOUBLE IT AND HAVE ENOUGH FOR AN ARMY. CAN I FREEZE ANY LEFTOVER, WHICH IS A TON????

  10. Chase says:

    June 17, 2015 at 11:43 am

    This recipe is very good. However to clarify they ask that at Panera because customers daily come in ,will say chicken salad sandwhich, then get upset for one of two reasons. It is not a basic chicken salad recipe , or because they wanted a chicken ceasar sandwhich or a salad i General. Everyday I kid you not. Thats why they say it all out like that. It still happens even if you do….. You have to understand that minor inconvenience of hearing a full name of a menu item, is less than the inconvenience of having to hear a complaining customer and remaking an item and wasting another…..

  11. Northern California Girl says:

    August 20, 2015 at 1:15 am

    It’s so cute that you thought the Napa part of the salad is the almonds…haha! The recipe for a chicken salad with grapes and other fruits and nuts is from a restaurant in Napa, California. There is no such thing as a “Napa Almond!”

    • Anonymous says:

      September 19, 2015 at 1:44 pm

      Oh Northern California Girl… you’re so cultured and aware. Not like the rest of us. Our shortcomings are cute though.

    • tworedbowls says:

      December 23, 2015 at 1:38 am

      Hi Anna! Yes, it’s pretty sweet! But you could always add more brown sugar or more grapes/apple if you find it needs more sweetness. I hope that helps!

  12. Gretchen says:

    February 18, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Thanks for posting the recipe. I’m going to have to give it a try. I love going to Bread Co. and ordering this sandwich. (I live in St. Louis, MO where Panera is actually St. Louis Bread Co. Everyone here just calls it Bread Co.). Also worth noting that years ago they had a different chicken salad sandwich recipe that was also VERY good. When they changed the recipe, it became the Napa…Chicken Salad.

  13. Anonymous says:

    May 8, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    My DIL made a knock-off on her own, which was fab, and I wanted to make sure I had everything on hand she used. Instead of the yogurt/mayo she used Miracle Whip, and based on her copy cat experiment, I used lite miracle whip. YUM! She didn’t incorporate lemon juice, but I followed your recipe and hers… kinda/sorta. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this and for your narrative; I would refuse to say “Whaler” for a fish sandwich, back in the day. If a name is too goofy or wordy, I shorthand it, too.

  14. Anonymous says:

    August 8, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    There’s no such thing as a Napa almond, lol. It’s named Napa as a catch phrase/Buzz word for advertising. I had this for lunch today and there were definitely no grapes or apples in it and most definitely no brown sugar. Panera actually has the recipe posted online. Amusing that you went on for so many paragraphs about having to order it by the actual name that’s listed on the menu. Lol. Just order the damned sandwich and shut up.

    https://www.panerabread.com/en-us/recipes/chicken-salad-sandwiches.html

    • Anon says:

      April 5, 2017 at 1:45 pm

      Yeah…there’s definitely a Napa Almond sandwich at Panera. It does have fruit in it. Maybe know what you’re talking about before you’re anonymously rude to someone?

  15. Anonymous says:

    August 26, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    The reason we ask “Napa almond chicken salad sandwich?” Is because we have a chicken Cesar salad sandwich! 🙂

  16. Anonymous says:

    November 17, 2016 at 8:11 am

    OMG this was amazing!!! Even better than Panera! Thank you for creating/sharing!!! I used dry dill and it was GREAT!!!!!

  17. Ashley says:

    April 5, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    I just made this. I didn’t have celery or almonds, but it was still absolutely fantastic. I’d say it’s ever better than Panera. Thank you for sharing, you made my day with this!

  18. Anonymous says:

    June 7, 2017 at 7:55 am

    I was looking for a chicken salad recipe with lots of good stuff in it that wasn’t drowning in mayo and I came across this. Its delicious! I didn’t have grapes on hand, so used giant raisins from Trader Joes. Since my herb garden is plentiful right now, I used dill, tarragon, and basil. Yum!

    • tworedbowls says:

      June 7, 2017 at 1:26 pm

      That makes me so happy, thank you!!! Tarragon and basil sound like amazing additions. Hurray!

say hello!