Need a quick recipe to serve a group? Try easy canned chicken salad for a crowd. Costco canned chicken, celery, pickles, and a creamy sauce make the perfect finger sandwiches. Your guests will gobble them down.
Party time is here! Get yourself ready for potlucks, pool parties, and serving enough food to feed an army. If you really want to wow your friends and family this summer, you will love this easy canned chicken salad for a crowd.
This is the best chicken salad recipe. You will be the belle of the barbecue, with plenty of people asking for the recipe. You know where to send them, right? (Here! The answer is here, friend!)
Check out this post on how long chicken salad lasts. You will like the section on how to keep the salad safe when serving it at a party.
And speaking of parties, read up on creative ways to serve chicken salad at a party. You will love the unique suggestions.
A traditional chicken salad has simple ingredients. That is why it is such a great thing to serve a crowd. Here’s what’s inside:
When you are preparing the salad for a party, make your life easier. Use canned chicken.
Costco canned chicken is the only brand I recommend. One can yields just over 1 cup of chicken each. Canned chicken is effortless. The only downside is that it costs more than cooking chicken yourself.
Cooking chicken in a crockpot is a cost-effective alternative. But Costco canned chicken is much easier (and faster) to make in large batches for a hungry crowd. You’ll need two cans for a family-size serving.
Pro Tip: If you are making this salad for a weeknight family dinner, it is a great recipe to use up leftover chicken.
Any type of chicken works. Light meat, dark meat. Rotisserie chicken, leftover roast chicken. If you can shred it or cut it into chunks, use it.
Crunchy celery adds a nice crisp texture to the salad while boosting the fiber content. I promise nobody will complain about this flavorful addition. Cuz every classic chicken salad recipe has celery.
For a family-size serving, you’ll need to dice two stalks, which equals about one cup.
Onions get a bad rap. They bring home chefs to tears, but they take a chicken salad from basic to BAM!
Red onion is delicious, but green onions provide flavor with hardly any kick. They are better when serving a large group that may be onion picky.
A creamy mixture of ½ cup mayonnaise (or Miracle Whip), 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, a splash of pickle juice, and salt and pepper is all you need for the tangy dressing.
Throw in some fresh dill if you want, and you have got yourself a crowd-pleaser.
You can replace some mayo with sour cream or even plain Greek yogurt if you like.
Crumbled bacon really kicks this chicken salad recipe up a notch. It’s a great addition, but it’s not required!
The best way to cook bacon is in the oven. Check out my post on oven-cooked bacon. Make it chewy or crispy depending on your technique.
Chicken Salad Ingredients for Small Crowds
For 12 Servings
For 20 Servings
For 25 Servings
2 cans or 2 cups
3½ cans or 3½ cups
4 cans or 5 cups
Green Onions, sliced
⅓ cup (about 2 onions)
½ cup (about 3 onions)
⅔ cup (about 4 onions)
1 cup (2-3 stalks)
1½ cups (3-4 stalks)
2 cups (4-5 stalks)
Dill Pickles, chopped
⅓ to ½ cup
½ to ⅔ cup
⅔ to 1 cup
How Much Chicken Salad Per Person?
You can serve chicken salad as an entrée or as an appetizer. To serve this potluck favorite sandwich style, plan on ⅓ cup of chicken salad per sandwich. It will go twice as far if you serve it on mini croissants. Or if you make finger sandwiches.
A family-size recipe will feed roughly 12 people. See the chart for the breakdown for larger crowd portions.
Chicken Salad Ingredients for Large Crowds
For 30 Servings
For 50 Servings
For 100 Servings
5 cans or 5 cups
8 cans or 8 cups
16 cans or 16 cups
Green Onions, sliced
¾ cup (about 5 onions)
1¼ cups (about 6 onions)
2½ cups (about 10 onions)
2½ cups (6-7 stalks)
4 cups (8-9 stalks)
8 cups (16 stalks)
Dill Pickles, chopped
¾ to 1¼ cups
1¼ to 2 cups
2½ to 4 cups
Get fantastic ideas for side dishes to serve with chicken salad at a luncheon.
And read up on exactly how much chicken salad you need to plan per person. It depends on bun size and side dishes.
How to Make Chicken Salad Recipe for a Crowd
- Empty your canned chicken into a fine mesh colander and drain well.
- Wash the onions and celery and slice them. Chop the pickles. Cook and crumble the bacon (optional).
- Combine chicken, sliced onions, diced celery, and chopped pickles (plus the bacon, if using) into the larger bowl.
- Scrape the mayo, mustard, and pickle juice on top of the chicken, and fold it in.
- Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
- Chill the salad for about an hour if you have time (to let the flavors mix).
If the salad is an entrée, serve it on a croissant. But if it will be an appetizer, make finger sandwiches.
Finger sandwiches are a tiny way to make a big impression on your guests. And they let you control the serving size. I mean, croissants have been done already. Try something new with your guests.
You may also be interested in how much sloppy joes meat to plan per person.
How Far in Advance Can You Make Chicken Salad Sandwiches?
You can make the chicken salad one day in advance and up to two days in a pinch. Keep the salad sealed in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
If you make it an earlier, the celery and onions will lose their crispness.
Note: Store the celery separately from the salad to keep the salad from getting watery. Then add it right before serving.
See my other tips on making chicken salad ahead.
Plan on assembling the sandwiches a few hours before leaving for the event. The bread will soak up the juices from the mixture and get soggy if you do it too soon.
How do you keep chicken salad sandwiches from getting soggy?
- The best way to prevent chicken salad sandwiches from getting soggy is to assemble them shortly before the party and stick them back in the fridge on the serving tray.
How do I serve chicken salad at a party?
- Chicken salad must be served chilled due to the perishable ingredients. There are several chilled serving trays on the market that work great!
- Serve the salad on a bed of fancy lettuce greens. Then let guests dish their own onto a croissant or with a side of crackers. This is a great way to serve cold salads for baby showers, fancy luncheons, or even family barbecues.
See all my other ideas for what to serve with chicken salad instead of bread. Or if you prefer crackers over bread, check out the best crackers to eat with chicken salad.
Best Bread/Roll for Chicken Salad Sandwiches
- The best bread for chicken salad sandwiches is the croissant. The buttery flakes of the pastry bread melt in your mouth. You can also use tortillas to make sandwich wraps.
For more bread ideas, see the best breads for a chicken salad sandwich. Many breads are delicious with this salad.
You can swap out just about any ingredient in the recipe to your liking!
- Grapes for chopped apples or dried cranberries/cherries
- Onions for water chestnuts
- Celery for walnuts, pecans, or almond slivers
- Mayo for Greek yogurt, mashed avocado, or vegan mayo
- Bread for full lettuce leaves
You will never get bored with the different ways to vary the classic recipe.
- Instant Pot chicken salad with grapes. Learn all the secrets to making moist, flavorful chicken without overcooking it. Yes, you can overcook chicken in the Instant Pot. Learn how to avoid that.
- Cranberry pecan chicken (or turkey) salad. This is an excellent salad to make with leftover Thanksgiving turkey. The best part is the homemade poppy seed dressing.
- Mexican chicken salad. Replace the pickles with tomatoes and the pickle juice for lime juice. Don’t forget to add cilantro and shredded cheese! This sandwich can be served with tortilla chips or inside a tortilla wrap.
- Avocado chicken salad. Use similar replacements as the Mexican chicken salad. But use mashed avocado or pre-made guacamole instead of mayo.
- Hawaiian chicken salad. Omit the pickles and bacon. Instead, add pineapple tidbits and crispy Chinese-style noodles.
How to Store Leftovers
Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Beware of watery salad. The moisture in celery, pickles, and onions will start to seep into the salad.
Drain any liquid from the salad before eating it.
You can also store whole sandwiches for about a day in the fridge, but they will start to get soggy after that. I strongly recommend using them as lunch the day after your potluck. Leftovers always make a delicious meal.
Can You Freeze?
Freezing a mayo-based chicken salad is not the best idea. The components of the mayo - the egg, oil, and stabilizing liquid (usually lemon juice) separate while frozen. Other salad ingredients also don't freeze well.
Read all about when you can and can’t freeze chicken salad. The tips will give you clear direction.
Lettuce or other greens are the best sandwich toppings to serve. For lots more ideas, check out the post on the best toppings for chicken salad sandwiches.
Although homemade chicken salad always tastes the best, you can jazz up store-bought chicken salad with add-ins and flavor enhancers.
Check out my post of how to make chicken salad better for more details.
What to Serve with Chicken Salad Sandwiches for a Crowd
Even though the name says “salad,” there are no salad greens in chicken salad. But no potluck is complete without the following dishes:
- A green salad. Your favorite lettuce, two or more different vegetables or fruits (such as tomatoes and cucumbers or pears and apples), chopped nuts, and a complimentary dressing. Bonus points if you serve some lettuce leaves on the side for guests to add to their sandwich.
- A fresh fruit tray with seasonal berries, red seedless grapes, stone fruits, or melons with cream cheese dip. See healthy alternatives to cream cheese if you want a lighter dip.
- A veggie tray with raw carrots, broccoli, celery, cauliflower, and ranch dip.
- Charcuterie board with sliced meats, sliced or cubed cheeses, olives, pickles, and a relish of your choice. (I recently went to a graduation party that served peach slices wrapped in prosciutto and topped with a single basil leaf. It was heavenly!)
- Potato chips, pita chips, or seasoned corn chips. Effortless and popular.
- Desserts! Brownies, cookies, pie, cakes, or tartlets. Let’s be honest, this is really the best part! Check out the best snickerdoodle recipe without cream of tartar. Perfect any time of year.
Easy Canned Chicken Salad Recipe for a Crowd
Family Size (serves 12)
- 2 cans of Costco chicken or 2 cups of cooked and shredded chicken
- ⅓ cup of sliced green onions about 2 onions
- 1 cup of diced celery 2 to 3 stalks
- 1 cup of dill pickles chopped
- ⅓ to ½ cup of mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon of pickle juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 dozen croissants or a loaf of sandwich bread
- Optional: 6 slices of bacon cooked and crumbled
Serving for Group of 25
- 4 cans of Costco chicken or 4 cups of cooked and shredded chicken
- ⅔ cup of sliced green onions about 4 onions
- 2 cups of diced celery 4 to 5 stalks
- 2 cups of dill pickles chopped
- ⅔ to 1 cup of mayonnaise start light, add more if necessary
- 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons of pickle juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 dozen croissants or 2 loaves of sandwich bread
- Optional: 12 slices of bacon cooked and crumbled
- EMPTY the canned chicken into a fine mesh colander and drain well. (If starting with raw chicken, cook and then shred it.)
- WASH and SLICE the green onions and celery.
- CHOP the pickles.
- OPTIONAL: Cook and crumble the bacon.
- COMBINE the chicken, sliced onions, diced celery, and chopped pickles (plus the bacon, if using) into the larger bowl.
- SCRAPE the mayonnaise, mustard, and pickle juice on top of the chicken, and fold it in. Start with the smallest recommended amount of mayonnaise and add more if necessary.
- SEASON with salt and black pepper to taste.
- CHILL for an hour (if you have time).
- SERVE on a croissant. Or use potato bread and make finger sandwiches.
- The amount of mayonnaise depends on personal taste. If you want to go lighter on mayo, but need more moisture in the salad, try adding more mustard and pickle juice before additional mayonnaise.