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Easy Canned Chicken Salad Recipe for a Crowd

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.

croissant with chicken salad filling
Chicken salad on a croissant is the most popular way to serve this sandwich 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.

Salad Ingredients

ingredients for canned chicken salad for a crowd
Simple ingredients for an easy chicken salad recipe.

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:

Shredded Chicken 

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.

Celery

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.

Green Onions

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.

The Dressing

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.

Optional Addition 

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

Shredded Chicken

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)

Celery, sliced

1 cup (2-3 stalks)

1½ cups (3-4 stalks)

2 cups (4-5 stalks)

Dill Pickles, chopped

1 cup

1½ cups

2 cups

Mayonnaise

⅓ to ½ cup

½ to ⅔ cup

⅔ to 1 cup

Dijon Mustard

1 tablespoon

1½ tablespoons

2 tablespoons

Pickle Juice

1 tablespoon

1½ tablespoons

2 tablespoons

Bacon (optional)

4 slices

6 slices

8 slices

How Much Chicken Salad Per Person?

chicken salad on a bed of greens
Save yourself time and let guests serve themselves.

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

Shredded Chicken

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)

Celery, sliced

2½ cups (6-7 stalks)

4 cups (8-9 stalks)

8 cups (16 stalks)

Dill Pickles, chopped

2½ cups

4 cups

8 cups

Mayonnaise

¾ to 1¼ cups

1¼ to 2 cups

2½ to 4 cups

Dijon Mustard

2½ tablespoons

4 tablespoons

8 tablespoons

Pickle Juice

2½ tablespoons

4 tablespoons

8 tablespoons

Bacon (optional)

10 slices

16 slices

32 slices

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. 
bowl with ingredients for chicken salad
The easiest way to make chicken salad is to throw everything in a bowl and stir to combine.
  • 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).
chicken salad sandwich filling in a bowl
If you have time, chill the salad so the flavors have time to mingle.

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.

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.

Pro Tips

chicken salad finger sandwiches
Chicken salad finger sandwiches make a fun appetizer at a party.

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! 

Best Bread/Roll for Chicken Salad Sandwiches

chicken salad sandwich croissants
Make and serve finished sandwiches if you think you may be short on chicken salad filling.
  • 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.

Substitutions

You can swap out just about any ingredient in the recipe to your liking!

Swap out:

  • 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

Variations

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.
  • 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.

FAQ

What are the best sandwich toppings for chicken salad?

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.

Can you make store-bought chicken salad better, if you would rather buy than make it for a crowd?

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

chicken salad finger sandwiches
Chicken salad finger sandwiches plus chips and fruit are an easy luncheon idea.

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 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.

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Easy Canned Chicken Salad Recipe for a Crowd

bowl of chicken salad for a crowd with croissants on a plate

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.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Optional Chill Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. EMPTY the canned chicken into a fine mesh colander and drain well. (If starting with raw chicken, cook and then shred it.)
  2. WASH and SLICE the green onions and celery.
  3. CHOP the pickles.
  4. OPTIONAL: Cook and crumble the bacon.
  5. COMBINE the chicken, sliced onions, diced celery, and chopped pickles (plus the bacon, if using) into the larger bowl.
  6. 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.
  7. SEASON with salt and black pepper to taste.
  8. CHILL for an hour (if you have time).
  9. SERVE on a croissant. Or use potato bread and make finger sandwiches.

Notes

  • 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.

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Nutrition Information

Yield

12

Serving Size

⅓ cup

Amount Per Serving Calories 84Total Fat 8gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 11mgSodium 266mgCarbohydrates 1gFiber 0gSugar 1gProtein 2g

Nutrition information is an estimate only and may vary based on individual ingredients added and cooking methods used.


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