Use your Instant Pot to make a quick easy chicken salad recipe with grapes. Avoid overcooked dry chicken with 5 crucial pressure cooker tips for cooking chicken.
Chicken salad is a popular lunch staple, especially in the summer. It’s wholesome, tasty, and easy to make.
Whether scooped on a bed of greens or served as a hearty sandwich, homemade chicken salad is always an easy meal. With the help of the Instant Pot, your creamy chicken salad will have great flavor with the perfect blend of sweet, crunchy, and savory.
This recipe is sweeter than my canned chicken salad recipe for a crowd, which has green onions, dill pickles, and celery.
You may also like cranberry pecan chicken salad with poppy seed dressing. Trust me, the dressing makes the salad.
What’s a great way to serve this delicious salad? On the perfect bread, of course. Check out my post on the best bread for chicken salad.
Want to skip the bread? Check out what to serve with chicken salad instead of bread.
And if you want crackers, specifically, look at the whole list of the best crackers to eat with chicken salad.
Can You Overcook Chicken in a Pressure Cooker?
You can easily overcook chicken in a pressure cooker. This happens when the meat reaches an internal temperature that is well above 165°F (74°C). Unfortunately, this can often occur because it is impossible to check the chicken temperature in a sealed pressure cooker.
Overcooked chicken is dry, stringy, and lacks flavor.
In addition to overcooking chicken, other bad techniques can deplete your chicken of moisture and flavor. I’ve been there, and it is frustrating. Especially when the main component of the recipe is the chicken itself – like in a chicken salad recipe.
Fortunately, I have some Pro Tips that will ensure moist, juicy, flavorful pressure-cooked chicken every time. Which is just what you want for your chicken salad.
RELATED: Get fantastic ideas for side dishes to serve with chicken salad at a luncheon.
There are only a few items on the ingredient list. And it is a perfect way to use up leftover chicken breasts. If you are missing an item or have allergies, ingredient substitutions can be found below.
- Chicken breasts. How many pounds of chicken do you need? For a family-sized recipe, stick with 1 pound (or about 2 breasts). This produces about 3 cups of shredded chicken.
Bone-in chicken is the most flavorful but requires extra time to remove the bone. Boneless, skinless breasts are my go-to meat pretty much because it saves me time and hassle.
- Water or chicken broth? Although a cup of chicken stock can add flavor, a cup of water is just as good. Read more about it in Pro Tip #2.
- Salt and pepper to taste. I’ll teach you a pre-salting trick with the chicken before throwing it in the Instant Pot. It will take a bit of planning, but I promise, the delicious chicken will be well worth the extra 5 minutes.
- Red seedless grapes. Use any juicy grapes in this recipe as long as they are seedless. No one wants to pick grape seeds out of their teeth during lunch.
I prefer seedless red grapes because they have a touch of sweetness. However, green grapes make this a great recipe too.
- Red onions. You may like the taste and color of red onion in the salad. However, you can also use a green onion. Green onions are milder than red. Let your audience be your guide.
- Crunchy celery. About 2 stalks are what I recommend. Celery and grapes give the salad the perfect amount of crunch.
Creamy Dressing Ingredients
- Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip. Miracle Whip is sweeter and has a distinctive taste. Some people love it, and some people hate it. Go with what you like because either is fine for this salad.
Use between ¼ and ⅓ cup mayonnaise. But feel free to add more if the chicken salad grapes recipe needs more moisture.
- Dijon mustard. You could use regular yellow mustard, but Dijon is so much tastier. Plus, it’s fun to say Dijon.
- Fresh lemon juice. Squeeze about half a lemon and throw the juice in. Don’t skip this step. Every dressing needs an acid. Vinegar is a good alternative if you don’t have a lemon.
- Salt and pepper to taste. Add a little to the dressing. Then after mixing the salad, taste it and season more if necessary.
Pressure cooker chicken salad is a breeze to make. You only need one pot to cook it in and a few other simple tools.
- Instant Pot (or a different pressure cooker brand). The Instant Pot is a favorite way to cook moist chicken. But only when you follow my technique. (Slow cooker chicken is fantastic too.)
The first time you pressure cook chicken using my nifty tricks, you will be amazed at what a game changer good technique can be. You will get tender chicken breast that is perfect for shredding.
I promise I will help you avoid dry, bland chicken. Because no amount of dressing will make up for flavorless chicken.
- Instant Pot trivet. Place the chicken on the trivet, not on the bottom of the pot. The end result will be moist, flavorful chicken.
- Airtight container. Cool the chicken a bit before shredding. Then refrigerate until you are ready to mix the salad.
- Food processor or Vitamix blender. You get the best results using either of these tools to shred cooked chicken. It is much easier than shredding chicken by hand. Although you can do that too.
I love my Vitamix. You can read all about its excellent functions in this Vitamix post. Vitamix also has great customer service. Check out my story on how I broke my container and Vitamix customer service sent me a new one for free.
You can also shred chicken with a stand mixer if you have one. This is good for making a large batch for a crowd.
- Large mixing bowl. You need enough room to mix the salad together. If you use a small bowl, the ingredients might flop all over the counter when you stir them. Ask me how I know.
- Knife and cutting board. Don’t forget your favorite ingredients that require slicing and dicing.
Pro Tips for Perfectly Moist Pressure-Cooked Chicken
Pro Tip #1 Salt the chicken at the right time.
- Salt the chicken when you bring it home from the store, but DO NOT salt before putting it into the Instant Pot. When you salt chicken before pressure cooking it, the salt will draw the moisture out of the chicken.
But if you salt it 6 to 48 hours early, thanks to some chemistry, the salt will draw moisture out initially. But then the raw chicken will reabsorb the moisture and salt.
When you cook the chicken, the juice and flavor are weaved throughout the whole piece of meat.
Pro Tip #2 Cook the chicken on a trivet
- Pour water or broth into the Instant Pot and then insert the trivet. Fresh chicken breast is best cooked on the trivet instead of soaking in the liquid.
Chicken pressure cooked in liquid loses some moisture (weird, yes), diluting the chicken taste.
Pro Tip #3 DO NOT overcook the chicken.
- DO NOT OVERCOOK THE CHICKEN. Yes, I shouted that at you. Too many recipes out there have you cooking the chicken for too long. (10 minutes is usually too long unless you have very thick meat.)
Sure, you want the chicken cooked to a safe temperature. However, cooking it to 165°F (74°C) will leave you with dry chicken.
The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service has guidelines that shows that TIME + TEMPERATURE = SAFE CHICKEN
This means if you hold the chicken at a lower temperature for longer, the chicken is as safe to eat as if you had cooked it to a higher temperature. (Check out their chart.)
Think about it. Sous vide cooking recommends cooking chicken to 145-150°F. If sous vide cooking is safe, then the time and temperature equation is true.
Pro Tip #4 DO NOT manually release the pressure.
- Let the pressure cooker naturally release pressure. The urge to finish up the job with a quick release may save you time, but you won’t do yourself any favors. Releasing the pressure naturally allows the juices to reabsorb into the chicken. Tender, flavorful chicken coming right up.
A quick release compresses the chicken fibers. A compressed chicken squeezes out its juices. It doesn’t reabsorb them.
Pro Tip #5 Rest the meat before shredding it.
- Rest the chicken on a cutting board for 5 to 7 minutes. When you rest the chicken, the natural juices redistribute in the chicken, resulting in more flavor.
According to The Food Lab by Lopez-Alt, chicken should rest until it is 5° cooler than its fully cooked temperature. This allows the muscle fibers to relax and the chicken juice to thicken. The chicken will be moist, juicy, and ready for shredding.
- Shred the chicken with two forks if you don’t have a blender or food processor. Chicken is easier to shred when it is warm. So shred the chicken about 10 minutes after cooking it.
Chicken Prep Work
- When you bring the chicken breasts home from the store, remove the packaging. Pat the meat dry.
- Measure out about ¼ teaspoon of salt into your hand. Sprinkle the salt on both sides of each piece. If you need a pinch more salt, go for it.
- Cover the chicken in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 48 hours. At least 24 hours is ideal.
Cook Chicken in the Instant Pot
- Temper the meat. Remove the chicken breasts from the fridge 20 to 30 minutes before cooking to bring them to room temperature.
- Place the trivet in the bottom of the electric pressure cooker and pour in the chicken broth or water.
- Place the raw skinless chicken breasts on the trivet. DO NOT SALT.
- Close the Instant Pot and press the pressure cook button. It will take 7 to 8 minutes for the pot to reach full pressure.
- Cook the chicken on high pressure for 5 to 9 minutes, depending on the breast size. The cook time depends on the thickness of the meat. Breasts that are 2 inches thick take about 6 or 7 minutes to cook.
- Let the Instant Pot do a natural release when the chicken has finished cooking. Use a meat thermometer to check the chicken temperature.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, chicken should cook to an internal temperature of 165°F (71°C).
However, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service teaches that temperature + time = cooked chicken. See their poultry cooking chart.
For example, chicken is cooked when it reaches 155°F and is held at that temperature for 54.4 seconds. If you cook chicken and it reaches 165°F or over, it is overdone. And you will know it when you taste it.
What happens if you check the temperature, and it is much too low? See my notes below.
- Let the chicken rest on a cutting board for 5 to 8 minutes. This allows it to reabsorb its moisture and cool down enough to process.
- Use a blender, stand mixer, or food processor to shred the cooked chicken. Cut the chicken breasts into 3 pieces. But be sure to cut against the grain.
Add the chicken pieces to the blender container and pulse several times until the chicken is the consistency you like.
If you don’t have either appliance, you can hand-shred the chicken with a little effort. Stick it with one fork and pull it apart with a second fork.
- Place the shredded chicken in an airtight container and pop it in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes to an hour or until it’s completely cooled.
Prep the Salad
- While the chicken is chilling, wash the red grapes and slice them into quarters or halves.
- Next, dice the red onion. Then wash and chop the celery into small slices. Keep your grapes, onion, and celery in the fridge until you’re ready to get mixing.
- Juice the lemon. Mix the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Compose the Salad
- Toss the grapes, onion, celery, and cold shredded chicken into the bowl with the dressing.
Give it a taste and add more salt or pepper if needed. You can also throw in some optional fresh herbs. Parsley and a little bit of fresh dill are tasty.
- Chill the mixed chicken salad for about an hour to allow the flavors to mix and mingle. If you have time. If not, you can eat it right away.
- Serve up this awesome chicken salad as a meal on whole wheat bread (or your favorite gluten-free bread), a croissant, or on a bed of lettuce. Or eat it as a side dish with pita chips.
RELATED: Now that you have your salad filling, read up on the best sandwich toppings for chicken salad.
When you check the temperature of the pressure-cooked chicken and find that it is not high enough (like less than 140°F), don’t panic. I can help you out.
DO NOT cook it again in the pressure cooker.
Instead, place the chicken back into the pressure cooker and secure the lid. Keep it there for a few minutes. The residual heat from the pan will continue to cook the meat.
After 5 to 10 minutes, recheck the temperature. It will probably be high enough. I like to aim for 155°F (held for 1 minute). Some people prefer 150°F (held for 4 minutes). Do what you feel comfortable with.
Remember to check the temperature in the thickest part of the meat.
RELATED: Check out this post on how long chicken salad lasts (in and out of the fridge). As a bonus, you will love the section on how to tell when chicken salad has gone bad early.
- Chicken. If you don’t have a pressure cooker or prefer to use leftover cooked chicken, feel free. You can use leftover rotisserie chicken, moist chicken breast (from the slow cooker), or even flavorful chicken thighs. Whatever chicken you use, chop it up and use the diced chicken.
- Turkey. Cooked and shredded turkey can easily replace chicken in this salad. Leftover Thanksgiving turkey is excellent in this recipe.
- Mayonnaise. Greek yogurt in place of all or half of the mayonnaise is a healthy way to change up the old recipe. You can also use half mayonnaise and half sour cream for a sour cream dressing. (Not a lighter version.)
- Grapes. If you don’t have grapes, diced red or green apples, dried cranberries, or raisins are excellent substitutions. Or use green grapes instead of red for a tangier flavor.
- Toppings. The celery, onion, and grapes in this Instant Pot chicken salad recipe add crunchy texture and bursts of flavor. But you can still swap them out if you’d like.
Add cooked and chopped bacon instead of grapes if you prefer savory flavors. If you don’t like onions, substitute scallions, radishes, or cucumbers. Grape tomatoes, nuts, avocado, or carrots could also be yummy inclusions.
- Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing. Use cranberries and pecans (or candied pecans) rather than grapes. Moisten it with a homemade creamy poppy seed dressing.
- Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad without Celery. This simple salad focuses on sweet and crunchy flavors. No need for celery if you are out or don’t like it.
- Canned Chicken Salad for a Crowd. Using Costco canned chicken is the way to go if you have a group to feed. This savory salad will be a big hit with celery, pickles, and a tangy dressing.
- Chicken Salad Sandwiches for a Baby Shower. This bacon chicken ranch salad with hard-boiled eggs and toasted almonds will leave your guests drooling. The cream cheese dressing is lick-your-lips good.
RELATED: Looking for ways to serve chicken salad? Get all my creative serving ideas for your party.
Because the salad has perishable ingredients, refrigerate it within 2 hours. Be aware of the time when bringing this salad to a BBQ or a dinner party.
Don’t be afraid to put the salad in the refrigerator when everyone has served themselves. Pull it out again if anyone goes back for seconds. And who wouldn’t?
Another thing to watch out for… If the chicken salad is on bread, the longer it sits out, the mushier the sandwich might get.
This recipe is an excellent one to make ahead. Cook and chill the chicken. Then chop the veggies and store them separately. Mix and refrigerate the dressing.
When you are ready, stir everything together. Five minutes and your meal is on the table.
How to Store Leftovers
This chicken salad recipe feeds around six people. If you wind up with leftovers, the best way to store them is in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Storing the salad in a covered container helps avoid cross-contamination and the growth of harmful bacteria. In the refrigerator, this yummy chicken salad can last about one week.
Can you freeze this chicken salad? I don’t recommend freezing this recipe. The grapes, celery, and mayonnaise won’t defrost well. You will wind up with an unappealing mushy, watery salad without much flavor.
However, some chicken salad recipes will freeze. Find out more about when you can freeze chicken salad.
How Early Can You Make Chicken Salad?
Since this chicken salad recipe is super quick and easy to throw together, it’s ideal for a last-minute lunch or snack. However, you can make it ahead if you follow some steps. Find out all the pro tips in the post on make-ahead chicken salad.
What to Serve With Chicken Salad
- Mandarin orange jello salad with sherbet. Orange jello salad is perfect for summer, perfect for a party.
- Cherry fluff. Try this easy cherry fluff recipe without sweetened condensed milk. You will love it.
Hungry for More Chicken Recipes?
- Creamy white chicken chili with salsa verde. Make an epic white chicken chili with salsa verde recipe for dinner tonight. Salsa verde infuses flavor. Cream cheese adds a velvety texture. Gimme seconds, please.
- Chicken enchiladas with sour cream sauce. Transform dinner when you learn how to make chicken enchiladas with sour cream sauce. Easy 5-minute sour cream sauce will change your life.
- Chicken cobb salad. Ultimate Cobb salad recipe with chicken makes a full meal with greens, protein, vegetables, and a fresh vinaigrette. Cook proteins ahead of time for fast assembly.
- Chicken enchilada lasagna. Do you love chicken enchiladas? Are you craving lasagna? Yes! Then let’s smash the two together and make some magic. A chicken enchiladas lasagna recipe your family will love.
Instant Pot Chicken Salad with Grapes
- 1 pound of boneless skinless chicken breasts
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- 1 cup of seedless red grapes
- 2 to 3 stalks of celery about 1 cup, diced
- ⅓ to ½ cup of red onions diced
- Sandwich bread or croissant rolls
- ⅓ cup of mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
- 1½ tablespoons of Dijon mustard
- 1 to 2 teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Salt to taste (start with ¼ teaspoon)
- Pepper to taste (about ¼ teaspoon)
Chicken Prep Work
- This step is optional, but will make a significant different in the moisture and taste of the cooked chicken. Get in the habit of pre-salting your chicken right after you bring it home from the grocery store. The taste of every chicken recipe will improve with this tip.
- REMOVE the chicken breast packaging and pat the meat dry.
- MEASURE out about ¼ teaspoon of salt into your hand. Sprinkle the salt on both sides of each piece. If you need a pinch more salt, go for it.
- COVER the chicken in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 48 hours. At least 24 hours is ideal.
Cook Chicken in the Instant Pot
- REMOVE the chicken breasts from the fridge 20 to 30 minutes before cooking to bring them to room temperature.
- PUT the trivet in the bottom of the electric pressure cooker and pour in the chicken broth or water.
- PLACE the raw skinless chicken breasts on the trivet. DO NOT SALT.
- CLOSE the Instant Pot and press the pressure cook button. It will take 7 to 8 minutes for the pot to reach full pressure.
- COOK the chicken on high pressure for 5 to 9 minutes, depending on the breast size. The cook time depends on the thickness of the meat. Breasts that are 2 inches thick take about 6 or 7 minutes to cook.
- DO A NATURAL RELEASE. Let the Instant Pot naturally release when the chicken has finished cooking. Stick a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken to check the internal temperature. It should be between 150 to 155°F (65 to 68°C). Let it sit in the pan for 1 to 4 minutes to ensure safe cooking. (See notes on what to do if the chicken temperature is below this range.)
- PULL the chicken out of the pressure cooker and rest it on a cutting board for 5 to 8 minutes. This allows it to reabsorb its moisture and cool down enough to process.
- SHRED the cooked chicken with a blender, stand mixer, or food processor. It is easier to cut the chicken into a couple of pieces for easier processing. Pulse to shred. Alternately, hand-shred it with two forks.
- CHILL the shredded chicken in an airtight container in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour until it is completely cooled.
Prep the Salad
- WASH the red grapes and slice them into quarters or halves. Then wash and chop the celery into small slices.
- DICE the red onion. Keep your grapes, onion, and celery in the fridge until you’re ready to get mixing.
- JUICE the lemon.
- MIX the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Compose the Salad
- TOSS the grapes, onion, celery, and cold shredded chicken into the bowl with the dressing. Taste and add more salt or pepper if needed. You can also throw in some optional fresh herbs. Parsley and a little bit of fresh dill are tasty.
- CHILL the mixed chicken salad for about an hour to allow the flavors to mix and mingle, if you have time. If not, you can eat it right away.
- SERVE the chicken salad as a meal on whole wheat bread (or your favorite gluten-free bread), a croissant, or on a bed of lettuce. Or eat it as a side dish with pita chips.
- Place the chicken back into the pressure cooker and secure the lid. Keep it there for a few minutes (5-10, depending on how low the temperature was). The residual heat from the pan will continue to cook the meat.
- Recheck the temperature. It should now be high enough. I like to aim for 155°F (held for 1 minute). Some people prefer 150°F (held for 4 minutes). Do what you feel comfortable with.
- See the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service's Time Temperature Poultry Chart for exact time and temperature combinations.