This healthy cashew chicken salad with apples is a dairy-free & healthy twist on the classic. Made with wholesome ingredients like chicken breasts, sweet apples, crunchy celery, raw cashews, and a creamy dairy-free dressing.
Whenever I'm in a food rut, I turn to this healthy chicken salad recipe with apples. It's my all-time favorite way to prepare creamy, crunchy, delicious chicken salad! You can enjoy it as a sandwich, on apple slices, on a spring mix as a salad, or as-is with some crackers, fruit, and veggies.
But the star of this dairy-free chicken salad is in the dairy-free dressing. It's made with wholesome ingredients like avocado oil-based mayonnaise, almond milk Greek yogurt, honey, and apple cider vinegar.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- This cashew chicken salad is made with clean, whole ingredients. What makes this salad a healthy chicken salad recipe is that it's dairy-free and gluten-free. Instead of mayonnaise, sour cream, or refined sugar, I use avocado oil-based mayo, almond milk Greek yogurt, and honey.
- It's ideal for meal-prepping ahead of a busy week! Perfect for a quick, nutritious lunch. And it gets better as it sits! Just store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- And it's a dairy-free chicken salad! I used a mix of mayo and almond milk Greek yogurt to keep the dressing creamy, light, and healthy. If you aren't dairy free, you can use regular Greek yogurt.
Ingredient Notes & Substitutions
A complete list of ingredients and amounts can be found in the recipe card below. Here are some specific call-outs, and when needed, some tips on keeping the ingredients clean.
CHICKEN - I typically use cooked and shredded chicken breast. Both shredded or chopped chicken will work.
Clean food tip: Opt for organic chicken if you can. Chicken that’s been certified organic has not been given antibiotics and has been fed organic feed. In addition, I like to look for certifications like “Certified Humane Raised and Handled”, “Global Animal Partnership” or “Animal Welfare Approved.” This ensures quality treatment of the chickens.
APPLE - I prefer using a sweet apple such as honey crisp or pink lady. A granny smith would work too if you'd like a tart apple.
Clean food tip: Because apples show up on the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) dirty dozen list year after year, I recommend organic apples.
CELERY - Clean food tip: Because celery also shows up on the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) dirty dozen list year after year, I recommend organic.
MAYONNAISE - Mayonnaise gets a bad wrap since most of them are made from unhealthy oils and sugar. In order to keep your healthy chicken salad clean, you need to buy the right mayonnaise.
If not one of these, check the ingredient label to make sure the only oil used is avocado oil. Some may say “made with avocado oil”, but they also contain canola or other unhealthy oils.
DAIRY-FREE GREEK YOGURT - I use Kite Hill unsweetened Greek style yogurt (plain/unsweetened) since I limit dairy as much as I can, but you can use regular Greek style yogurt if you're not dairy free (just make sure it’s unsweetened and preferably organic).
HONEY - You can omit if you'd like to keep the salad sugar free.
Clean food tip: Look for raw honey, as it does not go through a lot of processing like regular honey does. This means it retains most of the nutrients and antioxidants that honey is known for.
How to Make It
- Prepare the dressing. Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.
2. To a large bowl, add the shredded chicken, chopped apples, chopped celery, cashews, and prepared dressing.
3. Mix until well-combined and the dressing has coated all of the ingredients.
Now, go ahead and enjoy this healthy cashew chicken salad with apples!
I’ve made it both ways, but I prefer shredded chicken. And the key to the BEST shredded chicken is using a hand-held blender to shred it! Yes, I said a blender. Trust me! If you’ve never shredded your chicken using a blender, then you need to try it!
Using a blender shreds the chicken in an entirely different way, I can’t really explain it. But it keeps the chicken super moist and creates a whole different texture for the chicken (it’s almost “soft”). Sounds weird, but give it a try!
And remember to let your chicken fully cool before shredding or cutting into cubes. And if you do use a hand-held blender to shred it, cut the chicken into smaller pieces first... this just makes it easier to shred.
Absolutely! You can use all white meat, all dark meat, or a mix. One rotisserie chicken is enough for this recipe.
Nope! Keep it easy by leaving the skin on. Plus, they are more nutritious that way and it adds more crunch.
This ultimate healthy chicken salad is great for food prep! Keep it in an air-tight container in the fridge, and it will last for up to 5 days.
The cashews do get a little soft once they have sat in the salad for a day or so. If that bugs you, then add the cashews right before you are going to eat it.
Tips & Tricks
- Add some grapes instead of or in addition to the apples. You can leave them whole, but I like slicing them. Red or green grapes work; just make sure they're seedless!
- Replace the cashews with sliced almonds or chopped pecans.
- Add some fresh herbs like dill, chives, thyme, tarragon, or rosemary.
- You also can’t go wrong serving this cashew chicken salad as a sandwich! Since I am gluten-free, I like making little chicken salad sliders with Simple Mills Artisan Bread mix. You can use this to make buns and it’s perfect for chicken salad sliders!
More Healthy Salad Recipes
If you make this recipe, please let me know what you think! I would so appreciate you leaving a star rating and/or comment below. And don't forget to share a photo on Instagram or Facebook and mention @CleanPlateMama!
Eat Clean.Be Healthy!
Healthy Cashew Chicken Salad (dairy free)
Cashew Chicken Salad Ingredients
- 2 lbs. cooked and shredded chicken
- 1 apple chopped (I prefer a sweet apple)
- 1 cup chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
- ½ cup raw cashews (sliced or whole)
- ½ cup mayonnaise (see notes)
- ½ cup non-dairy Greek yogurt (see notes)
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp honey (optional)
- 1 tsp. ground mustard
- ½ tsp. fine sea salt (more to taste)
- ¼ tsp. ground pepper
- First, prepare the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients.
- To a large bowl, add the chicken, chopped apples, chopped celery, cashews, and prepared dressing. Mix until all ingredients are evenly coated in the dressing.
- You can eat right away, or it's even better if allowed to sit covered in the fridge for 1-2 hours before eating.
- Serve over a bed of spinach or in a sandwich. Try adding avocado, green onions, and/or tomatoes as additional toppings!
- For the mayonnaise, look for avocado oil mayonnaise (Primal Kitchen makes a great one). Most mayonnaise contains unhealthy oils and other ingredients. The key to keeping this dressing clean is all in the dressing/mayonnaise.
- I use Kite Hill almond milk Greek yogurt since I'm mostly dairy-free, but any Greek yogurt will work. Just make sure it's unsweetened and if made from cow's milk, preferably organic.
- The honey in the dressing is completely optional. It adds a slight sweetness, but I've made it without the honey before and it's great without as well!
- Shredded chicken breast, diced chicken breast, or pulled rotisserie chicken will all work.
- Salad will stay well stored in the fridge for up to 5 days.