Salad

Homestyle Willow Tree Chicken Salad Recipe: Easy, Quick, and Tasty

willow tree chicken salad recipe

Last updated on February 19th, 2024 at 01:58 pm

This willow tree chicken salad recipe is super easy to make with chicken breast, mayonnaise, onion, and sugar. It takes only 15 minutes to prepare.

The willow tree chicken salad recipe produces a beloved fan favorite which is light and delicious, this chicken salad is a go-to crowd-pleaser. first discovered Willow Tree Farm’s famous chicken salad when visiting New England, and I became obsessed with recreating the flavors back home. After much trial and error, I finally cracked the code to make a spot-on copycat.

Willow Tree Farm is a renowned New England-area food company and poultry farm known for standout menu items like chicken salad and pot pies. You can even buy their products in grocery store chains along the entire East Coast.

It took testing various ingredient ratios and seasonings to mimic the willow tree chicken salad recipe. Now I’m thrilled to share the secret formula, including the special ingredient that makes all the difference in getting the texture and flavor just right. Keep reading to learn how you can recreate this cult-favorite chicken salad!

How to Cook Willow Tree Chicken Salad

willow tree chicken salad recipe

Essential Equipment

Recreating this beloved willow tree chicken salad recipe at home calls for minimal kitchen tools. Here is the essential equipment for flawless execution:

For Cooking Chicken

  • Pot or pan: Use a medium pot for poaching chicken or a baking sheet for roasting
  • Strainer or slotted spoon: To drain poached chicken after cooking

For Chopping and Mixing

  • Sharp chef’s knife and sturdy cutting board: Essential for safely and efficiently shredding chicken and chopping veggies
  • Large and small mixing bowls: One bowl to combine everything, another to make the dressing

Optional Time-Saving Equipment

  • Food processor: Effortlessly shreds chicken instead of hand mixing (avoid over-processing)
  • Hand mixer: Whips up the dressing fast but a whisk works too
  • Rubber spatula: Helps incorporate all ingredients smoothly

The secrets to that iconic Willow Tree Chicken Salad lie within your pantry. We will discuss the recipe below:

What you’ll Need

  • 1 pound poached chicken breast
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced celery
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

Step By Step Directions With Photography

Follow these simple steps to recreate the acclaimed Willow Tree chicken salad right in your own kitchen:

Step 1: Shred Chicken

  • Place poached, cooled chicken breasts into a stand mixer bowl
  • Using a paddle attachment, blend on medium speed until chicken is shredded into fine pieces, about 2 minutes
  • Can also shred chicken by hand with two forks
  • Shredding rather than dicing creates the authentic willow tree texture

Step 2: Add Remaining Ingredients

  • Transfer shredded chicken back to a large mixing bowl
  • Incorporate chopped celery, sweetened dried cranberries, mayonnaise, lemon juice, celery salt, black pepper, and parsley
  • Stir thoroughly by hand until everything is evenly mixed

Step 3: Plate and Serve

  • Scoop chicken salad over crisp lettuce leaves
  • Or serve between slices of bread or tucked into rolls for tasty sandwiches
  • Garnish with extra parsley before serving if desired

Poached Chicken for Chicken Salad

To recreate the willow tree chicken salad recipe, we first need to cook up some perfectly poached chicken. Poaching produces extremely moist, tender chicken – ideal for chicken salad. This easy poached chicken recipe requires a few ingredients: chicken breasts or thighs, aromatics like garlic and thyme, and some salt for seasoning. Simply simmer the chicken gently in lightly salted liquid along with the aromatics until just cooked through.

Ingredients for Poached Chicken

  • 1 1⁄2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast or thighs
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 shallot, peeled and quartered
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 5 to 6 cups water or chicken broth
  • Optional garnishes: cracked pepper, lemon, herbs, olive oil

Directions for Poached Chicken

Step 1: Add chicken, garlic, shallot, bay leaf, thyme, and salt to a medium pot. Cover with the water or broth by 1-2 inches.

Step 2: Place the pot over medium heat. Heat until the liquid reaches a gentle simmer.

Step 3: Once simmering, reduce heat to low. Cook until chicken registers 165°F internally and juices run clear, 10-15 minutes.

Step 4: Transfer the chicken to a cutting board to cool. Slice or shred the chicken before mixing it into the chicken salad recipe.

Pro Tips for Willow Tree Chicken Salad Recipe

Take your homemade willow tree chicken salad to the next level with these expert recommendations:

Start with Quality Chicken

  • Use fresh, flavorful chicken breasts and gently roast or poach
  • Shred the chicken by hand after cooking for authentic texture
  • Machine-shredding makes the chicken salad dry

Add Just a Touch of Sweetness

  • Light brown sugar contributes subtle sweetness
  • Start with 1 tablespoon then adjust to taste

Finely Chop the Veggies

  • Dice celery and onions super finely, smaller than a grain of rice
  • Provides freshness and crunch that balances the creamy dressing

Splurge on Mayo

  • Use a high-quality mayo you love as the base
  • Richness pairs beautifully with chicken and seasonings
  • Start with 3⁄4 cup mayo first

Sprinkle in Garlic Powder

  • Just 1⁄8 teaspoon adds savory depth
  • Amplifies overall chicken salad flavor

Let Flavors Blend

  • Gently mix everything
  • Chill for 1+ hour so ingredients marry perfectly

Conclusion

Recreating the legendary willow tree chicken salad recipe from my New England travels became a personal quest of mine. The key is using high-quality ingredients like poached chicken, brown sugar for subtle sweetness, finely diced crunchy veggies, rich mayonnaise, and a secret dash of garlic powder to amplify the flavors.

With step-by-step poaching instructions, essential equipment guidelines, pro tips for nailing texture and taste, plus handy FAQs, you now have an arsenal of information to recreate willow tree chicken salad success at home. Getting every component just right and letting the flavors mingle during an overnight chill are vital finishing touches.

I hope my tips and tricks for producing the perfect copycat willow tree chicken salad inspire you to give this rewarding recipe a try. This fan-favorite blend is too good not to share!

FAQs about Willow Tree Chicken Salad Recipe

Q. What type of chicken should be used?

Ans: Use fresh, boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Poaching or roasting keeps the meat moist and flavorful. Avoid pre-cooked chicken.

How important is the brown sugar?

Ans: Very! Light brown sugar provides signature sweetness. Start with 1 tablespoon then adjust to taste preferences.

Q. How small should the veggies be chopped?

Ans: Chop the celery and onions rice-sized for even pieces that add freshness without overpowering.

Q. Can low-fat mayonnaise be substituted?

Ans: Full-fat mayo is best for an authentic rich texture, but you can experiment. Just adjust seasonings as needed.

Q. Is garlic powder necessary?

Ans: Yes! Just 1⁄8 teaspoon boosts savory depth and rounds out the salad’s flavors.

Q. How long should the salad chill?

Ans: At least 1 hour for flavors to meld properly and achieve ideal creaminess.

Q. Can nuts be toasted for crunch?

Ans: Yes, chopped toasted walnuts or pecans make a nice textural contrast.

Q. What substitutes work for brown sugar?

Ans: Honey, maple syrup, or molasses can be in but adjust amounts carefully to prevent excess sweetness.

Q. Can celery or onions be skipped?

Ans: They’re integral to the classic flavor but adjust to your tastes, keeping in mind it will change the balance.

Willow Tree Chicken Salad Recipe

Willow Tree Chicken Salad Recipe

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 300 kcal

Equipment

  • Food processor
  • Hand mixer
  • Rubber Spatula

Ingredients
  

  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast or thighs
  • 3 garlic cloves smashed
  • 1 shallot peeled and quartered
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 5 to 6 cups water or chicken broth
  • Optional garnishes: cracked pepper lemon, herbs, olive oil

Instructions
 

  • Place poached, cooled chicken breasts into a stand mixer bowl
  • Using a paddle attachment, blend on medium speed until chicken is shredded into fine pieces, about 2 minutes
  • Can also shred chicken by hand with two forks
  • Shredding rather than dicing creates the authentic willow tree texture
  • Transfer shredded chicken back to a large mixing bowl
  • Incorporate chopped celery, sweetened dried cranberries, mayonnaise, lemon juice, celery salt, black pepper, and parsley
  • Stir thoroughly by hand until everything is evenly mixed
  • Scoop chicken salad over crisp lettuce leaves
  • Or serve between slices of bread or tucked into rolls for tasty sandwiches
  • Garnish with extra parsley before serving if desired
Keyword Willow Tree Chicken Salad Recipe

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