Despite the invention of mayonnaise in 1756, it would be more than 100 years before chicken salad debuted on American menus. Many trace the origins of chicken salad to the 19th century when Liam Gray, the founder of Town Meats in Rhode Island, created the first known chicken salad in the U.S. His simple mixture combined leftover chicken with mayo, grapes, and tarragon. The popularity of this concoction was such that today we find chicken salad on the menus of diners, fine dining restaurants, and fast-casual chains.
The versatile, mayo-based salad can be eaten on its own as a meal or snack or served in a sandwich. Additionally, many people serve it as an accompaniment at a barbecue or as a dip for veggies and chips. One thing's for sure—the possibilities are endless. Best of all, with so many unique takes on the dish, there's a winning combo of ingredients out there to please every palate.
So where can one go when the craving for chicken salad hits? Stop by one of these eight chains to satisfy that itch.
Au Bon Pain: Chicken Salad Scoop
With nearly 200 locations around the country, Au Bon Pain corners the market on fast-casual bakery and café offerings. Among those is the chicken salad scoop (you can also enjoy the chicken salad in its original chicken salad sandwich). Au Bon Pain's version of chicken salad is made with chicken, cranberries, and toasted almonds—all mixed with mayo. The scoop is served with grape tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette atop field greens.
Honey Baked Ham Company: Chicken Salad
This family-owned chain first started as a ham retailer and has grown to include sit-down cafés that serve up—you guessed it—chicken salad. At Honey Baked Ham, you can order it on its own, or try it in the chicken salad sandwich, in which freshly made salad sits between a croissant with lettuce and tomato. This sandwich is so popular that it inspired an entire article in a local Louisiana newspaper that extols the "chicken salad sandwich you'll be telling all your coworkers about when you get back to the office. … Traditional yet experimental, it has a good chance of getting added to your shortlist of go-to lunch meals."
Chicken Salad Chick: Classic Carol
When a restaurant calls itself Chicken Salad Chick, you know you'll face an array of chicken salad options on the menu. The chain has a whopping 12 varieties of chicken salads on its menu. The Classic Carol version is as basic as it gets here, made with all-white meat, shredded chicken, finely minced celery, mayonnaise, and secret seasoning. Other options range from spicy to savory to fruity and nutty—the world is your oyster.
Panera Bread: Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich
Panera Bread offers customers a signature chicken salad in its Napa almond chicken salad sandwich. The salad itself features chicken raised without antibiotics mixed with a special dressing, diced celery, toasted almonds, and sliced red grapes. The chicken salad is paired with tomatoes and mixed greens on the chain's addictive country rustic sourdough bread.
Pret a Manger: Chicken Salad & Avo Sandwich
Similar to Panera, Pret a Manger allows consumers to sample its chicken salad in sandwich form. Placed atop multigrain bread with sliced avocado and mesclun greens, Pret's chicken salad consists of antibiotic-free grilled chicken, cage-free mayonnaise, sliced almonds, dried cranberries, and whole grain mustard-mayo.
Arby's: Pecan Chicken Salad Sandwich
Although Arby's pecan chicken salad sandwich has limited availability at select restaurant locations, it's a fan favorite. A simple Google search brings up countless copycat recipes trying to recreate the delicious fast-food chain's popular menu item. Included in Arby's chicken salad is, of course, diced chicken, along with pecans, apples, celery, and red grapes, which bring plenty of texture and flavor to the sandwich.
Forty Carrots: Sonoma Chicken Salad
This café—which serves frozen yogurt, sandwiches, and salads—is a hidden gem within Bloomingdale's locations across the U.S. At Forty Carrots, you can snack on the chain's Sonoma chicken salad sandwich before you feast on its famous frozen yogurt. Forty Carrots' chicken salad is comprised of chicken breast, light mayo, celery, raisins, grapes, and cashews. Diners can select their choice of bread to go with it. There's no better fuel after a long day of shopping.
Jason's Deli: Chicken Salad with Almonds & Pineapple
This health-conscious deli chain has more than 250 locations around the country. Jason's Deli prides itself on its wholesome ingredients, free from processed MSG, artificial trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, dyes, and artificial colors and flavors. Included in that lineup is the chain's chicken salad, made with almonds and pineapple—a flavor innovation. Customers can order it as is, or build their sandwich with the protein. Jason's Deli also offers its famous chicken salad in one of its specialty sandwiches, Shelley's Deli Chick. In addition to chicken salad, this sandwich combines lettuce and tomato on a toasted croissant.