So it’s Souptember, but what goes better with soup than a sandwich?
One of my favorite things about Jason’s Deli (besides the salad bar and the fact that they’re über allergy-friendly) is the sweet and crunchy pineapple almond chicken salad spread. What I order 9 times out of 10: chicken salad sandwich, salad bar + a scoop of chicken salad, half chicken salad sandwich + a cup of tortilla soup. Notice a trend? Yes, I go through the motions of looking through the gluten-free menu but more often than not I get the chicken salad. And if I order turkey instead? I usually say to hubby about half-way through the meal “I should have gotten the chicken salad.”
So it should come as no surprise that I have upon numerous occasions tried to recreate the delectable pineapple almond chicken salad at home. And by golly, I think I’ve finally got it. Without doing a side-by-side taste test, it’s impossible to say if they’re identical twins, but I feel confident in saying that they could definitely be cousins. Dare I say that I even like my version a little bit better? (Note that Jason’s Deli chicken salad does not contain onions, celery, or parsley. I’ve added them to my version to improve upon the classic and make it more to my tastes. I’ve you’re looking for an exact replica or don’t like those ingredients, you’ll want to leave them out.)
So do you want the recipe? Of course you do, that’s why you’re here!
Pineapple Almond Chicken Salad
Yields: 6-8 servings-- depending on how willing you are to share!
Sweet and tangy Pineapple Almond Chicken Salad, in the style of Jason’s Deli.
Pile it on a sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes and thinly sliced red onions, serve on crackers or a green salad platter with sliced apples, (Yum!) or open-faced style with toasted bread and a fork, which is my preferred way to enjoy it.
1 cup shredded cooked chicken (I pack my cup pretty densely)
20 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained, but keep that juice-- we're gonna use it!
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery (this is about 3 ribs)
2/3 cup slivered almonds
2 tablespoons finely minced red onion
scant 1/2 cup mayo
1/4 teaspoon salt, more or less to taste
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
3-4 tablespoons pineapple juice
finely minced parsley for garnish, completely optional
If you haven't already shredded your chicken, do that now. You can use white meat, dark meat, or a mixture of both. Leftover rotisserie chicken is perfect for this. (I used chicken leftover from the batch of stock I made earlier this week.)
Drain the pineapple but keep the juice. I use a spoon to gently press the excess juice from the crushed pineapple. You don't want to wring it dry but you also don't want a lot of excess moisture. We'll add it back in later so we get just the right amount. The amount of pineapple that the 20 ounce can yields is about 1 dense cup.
Cut your celery. I've mentioned before that I like to gently run my vegetable peeler over the outer curve of the celery to remove the tough stringy parts. (You only want to take off a paper-thin amount-- maybe more like card stock.) Then cut the celery in half lengthwise and cut into thin slices. (I do a little slimmer than 1/4 inch so they are thin but still have some crunch.)
Add the celery, pineapple, onions and slivered almonds to a medium-size mixing bowl. It's really important that you use slivered almonds here and not sliced almonds. Slivered almonds will retain their crispness but sliced almonds will not. And you want that crunch! If you can't find them in the snack nuts section of your grocery store, you may be able to find them in the baking section where they have the specialty cuts. (I usually get mine at Trader Joe's.) Stir everything together until combined.
Add the chicken to the bowl with the celery, pineapple, and slivered almonds and give it another stir before adding the mayo, salt, and pepper.
Add the mayo-- I use a little bit less than 1/2 cup. (You can always add a bit more later if you need.) Add the salt and white pepper and stir really well to combine.
The chicken salad should be really thick at this point. Add about 3-4 tablespoons of the reserved pineapple juice, one at a time, and stir in between each addition until you get the desired consistency and sweetness. I usually start with 3 tablespoons and then let it sit in the fridge for an hour and then add another one after some of the moisture has been absorbed. (Just keep the pineapple juice in the fridge in a small container and add more if/when you need it.)
Garnish with a pinch or two of fresh parsley, if desired, and enjoy!
The chicken salad is best after sitting and allowing the flavors to develop for 2-3 hours, but you can enjoy it right away if you must!