New York Deli Chicken Salad combines chunks of white meat chicken, celery, and onion, in a creamy cohesive mixture. It’s great on sandwiches, on top of green salads, or eaten by itself straight out of a deli container!

New York deli chicken salad on kaiser roll.

Having worked in several New York delis I’ve tasted lots of chicken salad over the years, some with additions like dried cranberries and nuts, honey mustard chicken salad, and Waldorf chicken salad with grapes.

And while they’re all great, I think the classic is the best!

This version is the chicken salad you’d find if you walked into any deli in the New York metro area.

It’s great on a toasted bread or a deli roll with lettuce, but also great for chicken salad melts with American or Swiss, and tomato. An addition of bacon isn’t too bad either (I also add bacon to my egg salad sandwiches)!

Recipe Ingredients

All ingredients for this recipe are shown in the pic below and special notes are made in this bulleted list to assist you.

Ingredients shown: chicken breasts, celery, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, onion, salt, sugar, pepper, garlic powder, and chicken base.
  • Chicken breasts. Use whole boneless chicken breasts.
  • Mayonnaise. New York delis use a thicker Hellman’s or generic restaurant suppy store mayo. These thicker mayos (decorator mayo) is what’s typically used, but you can 100% get away with using supermarket Hellmans instead. If you want the full NY deli experience and taste, use these over Miracle Whip, Duke’s, or any other mayo.
  • White pepper. Delis often use white pepper for their salads for appearance. You can also use black pepper.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

How to make it

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.

  1. Finely dice 1/4 cup worth of onion and place in a bowl with cold water and set aside. Dice 1/2 cup of celery and set aside. Fill a large sauce pan or pot with enough water to completely submerge your chicken by at least 3 inches, and 2 tablespoons of low-sodium chicken base and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add 3 large chicken breasts and bring the water back up to boil and cover. Once boiling, remove the pot from the heat and set aside, covered, for at least 20 minutes. (Photo #1)
New York deli chicken recipe process shot collage group one showing poaching of chicken breasts and removing onto cutting board.
  1. Once the chicken breasts have poached in the hot water for 20+ minutes, remove them from the pan and place on a cutting board and chop into chunks. (Photo #2)
  2. Spread the chicken chunks out onto the cutting board and pat excess water away with paper towels if necessary. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of granulated garlic, 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper. Do this while the chicken is warm for maximum flavor absorbtion. Allow the chicken to cool before moving on to the next step. (Photo #3)
Recipe collage two showing seasoning choppe chicken on cutting board, and mixing in mayonnaise, celery, and seasonings in large bowl.
  1. Drain the onions and place in a large bowl along with the celery, the cooled chicken, 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard, and 1 cup of mayonnaise and mix to combine. Taste test and adjust salt and pepper as needed. It’s highly recommend to cover the chicken salad and place in the refrigerator overnight, then drain any excess liquid the following day. Add a bit more mayo (up to about a 1/2 cup) on day 2 as needed. Serve on sandwiches, on top of salads, or by itself and enjoy! (Photo #4)

Top tips

  • Sugar. You may be surprised, but delis do add sugar to their salads. It contributes to the classic New York deli salad flavor and you’ll find it in all my deli-style salad recipes, such as NY deli potato salad. If you want to skip the sugar, you can, but you may be missing out on that deli flavor.
  • Seasoning the chicken. Once the chicken has been poached and chopped, it’s important to season it while it is still warm. This helps with flavor absorption.
  • Let it sit. I highly recommend letting your chicken salad sit overnight before eating. Not only will the flavor be better, but you’ll be able to drain excess water which will yield a drier, deli-style chicken salad. I use the same method for my New York deli style tuna salad recipe. Feel free to use your clean hands (or wear kitchen gloves), to mash the chicken salad further and break up the chunks, if desired. You will most likely need to add more mayo on day 2.

New York deli chicken salad in deli container.

More New York deli recipes

If you can’t get enough of that quintessential deli taste, try these awesome recipes!

If you’ve enjoyed this New York Deli Style Chicken Salad Recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and let us know in the comments below.

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New York Deli Chicken Salad

5 from 20 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings: 4
This classic New York deli style chicken salad is easy to make and perfect on sandwiches, with greens, or by itself!


  • 3 large chicken breasts about 1 1/2-2 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons Better than Bouillon chicken base
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar plus more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup mayonnaise


  • Soak the diced onion in water. Drain the onions before mixing the chicken salad in step 5 below.
  • Heat a large saucepan or pot of water with the chicken base so that the chicken breasts will be submerged by at least 3 inches of water.
  • Once boiling, add the chicken breasts and cover. Bring back to a boil and once boiling, remove the pot from the heat and set aside for at least 20 minutes.
  • Chop the chicken breasts into chunks and spread out on a cutting board to cool. Sprinkle the pepper, salt, granulated garlic, and sugar on top of the chicken pieces so that it absorbs all of the flavor.
  • Once the chicken is cool, add it to a large bowl along with the celery, drained onion, mustard, and mayonnaise. Taste test and season with more salt and pepper if required.
  • It is highly recommended to cover and refrigerate the chicken salad overnight. The next day, any excess liquid should be drained, and a bit more mayo can be mixed in before serving. Enjoy!


  • It is highly recommended to refrigerate overnight.  The flavor will be far better and the chicken salad can be thoroughly drained to remove excess water.
  • Leftovers can be saved in the fridge for up to 3 days.


Calories: 513kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 61.2g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 5.5g | Cholesterol: 193mg | Sodium: 967mg | Potassium: 556mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 5.1g | Calcium: 43mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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5 from 20 votes

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  1. Kathy Holley says:

    5 stars
    Best chicken salad. I love this method of cooking the chicken. It was as moist and tender as rotisserie chicken.

    1. Tara says:

      We’re so happy you enjoyed it, Kathy!