At least that’s what both of my sisters said last week when I had them sample it.
I first whipped up this interesting little gem of a recipe back in February, when we had just begun the modified elimination diet before going to see Dr. Vikki Petersen. I think the hardest foods to give up for the modified elimination diet were citrus and vinegar because that meant no condiments. No ketchup, no mustard, no salad dressing and no mayo. How in the world do you make chicken salad without mayo?
The inspiration for this sauce came from a recipe I made out of Shauna and Danny Ahern’s cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story with 100 Tempting Recipes called Seared Shrimp with Garlic Almond Sauce, you can see a picture of it in this post.
I first tried to make chicken salad with the Garlic Almond Sauce, but it just wasn’t “right” for chicken salad. After some experimentation, I finally landed on using macadamia nuts, with their light and buttery flavor. It worked so well that I felt as though I had struck gold (literally, the sauce is a beautiful golden color!).
But first, I want to tell you about some of the health benefits of this salad.
Did you know that macadamia nuts are a not only a good source of magnesium and potassium, but they’re also packed with copper, iron, vitamin B3, phosphorous, vitamin B1, zinc and vitamin E? Macadamia nuts also provide monounsaturated fat and arginine, an essential amino acid. Some studies have even shown that macadamia nuts aid in lowering LDL cholesterol levels.
Macadamia nut oil provides other significant health benefits. While olive and canola oil are the most common monounsaturated oils to use in cooking, macadamia nut oil is superior to cook with because of its lower level of polyunsaturated fat (3% for macadamia nut oil versus 8% for olive oil and 23% for canola oil). As a result, while olive oil and canola oil can form lipid peroxides at relatively low cooking temperatures, macadamia nut oil is stable at much higher temperatures (over two times more stable than olive oil and four times more stable than canola). Macadamia oil, like olive oil, is also very high in natural antioxidants. In fact, it contains more than 4.5 times the amount of vitamin E as olive oil. To read more about the macadamia nut’s amazing health benefits, check out this article.
Another ingredient I add to my chicken salad are Eden Food’s Dried Montmorency Tart Cherries, which are not sweetened with cane sugar. Now, I like tart foods in general (I love to eat raw rhubarb..no added sugar, LOL!), but there is something very special about Montmorency Tart Cherries!
Cherries, in general, are rich sources of flavonoids, specifically anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins, the molecules that give this fruit its deep red-blue color. In general, the darker the cherry, whether sweet or sour, the better it is for you because it contains a higher concentration of flavonoids. The flavonoids exert a number of beneficial effects. Did you know that cherries are natural COX-1 and COX-2 inhibitors (to read more about this, click here). The COX-inhibitory activities of cherries have been found to be comparable to those of NSAIDS (like ibuprofen), and the best part, cherries do not come with serious side effects! Hungry for more information on tart cherries? Check out these articles:
My chicken salad also contains garlic and scallions, which are some of the sulfur-rich foods that contain flavonoids which stimulate glutathione production. To learn more about glutathione, check out Dr. Mark Hyman’s excellent article, Glutathione: The Mother of all Antioxidants.
Mayo-Free Chicken Salad (corn free, dairy/casein free, egg free, soy free, vinegar free, citrus free)
5 Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breasts, baked or grilled (I’ve been grilling my chicken lately, using Stubb’s 100% All Natural Texas Roadhouse Wood Chips and the smokiness adds an additional layer of flavor that is wonderful).
1/2 cup Scallions, diced
Macadamia Nut Dressing (see recipe below)
- Shred chicken breasts (or chop into cubes), place in a large bowl.
- Add macadamia nut dressing, toss to combine. I recommend adding about half of the dressing, then taste to see if the salad is moist enough for your taste (I typically use 2/3 of the dressing).
- Add Dried Cherries and Scallions, mix to combine. Add more dressing if needed.
Macadamia Nut Dressing
1 cup Macadamia Nuts
2 Garlic Cloves
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
2/3 cup. Olive Oil
- Add macadamia nuts, garlic cloves and salt to a blender* (see notes), blend until the nuts and garlic are finely chopped.
- Slowly add all of the olive oil and continue to blend until the sauce is completely smooth and velvety.
I’ve only made this in my Vitamix, but it might work in a regular blender (or a food processor) too. Just make sure to pulverize the nuts as much as possible. Mincing the garlic beforehand, may also be helpful.
I make a TON of this salad and Mike and I each grab a bowl for lunch on most days (we like it that much). It’s a great salad to make a large batch of on Sundays, that way you can just grab some to pack in a lunchbox or simply snack on (really, it’s addictive). I made a large batch and took it to California with us back in February and it was an absolute godsend, since we couldn’t go to any restaurants.
My sisters asked for a photo tutorial since they each have a brand new Vitamix and aren’t quite sure how to use it yet, LOL!
5 Grilled or Baked Chicken Breasts.
I like to shred the chicken (but you could also cube it), set aside.
Lastly, I would like to share and encourage you to read one of the most wonderful blog posts I’ve read in a long time. It’s on a very important topic for those in the gluten free community; the topic of mourning a lifestyle gone by, stage one on the journey to embracing a new lifestyle and the newfound health and joy that comes with it.
My very dear friend (and gluten free super hero), Shirley Braden of Gluten Free Easily has written a post that I have long wanted to write, but somehow the words wouldn’t come. If you have ever felt the transition to a gluten free life is something akin to the Five Stages of Grief, this is EXACTLY the article you need to read: Grieving Gluten: The Five Stages of Loss of Gluten Plus a New One.
I am very happy to say that after a few years of conflicting emotions and many episodes of deep anguish (plus a boatload of d.e.n.i.a.l. and a thousand hours on my shrink’s couch), I am now LOVING my gluten free life…and I would not give it up for anything.
(And no, I’m not lying).
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