Make-Ahead Chicken Salad

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This Make-Ahead Chicken Salad, with grapes, crunchy celery, and a classic mayonnaise dressing, is a must-try meal for the entire family that tastes even better after a night in the fridge. 

picture of a bowl of chicken salad mix, with a bowl of grapes, croissants, and fresh parsley in the background.

❤️ Why You’ll Love This Recipe: Part of our 3-for-1 meals series, these simple, old-fashioned sandwiches are perfect to make ahead, and they make way less than traditional chicken salad sandwich recipes.

Making diced chicken in the Instant Pot ahead of time has completely changed the way I plan for busy weeks.

With these chicken salad sandwiches, using a small portion of chicken means you can cook and serve this meal without needing to feed a crowd! And you can customize this chicken salad recipe with your favorite flavors and mix-ins.

With this Instant Pot chicken recipe, you can also turn the cooked chicken into cheesy stacked chicken enchiladas or teriyaki chicken bowls.

About 3-for-1 Meal Prepping

With one prep + cook day, I can prepare chicken for multiple meals at once. Then I chop up the different mix-ins for the meals so I get three meals for just slightly more prep than one. 

Each of these meals makes 4 to 6 servings. In my house, each of these recipes are the perfect amount to feed two adults and three children with no leftovers.

Ingredients for Instant Pot chicken salad sandwiches including croissants, mayonnaise, pecans, celery, grapes, green onions, salt, pepper, lemons, and diced chicken.


Grab these ingredients for your make-ahead chicken salad:

  • Cooked chicken, diced or shredded. You can cook the chicken according to our Three-Meals-in-One Chicken recipe, or you can . 
  • Celery. For some crunch. 
  • Mayo and sour cream. Together, these make a chicken salad dressing that’s perfectly creamy and tangy. 
  • Lemon juice. Just a squeeze of fresh juice adds some brightness to this chicken salad. 
  • Green onion. This adds a little extra crunch and flavor. 
  • Pecans. Toasted pecans are a little more flavorful, so buy them roasted. If you’d rather, you can quickly toast them in a skillet on the stove. 
  • Croissants. I love serving this chicken salad on mini croissants for a restaurant-quality touch. 

How to Make Chicken Salad in an Instant Pot

This easy recipe will work in any brand of electric pressure cooker, including the Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi, or Power Pressure Cooker XL.

Start with one portion of the chicken you prepped in the Make-Ahead Diced Chicken post. (Or you can use about 2 cups of cooked chicken, diced or shredded.)

Remember that chicken salad tastes best when allowed time to chill. I prefer to make it the night before.

To prepare the chicken salad sandwiches, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the cooked and cooled chicken, sliced grapes, celery, and green onions, and toss to coat everything in the dressing. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.

Just before serving your sandwiches, stir the toasted pecans into the chicken salad mixture. Then scoop the heaping spoonfuls onto toasted sandwich rolls, croissants, or large lettuce leaves for a lettuce wrap. Enjoy!

Overhead picture of a bowl of chicken salad mix, with a bowl of grapes, croissants, and fresh parsley in the background.
Classic Chicken Salad

Important Tips for Making Instant Pot Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when making this recipe:

  • If you have a chicken salad recipe you really like, feel free to adjust it to your family’s seasonings. Just make sure that you adjust it for about 2 cups of diced chicken. 
  • Feel free to sub Miracle Whip for mayo if your family prefers. 
  • We prefer to quarter the grapes vertically (since I have grade schoolers, we call those “hot-dog-style” cuts around here). But you could also slice in half and call it good.
Instant Pot chicken salad sandwiches served on croissants and placed on a white plate with parsley and grapes.

Frequently Asked Questions about Instant Pot Chicken Salad

❓How can I serve chicken salad?

The classic way is on toasted bread. We like croissants for a fancy touch and the buttery, flaky texture.

You could also serve this as a salad on a bed of greens, with your favorite crackers, or on large lettuce leaves to make a wrap. 

❓Is there a substitute for grapes?

If you don’t have grapes, you can still add some sweetness to your salad with diced apples or pears, dried cherries or cranberries, or raisins. 

❓Is there a substitute for pecans?

Yes, you can use walnuts or almonds instead of pecans. If you’re nut-free, you could use pumpkin seeds. 

More 3-for-1 Meal-Prep Recipes

Usually when I make these meals together, I’ll cook the diced chicken and serve the Chicken Teriyaki bowls on the first day. Then I’ll mix together the ingredients for the classic chicken salad and refrigerate to allow the flavors to meld.

Instant Pot Meal Prep: Diced Chicken

Stacked Chicken Enchiladas

Classic Chicken Salad

A chicken salad sandwich served on croissant and place on a white plate in front of an Instant Pot.

MORE Instant Pot Lunch Recipes

Looking for more easy lunch ideas? Try these Instant Pot favorites:

Do you LOVE this recipe?
Leave us a review below to tell us why!

Instant Pot chicken salad sandwiches served on croissants and placed on a white plate with parsley and grapes.

Chicken Salad Sandwiches | 3-for-1 Recipe

Servings: 6 small sandwiches
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 minute
Additional Time: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 11 minutes
Course: Chicken
Cuisine: American
These Chicken Salad Sandwiches are packed with flavor and texture from pecans, grapes, and crunchy fresh celery—best of all, they start with cooked chicken that you previously cooked in your Instant Pot.
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  • 1 portion cooked cubed chicken about 2 cups
  • 1/2 cup quartered grapes sliced vertically
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sliced green onion white and green parts
  • 1/4 tablespoons chopped toasted pecans
  • 6 sandwich rolls or mini croissants halved and toasted


  • In a large bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Add the cooked chicken, grapes, celery, and green onion, and gently toss to combine. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.
  • Just before serving, stir in the toasted pecans. Scoop the chicken salad mixture on toasted sandwich rolls or croissants. For a lower carb option, you can serve this as a lettuce wrap.


*Not counting chill time, it was 5 to 10 minutes to chop everything. We like the flavor best when it chills overnight. 
**My family really likes it on toasted croissants, which adds another few minutes to the total time.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 258kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 13mg | Sodium: 565mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g


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originally published December 17, 2022 — last updated June 1, 2024
Categories: Chicken