The Possible Origins Of Chicken Salad With Grapes

We love chicken salad for its succulent poultry, creamy mayo, crunchy celery, and tangy lemon juice — but without a sweet element, the delicate balance of flavors here would be completely thrown off. Nowadays, we add all kinds of sugary ingredients into our recipes to give us those subtly sweet notes, from diced apples to dried cranberries to quartered grapes. But the latter was the ingredient used in one of the original versions of chicken salad, which was whipped up all the way back in 1863.

The legend goes that a man named Liam Gray created the recipe by stirring his poultry leftovers together with mayo, grapes, and tarragon. He owned a meat shop in Wakefield, Rhode Island, through which he introduced his invention to customers and allowed its popularity to blossom. As his shop quickly turned into a deli, Gray expanded his offerings to include chicken salad stuffed into sandwiches as well. While this story may be the jumping-off point of this dish's notoriety in the United States, it's worth noting that people in China were making different versions, involving poultry combined with a spiced dressing, long beforehand. Plus, there's a record of an 1845 recipe that mixes cooked chicken with celery, hard-boiled egg yolks, and dressing. However, it's possible that Gray was the first to have the ingenuity to include grapes.

Chicken salad doesn't have to include grapes, but it should

By now, there are quite a few different iterations of chicken salad out there. Part of the beauty of this dish is that it's customizable — not only can you swap out the fruit with other sweet elements, as we mentioned, but you can sub in Greek yogurt or avocado for mayo, add curry powder or Everything but the Bagel Seasoning, or incorporate ingredients like blue cheese and chopped pickles. You may see brands for which chicken salad is a key offering that helped increase popularity, like Willow Tree, who debuted its recipe in 1974. Or, you may find whole establishments devoted to the dish, such as Chicken Salad Chick, that began in 2007 and now has over 225 franchises. The latter's Fancy Nancy and Fruity Fran flavors include seedless grapes along with Fuji apples.

While you don't have to incorporate grapes to make your dish a true chicken salad, there are plenty of reasons to do so. Amidst tender, creamy, and crunchy ingredients, quartered grapes provide the perfect burst of juicy sweetness in your mouth that you just can't get from, say, dried cranberries. Plus, these fruits make your dish feel a little fancier, almost reminiscent of a Waldorf salad. And whether you're downing your chicken salad at a pool hang or a backyard barbecue, grapes give your bowl a decidedly refreshing twist.