Chicken Is The Hearty Ingredient Your Macaroni Salad Has Been Missing

Where else can you find nostalgia, indulgence, and simplicity all in one place if not a bowl of macaroni salad? Without it, your potlucks and picnics probably won't be the same. Of course, once you've had it too many times, the magic inevitably starts to fade. When the familiarity turns into repetition and you're looking for a quick change, chicken is the easy shortcut to a more exciting rendition of this salad. One extra ingredient may not seem like much, but if Tasting Table recipe developer Petar Marshall's chicken macaroni salad recipe is anything to go by, it makes all the difference in flavor and texture.

Already seasoned to perfection, the chicken brings a delightful depth to the macaroni salad. Its savory, hearty taste cuts right through the salad's richness and vibrancy. It adds an outstanding touch to the all-too-familiar flavors and takes them up a more satisfying notch. Yet, the salad still remains true to the beloved creamy, tangy goodness, giving you a bit of everything in one go.

As for the textural appeal, the chicken brings it in spades. The ultra-creamy base is freckled with the juicy meat, creating a complementary contrast between the ingredients. Each spoonful brings together the soft, chewy pasta, buttery eggs, tender meat, and crunchy vegetables, all drenched in the luscious dressing — a mish-mash of textures that makes for an absolutely fun eating experience.

Use freshly cooked, canned, or leftover chicken

This is a pretty straightforward addition. Just quickly boil the chicken filet and then shred or slice it into cubes. Once finished cooking, it's good to go as is, but a little seasoning never hurts. As always, salt and pepper are the foolproof choices. A kick of heat from cayenne pepper, paprika, or other robust spices will be good if you're a fan of spicy food.

Leftover chicken, whether it's rotisserie, baked, grilled, or pan-seared, would be great as well. Another easy, convenient way is to use canned chicken, which only requires a quick drain of the soaking liquid. This saves you the hassle of seasoning and cooking the meat from scratch and instead it'll be ready right away.

Once you've got the chicken, assemble the salad as usual, but also feel free to toss in a few extra ingredients. A sprinkle of raisins or dried cranberries can make it much better for those who like pops of sweet, tart notes. With fans of all things tropical, Filipino macaroni salad and its pineapple chunks are the way to go, or opt for the Hawaiian version if you'd like something simpler. If you're using BBQ chicken, how about adding a splash of BBQ sauce to the dressing to make the perfect side dish for all those grilling festivities? All in all, with the endless potential both macaroni salad and chicken hold, you may never run out of ideas.