The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, July 07, 2021 1:00 am

Recipe Swap: Pack picnic of chicken salad

Experiment with flavors for easy-to-transport dish

COREY MCMAKEN | The Journal Gazette

I don't do picnics very often. I'm not what you'd call an outdoor person. Heck, somedays I'm not what you'd call an indoor person. A lot of days I'd rather just be an in-bed person.

But when summer rolls around, my thoughts turn to picnic food, wherever I eat it.

If there's a rule about what makes a dish proper “picnic food,” no one ever told me. So if you want to pack up a basket full of squid-ink linguine, boeuf bourguignon and pad Thai, go for it. But I like easy-to-make and easy-to-transport dishes such as sandwiches, pasta salad and potato salad.

Chicken salad is a go-to sandwich when I'm looking for something quick or easy to take along – be it to a picnic or even for my lunch at work.

One of the beauties of the term “chicken salad” is that it can mean just about anything. I grew up with chicken salad made with Miracle Whip and sweet pickle relish, and that's the version I still make most often. But I have experimented with a lot of varieties of chicken salad over the years and here are a few of my favorites.

Rangoon Chicken Salad incorporates flavors from Crab Rangoon, which is a must-order dish whenever I'm getting Chinese food. It's a tad rich because of the cream cheese, so a little goes a long way on a sandwich. It is also excellent as a dip for something like pita chips, which mimic the wontons from Crab Rangoon.

I love Curry Chicken Salad. It has a little warmth, but you could add a dash of hot sauce if you're looking for something spicier. And if you're a raisin fan (I'm not usually), you might like to add about a tablespoon of yellow raisins for sweetness.

Buffalo sauce and blue cheese dressing might be a more common pairing, but I like the combination you'll find in my Buffalo Ranch Chicken Salad. It's spicy and herby with a nice fresh crunch from the celery.

The curry and Buffalo chicken salads are also great on top of greens for a salad. I use Greek yogurt in both of them because it's a little looser than pure mayonnaise and has a nice tang, but you could use just mayonnaise if that's what you have on hand.

Enjoy your picnic – whether you eat it on a blanket under the sun, at your dining room table ... or lounging in bed binge watching your favorite TV show. Hey, to each their own!

I would love to hear from readers about their favorite dishes, whether they are for picnics or not. Email me at, or write Corey McMaken, c/o The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN, 46802. Include your full name, city and phone number.

Rangoon Chicken Salad

For a little more heat, swap the sweet and sour sauce for sweet red chili sauce. Garnish with crispy wonton strips (check the salad-toppings aisle at your grocery) for some added crunch.

3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened

1/2 tablespoon sweet and sour sauce

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup shredded or diced chicken

1 tablespoon green onion, sliced

Crispy wonton strips, optional

In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese, sweet and sour sauce, salt and pepper. Fold in chicken and green onion.

Curry Chicken Salad

1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon tumeric powder

1 cup shredded or diced chicken

1 tablespoon green onion, sliced

In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, mayonnaise, curry powder and tumeric powder. Fold in the chicken and green onion.

Buffalo Ranch Chicken Salad

11/2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon ranch dressing

2 teaspoons Buffalo sauce, or to taste

1 cup shredded or diced chicken

1 tablespoon celery, chopped

 In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, dressing and Buffalo sauce. Fold in chicken and celery.

Recipe Swap is published monthly in The Journal Gazette. Corey McMaken is a home cook, not a food expert.

Picnic safety

The Food and Drug Administration offers these tips for food safety during picnic and barbecue season. For more tips, go to

• Use a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs to keep cold food at 40 degrees or below to prevent bacterial growth.

• Grilled food can be kept hot by moving it to the side of the grill rack away from the coals. Hot food should be kept at or above 140 degrees.

• Whether hot or cold, food should not sit out for longer than two hours, or one hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90 degrees.

• Consider multiple coolers. Keep beverages in one and perishable foods in another so as people replenish their drinks, food isn't being exposed to outside temperatures.

• Rinse and dry fruits and vegetables before packing.

• If you don't have running water at your picnic site, use a water jug, soap and paper towels to keep hands clean before you set your table, cook and eat. Disposable towelettes might also be used. Also wash surfaces such as a picnic table.

• Have a clean platter and utensils ready for when you take food off the grill. Never reuse a platter that had held raw food.

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