Holy crap. Not only are these good, they’re really cute and fun to eat and make. They’re absolutely perfect for lunch when you don’t want to just eat another Tupperware of some pre-made chicken salad.
Yum. That’s an up close and personal shot of some delicious chicken salad. If only my pictures did the food any justice.
I started making these sweet little babies about a year ago when I decided to make my lunch-making job simpler by making a huge batch of chicken salad for the whole week on Sunday or Monday nights. I felt like slopping (yes, I felt like a lunch lady slopping food around and really, look at that picture above. If “slop” doesn’t come to mind when you look at that, you’re crazy) the same chicken salad into a container night after night was as boring as it had to be for TJ to open the same container of chicken salad day after day at lunch. So, I started playing around with different spices and ways to make and serve the chicken salad so that it wasn’t so boring. Don’t worry, you will see plenty of other posts for various chicken salads. In fact, here is one now: Gamecock Horseshoe Deli Chicken Salad (with Curry).
As you can tell by the slightly greensish color to the pictures, this isn’t a plain chicken salad. This time I made a pesto chicken salad, which was awesome because it required no mayo – not even paleo mayo! Warning: to make this pesto, I used my Food Processor. It is one of the more “advanced” kitchen tools that I have, but it’s actually a pretty minimal one that only chops and grinds (which essentially means the blades go left for one and right for the other). And I got it at Homegoods for like $30. Does anyone else think Homegoods should start sending me gift certificates or something? It’s seriously the best store ever. And not just for kitchen stuff! Anyways, you don’t need a food processor to make this. My mom makes hers in her blender. Improvise people, paleo does not have to be hard.
For the Pesto:
(The very first picture is how your pesto should look, color-wise. )
3/4 cup packed basil
3 TBSP pine nuts. You can actually use pretty much any nut here (I’ve seen cashews, walnuts, almonds, etc) but I love pine nuts. They can be kind of pricey, and a bitch to find (why would they be above the tomatoes in the produce section and not with all of the other nuts, Giant?) if your store even carries them, but I personally think they are the best for making pesto.
2 cloves of garlic
Juice from half a lemon (or about 3/4 teaspoon)
3 TBSP of olive oil
A dash of salt and pepper
Put everything in the blender/food processor except for the olive oil and run it until everything has started to chop up really nicely. Then, you want to slowly add your olive oil. My food processor has two tiny holes at the top that I’m pretty sure are for letting air out, which I totally use to dump the olive oil through. It drips in perfectly while I run the processor. You’ll probably want to use a spatula (or a spoon, or your finger- if the machine is off) to stop everything from sticking to the sides and make sure it all mixes really well. This stuff is so good, I could eat it with a spoon. I literally goes well on anything (or nothing).
For the Chicken Salad:
1 LB chicken. Or more, especially if you’re using this to meal prep. If you’re meal prepping, you will want to increase the pesto recipe as well, otherwise your chicken salad will be super dry. Ew. You can seriously use any chicken that you have for this. I’ve used everything from a whole roasted chicken from the grocery store to frozen chicken breasts, to leftover baked pesto chicken. Don’t be stupid. Use leftovers, but use them in new ways. Keep eating interesting!
If you have some extra pine nuts, you can toast them on the stove for an extra really delicious crunch. I used a tiny little pan and just threw a handful onto it on medium-high heat with no oil or butter at all. Stir them a few times until you can see them starting to brown and take them off to cool.
That’s all you need (besides the pesto obviously). Cook your chicken (bake it, boil it, cook it on the stove or the grill, I don’t care!) or chop up your leftover chicken. Add the pesto to the chicken slowly, stirring pretty frequently. Add as much pesto as you personally prefer for desired “wetness.” Just be aware that the chicken will likely soak up some of the moisture, so you may want to err on the side of using more rather than less. If you made toasted pine nuts, throw those in now too.
Then, all you need to do is stuff your peppers. These are the peppers that I almost always buy:
These can be insanely priced at times. During those times, I don’t buy them. Easy as that. I usually check out the bags and try to find ones that have more medium to large sized peppers, because those are obviously easier to stuff.
Now all you have to do is cut the top off of the peppers, pull out the inside (sometimes this requires a pairing knife) and shove the chicken salad inside. I used to try doing this with a fork, but its honestly 1000x easier to just use your damn hands. Once they’re all stuffed, I just pop them into a Tupperware!