Hot Chicken Salad

This classic Southern dish is always a winner! Hot Chicken Salad is loaded with rotisserie chicken, veggies, cheese and served warm!

Hot chicken salad

Hot chicken salad is the exact meal I requested to have when I came home from delivering my daughter. My Mom gladly obliged and had it warm and ready for the whole family to enjoy! It is absolutely, hands-down one of my favorite recipes.


  • MAKE AHEAD – Prep this hot chicken salad in advance, keep it refrigerated, and then pop it in the oven when you’re ready to enjoy!
  • HEARTY & DELICIOUS – My whole family loves this recipe, even the kids! It’s a huge crowd-pleaser.
  • SIMPLE PREP – This is a no-fuss dish that comes together in one big bowl, spread it in a casserole, bake and serve. Doesn’t get much easier than that!

This hot chicken salad recipe is one of those recipes you pass down from generation to generation. You’ll even find it in my cookbook, The Southern Entertainer’s Cookbook. My Mom has served it at dozens of ladies luncheons and delivered it to friends for over four decades. It’s one of our family favorites because it is *so* good. TRUST ME!

Similar to traditional chicken salad, but served warm and casserole-style, this hot chicken salad has some unique additions, like water chestnuts, they add the perfect crunch! I could go on and on about my love for this dish. Make it and you’ll see why!

Cheesy Hot Chicken Salad Casserole

Hot Chicken Salad Ingredients

CHICKEN: Let’s start with the star of the show! Chicken! I love to use a rotisserie chicken from Costco for this chicken salad. You can use any cooked chicken you like, such as baked chicken breasts, even leftover grilled chicken. Just chop it up or shred it. In a pinch, you can even use canned chicken.

CELERY: Even non-celery lovers don’t mind this addition. It adds the perfect crunch!

ALMONDS: I love the sliced almonds both in the hot chicken salad and sprinkled on top before baking!

ONION: You can use any onion variety you prefer, I typically use a sweet onion (or Vidalia onion if they are in season).

LEMON JUICE: This helps balance the flavors, don’t skip it!

CAYENNE PEPPER: Feel free to leave this out, but know that this hot chicken salad is not spicy *at all*. In fact, you could add more if you like some heat!

MAYONNAISE: Mayo gives this salad a creamy base. I recommend Duke’s mayo!

WATER CHESTNUTS: Sliced water chestnuts are the secret ingredient in this hot chicken salad. Everyone raves about this crunchy addition. You can also buy diced water chestnuts if you want them smaller in size.

CHEDDAR CHEESE: There’s nothing better than melty cheddar cheese, right? You can absolutely substitute in a white cheddar, Colby jack cheese blend, pepper jack blend, the sky is the limit here.

SALT & PEPPER: Add more or less, to taste.

unbaked hot chicken salad

How to Make This Recipe:

This is truly a mix and pour type of chicken salad dish. It’s as simple as combining all ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well, pouring the chicken mixture into a casserole dish and topping with some reserved cheese and almonds. Anyone can make this!

EXTRA GARNISHES: Like I mention below, you can swap the crunchy almonds for crushed potato chips, french fried onions, crushed butter crackers. You can also top this with chopped green onions, parsley, or other fresh herbs you have on hand.

hot chicken salad

Hot Chicken Salad Variations & Substitutes

While you’ll find my family’s heirloom hot chicken salad recipe below, there are a few variations and substitutions you can make if you like.

  • Love more crunch on top? Swap out the sliced almonds for potato chips or french fried onions.
  • Not a fan of water chestnuts? You can leave them out or switch to a diced water chestnut! Or substitute in pecans or cashews into the chicken salad mixture.
  • Serve this “salad” casserole style, in a bed of lettuce or stuffed in lettuce wraps, in slider rolls for an appetizer, etc.

Make-Ahead & Freezer Instructions

To make this hot chicken salad in advance, prepare per instructions until ready to bake. Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Bake when ready!

It’s best to freeze this chicken salad uncooked, cover tightly with aluminum foil in a freezer-safe dish like a Pyrex casserole dish. Then, place the frozen hot chicken salad in the refrigerator for one to two days to thaw. Bake as directed below.

This is honestly one of the BEST recipes and forever at the top of my favorites list. The creamy chicken filling with melty cheddar cheese on top is comfort food at its finest. Serve it up for baby showers, bridal showers, quick weeknight meals, and even holiday gatherings!

Hot chicken salad

Hot Chicken Salad

Author: Courtney
Creamy, cheesy, and crunchy, this easy hot chicken salad is a family favorite to serve at holidays, parties, baby showers, and more.
4.77 from 13 votes
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Servings 10 servings
Calories 535 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 4 cups cooked chicken cubed or shredded (eg. rotisserie chicken)
  • 3 cups chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds divided
  • 3 tbsp chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 2 8-ounce cans sliced water chestnuts drained
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese divided

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine chicken with celery, almonds (reserving 2 tablespoons), chopped onion, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, mayonnaise, water chestnuts, and cheddar cheese (reserving 1 cup). Stir to combine the chicken mixture well.
  • Pour hot chicken salad into a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Sprinkle the top of the hot chicken salad with the remaining cheese and sliced almonds.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
Calories: 535kcalCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 25gFat: 46gSaturated Fat: 12gPolyunsaturated Fat: 18gMonounsaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 90mgSodium: 618mgPotassium: 337mgFiber: 2gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 542IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 294mgIron: 1mg
Did you make this? Let us know how it was! 🙂

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One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    This was tasty! I wasn’t paying attention to the instructions and stirred ALL the shredded cheese in the dish instead of leaving some to sprinkle on top. I like chicken salad but I wanted something warm to eat since it’s winter.

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