Add Brown Sugar To Chicken Salad For A Hint Of Caramelized Flavor

When you're looking for an easy weekday lunch, meal-prepped salads are the way to go. A quick, high-protein dish like chicken salad can be full of nutrients, versatility, as well as plenty of flavor. It's great on a sandwich, in a wrap, or on its own with a few crackers. While it's just a mixture of mayonnaise and chicken in its simplest form, you'll almost always want to add seasonings and other ingredients to give it the most flavor possible. But for the perfect balance of savory and sweet, opt for something you likely already have in your pantry: a little brown sugar – and if your brown sugar is a solid block, there are easy ways to soften it.


Chicken has a savory, meaty flavor while mayonnaise or Greek yogurt (you can use either or both) adds richness to the salad. To balance it out, a touch of caramelly sweetness is all you need. And while you can find that in other ingredients like grapes or green apples, a hint of brown sugar mixed with the mayo ensures that every bite gets an even amount of this surreptitious add-on.

How does brown sugar help chicken salad?

When it comes to building the perfect dish, every flavor needs balance. With chicken salad, it's not uncommon to add dried cranberries or fresh grapes to the dish for the same reason as brown sugar: Doing so adds dimension through sweetness. But there is a stark difference; while those fruits add texture, they aren't always evenly distributed. There will probably be plenty of bites where you don't get any fruit at all. Adding some fine brown sugar into the mix omits this problem, and the caramelized flavor, which comes from molasses (essentially cane juice that's reduced until it becomes syrup), adds depth compared to white sugar.


If you prefer the texture that dried or fresh fruit brings to the chicken salad, you can include those too, but add the brown sugar in moderation to ensure the dish doesn't become overly sweet. As for how much brown sugar — if you're using the meat from a whole chicken, then you'll want one to two tablespoons of it; you can always start with less and adjust it to taste.

Amping flavor and storing chicken salad

Shredded chicken or chicken from a can is usually soft and bland; it takes on the flavors it's paired with, which is why it's the perfect base for a salad — it leaves plenty of room to get creative. While sweet additions like brown sugar or apple slices might balance the mayo's richness, the dish is still missing that big crunch. Add walnuts or even flax seeds into the mix to give the salad an extra boost of protein and introduce a nutty flavor and crunchy texture.


If adding brown sugar, you can pair it with another flavor element: more spice. It doesn't need to be much; some chili flakes or half of a chopped chipotle pepper will do wonders by building a heat.

Chicken is great for meal prep, but no matter how you make it, keep one thing in mind: It doesn't last forever in the refrigerator. Cooked chicken should be consumed within no more than four days to ensure it doesn't have a chance to develop harmful bacteria (per the USDA). Store it in an airtight container to keep it fresher for longer.

Chicken salad can be frozen, but mayonnaise and yogurt don't freeze well. For the best results, prepare the chicken salad with everything but the mayo or dairy, then store it in a freezer-friendly container. You can make the creamy dressing once the salad has thawed in the fridge.