Ensalada de Pollo (Mexican Chicken Salad)

Ensalada de Pollo (Mexican Chicken Salad)

When French-trained chef Lucien Olivier, then owner of the world-famous Hermitage restaurant in Moscow, created his namesake salad in the late 1800s, he may not have imagined that it would eventually be recreated the world over. His salad has since also taken on various monikers, including ensalada Rusa—a type of ensalada de pollo popular throughout Mexico that features many of the original recipe’s ingredients, including a delicious creamy dressing.

The Origins of Ensalada de Pollo

Come to think of it, Olivier must have known he was onto something good. After all, he guarded the recipe during his entire life, and it was only fully revealed after his death. It’s believed that he created the salad as a vodka chaser, which makes sense seeing as how his recipe was both carb- and protein-rich. 

The original recipe featured potatoes and doktorskaya kolbasa—a boiled sausage often referred to as “doctor’s sausage.” We may never discover all of his culinary secrets, including if he really was the creator of beef stroganoff, but until then, we can ponder them while enjoying those that have been revealed.

How Olivier Salad Becomes Ensalada de Pollo

In this version of Olivier’s salad, shredded chicken takes the place of the sausage, while cilantro and a lime, mayonnaise, and Mexican crema dressing give it a decidedly Latin flavor profile. Two hallmark ingredients remain unchanged, though: frozen peas and carrots. 

The duo pay homage to Olivier’s original recipe and are coincidentally what make this salad (in addition to the rotisserie chicken) the perfect dish for a quick weeknight summer dinner or a last-minute potluck dish with a twist that guests are sure to love.

Tips for Making Ensalada de Pollo

  • Use cooled ingredients—The chicken, cooked potatoes, and peas and carrots should be cooled before making this recipe.
  • Thawing the peas and carrots—The peas and carrots can be thawed by running them under warm water or boiling them for 2-3 minutes and then straining them.
  • Don't overcook the potatoes—They should be tender but firm enough that they retain their cube shape. Overcooked potatoes will disintegrate during the mixing process, changing the overall texture of the salad.
  • Serve it chilled—Ensalada de pollo can be served immediately after preparing but is best served slightly chilled. Place the prepared salad into the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Make Ahead

  • Store-bought or homemade rotisserie or poached chicken can be shredded a day in advance. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use.
  • The dressing can be prepared a day in advance. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container, mixing well before using.
  • The entire dish can be prepared up to 3 days before serving. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container. Let sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before serving.

“Ensalada de Pollo is a simple and easily prepared Mexican chicken salad. The dressing of mayonnaise, Mexican crema, and lime juice gives the mixture a nice creamy texture. Adding pickled vegetables to serve is the perfect counterpoint to the dish.” —Joan Velush

Ensalada de Pollo/Tester Image A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes

  • 1 teaspoon fine salt, more as needed

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

  • 1/2 cup Mexican crema

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to taste

  • 4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken breast

  • 12-ounces bag frozen peas and carrots, thawed

  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped onion

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, more for garnish

  • Escabeche or pickled jalapeños for serving, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients to make Mexican chicken salad

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  2. Add the 2 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes to a small pot and add cool water to cover along with a large pinch of fine salt. Bring to a boil and cook potatoes for 6 to 8 minutes or until a knife cuts gently through but the potatoes retain some firmness. Drain and spread out in a shallow bowl or on a plate and refrigerate.

    A bowl of peeled, cubed, and cooked Yukon Gold potatoes

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  3. In a small bowl, mix together the 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup Mexican crema, 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, 1 teaspoon fine salt, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.

    A small bowl of mayonnaise, Mexican crema, lime juice, salt, and black pepper

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  4. Place 4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken breast, 12-ounce bag frozen peas and carrots, thawed, 1/3 cup coarsely chopped onion, and 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro in a large bowl. Add the dressing, and mix well.

    A bowl of shredded rotisserie chicken, peas, carrots, onion, and cilantro tossed in the mayonnaise-crema dressing

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  5. Gently fold the potatoes into the chicken salad. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

    A bowl of Mexican chicken salad, with cooked potatoes being folded in with a wooden spoon

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  6. Serve immediately or cover and place in the refrigerator until just chilled. Serve garnished with additional cilantro and/or pickled jalapeños, if desired.

    A plate of Mexican chicken salad, served with pickled jalapeños and crackers

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

How To Store

Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Let sit at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Feeling Adventurous? Try This:

  • Substitute sour cream—If you’re unable to find Mexican crema, sour cream is similar and can be used as a substitute.
  • Use other frozen veggies—If you would like to add a variety of vegetables, frozen mixed vegetables that include corn and green beans taste great in this recipe. Just be sure to adhere to the ratio of ingredients.
  • Serve with tostadas or bread—This salad is traditionally served with saltine crackers but tostadas or your favorite sandwich bread also work well.
  • Add pickled jalapeño juice—Some recipes call for jalapeño juice in the dressing to add a spicy kick. A teaspoon or two will suffice or you can top each portion with escabeche.

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