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Chicken Salad with Fresh Tarragon and Peas

If you’re passionate about food, there may be a few food experiences you’ll come to regard as truly life-changing. For me, one such moment was the first time I tasted sushi, and another was the time last summer when I made Gazpacho with my blog friends. Who would have ever predicted that when I spotted a simple recipe for Lemony Chicken Salad with Tarragon on Champaign Taste it would lead to another of those life-changing food experiences?

The life-changing part was all about the flavor of fresh tarragon, which I’d never tasted before. I never especially liked dried tarragon, so as a result I hadn’t grown tarragon in my herb garden. Then I saw a lot of bloggers raving about it, so I planted some this year. If I’d imagined that I’d fall head-over-heels in love with the flavor of fresh tarragon, I’d have tried growing it long ago. Obviously I didn’t hear that Michael Ruhlman had earlier proclaimed it to be the greatest of all herbs. Since making this salad, I am just about convinced. And because all this gushing is about an herb that just might become a serious rival of my very favorite herb, this post is perfect for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Astrid of Paulchen’s Food Blog.

There are several types of Tarragon, but the one I’m gushing over is French Tarragon, beloved for the slightly anise flavor that’s so distinctive. French Tarragon is used in a variety of dishes, and also in blends such as Herbs de Provence and Fines Herbs. It should be used sparingly, or the strong flavor will overcome the dish. If you want to try growing French Tarragon, you should purchase a plant because it can’t be grown from seeds. When buying plants, be careful not to get Russian Tarragon, which has little flavor, or Spanish or Mexican Tarragon, which is stronger. My tiny plant of French Tarragon has more than tripled in size in a few weeks, which is good news because I’m itching to try more recipes with this delicious herb.

Chicken Salad with Fresh Tarragon and Peas
(Makes 4-6 servings, recipe adapted from Lemony Chicken Salad with Tarragon at Champaign Taste.)

3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
(about 3 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken)
2 cups chicken stock or broth
enough water to cover chicken
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped red onion
1 cup frozen peas, thawed and drained well
scant T chopped fresh tarragon (should be French Tarragon for this recipe)
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Dressing Ingredients:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 T fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. Dijon mustard


Trim all visible fat and tendons from chicken breasts, then place in a pan where they can fit in a single layer. Put in chicken stock and poultry seasoning, add enough water to cover chicken and simmer on very low heat about 6 minutes. Turn off heat and let chicken sit in the hot stock for about 15 minutes more. (Read here about poaching chicken.)

While chicken finishes cooking, mix together mayonnaise, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard.

Remove chicken from stock and let cool, then cut or shred into bite sized pieces. Place in salad bowl and add celery, red onion, peas, and chopped French Tarragon. Stir in dressing until all ingredients are lightly covered (you may not need all the dressing, depending on how much you like mayonnaise.) Season with salt and pepper to taste (I didn’t use much of either.) Refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving to let flavors develop, then serve.

This salad will keep in the refrigerator for a day or two if you can manage to keep it around for that long.

(Edit 7-1-07: Astrid from Paulchen’s Food Blog tried this recipe, but like good cooks always do, she came up with her own version of the recipe. Check out her blog for a variation that also sounds tasty.)

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South Beach Suggestions:
Mayonnaise is considered a “limited” food for the South Beach Diet, but this salad has a lot of chicken, celery, onions, and peas compared to the amount of mayo, making it acceptable as a “once in a while treat” for phase 2 or 3 of the diet. (Peas aren’t allowed for phase one.) I ate this for lunch as a main course salad, but you could serve it as part of a meal with something like Kalyn’s Tabbouli with Almonds or Carrot and Parsley Salad for phase two or three.

More Tarragon Recipes to Wake Up Your Tastebuds:
(Recipes from other blogs may or may not be South Beach Diet friendly, check ingredients.)

Grilled Chicken with Tomato-Tarragon Sauce from Simply Recipes
Baked Peas with Tarragon, Yogurt, and Pistachios from 101 Cookbooks
Shrimp Salad Rolls with Tarragon Dressing from What Did You Eat?
Tarragon, Chicken, and Spinach Pie from Just Hungry
Braised Asparagus with Tarragon from CookThink
Braised Chicken with Tarragon, Pancettta, and Cremini Mushrooms from Well Fed
Chicken Stew with Grapes and Tarragon from Je Mange la Ville
Lemon-Tarragon Grilled Pork Chops from Tummy Treasure
Poached Egg with Tarragon from Fresh Approach Cooking
Chicken Dijonnaise from A Cat in the Kitchen

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19 comments on “Chicken Salad with Fresh Tarragon and Peas”

  1. Hooray — a recipe for fresh tarragon! My tarragon plant is the size of a small bush, or a small town, and I’m desperate for new ideas for how to use it. Thanks, Kalyn.

  2. *wow* now I know whats going to be our lunch tomorrow.
    Thank you for that delicious suggestion.
    Hope you have fun in SF!

  3. How funny, my tarragon recovered and I served linguine with tarragon today! And I used your tarragon banner!

  4. And I couldn’t find any this spring at the garden centers! I do enjoy the fresh (dried isn’t worth a penny). And chicken salad sounds just perfect now . . . guess I’ll have to buy some, tarragon that is.

  5. Fresh tarragon! I wish everyone could try it just once. They would be so amazed at how wonderful it tastes. I love your recipe!

  6. You know, I didn’t plant tarragon. I can’t believe I overlooked it! I have made a French mustard sauce for pork that included fresh tarragon and it was divine. One of those classic combinations – mustard and tarragon.

  7. I’m so bookmarking this. I love chicken, and I’ve got a rather healthy-looking tarragon plant in my garden 🙂

  8. That looks sooooo good! I have fresh tarragon in my herb garden this year – I can’t wait to try this salad. =)


  9. Lydia, lucky you having a tarragon plant that big!

    Astrid, glad you like the idea, and I will definitely have fun!

    Ulrike, so glad to hear your tarragon came back to life. Duh, I should have used that banner.

    Tanna, do buy some, it will be worth it.

    Sher, I agree completely. You were one of the ones who inspired me to try it!

    Katerina, have you posted that recipe? It sounds wonderful.

    Pille, hope you like it. Sounds like everyone but me already knew about fresh tarragon.

    Lis, ditto to everything I said to Pille. I think I’m the last one to find out how good it tastes, but now that I know, there’s going to be lots of tarragon recipes coming I have a feeling.

  10. tarragon is a flavour that still puzzles me.. maybe it’s that overpowering thing that you mentioned. I’d love to try it in a dish where it’s in perfect balance to see how I feel about it then 🙂

  11. Hi Kalyn,
    I too recently made this discovery, when I found a chicken salad sandwich at Starbucks that had tarragon in it. Isn’t it just a great pairing?

  12. Sarina, I think it’s pretty easy to use too much. When I saw the original recipe using only 1 T of chopped tarragon in this recipe, I was sure I’d want to add more. But I thought this was the perfect amount. Try it!

    Elise, yes, it was such a perfect combination.

  13. This looks like a wonderful addition to the recipe file!

    Be aware too if you have Russian tarragon in your garden – it spreads about as rampantly as mint does if left unchecked.

  14. Rob, thanks for sharing that information. It sounds like the Russian tarragon is definitely to be avoided.

  15. I love tarragon with chicken, fish and in cream sauces. I mistakenly planted Russian Tarragon, (which is is often in the nurseries) and it is very light on flavor. Now I buy the ‘live’ herbs in the supermarkets and plant them – much better flavor although not as pretty as a plant!

  16. oh love the chicken salad, so good for summer, YUM!

  17. Hehe! Kalyn, you’ve crossed over as well! I owe tarragon a sincere apology for all the times I bad-mouthed it and called it names.

    Your chicken salad looks wonderful and incredibly fresh tasting.

  18. Thanks for the recipe. My tarragon plant is ginormous and I'm always on the lookout for a great recipe. I made this salad for dinner and it was Awesome! Thanks!

  19. Candice, so glad you liked it!

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