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Rustic Macaroni Chicken & Apple Salad

I grew up eating a lot of macaroni salads. Mami would make them for every single occasion, no matter how big or small, eventful or not. It was the staple main dish [for fiestas, cumpleaños, and the like]. Bocaditos de pollo always accompanied the varying salads. I was very fond of the version bearing cheddar cheese, pepino, tomato and lots of onion. She made it for the Fourth this year and it was delightfully enjoyed by everyone, including some Americanos that thought the combination was odd.

Nowadays, I’m not the biggest fan of cold pasta salads, especially elbow macaroni. I think I’ve established here on Flanboyant Eats that I don’t love mac-n-cheese. Well, except for my cousin’s ridiculous 7 cheese recipe. It’s smack yo momma kinda good and I only make room for it on Thanksgiving. Other than that, the idea of gooey cheese, bread crumbs, or even panko, layered and re-layered with pasta just isn’t appealing to me. I find it rather crazy, but I just never had an intimate moment with it where I fell in love.

However, in playing around with different kinds of salad options, in an earnest attempt to eat better (yeah, been saying that for 2 years now), I went back to our ubiquitous macaroni salad and thought of a chicken version — another salad I’ve never been fond of. You know, you go to an American restaurant chain and the buffet offers stale and flat looking chicken salad. It repulses me every time. I can’t  stand to see it on a menu. And, a chicken salad sandwich?? Even worse!

On the Fourth, while Mami was making her beloved elbow macaroni salad, I went for a tangy chicken and apple macaroni one. I shredded chicken, seasoned it, diced some Granny’s, added mayo (another no-no in my mouth), spicy mustard and olives. The nosey onlooker, better known as Mami, criticized the addition of olives, but I like to think I know what I’m doing. Sweet apples, salty olives? Yes, it works. And I love, love, love.

So much, I’ve been a complete glutton since the Fourth, borderline freezing the leftovers and having a small plate, about the size of these pictures, and treating myself to it for lunch until just yesterday, adding more olives as they’ve mysteriously disappeared. Someoene in this casa has been serving it up, too. See? Closet lovers sneaking some in. Ohhh, the crunch, the sweet, the salty, the pungent, the soft pollito, the creamy mayo and the slight heat in the mustard! It’s all so dreamy and delicate. Perfect for a hot summer picnic, an on-the-go lunch option or a side dish to your main course.

I’m not reinventing the chicken salad wheel here, just making it a bit sexier and more attractive for those of us that sit on the cold salad fence.  I’m not claiming it’s fancy or even super refined. It’s just damn bueno!

From mi mesa to yours.

¡Buen Provecho! 

Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.

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Rustic Macaroni Chicken & Apple Salad


  • 1/2 box elbow macaroni, cooked
  • 3 Granny Smith apples, diced
  • 2 chicken breasts, pulled
  • 1  cup mayonnaise (homemade is better)
  • 3/4 cup Spanish salad olives with pimento, sliced
  • 4 Tbsp. spicy mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. salt for chicken and pasta, divided
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika


In large pot, add 1.5 quarts of water, 1 tsp. salt and boil deboned chicken breast, approximately 20 minutes. While chicken is cooking, cook pasta. Remove chicken from heat, transfer to plate and let cool until you can handle with your hands. Shred chicken. Strain pasta and let cool until it reaches room temperature. In large mixing bowl, combine pasta, chicken, mayonnaise, mustard, apples, paprika and olives. Mix gently using wooden spoon. Cover and let chill for 2-3 hours, depending on your fridge temperature.

Serve cold or room temperature.

Serves 12-15 4 oz.

* Chef’s notes: pineapple can be used in place of apple! Plating suggestions: place in a mold for cupcakes, tower tartare’s or even shape into a huge log for spreading on crackers, though that would be best suited for large parties. 

46 thoughts on “Rustic Macaroni Chicken & Apple Salad

  1. Yes! This totally makes sense to me. It is healthy, as healthy as you want to make it, and full of flavor. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with mixing sweet and salty. They seem to enhance each other’s flavors, don’t they.

  2. Titi this looks yummy. I like yours better than the one we had at the house. hee hee.

  3. Oh, it’s so good, light and easy to make! Even for a mayo hater like me! Thanks for checking it out!

    Unknown Mami: The things I learn! I had no idea the hubs was born in Hawai’i. What an interesting connection you make. The pineapple will def. work. LMK if it works out for you.

  4. I am a firm believer that we can love any kind of food if it is made in a way that we would enjoy. Loving this version Bren.

  5. esa enalada se ve de comer ya. tiene o lleva todos los ingredientes que me gustan en la ensalada de pasta .la manzana le da un toque dulce .por que les cuento que ya la hice y a lo mejor no me quedo tan rica como se ve esa pero a mi me gusto y ahoras en el verano es muy comodo hacerla .gracias chef

  6. Like you, I’m not a fan of cold, mayo pasta dishes, but I love mac ‘n cheese dishes, esp. when made with bechamel sauce. However, the apples, green olives and chicken in this recipe is appetizing and worth a try. It has a sweet and salty appeal to it. Often, I think it’s the thought of eating a mayo based dish that causes me to reject it, but (when time permits) homemade mayonnaise or cutting the mayo with unsweetened Greek yogurt is a better alternative (at least for me). Your family is over the top when it comes to being creative with food. Love your stories.

  7. I must admit this dish was muy bueno when I tasted it! The combination with the olives sent it over the top! Another great summer dish!


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