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Chicken Tarragon Waldorf Salad (with homemade mayonnaise)

Updated on May 17, 2014
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Once upon a time, there was a man named Oscar. He made a salad with celery, apples, and lettuce. And they lived happily ever after. The End.

Oscar Tschirky was the maître d'hôtel at the Waldorf Hotel (later to become the Waldorf-Astoria) in New York City. He made several signature dishes during his career, many of which appeared in the cookbook Oscar of the Waldorf in 1896. But the one we still talk about (and enjoy) today is the Waldorf Salad.

The original salad did not contain walnuts, but when another cook book appeared in 1928, walnuts were added to the list of ingredients. This second book was named Rector Cook Book. The salad gained immense popularity right away and Cole Porter even mentioned it in 1934 in one of his songs You’re the Top.

Today there are countless versions of the Waldorf Salad. Many add chicken or turkey, grapes or dried fruits. A few cooks choose yogurt in place of mayonnaise.

I have my own favorite twist on the original--Chinese cabbage replaces the original leaf lettuce and plain mayonnaise is upgraded to a homemade lemon mayonnaise.

Cook Time

Prep time: 40 min
Ready in: 40 min
Yields: 4-6 servings--prep. time includes 30 min. to chill


  • 3 cups cooked chicken breast, diced
  • 1 cup celery heart (the tender inner portion), diced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 4 tsp. fresh tarragon, finely minced
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 cup homemade lemon mayonnaise, (see recipe below)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 cups Chinese cabbage, finely chopped
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes.
  2. Serve on chilled plates.

Homemade Lemon Mayonnaise

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon zest
  1. Place the egg yolks, salt, and lemon juice in the bowl of a blender.
  2. Process until the egg yolk and juice are well-combined and the yolks begin to turn to a lighter shade of yellow.
  3. Remove the fill cap (central portion of the lid).
  4. Place the olive oil in a glass measuring cup with a lip suitable for pouring.
  5. With the blender running, begin adding the oil to the yolk/lemon juice mixture. Start with just one drop at a time and increase to a steady but very slow stream as the oil is absorbed.
  6. Stir in lemon zest

What is an emulsion?

In cooking, an emulsion is a mixture of two liquids that would ordinarily not mix together, like oil and vinegar. The droplets of one of the liquids become evenly dispersed within the other liquid. The resulting liquid is thicker than the two original liquids were. In the case of mayonnaise or aioli, oil droplets are suspended within the egg yolks.

© 2014 Linda Lum


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