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Copycat Willow Tree Chicken Salad

Why buy the expensive deli chicken salad when you can make our Copycat Willow Tree Chicken Salad at home? (It’s just as good!)

Make this delicious Copycat Willow Tree Chicken Salad at home!


A few years back when I was pregnant with my daughter, I had food cravings like most pregnant woman do.  One of my cravings was for Willow Tree chicken salad.  Almost every day for lunch, I went to a little sandwich shop about a block away from my office, and I would get the exact same thing to eat: a Willow Tree chicken salad sandwich (and this sandwich shop specifically stated it was Willow Tree for good reason!) on sourdough bread, milk, and a piece of fruit.



Willow Tree Farm is a New England-area food company and poultry farm based out of Attleboro, Massachusetts, famous for their deli chicken salad and chicken pot pies.  According to the Willow Tree website, they credit their chicken salad as one of the reasons the company has flourished over the years, and their products are also sold at grocery chains all along the East Coast of the United States.

Willow Tree Chicken Salad copycat recipe

My husband learned of my Willow Tree chicken salad craving – and being the sweetheart that he is – he set out to recreate this chicken salad recipe at home just for me. (It’s always important to keep a pregnant lady happy!) 😉

Jack started with the recipe found online here (someone else must have had a similar craving) but tweaked it further after reading the ingredients which the folks at Willow Tree were nice enough to list on their website as well.  I think Jack has come pretty close with the recipe we’ve listed below. Enjoy!


How to make copycat Willow Tree Chicken Salad at home

A few last notes: This recipe was originally shared here on A Family Feast in November 2012. We’ve updated the original photo (you can see that below – our food photography has definitely improved over the years) and we included a video as well (see above). Our readers love this recipe – even those readers who never tasted the original Willow Tree version!

I do also want to thank the folks at Willow Tree for being such great sports about this copycat recipe.  As you can see in the comments below, the folks at Willow Tree have been following along with our readers’ comments and closely guarding the family’s real chicken salad recipe!


Copycat Willow Tree Chicken Salad - Our attempt at recreating the famous Willow Tree chicken salad - and I think we're pretty close!

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Copycat Willow Tree Chicken Salad

  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 15 mins
  • Yield: 4-6 servings


A copycat recipe of the famous Willow Tree chicken salad.


  • 1 pound cooked chicken breast
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced celery
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper


  1. Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment, blend chicken breasts until thoroughly shredded, or shred by hand. (Note: Shredded chicken rather than diced chicken pieces will help recreate the original Willow Tree chicken salad texture.)
  2. Remove bowl from the stand mixer and add in all other ingredients. Stir by hand to mix well.
  3. Serve over lettuce leaves or in sandwiches.

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    Leave a Comment


  1. This looks delicious! Definitely trying this recipe. Visiting and pinning from The NY Melrose Family’s Pinfest 2012 party. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Laurie! Happy New Year!

    • The brown sugar ! This is basically the same as mine, EXCEPT for the brown sugar.(mine calls for 1Tbsp curry….cause I love the stuff !) I am eager to try this recipe .Thanks 😉

    • the secret to willow tree’s chicken salad is OJ concentrate. i was told this by someone who used to work there.

      • Very interesting Robbin! Thanks for sharing!!

      • Is that oj orange juice??? How much???

        • Hi Shar! Hopefully Robbin will reply back with some more info – I’m curious to know too!

        • Well… I’m not too sure about that orange juice! The REAL secret to our Chicken Salad is a closely (and I mean closely) guarded family recipe. Although you will not find OJ in our chicken salad, a tall glass of this refreshing drink would go so well with our Chicken Salad on a crusty Ciabatta Roll…. Oh, and there’s big news on the horizon. We are now making Willow Tree BUFFALO Chicken Salad! Watch for it in your local retailers this spring! Trucchi’s Supermarkets in Massachusetts, along with Select Hannaford Markets are already selling it.

          Thanks so much (and keep guessing)
          Steve Genuario – Willow Tree

          • The Buffalo Chicken Salad sounds delicious Steve!! We will definitely look for it! 🙂

          • You’re a good sport Steve! 🙂

          • Wendy Hampton :

            How fun that Steve left a message! I’m in California and am not able to visit in person for a chicken salad sandwich. I think I will have to figure out a vacation trip. The Buffalo Chicken Salad sounds unreal!

  2. Just dropping in from Serendipity and Spice to pin this. I am not pregnant but I crave a good Chicken Salad Sandwich!!

    Have a Happy New Year!!

  3. Thank you for this recipe. I saw it on Pinterest and made it tonight for dinner with some chicken noodle soup. The chicken salad us delish! I used 2 cans of chicken breast in water and it worked great.

  4. What brand of mayonnaise do you use?

  5. Fantastic!! Thank you for posting it! 🙂

  6. I am so excited to find this, and cannot wait to try it out! I grew up in RI where Willow Tree is readily available. When I moved to northern Maine, I would make excuses to drive several hours south – as it was nowhere to be found nearby.

    • I hope you like it Kim! We think it’s pretty close to the original – and in fact, it’s our most popular recipe ever! Thanks for stopping by! Martha

  7. Hello Everyone, well we are all flattered that you enjoy our chicken salad enough to duplicate its taste. We are working very hard to push Willow Tree’s brand outward and into new areas. Just keep tuned to our facebook site at and ‘like us’. We always announce when our Chicken Salad is available in new areas. As for the actual recipe, well…. it’s just a lot of love, care, and great ingredients that goes into every container. Feel free to tell everyone! 🙂

  8. Made this for dinner this evening and it was a big hit! This will be my new “go to” recipe for chicken salad. Thank you so much for sharing it!!!!

  9. Jean Carpenter :

    Hi Martha, I made this yesterday. Wow! I like it better that WT (don’t tell them LOL). Its nice to have a readily available alternative. My DH just loved it. We love to go to the Willow Tree store and have a “picnic” in our car LOL. Now we won’t have to leave the neighborhood. Needless to say, it was gone in one meal. I’m making more this weekend for my hungry man
    ( and me too!) Thanks again for a great recipe.

  10. This looks great! How far in advance can you make and store this?

  11. Hi. I am also a fan of Willow Tree. Any chance you have ever considered trying to do a copycat of their Chicken Pot Pie? It’s a family favorite for us and I have been trying for years to make one like it at home with no luck. You got their chicken salad just right! We loved it.

    • Funny you should ask that – we have tried but still don’t have it quite right so never published it! We have a turkey pot pie recipe on our site that we also make with chicken – that is the recipe we usually make! We’re glad you enjoyed the chicken salad recipe!

  12. I have never tried Willow Tree, but I LOVE chicken salad. (I’m from Texas and Florida…now living in Birmingham, AL). Hopefully, they will open a store down here someday. So, I’ve GOT to TRY your copycat Willow Tree Chicken Salad.

    • We hope you like the recipe Trish! You might be able to find it sold at the deli of your local supermarket too – if you would like to try the original recipe! Thanks for visiting our site!

  13. Not sure how I missed this recipe? I like Willow Tree and buy it frequently as chicken salad is one of my favorites! I wish you could copy the Trader Joe’s chicken salad with the pecans and cranberries. I’ve tried several recipes but none match it. Look forward to trying this recipe.

  14. The recipe was terrific. I used more like 4 or 5 tablespoons of celery, which was helpful, I think.

  15. Hi! Just wondering what kind of onion you use and also what kind of brown sugar, light or dark? Thanks in advance! Can’t wait to try this recipe ASAP! 🙂

    • Hi Ruth – We usually use a Vidalia onion (but a red onion might be another good choice) and light brown sugar. Hope you enjoy the recipe!

  16. This is an awesome chicken salad recipe although I don’t use mayo (miss my Hellman’s) use yogurt, and extra herbs, but this is my to go to recipe from now on, great job :).

  17. Hello Everyone,
    I just wanted to chime in and thank you for all the great comments on our Chicken Salad. We take great pride in producing a product that is made fresh, without all those nasty additives that make the product stable beyond it’s intent. As we all know, these stabilizers affect the overall taste and appeal of any product. Our chicken salad has the cleanest label of any branded product of its type and we intend to keep it that way. Again, thanks for all your comments. We appreciate all your topics and all conversations. Like many of you, I grew up on Willow Tree as I live in Rhode Island.

    Stephen Genuario
    VP – Sales & Marketing
    Willow Tree Poultry Farm

  18. Just made a batch of this – very, very close to Willow Tree! Well done, I’m excited to make more in the future. 🙂

  19. I just made your chicken salad. Then I used English muffins,slices of fresh garden tomato,chicken salad,Swiss cheese, and heated in oven until the cheese melted. Delish! I live in PA so I haven’t heard of Willow Tree , but it was really tasty. I liked the added pop of brown sugar

  20. we don’t have a willow tree:( but just made this and it’s wonderful taste like our fav. Chicken salad recipe that we get from a resturant here thank you connie

  21. This sounds like it’s going to become MY “go to” chicken salad recipe, as I can tell from the ingredients and the process that it’s going to produce the precise chicken salad type that I have always loved but can rarely find! I grew up in southeastern Virginia, on the Chesapeake Bay, where fresh caught seafood of many varieties was almost always the order of the day, along with good old Southern home cooking of course, and with good pork barbecue, southern style cured hams, etc., but in spite of my love for chicken salad, it was always hard to find.
    There was no Willow Tree in our area, or their products in our groceries, so I’m sure I missed out on something truly yummy. But this is going to provide me with the kind of chicken salad I adore. I have lived in Indiana now for going on 38 years, and no Willow Tree around here I have ever seen. Everyone around here seems to prefer selling it chunky style instead of shredded, and with all sorts of fruit and nuts in it, like white grapes, or cranberries and walnuts or almonds and all that sort of stuff. I’m sure if that’s your “thing” then it must be wonderful, but being a purist myself, I like my chicken salad to just BE chicken salad, not a fruit and nut salad with some chicken thrown in on the side!
    Chicken Pot Pie is also another favorite ~ wish I could get closer! The crust to me is the most important part. Boy, you better get a great flaky crust, as well as a thick, creamy sauce inside to carry the solid bits too!
    I will look forward to your “copycat” chicken pot pie recipe soon!
    Best regards….

    • I hope you enjoy the recipe Shari! We’ve published my husband’s turkey pot pie recipe (which we use for chicken too) but not a copycat for Willow Tree’s version! Thanks again for writing to us today!

  22. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this wonderful recipe! I grew up in RI and went to high school in Attleboro, MA. On my way home from school, I would always stop by the Willow Tree Farms store and get some of their amazing chicken salad. I married my husband, a physician in the military, which took us all over the country (SD, NE, FL, AK, and now OK). Through all our travels, I’ve never found food like we had in New England. I’ve tried so many times to recreate the delicious Willow Tree chicken salad over the years but it was never quite right. Kudos to your husband for figuring it out!

  23. I have never had Willow Tree’s Chicken Salad, but I can’t imagine it being any better than yours. Best chicken salad sandwich that I have had in a long time. Thank you for sharing your recipe!

  24. Ok I JUST made this like 5 minutes ago, and it is DELICIOUS!! I left out the brown sugar because i prefer my chicken salad more savory than sweet, and I didnt have celery on hand, but even without those, its still so yummy! I had some time, so I seared my chicken breasts with salt and pepper on them, and then I baked them to cook through the rest of the way. One bite and I was like “Ohhhh yeaaa!!” Thanks for the recipe guys!!

  25. Slated this on the menu. Hubs made it up for us (though he only chopped the chicken). Loved it…., It was just the right amount of creaminess. The onion was too strong until we added the sugar….. Amazed how much we loved this…… I was so hyped to have a tried and true recipe…., Then I found out he adjusted the seasonings….. (like, extra pepper, garlic, and some oregano…..)……, now, can I recreate it for him???? (If you’ve read Understood Betsy, and how she learned to make applesauce, maybe you can appreciate our mindset on these things……)

    • LOL – glad you enjoyed the recipe Rainah! Until we started blogging, my husband Jack never wrote down his recipes or precise measurements of ingredients so I completely understand! 🙂

  26. Not familiar with Willow Tree, but I made this today and it is delicious. Subbed pickles for the celery (didn’t have any). Love the addition of brown sugar – I would never have thought to add that but it gives such a nice hint of sweet .

  27. This is the best chicken salad. I’ve tried all kinds of recipes and this one is a hit! My husband loves them… Thank you for a delicious recipe.

  28. Greetings! No Willow Tree here in Alaska, but now have some darn tasty chickie salad!
    First time around was great as written; second time switched to yogurt instead of mayo, onion powder, little extra celery.
    Used toasted English muffin halves, one side hot with chick salad, tomato slice, green chiles, and habanero jack under broiler… other side cold with chick salad, dried cranberries, and toasted pine nuts. Toss up for which is better!
    Amazing recipe! Thank you so much!!

  29. I just came across this recipe and I have to make chicken salad sandwiches for a wedding shower (tomorrow)! I have never made chicken salad before (don’t laugh lol), but definitely want to try this version. I will be cutting the sandwiches into triangles so I’m trying to figure out about how many whole sandwiches this recipe will make? Maybe half the thickness of the original image? Hope it’s not too late to ask this. Thanks for posting this recipe!

    • Hi April – This recipe is portioned for two to three sandwiches…two if you really like a ‘full’ sandwich and three if you prefer a thinner spreading of the salad. Hope that helps!

  30. I haven’t tried it but I will as soon as I return home. Thank you for sharing.

  31. Good chicken salad. Thanks

  32. Melissa Howell :

    I have never had WillowTree chicken salad (I live in Indiana.) That being said, this chicken salad recipe is amazing! Absolutely love it.

  33. Delores Kay Collins :

    Thank you for the recipe; I am eager to give it a try, because it looks and sounds wonderful.

  34. How do you usually prepare your chicken breasts– boiled, roasted, ect. ?

  35. Instead of brown sugar use honey…..big difference…

  36. I have made this recipe on several occasions and I’m always asked to make it again and again. I add dried cranberries and walnuts and the result is pretty close to Willow Tree’s. Add a little Buffalo Sauce and you get their buffalo chicken. They’re latest flavor sensation is sriracha chicken salad! I’m transplant to Pennsylvania, but whenever we go to Massachusetts every trip includes a stop at the Willow Tree store. Chicken salad and pot pies to take home! Gotta Love The Tree!

  37. 1 TSP soy sauce and 1/4 TSP of Chinese 5 Spice for an Asian twist. Definitely on my menu for the weekend!

  38. I think I will try this recipe with Turkey.. seeing I will have Turkey leftovers this THANKSGIVING!!

  39. Would love to try this recipe? I’m looking for a new unch go to meal and I may try this but my question is – can you use plain fat free greek yogurt in place of mayo?

    • Hi Kat – Sure – Greek yogurt has a very different flavor than mayo but if you are OK with that, it’s definitely a lower fat option for you than using mayo.