Never underestimate the power of great chicken sandwiches! Excellent platter for gatherings, picnics and work lunches. My secrets? Fresh dill, a handful of walnuts and shred the chicken really finely using a stand-mixer or electric beater. Yes, really.
If you’ve ever wondered why those chicken sandwiches from “that gourmet deli” are so coveted and command such high prices, the answer lies not just in the secret mix of ingredients for the filling but also in the texture of the chicken.
“It’s so soft and just melts in your mouth!“, friends have observed.
The secret? Shredding the chicken super, super finely, until it’s basically crumbly, using a stand-mixer. This makes the chicken sandwich filling soft and creamy because you don’t have chewy chunks of chicken in it.
No stand-mixer? No worries! Use a hand-held beater or a little patience and your hands. 🙂
Mayonnaise plus sour cream
And the second secret of course is the sauce! You want it to have plenty of creamy sauce but not be too oily and weighed down with mayonnaise. My trick is to use both mayonnaise (for flavour and richness) and sour cream (for creamy goodness with less oil).
Ingredients in Chicken Sandwich Filling
Here’s what goes in my chicken sandwiches. And before you say it, let me acknowledge that I left out the most obvious ingredient for sandwiches – BREAD! 😂
Chicken – I use store bought chicken for ease. Bonus: The flesh is seasoned all the way through.
Homemade roast chicken – If you’re a better person than me, make your own brined roast chicken (the brine will infuse the flesh with salt like store bought rotisserie chicken).
Chicken breast – I prefer to use a whole chicken so you get a good blend of white meat (breast, lean) and dark meat (thigh, leg, wings – juicier and more flavour). But if you prefer to use just chicken breast, use my Foolproof Poached Chicken Breast (guarantees juicy breast) and toss the shredded chicken with 1 teaspoon of salt before mixing the sauce through.
The bread (which I forgot to picture!) – The traditional bread is soft white sandwich bread. For fellow Australians – hot tip: Bakers Delight. The white sandwich bread, standard slice, is best for finger sandwiches. Soft but not sooooo soft that the filling squishes the bread.
And of course, the bread of choice is not set in stone so feel free to use whatever bread you want!
Mayonnaise – I always use whole egg mayonnaise which is creamier, smoother and has better flavour than mayonnaise that is not labelled “whole egg”. The reason is because whole-egg mayonnaise has more egg in it.
My favourite mayonnaise brand is S&W, followed by Kewpie. Hellman’s is good too albeit a little sweeter. I find other brands (especially non whole-egg mayonnaise) too sweet and/or too vinegary and/or lacking in (good) flavour. I live in Sydney, Australia, and you can get all these brands at everyday large grocery stores.
Sour cream – Secret ingredient! Using this means we can have plenty of tasty sauce in our chicken sandwich filling without it being overly greasy from using just mayonnaise. Yogurt can also be used but sour cream is my preference because it’s creamier.
Walnuts – The classic nut addition in “gourmet deli-style” chicken sandwiches. I think part of the appeal, other than the hint of nutty flavour, is that it adds a bit of much needed texture in the otherwise very creamy filling.
Best substitute – probably macadamia nuts or pecans. Else, leave it out.
Fresh dill – Another ingredient that makes this “gourmet deli-style”! Lovely hint of fresh flavour. No other herb will provide the same flavour so if you don’t have it / like it, just leave it out. (Parsley can be used for a bit of green colour but won’t add flavour).
Pickles – For the most subtle touch of tang in the filling. Use your favourite pickles. You could even substitute with capers.
Celery and green onion – Adds background freshness in the filling and the celery also adds texture. While green onion could be substituted with red onion or eschalots (French onions / US: shallots), don’t skip the celery! It really makes a difference.
Onion, garlic, salt, pepper – The seasonings for the sauce. I use onion and garlic powder rather than fresh because they have a smooth earthy flavour which is what I’m after for the sauce.
Lemon juice – For a touch of freshness in the sauce. Substitute with vinegar.
Dijon mustard – More flavour!
How to make deli-style chicken sandwiches
Nothing ground-breaking here. The only trick is shredding the chicken as finely as you can. The finer it’s shredded, the creamier the chicken filling which is what sets deli-style chicken sandwiches apart from the rest!
As I mentioned earlier, a stand-mixer will make short work of this. Hand-held beater also works. Else, your hands and some patience!
Remove flesh off the chicken and remove the skin. (No prizes for guessing where all the chicken skin goes around here. You’ll see in the recipe video!)
Shred the chicken as finely as you can. It takes about 1 minute on medium speed using a stand-mixer using the paddle attachment (not whisk, it gets all caught up in the wires). A hand-held beater will also work but will take a bit longer. Else, use your hands.
Mix sauce ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Use a whisk, if needed.
Pour sauce over the chicken with remaining Filling ingredients (walnuts, celery, green onion, pickle, dill) and mix until combined.
At this stage, you should sneak in a taste test and marvel at how soft and creamy the chicken sandwich filling is!
Butter the bread. This not only provides extra flavour but a protection barrier so the sauce of the chicken filling doesn’t soak into the bread.
Spread the filling on the bread, from edge to edge.
Cut off crusts – I typically don’t cut the crust off sandwiches but for chicken sandwiches, I do if I’m making them for other people. Partly so they look neat – think High-Tea finger sandwich style – and also because then you get the full effect of the soft creamy chicken filling with just soft white bread. No tough crust getting in the way of the eating experience!
PS You know full well the crusts get eaten right? Plenty of chicken filling makes its way to the crust!
Cut in half on the diagonal, or into rectangles, then line them upon a platter!
TIP: If you want really neat edges, refrigerate the assembled sandwiches for at least 2 hours before slicing. This will make the filling firm up and makes it easier to cut neatly. I did not do this for the sandwiches pictured in this post. You know that patience is not my greatest virtue!
I love a good sandwich, and these Chicken Sandwiches rate very, very highly in my books. As a bonus, the filling keeps well for 3 days and the assembled sandwiches, while best made fresh, are still 90% as good the next day (the bread softens with time). In fact, the sandwiches in this post were my dinner and breakfast for 2 consecutive days – and I was very happy about it!
And as I mentioned in the opening, I’m sharing this recipe with holiday gatherings in mind. Take it to your office Christmas party. A picnic with friends. A day out at the beach.
Or, you could go really crazy and have them for lunch! 😱 Live life on the edge! – Nagi x
PS If you do make these for a gathering, tell me below if they were the first food to go! #NotCommpetitiveAtAll 🤭
Watch how to make it
Prep: 15 mins
Finger Food, Lunch, Party Food, picnic
Shred the chicken as finely as you can. The best method is using a stand-mixer. Just put the meat in the bowl with the paddle attachment and mix on medium speed until it’s really finely shredded (~ 1 minute). Else use a handheld beater or your hands.
Mix the Sauce ingredients in a bowl until smooth – use a whisk if needed.
Pour Sauce over the chicken. Add remaining Filling ingredients. Stir until combined.
Spread bread with butter. Spread with Filling (see below for amount).
Remove crusts if desired (for the authentic “gourmet” experience!) and cut in half. (Tip: For really neat cuts, refrigerate sandwiches before slicing so Filling firms up).
Serve on platters littered with green fluffage, if desired!
Filling quantities (Note 6)
Chicken filling per sandwich:– Deli standard (recommended): 100g / 1/2 cup (makes 10 sandwiches)– Very generous: 130g / 1/2 cup (makes 8)– Everyday lunchbox: 80g (1/3 cup) (makes 15).
If using homemade plain cooked chicken, toss 1 teaspoon extra salt through the shredded chicken. Use my Foolproof Poached Chicken Breast recipe. Cool, then roughly shred into large pieces with hands before blitzing in stand-mixer.
No scales? 500g/1 lb chicken once finely shredded is just shy of 4 cups, lightly packed (ie don’t jam it in to measure).
2. Walnuts is the classic nut addition for “gourmet deli-style” chicken sandwiches and adds a touch of special. Love how it softens and melds into the filling. Best sub is probably macadamia nuts or pecans. Else, leave it out.
3. Dill is also another secret ingredient that makes these “gourmet deli-style”. No other herb will provide the same flavour so if you don’t have it / like it, just leave it out. (Parsley can be used for a bit of green colour but won’t add flavour).
4. Mayo – S&W is best in Australia. Kewpie is the next best, followed by Hellman’s. I find others too sweet, too vinegary – who me, fussy? 🙂
5. Bread – Hot tip for Aussies: Bakers Delight white sandwich bread sliced standard thickness (not extra thick) is best for softness but not so crazy soft it gets squished!
6. Filling amount – It’s a rich filling, don’t need to go crazy with it.
- 1/2 cup (100g) per sandwich is generous and makes a filling sandwich, even for someone with a “robust” appetite like myself! Makes 10.
- Normal lunchbox size sandwich – 1/3 cup (80g) is sufficient, makes 15.
- Mega sandwich – pile on as much as you want!
7. Storage – Keeps for 3 days in the fridge, assembled or filling only. Filling flavour gets even better overnight!
Life of Dozer
Stand up paddle boarding with Dozer. (He stood. I didn’t!)