Image adapted from rachel_bernadette, Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0

How can you make chicken salad without the mayonnaise? Perhaps you’re not into a big fan of the spread in the first place, or maybe the last jar is empty and you don’t want to make the run to the market, or maybe you’re just looking for ways to spice up your everyday recipes. Whatever your reason, you can make chicken (or egg, or tuna, or tempeh) salad without mayonnaise at all. Here are three easy alternatives to use in your chicken salad dressing:

1. Vinaigrette

Making your chicken salad with vinaigrette is a simple and elegant way to prepare the dish using what you already have on hand in the kitchen—and it’s especially light and refreshing to eat.

Think bright citrus ingredients and lots of fresh herbs when crafting your vinaigrette—lemon and orange juices are excellent choices, as are fresh basil, oregano, parsley, or thyme. As always, extra virgin olive oil will deliver delicious results, and bolder oils like walnut or avocado oil will provide a nutty, rich flavor that will stand out against your proteins in the salad.

2. Yogurt

Yogurt is a near perfect substitution for mayonnaise in most chicken salad recipes. Subbing it in exact amounts will yield a thinner base than mayo normally would, as yogurt is not as thick as mayonnaise—but Greek yogurt is a nice choice to use as it is thick and smooth. To thicken the dressing up a bit, try adding in a dollop of Dijon mustard or a scoop of cottage cheese, or even pureeing into the mix a small bit of tofu.

3. Nut Cream

Typically reserved for strict raw food diets, pureed nut creams and dressings are a nice alternative to the regular salad dressing (while delivering some heart-healthy fats). And they’re fairly straightforward to prepare—puree soaked nuts with enough water to make a thick, Ranch dressing-like consistency, then mix in herbs and spices to taste.

Ingredient add-ins may be lemon juice, fresh herbs, and perhaps a drizzle of honey if desired. Often a bit of oil added when blending is helpful, as it helps to hold the dressing together and smoothes out the overall texture.

The food blogger Gluten-Free Goddess has a nice tutorial on making basic Cashew Cream (and a Curry Ranch Dressing) found here, if you’d like more direction on mastering this idea.

Image adapted from rachel_bernadette, Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0