Salvadoran Birthday Party Chicken Salad

Years ago I shared a recipe here for ensalada de pollo salvadoreña which Carlos assured me was exactly as he remembered it. The problem is, Carlos sometimes forgets how things were, especially when it comes to food because he was never actually the one cooking it. Later I came to realize the recipe was missing several key ingredients that would make it uniquely and authentically Salvadoran. Today I want to make things right, so here is a much improved recipe for Salvadoran chicken salad sandwiches which is commonly served wrapped in napkins at children’s birthday parties in El Salvador.

Salvadoran Birthday Party Chicken Salad


10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, breasts or mix of chicken thighs and breasts
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 white onion
2 tbs. fresh minced garlic
1/2 tsp. ground annatto (achiote)

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

2 tbs. Canola oil
1/2 white onion, diced
2-3 medium-sized vine ripe or Roma tomatoes, de-seeded and diced

3-4 cups finely shredded cabbage (about 1/2 a small cabbage)
1 cup shredded carrot
1/2 green pepper, sliced in thin pieces
1/2 white onion, sliced

3 tbs. yellow mustard
2 tbs. Worcestershire sauce, reduced sodium
1/2 cup mayonnaise


1. Boil the chicken thighs in water with 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 an onion, 2 tablespoons of minced fresh garlic, and a 1/2 teaspoon annatto. After the chicken has cooked through, remove from broth to cool. Once cool, shred the meat by hand. Season with 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and set aside.

2. Over medium high heat, cook the diced 1/2 onion and diced tomatoes in 2 tbs. Canola oil for two minutes, stirring. Add the shredded chicken. Mix and set aside.

3. In a separate deep, large pan, cover and cook the shredded cabbage, 1/2 a sliced onion, sliced green pepper, and shredded carrot with 2 tablespoons water for a few minutes over medium-high heat. Next add mustard, and Worcestershire sauce, stirring until well combined.

Add the chicken and mayonnaise into the pan. Stir and cook for 3 more minutes until well combined. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.

4. Allow to cool. Refrigerate. (It’s tastes even better the next day, but you don’t have to wait that long.) When ready to serve, make sandwiches on white sandwich bread. Optional: Serve wrapped in paper napkins. Makes approximately a dozen sandwiches.

Recipe adapted from Gabriela de los Arcangeles.

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