For last-minute Labor Day chicken salad, buy a cooked bird

Sometimes the best way to change the way you cook is to not cook at all.

For some weeknight meals, we grab a cooked rotisserie chicken from the supermarket, which allows us to focus on loading up the shredded meat with flavor. It’s a trick we use for this impromptu chicken salad from our book “COOKish,” which limits recipes to just six ingredients without sacrificing flavor. And it’s the perfect thing to throw together at the last minute before that Labor Day cookout without having to turn on the oven during a hot summer day.

For this recipe, we skip the mayonnaise and instead use another shortcut that packs complex flavor into one ingredient — red pepper jelly. The slight bitterness and vegetal quality of the peppers helps to balance the sugars.

Two tablespoons of white vinegar brightens the dressing, and thinly sliced scallions or red onion contribute a sharp bite. And canned black-eyed peas are an easy way to add substance. We let the beans soak in the dressing for 10 minutes so they absorb more flavor, which also gives time to shred the chicken.

An average-size, store-bought rotisserie bird will yield enough shredded chicken for this recipe.

The salad is especially good on top of leafy greens or served with a hunk of cornbread. And it’s all done and ready to serve in under 30 minutes.

Chicken and Bean Salad with Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette

Start to finish: 20 minutes

Servings: 4

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced OR ½ red onion, thinly sliced

⅓ cup red pepper jelly

2 tablespoons white vinegar OR hot sauce

2 tablespoons neutral oil

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

15½-ounce can black-eyed peas OR kidney beans OR black beans, rinsed and drained

3 cups shredded cooked chicken

Stir together the scallions, jelly, vinegar, oil, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Add the beans, stir and let stand for about 10 minutes. Stir in the chicken, then season with salt and pepper.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more recipes, go to Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street at

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