Circassian Chicken Salad

This traditional Turkish chicken salad in a light, creamy walnut-and-garlic sauce supposedly got its name because its color resembles the pale complexions of the Circassian beauties in the sultan's harem during the Ottoman Empire. Defne Koryürek serves her version here with a refreshing salad of baby arugula and roasted beets in a vinegary dressing. More Salads with Meat

Active Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs


  • One 4-pound chicken, left whole

  • 1 onion, quartered

  • 1 carrot, halved

  • 6 black peppercorns

  • Water

  • 1 pound medium beets, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wedges

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar

  • One 1-ounce slice of baguette, toasted

  • 2/3 cup walnuts

  • 1 small garlic clove

  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or ancho chile powder

  • 4 ounces baby arugula

  • Toasted pita bread triangles, for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Put the whole chicken, quartered onion, carrot halves and peppercorns in a large soup pot and add enough water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil, skimming off any scum with a spoon. Simmer until the chicken is cooked, about 45 minutes.

  2. Carefully remove the chicken from the pot and pull the meat from the bones; discard the skin. Return the bones to the pot and simmer for 30 minutes longer.

  3. Meanwhile, put the beet wedges in a medium baking dish. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1/4 cup of water and season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and roast for about 1 hour, until the beets are very tender. Let cool. Stir the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into the pan juices.

  4. Shred the chicken and transfer it to a bowl. Strain the chicken broth from the soup pot. Pour 1 cup into a bowl and save the rest for another use. Add the bread to the broth and let stand until softened. In a blender or food processor, pulse the walnuts with the garlic until finely chopped. Add the soaked bread and puree until creamy and smooth. If necessary, add a few extra tablespoons of broth until the sauce is the consistency of thin sour cream. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the sauce into the chicken and season with salt and pepper.

  5. In a small skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the Aleppo pepper over moderate heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Drizzle the spicy oil over the chicken salad.

  6. Arrange the arugula on a platter and top with the beets and their dressing. Spoon the chicken salad alongside and serve with the pita.

Make Ahead

The chicken salad and roasted beets can be refrigerated separately overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Suggested Pairing


Beaujolais, which means Beaujolais from one of the 10 most well-regarded towns in this French region, offers a great leap in quality over simple, soda-poppy Beaujolais Nouveau. Its bright berry fruit and light body also pair well with this light but creamy chicken salad. Look for one of George Duboeuf's many good bottlings, such as one from Julienás or Brouilly.

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