You Need to Bring Southern Ham Salad to Your Next Picnic

Ham salad is a classic Southern staple, and it's perfect for a picnic! With salty, smoky ham, celery, green onion and toasted nuts in a creamy mayonnaise dressing, this salad is delicious on sandwiches, crackers or lettuce.

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.

As a lifelong Virginian, I was born and raised on hams of every kind! Whether they’re smoked Smithfield hams or cured country hams, our state takes great pride in producing some of the finest pork products in the world. While baked or glazed hams are always popular for big family meals and holidays, nothing beats an old-fashioned salad on a bed of lettuce or tucked inside a sandwich for an easy, satisfying dish. It’s a great way to use up leftovers, or you can purchase ham specifically for this recipe.

What Is Southern Ham Salad?

Ham salad is a cold dish that’s similar to tuna salad, egg salad or chicken salad. It’s popular in the South (especially in Virginia), where we have a long history of pork and ham production. The salad typically consists of minced, cubed or ground ham that’s combined with finely diced vegetables (such as celery, onion or relish) and bound together by a creamy mayonnaise-based dressing. It’s delicious spread on sandwiches, crackers or just on its own.

How to Make Ham Salad

Use leftovers from a holiday ham, or take a shortcut and purchase pre-diced ham at the grocery store. Either way, this easy recipe comes together in just minutes and can easily be prepared in advance. It’s a simple, delicious and convenient way to feed a crowd!


  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons spicy brown or Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 5 cups diced fully cooked ham
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans or almonds, toasted
  • Slider buns, split, optional


  • Stainless Steel Bowl: A very large mixing bowl is essential to hold all of the salad and easily stir the ingredients without spilling.
  • Whisk: I prefer a large whisk to smoothly combine the dressing ingredients. Better yet if your whisk has a fancy blade on one side for scraping the edges of the bowl.
  • Spatula: A silicone spatula or a large wooden spoon is helpful for stirring together the salad.


Step 1: Make the dressing

Ham Salad Large Make the dressingBlair Lonergan for Taste of Home

Mix the first eight ingredients in a large bowl.

Step 2: Add ham

Ham Salad Large 3 Add hamBlair Lonergan for Taste of Home

Stir in the ham, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Step 3: Stir in nuts

Ham Salad Large 3Blair Lonergan for Taste of Home

Just before serving, fold in the toasted pecans or almonds.

Serving Suggestions

Ham Salad sandwichesBlair Lonergan for Taste of Home

Ham salad is a classic addition to an appetizer tray or snack table when paired with crackers. It’s also delicious on slider buns for a bridal shower brunch or baby shower celebration, spread on sandwiches for a picnic lunch or light dinner, or just served on a bed of lettuce for a ladies’ luncheon. You can also get creative and pair the ham salad with croissants, small biscuits, homemade crescent rolls or soft dinner rolls.

To round out the meal, serve ham salad sandwiches with any of these favorite picnic salads, such as Southern Potato Salad, Kansas Cucumber Salad or Sparkling Fruit Salad.

How to Store Ham Salad

Ham salad is a great make-ahead option because it will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Stir in the pecans just before serving so that they stay crunchy and firm.

Do not let the ham salad sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours to prevent bacteria from growing. You can keep the salad cold by setting a bowl on top of ice, or by storing the container in a cooler at your picnic.

Recipe Variations

  • Add eggs: Stir chopped hard-boiled eggs into the salad.
  • Make it cheesy: Stir in grated Swiss or cheddar cheese.
  • Add pickle relish: Add sweet pickle relish for a tangy flavor that balances the salty, smoky ham.
  • Use ground ham: Many traditional ham salad recipes call for ground ham or ham that is pureed in a food processor. This gives it a smoother, more spreadable consistency. You can certainly do that here, too!

Tips for the Best Southern Ham Salad Recipe

  • Use leftover baked ham from a previous meal, and dice the meat into very small pieces.
  • Don’t have any leftover ham? Purchase hickory smoked diced ham at the grocery store.
  • Toast the nuts for a crunchier texture and a richer, warmer flavor.
  • To quickly toast the nuts, place them on a microwave-safe plate. Cook on high for a total of about 1 1/2 – 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. You’ll know they’re done when they’re browned and fragrant.
  • Stir the nuts into the salad just before serving so that they don’t get soggy.
  • Use a high quality, full-fat mayonnaise for the best flavor and texture.

More Leftover Ham Recipes to Try

In addition to ham salad sandwiches, enjoy your leftover holiday ham in recipes like Shortcut Split Pea Soup, Ham Casserole or Ham and Cheese Scones. These Ham and Cheese Pockets are also calling my name!

Blair Lonergan
Blair Lonergan lives with her husband and three young boys in a 100-year-old farmhouse at the base of Central Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. A freelance writer and food photographer, Blair shares easy, quick-prep recipes for busy families on her blog, The Seasoned Mom. Her work has been featured in magazines and online at Today, SELF magazine, Buzzfeed, Parade, and Redbook magazine.