A wonderfully flavorful Chinese chicken salad that you can make in advance and refrigerate.
I like to make a big batch and enjoy it over the course of a few days. It's perfect for lunch or as a light weeknight dinner.
This salad is so good! The dressing, based on sesame oil and soy sauce with a hint of garlic and ginger, is phenomenal. I also love the crunch that the shredded cabbage provides.
One of the main advantages of this Chinese chicken salad is that you make it in advance. When I anticipate a busy week, I make a big batch of it on Sunday and have ready-made meals for several days.
Here's an overview of what you'll need to make this tasty salad. The exact measurements are included in the recipe card below.
For the salad:
- Shredded cooked chicken: I tend to use pre-cooked chicken breasts. You can also use rotisserie chicken. Just make sure to remove the skin.
- Shredded green cabbage: Adds a wonderful crunch to the salad. To make life easy, I often use a bag of coleslaw mix that also includes shredded carrots and red cabbage.
- Sliced green onions: I only use the green parts. They add both color and flavor. You can either mix them into the salad or sprinkle them on top for a pretty presentation.
For the sesame dressing:
- Soy sauce: I use reduced-sodium soy sauce in most of my recipes. Obviously, you can also use a gluten-free alternative.
- Sesame oil: I like to use toasted sesame oil. It's so flavorful!
- Rice vinegar: If you don’t have any on hand, it’s OK to use white wine vinegar instead. I don’t recommend using plain distilled vinegar, though. It’s too acidic.
- Honey: Just one tablespoon to balance out the other flavors. You can omit this ingredient if you wish.
- Minced garlic and ginger: You can mince them by yourself, or use the stuff that comes in a jar. Freshly minced will taste better, though. I don't recommend subbing powders, though - they're not as flavorful.
- Red pepper flakes: They don't make the salad truly spicy - they just add an extra layer of flavor.
Making this Chinese chicken salad is easy! Scroll down to the recipe card for detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps:
In a large bowl, toss together the shredded chicken, shredded cabbage, and sliced green onions. You can also reserve the green onions and sprinkle them on top of the salad after it's ready.
In a small bowl or jar, mix the dressing ingredients.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.
Cover and refrigerate for one hour to allow the flavor to meld. Toss again before serving.
One of the best things about this salad is that you can make it in advance and refrigerate it. In fact, it tastes better as the flavors are allowed to meld, so it's best to make it a few hours before you plan on serving it.
Frequently asked questions
This is actually a Chinese-American fusion-type dish. I've been to China in the 1990s and I was never served this type of salad. However, it's certainly inspired by Chinese flavors and ingredients, and it's very good!
While many recipes call for crunchy noodles, I find that those are unnecessary. The cabbage adds plenty of crunch, and you can also add a handful of slivered almonds if you wish.
Yes, you can. But I use just a tablespoon of it, and I do like the way it balances out the other flavors.
Here are a few ways for you to vary this recipe:
- Some recipes for Chinese chicken salad instruct you to add canned mandarin oranges. I prefer not to, simply because I'm not fond of fruit in savory salads. I also don't add grapes to my chicken salad. Having said that, definitely feel free to add ¼ cup of them if you wish.
- As mentioned above, you can skip the crunchy noodles often added to these salads. The cabbage provides plenty of crunch. And if you'd like, you can also add ¼ cup of slivered almonds.
- Instead of shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix, you can use broccoli slaw. It's very good!
- If you enjoy spicy foods, you can increase the amount of red pepper flakes. Try ½ teaspoon and taste. You can always add more.
Much like Thai chicken salad, this is a main-course salad. It has chicken and vegetables and it's very substantial and filling. It's the perfect lunch, of course. But I also like to serve it for dinner, especially in the summer when I don't feel like cooking.
There's no need to serve this salad with sides. Just serve a bowl of it for a tasty, satisfying meal.
You can keep the leftovers for up to 4 days in the fridge, in an airtight container (but remember to start counting these 4 days since the day the chicken was cooked).
As mentioned above, I like to make a big batch of this tasty salad and then enjoy it over the course of a few days.
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Chinese Chicken Salad
- 1.5 lb. chicken breasts cooked and shredded
- 12 oz coleslaw mix or ½ green cabbage, shredded
- ⅓ cup green onions thinly sliced, green part only (2 oz)
- 4 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce (or use a gluten-free alternative)
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey real or sugar-free
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger root minced
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- Use your hands to shred the chicken breasts. Place the chicken pieces in a very large mixing bowl.
- Add the shredded cabbage and the green onions and toss everything together.
- In a small jar, add the dressing ingredients. Shake well to mix. You can also whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.
- Cover and refrigerate for one hour to allow the flavors to meld. Toss again before serving and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
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