How to Make Chinese Chicken Salad (That’s Better Than Your Favorite Restaurant)
Need a salad idea that's not boring? Mix crunchy, fresh veggies with crispy chow mein noodles and shredded chicken for a tastebud-pleasing Chinese chicken salad.
If you’re tired of making chicken salads full of yogurt and mayonnaise, it’s time to try Chinese chicken salad. While your typical chicken salad on a flaky croissant will always be a classic, the best way to beat kitchen repetition is to switch things up. Nutty, umami flavors similar to those in stir-fries marry well with crisp cabbage and shredded chicken in this cold salad—a refreshing reprieve when it’s too hot to cook over a wok.
The salad gets its name from the various seasonings and ingredients often found in your favorite Chinese takeout orders, but it is not an authentic Chinese dish. Seen on menus since the golden age of Hollywood and then popularized again in the 1970s and ’80s with the resurgence of Asian fusion food, Chinese chicken salad remains a popular dish for Americans.
Key Ingredients for Chinese Chicken Salad
So, what are the ingredients that make a Chinese chicken salad stand out from the mainstream version? Let’s get into it!
- Cabbage: Chinese and napa cabbage offer leafy, tender crunchiness to the salad, while red cabbage adds loads of antioxidants.
- Dressing: Perhaps unsurprisingly, a Chinese chicken salad comes to life when tossed with the typical ingredients found in Asian cuisine: soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar and ginger.
- Chicken: A staple in a chicken salad—the meat should be precooked and cooled.
- Gingerroot: Health benefits of ginger aside, the root adds a marvelously peppery punch to this salad.
- Chow mein noodles: The thin, stringy egg noodles are used in typical chow mein dishes, but a crispy version of the noodle (more like a cracker) tops off this salad.
Chinese Chicken Salad Recipe
- 4 cups coarsely chopped Chinese or napa cabbage
- 2 cups shredded red cabbage
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 4 green onions, chopped
- 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh gingerroot
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup crispy chow mein noodles
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
Step 1: Mix the salad components
In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients and toss thoroughly.
Step 2: Make the dressing
In a small bowl, whisk oils, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger and pepper until well combined.
Step 3: Coat the salad
Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture, and toss again to coat. Sprinkle the top of the salad with the crispy chow mein noodles and sesame seeds.
Tips for Making Chinese Chicken Salad
What other dressings can you use for Chinese chicken salad?
If you’re looking to change up the dressing for this salad, try a peanut sauce or experiment with various spices to upgrade the sauce that’s part of this recipe. There are so many tasty Asian sauces to add to this dish.
Are there any shortcuts to making Chinese chicken salad?
Need lunch in a hurry? Use store-bought rotisserie chicken and precut cabbage to save time in the kitchen. You could even use ground ginger and garlic powder if you don’t have time to mince those ingredients.
What else can you add to Chinese chicken salad?
Like any of your favorite salads, tossing in ingredients you have on hand that might pair well with the Asian-inspired flavors are all game. Add sriracha for heat, hoisin sauce for slight sweetness, orange slices for a burst of citrus and water chestnuts if the cabbage isn’t enough crunch for you. If you can’t find crispy chow mein noodles, swap in wonton strips instead.
How do you store Chinese chicken salad?
Storing salads is always tricky—you never want soggy leaves the next day. To preserve the crisp nature of all the ingredients, store the first six ingredients in a separate container than the dressing ingredients and the garnishes. Keep the cabbage mixture and the dressing refrigerated until you’re ready to eat, then toss together and garnish according to your tastes.