Chinese Chicken Salad

This crunchy Chinese Chicken Salad is quick, refreshing and satisfying, loaded with crisp, vibrant veggies, crunchy wonton strips and nuts all doused in tangy Sesame Ginger Dressing!

This Chinese Chicken Salad recipe is not only healthy, it is addicting and destined to become one of your favorite Asian salads of all time. It is a tantalizing combination of Napa cabbage, snow peas, carrots, bell peppers, Mandarin oranges, sliced almonds, wonton strips and sesame seeds.  It makes fabulous prep ahead/portable lunches, light dinners or crowd pleasing potluck sides.  It stores beautifully, is clean-out-the-fridge customizable and is a texture lover’s dream with all that CRUNCH!

CHINESE CHICKEN SALAD VIDEO

up close top view of crunchy chinese chicken salad with mandarin oranges, napa cabbage, wontons, carrots, snow peas, red bell peppers and sesame ginger dressing

Chinese Chicken Salad

Do you love Chinese Chicken Salad?!  Chinese Salad is probably the salad I order more than any other when I dine out.  It is vibrant, fresh, crunchy, healthy and one of the few salads I don’t feel like I want to eat a second meal after.

From the Cheesecake Factory, to P.F.Chang’s, to California Pizza Kitchen, to Applebee’s,  everyone has their own spin on this Asian fusion salad.  But, I have to admit, this irresistible Chinese Chicken Salad recipe is my most favorite of all.  It is not only restaurant delicious, but is healthier and super easy to make at home in your slippers!

The key to a dynamite Chinese Chicken Salad is fresh ingredients, a flavor exploding dressing and tons of CRUNCH – and this salad has it all!

side view of healthy Chinese chicken salad with mandarin oranges, peanuts napa cabbage, wontons, carrots, snow peas, red bell peppers and sesame ginger dressing

What goes in Chinese Chicken Salad?

Chinese Chicken Salad ingredients vary greatly between recipes.  There is no right or wrong way to make a Chinese Chicken Salad – you can essentially use whatever ingredients you have in your refrigerator as long as you have a killer dressing (below) and have tons of CRUNCH.

The crunch mainly comes from the Napa cabbage and wonton strips or chow Mein noodles.  In addition to these essentials, a healthy does of cilantro and green onions adds a dynamic Asian flair.

For my Chinese Chicken Salad recipe, I’ve stuck with the essentials and hand picked accessible, fresh veggies that I think make a stellar cast:

  • Napa cabbage
  • shredded chicken
  • red cabbage
  • shredded carrots
  • snow peas
  • red bell pepper
  • mandarin oranges
  • cilantro
  • green onions
  • almonds or chopped peanuts
  • wonton strips or chow Mein noodles
  • sesame seeds or sunflower seeds
up close side view of top view of crunchy Chinese chicken salad with ramen noodles, Mandarin oranges, peanuts napa cabbage, wontons, carrots, snow peas, red bell peppers all tossed together with sesame dressing

Chinese Chicken Salad Alternatives

You can also swap out the aforementioned veggies (aside from the Napa cabbage) for:

  • bean sprouts
  • water chestnuts
  • cucumbers
  • mushrooms
  • edamame
  • celery
  • mint

Optional Salad Add-Ins

In additional to veggies, I love the sweet citrus the Mandarin oranges add to the Chinese Chicken Salad that compliments the earthy salad ingredients.  Along with the Mandarin oranges, these would also make fabulous sweet additions:

  • craisins (highly recommended!)
  • pineapple
  • mango
  • Asian pear

If you’ve never tried craisins in your salads before, I highly recommend the in addition to the Mandarin oranges.  Their sweetness is a delightful reprieve you will be loving and even seeking in every bite!

side view of healthy Chinese chicken salad with ramen noodles, mandarin oranges, peanuts napa cabbage, wontons, carrots, snow peas, red bell peppers and sesame ginger dressing

How do you make Chinese Chicken salad?

Although the ingredient list is somewhat lengthy, don’t be intimidated by this Chinese Chicken Salad Recipe!  It just requires some chopping and whisking or shaking of your salad dressing ingredients AND you don’t even have to turn on your stove!  Read how easy it is:

  1. Add all of the Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing ingredients to a mason jar with a tight fitting lid or a small bowl. Shake jar or whisk dressing vigorously.
  2. Remove 3 tablespoons dressing to a bowl with the chicken. Stir until evenly coated.  Let chicken marinate while you prep the vegetables.  Refrigerate the remaining dressing.
  3. Add all salad ingredients to a large bowl except for wonton strips IF you are expecting leftovers. Whisk/shake salad dressing and drizzle desired amount of dressing over salad and toss until well combined. Add wontons strips to individual servings if expecting leftovers.

far away top view of best ever Chinese chicken salad tossed together with mandarin oranges, peanuts napa cabbage, wontons, carrots, snow peas, red bell peppers and sesame dressing

The Secret to the Best Chinese Chicken Salad

As you can see in step 2 above, I do a little something different in my Chinese Chicken Salad Recipe – part of the salad dressing becomes our chicken marinade!

The pre-cooked chicken seeps up an astonishing amount of flavor in just minutes as you prep your veggies.  Marinating your chicken ensures it isn’t bland but juicy, Asian infused chicken worthy of it’s name, Chinese Chicken Salad.  Marinating the chicken also prevents it from becoming dry if storing your chicken.

top view of best ever Chinese chicken salad tossed together with mandarin oranges, peanuts napa cabbage, wontons, carrots, snow peas, red bell peppers and sesame ginger dressing

How to make your own Shredded Chicken

You can purchase a rotisserie chicken for easy, shortcut Chinese Chicken Salad or you can make your own shredded chicken.  To make your own shredded chicken:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add 1 ¼ pounds chicken breasts pounded thin (3-4 breasts) and cook 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown on one side.
  3. Flip chicken and add 1 ½ cups chicken broth. Cover and reduce heat to medium and simmer 10 minutes, then flip chicken over and continue to cook 5-10 minutes or until chicken is cooked though and tender enough to shred.  You may need to add more chicken broth if it is already absorbed when you flip your chicken over.
  4. Remove chicken from skillet and let rest 5 minutes before shredding.
best ever Chinese chicken salad tossed together with mandarin oranges, peanuts napa cabbage, wontons, carrots, snow peas, red bell peppers and sesame dressing

How do you make Chinese salad dressing?

Another defining factor in my Chinese Chicken Salad is the Chinese Salad Dressing.  I use a slightly modified version of my Chinese Chicken Salad Wraps Dressing, because it is tangy, sweet soy perfection.

It is so good, I even had a reader comment on my IG, that other Chinese Chicken Salad Dressings are “lackluster, but not the problem with this dressing!”

Our Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing is comprised of:

  • ⅓ cup rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Asian sweet chili sauce
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon sriracha optional
  • 1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 ½ teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons peanut or canola oil

These pantry ingredients can be whipped together in minutes and deliver the flavor punch required to enliven our crunchy yet otherwise neutral cast of cabbage, carrots, bell peppers, snow peas, etc.

This Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing is tangy and robust yet light at the same time. It has a sweet heat zing provided by the Asian Sweet Chili Sauce, sriracha, ginger and garlic.  If you aren’t a fan of heat then start with less sriracha and add more to taste, but keep in mind the flavor and heat of the dressing will be dramatically diluted when poured over the entire salad.

best ever Chinese chicken salad with mandarin oranges, peanuts napa cabbage, wontons, carrots, snow peas, red bell peppers all tossed together with sesame dressing

Notes about Chinese Chicken Salad Recipe

  • Napa Cabbage.  Napa cabbage is the base of our Chinese Chicken Salad.  It is light and fresh with a more mild cabbage taste.  Napa cabbage pairs beautifully with red cabbage because it is thinner and softer than traditional cabbage but still delivers a fabulous, yet not overpowering crunch.
  • Where to find Napa Cabbage/Substitute. You should be able to find Napa cabbage at your grocery store alongside green and red cabbage.  If your store doesn’t care it, for whatever reason, then Sprouts or Whole Foods definitely will.  If you have to substitute your Napa cabbage, then use a sturdier lettuce such as romaine or iceberg.
  • Red Cabbage.  I heart cabbage 10X over lettuce.  It’s crispier and stays fresh way longer.  You can also use green cabbage instead of red.  Red cabbage pairs beautifully with Napa cabbage to deliver an awesome crunch without being overpowering.
  • Mandarin Oranges. Try to purchase Mandarin oranges in water, but if you can only find them packed in light syrup then drain oranges, and rinse with water, and pat dry.  I prefer 2 11 oz. cans of Mandarin oranges because I love their sweetness, but that is totally up to you.
  • Pre-shredded vegetables. For shortcut salad prep, you can buy bags of pre-shredded cabbage and matchstick carrots.  I find all of the ingredients can be chopped pretty quickly with the most time consuming being the carrots, so that might be worth splurging for.
  • Food Processor.  If you have a food processor, then your salad prep time just got faster!  Attach your shredder blade for the for Napa and red cabbage and use your grater blade for the carrots.
  • Rotisserie chicken:  Store-bought rotisserie chicken makes the chicken component come together super quickly.
two tongs spooning healthy Chinese chicken salad tossed together with mandarin oranges, peanuts napa cabbage, wontons, carrots, snow peas, red bell peppers and sesame dressing
  • Customize.  This  Chinese Chicken Salad is all about making it YOUR favorite Chinese Chicken Salad.  Do this by adding more or less of any of the ingredients to your liking, or omitting some ingredients completely, as long as you have something sweet (like Mandarin oranges/craisins) and plenty of CRUNCH!.
  • Asian Sweet Chili SauceThis is my secret ingredient in my Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing and many other recipes.  It just adds that little extra layer of flavor that equals dynamic perfection. To me, Asian Sweet Chili Sauce it is the perfect balance of tangy sweet heat and so worth keeping stocked in your refrigerator.  If you’ve never purchased Asian Sweet Chili Sauce before, it is a very common ingredient and can easily be found in the Asian section of your grocery store.  Mae Ploys brand is simply called, “Asian Sweet Chili Sauce” and Lee Kum Kee’s brand is called, “Thai Sweet Chili Sauce.”
  • The CRUNCH:  The crunch is the most important part of this Chinese Chicken Salad – so don’t skimp!  You can use wonton strips (usually found in the produce department) or chow mein noodles.  You could even use toasted top ramen noodles like I did in My Crunchy Aisan Salad.  You will also want to use plenty of sliced almonds or peanuts.  Although not pictured, my personal favorite is crushed peanuts.  You also have the option between sesame seeds and and sunflower seeds – I vote sunflower seeds – soooo good!
  • Hold the Dressing.  Start with less dressing than you think you need and add more to taste.  The dressing is strong and you don’t want it to overshadow your salad.  Also, the dressing will soften the cabbage and you don’t want a soggy salad!
  • Scale to your Needs.   This Chinese Chicken Salad Recipe makes enough for a family meal, but you can easily half the recipe if you prefer.  That being said, this salad makes awesome leftovers, so I wouldn’t be shy.
side view of top view of best ever Chinese chicken salad with ramen noodles, Mandarin oranges, peanuts napa cabbage, wontons, carrots, snow peas, red bell peppers all tossed together with sesame dressing

HOW TO PREP CHINESE CHICKEN SALAD AHEAD

Chop the salad ingredients then keep them stored separately in sealable bags or airtight containers in the refrigerator.  When ready to serve, toss salad ingredients together.  If you are expecting leftovers, then only add Mandarin oranges, almonds/peanuts, wonton strips/chow mein noodles, and and dressing to individual servings.

That being said, the tossed Chinese Chicken Salad will still hold up for a couple days in the refrigerator, aside from the wonton strips/chow mein noodles because we are using cabbage instead of lettuce.  I was eating my tossed salad for days 😊.

The Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing can be whisked together and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5 days.

top view of crunchy Chinese chicken salad with mandarin oranges, peanuts napa cabbage, wontons, carrots, snow peas, red bell peppers all tossed together with sesame dressing

Meal Prep

Keep salad components separate in airtight containers in the refrigerator for maximum freshness and days of delicious lunches or dinners.

LOOKING FOR MORE CHICKEN SALAD RECIPES?

up close side view of top view of crunchy Chinese chicken salad with ramen noodles, Mandarin oranges, peanuts napa cabbage, wontons, carrots, snow peas, red bell peppers all tossed together with sesame dressing

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

up close side view of top view of crunchy Chinese chicken salad with ramen noodles, Mandarin oranges, peanuts napa cabbage, wontons, carrots, snow peas, red bell peppers all tossed together with sesame dressing

Chinese Chicken Salad

The BEST Chinese Chicken Salad! It is easy, quick, and refreshing loaded with crisp, vibrant veggies, crunchy wonton strips and nuts all doused in dynamite tangy Sesame Ginger Dressing! This Salad stores beautifully for make ahead/portable lunches and stress free dinners! 
Servings: 6 -8
Prep Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

Salad

  • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 1 small head Napa cabbage thinly shredded (about 6 cups, approx. 1 pound)
  • 1/2 small red cabbage thinly shredded (approx. 3 cups)
  • 1 cup matchstick. thinly julienned, or finely shredded carrots
  • 3 oz. snow peas, ends trimmed and julienned (approx. 1 cup)
  • 1 red bell pepper julienned then halved
  • 1-2 11 oz. can(s) mandarin oranges in water drained
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed cilantro, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup craisins optional but recommended
  • 2/3 cup sliced almonds or chopped peanuts more or less to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups wonton strips or chow Mein noodles more or less to taste
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds or sunflower seeds more or less to taste

Optional Salad Ingredients

  • pineapple
  • mango
  • Asian pear

Dressing

Instructions

  • Add all of the dressing ingredients to a mason jar with a tight fitting lid or a small bowl. Shake jar or whisk dressing vigorously. Remove 3 tablespoons dressing to a bowl with the chicken. Stir until evenly coated. Let chicken marinate while you prep the vegetables. Refrigerate the remaining dressing.
  • Add all salad ingredients to a large bowl except for wonton strips IF you are expecting leftovers. Whisk/shake salad dressing and drizzle desired amount of dressing over salad and toss until well combined. Add wontons strips to individual servings if expecting leftovers.

Notes

Don't miss the "how to make" recipe video at the top of the post!

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32 Comments

  1. Wendy says

    I love all your salad recipes, I can’t wait to make this one! I made your Cobb salad last week and it was amazing!

    • Jen says

      Hi Wendy, that is awesome you made my Cobb Salad already – I’m so happy you loved it! I think you’ll love this one too! Thanks for taking the time to comment, happy Labor Day weekend!

      • Wendy says

        I made this salad this past weekend- it was excellent! The dressing is amazing and I love all the textures. I had never used snow peas this way but they were wonderful.

        • Jen says

          YAY! I’m so happy it was a hit Wendy, thank you!

  2. Kate says

    I am new to your site and I am hooked! So far I’ve made your Mexican Chicken, one skillet Mexican. Chicken and Rice, Cowboy Pasta Salad, French Dips, Perfect Fruit Salad, Thai Red Curry and they have been incredible! I am so happy I found you and can’t wait to try this salad as well! You have quickly become my favorite recipe resource. Thank you for all your hard work!

    • Jen says

      Hi Kate, Welcome!!! And thank you SO much for your comment and for making my day! There is nothing that makes me happier than hearing how much someone is loving my recipes! I am so happy you stumbled upon my blog and I hope you continue to find new favorites here!

  3. Nikki says

    We made this salad for lunch today. It was excellent! I did use coconut aminos in place of the soy sauce and sugar. The dressing was so good. Thanks for another great recipe!

    • Jen says

      That is amazing you made it already, I’m thrilled you loved it! Thank you Nikki!

  4. Desiree Zola says

    Hi Jen,
    Can’t wait to make this salad! You’re my “go-to” recipe site. It’s still pretty hot here in AZ, but decided to make the one pot Italian Chicken Orzo Pasta the other night. So delicious! Thank you for all you do for us :).

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for your kind comm Desiree! I’m honored I’m your “go to” recipe site! I’m so happy the Italian Chicken Orzo Pasta was worth braving the heat! Bring on soup season!

  5. Brittney Lee says

    Hi Jen,

    Can I substitute Olive oil for the peanut oil or canola oil? Thank you.

    • Jen says

      Yes! I would use canola oil because it is more neutral. enjoy!

  6. Mercedes Love says

    Made the salad yesterday and making it again tonight and every week after! Sooooo good. It’s mine and my daughters new favorite salad. Thanks for sharing. I love your Instagram page!

    • Jen says

      Thanks for making my day Mercedes! I’m thrilled this Chinese Chicken Salad is a new repeat favorite! Thanks for making my recipes and following along!

  7. Anna Oswald says

    Made this last night exactly according to the recipe. Wouldn’t change a thing! Leftovers today for lunch are just as good. Thanks for putting this out there!

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome Anna, I’m so pleased you loved it!

  8. Darci says

    Do you know the nutrition for this?

  9. Clint and Amy Gerber says

    What would be a good side to pair with this?

    • Jen says

      It really is a complete meal-in-one so I’d go with something simple like pineapple.

  10. Julie Fleischhacker says

    Wow! This salad is soooo delicious. It hits all the right spots in my mouth and my belly! The dressing is spot on. I’m writing this as I shovel the salad into my mouth. A friend told me about your site and specifically this recipe. She hasn’t tried it yet – why Laura, why?! She is jealous because I beat her to it AND I can’t stop texting her how good it is. Thank you!!!

    • Jen says

      LOL! Love your comment Julie, welcome to my site! I’m thrilled you love this recipe so much and hope you enjoy exploring my recipes!

  11. Patrice says

    How far ahead can you make the dressing? Thanks.

    • Jen says

      Hi Patrice, I would say about 5 days ahead. Enjoy!

  12. Kristine S says

    Delicious. Did not use fruit or won ton noodles. Next time I will hold the cilantro. It overpowered the other flavors. Will also increase siracha.

    • Jen says

      Thanks Kristine, I’m so happy you enjoyed it!

  13. Sally Petraglia says

    Just finished up dinner & we absolutely loved the Chinese Chicken Salad! My husband can’t stop eating it. Followed it to the T, but I did buy a rotessiere chicken at the local market. Looking forward to lunch tomorrow.

    • Jen says

      Thanks for your awesome comment/review Sally! I’m so happy you both loved it so much!

  14. Susan says

    My new favorite salad! It’s delicious with or without the chicken. I made this for a birthday gathering with girlfriends last weekend and everyone had me send this Pinterest pin. The perfect combination of flavors and textures. The fresh ginger makes it all pop. It took some searching but finally found the wonton crunchies at Target. I bought the last 3 packages because I know I’ll be making this a lot this Spring & Summer.

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much for your awesome comment Susan! I’m thrilled this salad was such a hit and a repeat favorite!

  15. Jenny says

    Goodness this was perfect! Every week we seem to find a new favorite from this site. And this is by far the best, easiest and tastiest way to prepare shredded chicken!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Jenny for taking the time to comment and make my day! I’m so happy you’re enjoying my recipes!