This vintage Chinese chicken salad is updated and adapted from my mom’s PTA recipe from the 60s. This modified and healthier version of Chinese chicken salad has all the flavor, but less sugar and is lower in carbs.
It starts with finely shredded Napa cabbage as the base instead of iceberg or romaine lettuce. Then add plenty of shredded or diced chicken breast, Mandarin oranges, scallions, sesame seeds and sliced or slivered almonds. A sweet (but not too sweet) Asian dressing is drizzled over everything. (This post was originally published on May 18th, 2012 and has been updated to contain nutritional information. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn commission on qualifying purchases)
What makes this Chinese chicken salad healthier?
I often hesitate ordering a Chinese Chicken Salad in a restaurant, because they can really pack in hidden calories with the super sweet dressings! My mom made this salad for PTA functions in the 60’s, when it was considered “exotic”. A lot of Chinese chicken salad recipes use the ramen seasoning package and cheap ramen noodles.
Those packets are loaded with chemicals, MSG and who-knows-what else. This dressing recipe is just as easy, but with simple ingredients. I also use Mandarin oranges that are canned in their own juice rather than “syrup”.
I’ve also substituted swerve for the sugar. (Although if you’re not on a low-glycemic diet, the original dressing recipe contains just 3 Tablespoons of granulated sugar which amounts to just a teaspoon per person).
The weather is starting to warm up again…salad days are here again. I could eat a salad every day, and usually do in the summer. There are no outstanding favorites for me, because I like them all, from Italian Panzanella and French Nicoise to Greek and Mediterranean.
How to make Chinese chicken salad
This recipe is perfect for leftover roast or rotisserie chicken. Shred or dice the chicken, slice the green onions on the diagonal, and drain the mandarin oranges. To save time, purchase pre-shredded cabbage. To make the dressing, heat the oil, vinegar and sugars just until the sugar dissolves.
Cool and refrigerate if you’re planning on finishing the salad later. Just add all the ingredients to a large bowl and toss with the dressing. This is my favorite large bowl for big kitchen jobs. This salad will hold for at least one to two hours in the fridge without getting soggy.
This recipe is also versatile!
Swap out the Mandarin oranges for fresh tangerines or diced mango, and cashews or peanuts for the almonds. I used to add crunchy noodles, but I find that the nuts give it plenty of crunch! If I’m making this salad just for the family, I’ll add fresh chopped cilantro. If I’m making it for a big group, I omit it, since cilantro seems to have a small fan base.
It’s my “go-to” salad for baby and wedding showers and will make 8 luncheon portions. If you’re serving smaller portions as a side dish for a picnic or BBQ, it will serve double that.
Some of the items used in this post are available at my Amazon Affiliate Store.
Chinese Chicken Salad
- 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons swerve (regular sugar may be substituted)
- 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/3 cup avocado or light olive oil
- 4 cups cooked chicken breast either shredded, diced or chopped
- 1 bunch of green onions slice thin on the diagonal
- 2 11 ounce cans of Mandarin Oranges drained (or fresh oranges)
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
- 1 cup sliced or slivered almonds toasted
- 1 head cabbage shredded. About 8-10 cups. (you may use pre-packaged cabbage as well. 2 10 ounce packages.)
- Combine the first 7 ingredients, rice wine vinegar to vegetable oil, in a small sauce pan and heat over a low heat just until sugar is dissolved. Let cool and refrigerate.
- For the salad, combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss with dressing.