This Chinese chicken salad is just like those salads you get in a restaurant with the oranges and cashews and the lovely balance of crunchy and tender and sweet and savory.
This Chinese chicken salad is described by the author, Joanne Chang, as “crunchy, tart, healthy, filling, spicy, and sweet with a complex and savory charm.” We couldn’t agree more. We’d also like to add “just like those restaurant versions of Chinese chicken salad” and “addictive as heck” and “easy to toss together on a weeknight.”–Angie Zoobkoff
Chinese Chicken Salad FAQs
To supreme oranges, begin by slicing off the top and bottom (the North and South poles, if you will) flesh. Now place the orange on your work surface so that it’s sitting securely on its flat South Pole. Starting at the top, follow the curve and cut away the peel and white pith in wide strips. Now, cradle the peeled orange in your hand and, working over a bowl, slice between the membranes of the orange sections to release them, let the sections and juice fall into the bowl.
Some recipes call for smashed garlic vs. minced garlic, and while you’ve probably minced loads of garlic, do you know how to smash it? It’s pretty simple, honestly. On a cutting board, hold a heavy chef’s knife on top of an unpeeled clove, flat side down and sharp edge pointing away from you. Using the heel of your other hand, hit the flat of the blade firmly once or twice to smash the garlic underneath and then pull away the loosened skin. Done!
Chinese Chicken Salad
For the Chinese chicken salad
- 1 medium garlic clove smashed
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 seedless oranges, such as navel thinly sliced or supremed
- 1 head romaine lettuce shredded
- 2 medium celery stalks thinly sliced
- 1 cup roasted, lightly salted cashews or peanuts
- 4 or 5 scallions (1/2 cup) white and green parts thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Make the Chinese chicken salad
- Place the garlic and chicken in a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Immediately turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let the chicken poach until cooked through and no trace of pink remains when you cut into the thickest part, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the water, let it cool and then shred or cube it into bite-size pieces. (The cooled chicken can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days in advance.)
- In a large bowl, combine the chicken, romaine, celery, cashews, scallions, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.
Make the dressing
- In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, olive oil, brown sugar, Sriracha, vinegar, and ginger.
Serve the Chinese chicken salad
- Pour about 3/4 of the dressing over the salad and toss well to combine. Divvy the salad among 4 serving bowls. Top with the orange slices and serve immediately, passing the remaining dressing on the side.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This Chinese chicken salad is good. The bright mixed greens of romaine, cilantro, and celery had me wanting to dive right in even before adding the remaining ingredients.
This salad has a perfect balance of everything you want: crunchy lettuce, chewy cashews, sweet oranges, lovely tender chicken, and a spicy flavorful dressing. The dressing is a great combination of flavors with the ginger and soy sauce and then a nice kick from the Sriracha. Depending how hot you like things start adding the sriracha a bit at a time. The dressing does have a kick to it and I did reduce the amount of sriracha to 1 tbsp. This gave the dressing just the right amount of heat for my family.
I’ve paid upwards of $15 for a restaurant salad similar to this but this one was more fresh and just as tasty. What a fun way to make a restaurant-quality dish at home! Do splurge on the cashews, they’re well worth it and if you are trying to save, you can always buy a small amount from the bulk bin of your grocery store.
While I loved this recipe, I wouldn’t make it again unless I took some shortcuts such as: using bagged rinsed and chopped romaine lettuce, using canned mandarin oranges, and a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Next time I’d use a scant unpacked 1/4 cup brown sugar.
This is a perfect fusion version of a Chinese chicken salad that doesn’t sacrifice flavor while being easy to make. The heat in the dressing is perfect and not shy. I know that each of my favourite restaurant versions are totally different from each other and this one rivals any of those, as well as the very simple version my favorite Hunan restaurant offers.
I’d serve this to company and you can prepare most of the ingredients ahead—otherwise, plan on an hour plus to prepare this. I was worried that the dressing might be a bit sweet with the brown sugar, but the balance was just right (I only lightly packed the brown sugar, using less than if firmly packed. The olive oil was a more western approach, as well as the romaine, but it worked nicely—sesame oil would have been too heavy and dominant. Be restrained with the dressing so the salad doesn’t end up swimming.
Happy mouth but not too spicy. A nice reminder of the first fancy version of restaurant Chinese Chicken Salad I tried years ago and still order.
This Chinese chicken salad makes a great lunch or dinner. It has everything the recipe promises—crunchy, tart, healthy, filling, spicy, and sweet. The only caveat I would offer is that 2 tablespoons of Sriracha makes the dressing very spicy. I used 1 tablespoon and that worked better for my tolerance for heat in a dish. The amount of dressing is more than what is needed for the quantity of salad, so it can be saved for future use.
One could love this Chinese chicken salad recipe for the dressing alone as it’s delicious (Sriracha, yes, please!) and really jazzed up what would otherwise be a bland salad. I highly recommend sticking with the cashews—they provided a soft & sweet crunch which pairs well with the mandarins I used in my salad.
I opted to skip the supreming of my oranges and slice them thin instead, which still adds the right touch of citrus. I also chose to add a bit of kale to my romaine for some more healthy greens.
This recipe produced a very nice salad which my husband and I enjoyed 2 nights in a row. It does call for some ingredients that may be out-of-the-ordinary for some people but they are things that are always in my pantry or refrigerator. I think that if someone goes out to buy these ingredients, a whole new world of flavors and recipes can be opened up for them.
Perhaps you can look up the ingredients, like unseasoned rice vinegar or Sriracha, for example, on the internet. I can remember hesitating to make recipes that had ingredients that were new to me but that didn’t last once I dove in. The first night I used the cashews but they got lost in the salad, perhaps because of the dressing. We didn’t really notice them being there. For the second night, I went out and bought some of those sesame sticks, which were what I wanted to be crunching on after by first bite or two of the salad the night before. These really improved the salad for us. That’s what I will use when I make this recipe again.
A technique that I am thrilled to have found while making this salad is the method for poaching boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I have always done this at a low simmer, which yielded different results every time, most being tough and unappetizing. Turning the heat off, covering the pot, and letting the chicken “poach” for 12 minutes yielded the moistest white meat I have ever made. I don’t have to run away from white meat called for in recipes any longer.
The recipe for the salad dressing made far too much for the amount of salad that the ingredients produced. I did not want a soupy salad. It does not prove to be a problem, having a jar of this salad dressing in the refrigerator. I will pick up another head of romaine, and will then only need to slice some celery, scallions, and cilantro, and another Chinese Chicken Salad will be on the table. Perhaps either cara cara oranges or blood oranges will be available then.
I’m a huge fan of Chinese chicken salad and this one doesn’t disappoint. This salad came together in about a half-hour and has all of the flavors and crunch that I look for in a salad. I left out the Sriracha as my husband doesn’t care for it but I think that the dressing could definitely benefit from it. The cook time for the chicken was spot on although I think this could be made with dark meat as well or leftover chicken that hasn’t dried out.
I love the flavor of cashews but agree that peanuts could easily be substituted. I think the salad could be easily personalized and would be great with edamame, crunchy noodles, and shredded carrot. I love the flavor and crunch that the celery provides.
Originally published January 1, 2018