Chinese Chicken Salad

This isn’t your grandfather’s Chinese Chicken Salad recipe…

chinese chicken salad 2010

…probably because your grandfather never heard of Chinese chicken salad in his hey day. The Chinese chicken salad that we’re familiar with – shredded chicken, raw lettuce, crispy fried noodles, and a sweet, sesame-based dressing – wasn’t popular until the 1970’s.

The Chinese in Asia typically don’t eat raw-leaf lettuce salads. They prefer their greens cooked. Chinese chicken salad as we know it was probably invented in California as a “fusion” of Oriental flavors with Western ingredients.

Options, Options

There may be 3 main ingredients to a Chinese chicken salad, but they’re not always the same from recipe to recipe. Iceberg lettuce is the standard, but we prefer Romaine lettuce whenever we make ours. We’ve also found that mixing in some shredded won bok (napa) cabbage is a nice addition. You can use softer lettuces such as red leaf but they tend to wilt faster.

The crispy fried noodles are typically made from rice or bean thread noodles. But sometimes we’ve used fried won ton strips or even fried wheat noodles. In a pinch, you can just crumble up a packet of Top Ramen noodles and toss those in! 😉

chinese chicken salad 2007

As for the chicken, most of the time we use boiled chicken breasts for the salad. Sometimes if we’re lazy, we’ll shred up some rotisserie chicken that we got from Costco. Of course, you could use some other poultry in place of the chicken like duck or turkey, but I wouldn’t go too far astray there! After all, it is called Chinese chicken salad. 🙂

And More Options

Beyond the main ingredients, you can add many other things to the Chinese chicken salad to keep it interesting:

  • chopped cilantro
  • shredded carrots
  • sliced cucumbers
  • julienned red bell peppers
  • a can of Mandarin oranges
  • ground peanuts
  • cashews
  • sliced almonds

The sky’s the limit! What are some things that you like in your Chinese chicken salad?

chinese chicken salad

The thing that ties this whole Chinese chicken salad together is the dressing. It’s got to have sesame oil in it. To balance it, you can use white vinegar, but we prefer to use Japanese rice vinegar. Annie has a dressing recipe that we really like:

Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing Recipe


2 stalks green onion (diced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
2 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup sugar (or 2 packets Splenda) or to taste (original recipe called for 1/2 cup which I found to be too much)
1/4 cup Japanese rice vinegar
1/4 cup sesame oil


Put it in a jar, cover with the lid and shake it up to mix. Dress the salad right before serving. Use just enough to coat the leaves – you don’t want to drown the salad.

chinese chicken salad 2008

Aloha, Nate

15 thoughts on “Chinese Chicken Salad”

  1. This looks so healthy and fresh! I love it! I haven't tried to combine these veggies in a salad! Thanks for sharing.
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  2. I am going to make a version of this. Thanks for the inspiration. It reminds me a bit of the galloping horses (Ma Ho) I was looking at today in one of my Asian cookbooks. That one is a stir fry of chicken and peanuts with shallots, cilantro etc. served on orange segments or pineapple. I am curious too Annie, how did you prepare the rice noodles for the dish. You just deep fry them from raw? Thanks for all your wonderful recipes!

  3. @all – thanks for your comments!

    @Nancy – yes, you just deep-fry the dried noodle and they puff up like a shrimp chip.

  4. You should call your blog House of Yum. 😉

    I made a small salad over the weekend and wish I'd made the full recipe It is delicious.

  5. I've never even heard of a Chinese Chicken Salad before I went to LA a few years back. Looks yummy!

  6. Of all the Americanized Chinese inventions like egg foo young and chop suey, I have to say Chinese Chicken Salad is the only dish worth continuing. It's so healthy and gets lots of green on the table when I feel most Chinese tables are overloaded with meat. And I agree, the right dressing is what makes it so tasty!

  7. @CJ – thanks!

    @JS – they don't have this in Vancouver?

    @Single Guy Ben – I think that chop suey and egg fu yong have their place. They aren't so bad, right?

  8. great …l love it so delicious…………..
    you did a great yummy salad………keep up the good works..God bless you guys

  9. I am going to make your Chinese Salad for 30 ladies. How many heads of Romaine lettuce do you think I need. I think that mixing two heads of Napa cabbage should be enough. I am certainly going to make your dressing.

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