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There is so much flavor and crunch in this Chinese Chicken Salad with Cashews, making it the perfect lunch or dinner option! The homemade orange sesame dressing adds a fresh finishing touch to the sweet, savory, and satisfying meal.

An overhead image of a large bowl of Chinese chicken salad, topped with mandarin oranges, chow mien noodles, and cashews. A silver salad tongs rests on the side of the bowl
Table of Contents
  1. What Is Chinese Chicken Salad?
  2. Ingredients for Homemade Chinese Chicken Salad with Orange Sesame Dressing
  3. How to Make Chinese Chicken Salad
  4. Chinese Chicken Salad Recipe Tips and Variations
  5. More Easy Asian-Inspired Entrees to Try
  6. Chinese Chicken Salad with Cashews Recipe

What Is Chinese Chicken Salad?

This colorful salad, also commonly called Asian chicken salad, has a variety of textures and flavors—especially sweet and salty. The base of the salad is shredded lettuce, usually romaine lettuce, napa cabbage, or a coleslaw blend of green and red cabbage. It’s topped with an array of colorful, fresh vegetables and finished off with a sweet orange sesame dressing. The combination of salty nuts, crisp veggies, and fresh orange slices will have your taste buds singing!

I serve this Chinese-inspired chicken salad as a make-ahead dinner, but the leftovers make a perfect lunch the next day. Plus, it’s hearty enough that even the men in my house consider it a real meal!

Why Is It Called Chinese Chicken Salad? 

The name for this American-created salad comes from the flavor profile, mostly of the dressing used on the salad. The flavors of sesame, soy, and ginger are distinctly Asian-inspired. You’ll usually find Chinese chicken salad served with some variety of sesame-based dressing, whether it’s a sweet and tangy orange sesame dressing or a zesty sesame ginger dressing. Toppings also usually include a crispy element, like crispy chow mein noodles, ramen noodles, or crispy rice noodles—all of which come from Chinese cuisine. No matter the origin, the flavors of this easy and delicious salad are perfect for anyone craving an Asian-inspired recipe.

A large bowl of Chinese chicken salad topped with mandarin oranges and crispy noodles, served on a wooden tabletop with silver salad tongs.

Ingredients for Homemade Chinese Chicken Salad with Orange Sesame Dressing

Below is an overview of the ingredients you need to make your very own Chinese chicken salad recipe. Keep in mind this is how I make my Asian salad—you’re more than welcome to adjust based on your preferences. As always, you’ll find the complete list of ingredients and directions in the printable recipe card below. 

Salad Ingredients: 

  • Chicken: pre-cooked chicken works best for this recipe; grilled chicken or a store-bought rotisserie chicken makes prep quick and easy.
  • Romain Lettuce: the base of the salad. You want crisp, fresh lettuce. You can use a mixture of lettuce and cabbage or just one kind.
  • Celery, Bell Peppers, & Green Onions: these fresh vegetables add color and texture to the salad. They’re light on flavor but heavy on crunch and freshness.
  • Mandarin Oranges: using sweet mandarin orange segments in this Asian salad adds color, texture, and sweetness that compliments the orange sesame dressing.
  • Cashews & Chow Mein Noodles: crispy toppings that also add a hint of salt, which balances out the sweetness in the salad.

Dressing Ingredients: 

  • Oil: a neutral oil is the base of the Chinese chicken salad dressing. Use a high-quality, neutral oil, like olive oil or avocado oil.
  • Sesame Oil & Rice Vinegar: these two ingredients give the sweet and savory dressing its characteristic Asian flavors—do not skip out on quality sesame oil and rice wine vinegar!
  • Orange Juice: sweet and just a little bit tangy.
  • Dijon Mustard: mustard serves as a flavorful emulsifier that brings the dressing together.
  • Sugar, Salt, & Pepper: seasonings to enhance the flavors of the dish.
A small glass bottle partially filled with an orange-colored salad dressing.

What other toppings can you add to Chinese chicken salad?

It’s all about the toppings, friends! From the tangy dressing to the crisp, fresh vegetables, the sweet and juicy fruit, and the crunchy, buttery cashews, the combination of flavors and textures is what makes this Chinese Chicken Salad so delicious and satisfying.

There’s a whole host of additional toppings you can include in Chinese chicken salad: crunch carrots, broccoli florets, or bean sprouts are common ingredients. You can include any variety of crunchy noodles and nuts—from ramen noodles to crispy wonton strips, crunchy almonds, or toasted sesame seeds.

I modeled my Chinese Chicken Salad after the entree salad from California Pizza Kitchen that I grew up on. I honestly haven’t been to that restaurant in about 20 years, but I still remember that salad! The crunch of the sweet red bell pepper, the juicy mandarin orange segments, and the tender cooked chicken all work perfectly together.

How to Make Chinese Chicken Salad

This is one of those main-dish salads that the whole family will love. You can easily make a big batch for meal prep throughout your busy week, giving it yet another reason why it’s become one of my go-to salads!

  • Make the easy homemade dressing by adding all the ingredients to a mason jar and shaking until combined.
  • Toss together the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Dress with enough salad dressing to lightly coat all the ingredients.
  • Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.
A person pours salad dressing over the top of a bowl of Chinese chicken salad.

The Perfect Asian Dressing for Chinese Chicken Salad

The key ingredient, in my opinion, is definitely the toasted sesame oil that I use in the homemade Chinese salad dressing. It adds such a unique, rich flavor that I strongly urge you to use it in this dish. It just wouldn’t be the same without it!

And don’t worry — you’ll have plenty of other opportunities to use up the rest of the small bottle of sesame oil. From 10-Minute Oven-Roasted Sesame Broccoli to Cold Peanut Sesame Noodles and One Skillet “Egg Roll in a Bowl,” the ingredient will soon become a staple in your kitchen.

Have extra dressing? The recipe makes more dressing than I ever need, so save the extra in a jar in your refrigerator and enjoy it throughout the week. It’s so tasty!

A bowl of Chinese chicken salad served alongside a jar of orange sesame dressing.

Chinese Chicken Salad Recipe Tips and Variations

  • Want to make this more kid-friendly? My boys like the “deconstructed” version — chicken, cashews, orange slices, peppers, and chow mein noodles — all served side by side in their own separate piles. Hey, whatever it takes!
  • Using pre-cooked or leftover chicken is the easiest way to make this Chinese chicken salad prep even quicker. Use leftover rotisserie chicken (or buy a fresh one from the store) or leftover grilled or pan-fried chicken from a previous dinner.
  • Instead of using just romaine lettuce as the bed of this salad, prepare a mixture of romaine, iceberg lettuce, and Chinese cabbage (red/purple cabbage and green cabbage) for a more textured variety.
  • Instead of an orange sesame dressing, try another Asian-inspired salad dressing, like a sesame peanut sauce, a honey sesame sauce, or a classic teriyaki dressing.  
  • You can use either fresh mandarin orange segments or canned mandarin oranges in juice; either one works. I prefer canned, so I don’t have to spend extra time cleaning the orange segments.
A large bowl of fresh Chinese chicken salad served on a wooden tabletop in front of a large, bright window.

More Easy Asian-Inspired Entrees to Try

A close up overhead image of homemade Chinese chicken salad -- chicken, vegetables, and crunchy noodles served over a bed of fresh lettuce.

Chinese Chicken Salad with Cashews

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 30 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 607.8 kcal
With so many layers of flavor and so many delicious textures, this Chinese Chicken Salad with Cashews is a perfectly satisfying anytime meal!

Ingredients
  

  • 4 cups diced, cooked chicken (grilled chicken or a store-bought rotisserie chicken work well)
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 1 cup mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 cup salted cashews
  • 1 cup Chinese chow mein noodles

For the Orange Sesame Dressing:

Instructions

To prepare dressing:

  • Add all ingredients to a jar with a tight lid and shake until completely combined. Refrigerate for up to 1 week.
    ¼ cup sesame oil, ¼ cup olive oil or avocado oil, ½ cup fresh orange juice, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 4 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, Freshly ground pepper

To prepare salad:

  • In a large bowl, toss together chicken, celery, lettuce, bell peppers, onions, and oranges.
    4 cups diced, cooked chicken, 2 ribs celery, chopped, 1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped, 2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped, 4 green onions, sliced, 1 cup mandarin oranges, drained
  • Add enough of the dressing to lightly coat. Chill, covered, for up to 2 hours (or serve immediately).
  • When ready to serve, divide evenly between four plates and garnish with cashews and chow mein noodles.
    1 cup salted cashews, 1 cup Chinese chow mein noodles

Notes

For a lighter salad, try decreasing the amount of cashews and chow mein noodles that you use on top. You can also cut the dressing to 1 tablespoon per serving. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1salad with 2 T dressingCalories: 607.8kcalCarbohydrates: 43.3gProtein: 40.6gFat: 32.3gSaturated Fat: 5.7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 8.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 16.6gCholesterol: 78mgSodium: 659.6mgPotassium: 1285mgFiber: 7.1gSugar: 16.1g
Keyword: Chicken Salad, chinese food, Salad
Course: Lunch or Dinner
Cuisine: Chinese
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. I love Chinese chicken salad and haven’t made it a long time. Thanks for sharing it on Merry Monday.

  2. Thank you for sharing this beautiful salad with us at Treasure Box Tuesday! Pinned and sharing on FB this morning! 🙂

  3. Oh that sounds wonderful for the warmer weather but with a bit more flavor than traditional green salad. Thanks so much for sharing on Foodie Friday

  4. I’ve never had a Chinese chicken salad before, it looks great. Thanks for linking up to Sweet and Savoury Sunday, stop by and link up again. Have a great day!!

  5. 5 stars
    I just love this fresh summer salad, it looks delicious! Hope you have had a great weekend and thanks so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday!
    Come Back Soon,
    Miz Helen

  6. I love a crunch in my salad, it looks delicious! Thank you so much for linking up at Tasty Tuesday! Your recipe has been pinned to the Tasty Tuesday Pinterest board! Please join us again this week!

  7. I love this salad and with the dressing. I love the crunchy noodles and cashews, this is better than just a plain ole’ salad. I also use sesame oil in my cooking, and will be making this in the future. Just better than a plain ole’ salad.

  8. Did you not have a recipe for a chinese meal that called for snap peas and some celery, etc. Would like for you to submit it again or send to me direct email.
    Thank you