Inspired by a restaurant favorite but seriously lightened up, this Chinese Chicken Salad is a salad recipe for salad skeptics. Crispy Asian chicken tenders, toasted almonds, and chow mein noodles make it impossible to resist, while a creamy, sweet-and-zippy dressing ties it all together.
Why You’ll Love This Easy Chinese Chicken Salad Recipe
- Fresh and Flavorful. Salads always bring the fresh factor, but flavorful? Wellll, not always. This Chinese chicken salad, however, has both covered. This is not a bowl of greens with a handful of sad croutons! Instead, it has the perfect balance of sweet, savory, and tangy flavors, along with a variety of textures, from crisp greens to crunchy noodles and tender chicken.
- A Meal-Worthy Salad. This isn’t the kind of salad you add to a dinner plate alongside a serving of Breaded Pork Chops. It’s definitely a complete meal, just like my Cobb Salad, Taco Salad, and Nicoise Salad.
- Copycat Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad. If you’ve never had the Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad, you should know that it’s delicious. It was my favorite all through high school—the first entree salad I ordered from a restaurant, so it has a special place in my heart. (Yes, there’s a place in my heart for salad.) Years later, it’s still flagged as a customer favorite on the Applebee’s menu.
- But Healthier! So the thing about many restaurant salads is that they have a shocking number of calories for a single meal. My homemade version is just as addictive, but it is actually good for you and reasonable in the calorie department too.
5 Star Review
“This salad is bang-on to my memories of the Applebee’s salad. I love everything about it. It is absolutely delicious.”— Amanda —
How to Make Chinese Chicken Salad
For the Salad:
- Romaine Lettuce. You could certainly use another salad green, but I like romaine because it has that crisp factor, but it brings a little more to the table than your standard head of iceberg lettuce.
- Shredded Red Cabbage. You can use your food processor to do the shredding, or buy it pre-shredded at the grocery store. (A sharp chef’s knife also does the job.)
- Shredded Carrots. Again, you can DIY it or buy them. Up to you!
- Crispy Asian Chicken Tenders. This recipe uses half a batch of these chicken tenders, so you can make them for dinner the night before and reserve what you need for this Chinese chicken salad.
- Sliced Almonds. Toast them to bring out their flavor.
- Chow Mein Noodles. These might just be the best part. (Okay, maybe tied with the chicken and dressing.)
- Green Onions. For mild onion flavor.
For the Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing:
- Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt. The Applebee’s version is made with mayo, but I lighten things up with yogurt.
- Honey. Adds the sweet factor we all expect in an Asian-inspired salad dressing.
- Rice Vinegar. Be sure to use unseasoned rice vinegar, which doesn’t have any added sweeteners.
- Dijon Mustard. Along with the vinegar, this adds some zip and pep.
- Sesame Oil. Toasted sesame oil adds some depth to the flavor of the dressing.
- Kosher Salt. Always my choice for cooking.
- Nonfat Milk. Only if you need to thin the dressing a bit.
- Make the Dressing. Whisk the ingredients together and season to taste.
- Toss the Salad. Use your biggest bowl.
- Add the Chicken. Arrange it over the top of the salad.
- Drizzle on the Dressing. Pour it all on or just add a small amount and let everyone add additional dressing as desired.
- Finish. Sprinkle on the chow mein noodles, almonds, and green onions. ENJOY!
- Make It Vegetarian. Omit the chicken and add Air Fryer Tofu or Crispy Tofu. It’s no longer a Chinese chicken salad, but it’s still delicious!
- Add More Veggies. Try using sliced bell peppers, snow peas, or broccoli instead of or in addition to the cabbage and carrots.
- Try a Different Protein. I love this salad topped with my chicken tenders, but you can also easily swap in Grilled Chicken Breast, Crock Pot Shredded Chicken, Baked Chicken Breast, Air Fryer Chicken Tenders, or even Teriyaki Salmon or Grilled Shrimp.
- To Store. This salad is best enjoyed the day it is made, but you can store it in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- To Make Ahead. If you’re hoping to make this salad ahead for a party or easy lunches, you can individually prepare and store the ingredients. Prepare the chicken tenders, dressing, and all the salad ingredients except for the almonds and chow mein noodles. Store the lettuce and dressing in separate containers in the refrigerator, and store the almonds and chow mein noodles at room temperature. Combine and toss when ready to eat.
What to Serve with Chinese Chicken Salad
- Soup. Serve this Asian-inspired salad with a bowl of Asian-inspired soup like Pumpkin Curry Soup.
- Asian Apps. Pair your Chinese chicken salad with Air Fryer Egg Rolls or Chicken Satay.
- Vegetables. Jazz up your salad by adding Zucchini Stir Fry or Sautéed Broccoli to the mix.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Large Measuring Cup. I love using liquid measuring cups for mixing sauces and dressings. They’re just the right size and the spout makes it easy to pour.
- Mixing Bowls. You’ll need a large bowl for tossing the salad; I love this set because the bowls also work for serving.
- Whisk. A fork will work to mix up the dressing, but a whisk will do the job faster.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Dry the Lettuce and Veggies Well. If there’s water clinging to the vegetables, they’ll water down your salad dressing and give you a limp, soggy salad. No one wants that!
- Serve the Dressing on the Side, If Needed. If you’re planning on leftovers or you’re setting out this salad for a party, I recommend serving the dressing on the side to keep all the ingredients fresh and crisp.
- Let the Chicken Cool Just a Bit. You want it warm when you add it to the salad, but not just-out-of-the-oven-blazing-hot. This will also help keep the lettuce leaves from wilting.
Chinese Chicken Salad
For the Salad:
- 5 cups chopped romaine lettuce about 1 head
- 1 1/2 cups shredded red cabbage
- 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
- 8 Crispy Asian Chicken Tenders
- 1/3 cup toasted sliced almonds
- 1/3 cup chow mein noodles
- 2 green onions chopped
- Prepare the dressing: In a small bowl or large measuring cup, combine the Greek yogurt, honey, vinegar, mustard, sesame oil, and salt. Taste and add more salt as desired. If the dressing is too thick for your liking, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons milk, until the desired consistency is reached.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss the romaine, red cabbage, and carrots. Arrange the chicken tenders on top. Drizzle with the dressing. Sprinkle with the chow mein noodles, almonds, and green onion. Enjoy immediately.
- TO STORE: This salad is best enjoyed the day it is made, but you can store it in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- TO MAKE AHEAD: If you’re hoping to make this salad ahead for a party or easy lunches, you can individually prepare and store the ingredients. Prepare the chicken tenders, dressing, and all the salad ingredients except for the almonds and chow mein noodles. Store the lettuce and dressing in separate containers in the refrigerator, and store the almonds and chow mein noodles at room temperature. Combine and toss when ready to eat.
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