This delicious Mandarin Chicken Salad packed with Romaine lettuce, red peppers, cilantro, and mandarin oranges tossed in homemade seaame dressing is everything you want in a healthy salad. It's crunchy, full of fresh veggies, and packed with flavor.
This Mandarin Chicken Salad has the perfect combination of sweet, savory, and crunchy! Lately, we have been all about serving hearty salads for lunch and dinner since it has been too hot to cook.
This easy Asian-inspired salad is a bit of a throwback and reminds me of a salad my grandmother made that was topped with so many chow mien noodles and canned mandarin orange. Think of this salad as the updated version of that old-school Mandarin Orange Salad.
This fresh take on Mandarina Chicken Salad starts with crunchy Romaine lettuce that is tossed with cooked chicken breast, red bell peppers, cilantro, and either fresh or canned mandarin oranges for some sweetness.
Everything is tossed with a homemade sesame dressing that's creamy, sweet, and savory. Then add some baked wonton strips, chow mein noodles, or sliced almonds for extra crunch.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Lettuce: Romaine lettuce is most often used in a Mandarin chicken salad but you can also use spinach, shredded cabbage, butter lettuce, or another green.
- Bell peppers: Red bell peppers add color, crunch, and sweetness. Yellow and orange bell peppers also work.
- Cilantro: The bright flavor of cilantro elevates this dish. Use fresh basil or mint if you prefer.
- Mandarin oranges: Either fresh or canned mandarin oranges can be used. Canned mandarin oranges are softer and sweeter.
- Chicken: Use any cooked chicken for this recipe. Rotisserie chicken or leftover grilled chicken are two easy options. It is really delicious with these Broiled Asian Chicken Thighs.
- Sesame Dressing: This sesame dressing is made with a combination sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, ginger, and sesame seeds. For a quicker option, use store-bought dressing.
- Additional topping ideas: Add peanuts, wonton strips, almonds, sesame seeds, avocado, edamame, cashews, or any other toppings you like.
Ways to Serve This Mandarin Chicken Salad
This salad works great as an entree-sized salad, but I also like to get creative and serve it in other ways. Here are some ideas to try:
- Lettuce wraps: Yes, you can put the salad in lettuce! You can do anything you want! Mix up a big batch of this salad and add it to the inside of a romaine or bibb leaf. Crunch upon crunch upon delicious crunch!
- Stuffed sweet potatoes: Microwave a sweet potato, slice it in half, and add the rest of the salad ingredients. If that seems too weird to you, swap in cooked cabbage or chopped stir-fry mix for the lettuce. Then add the chicken, cooked veggies, and peanut dressing to the baked potato.
- Over rice: You have all the ingredients for a grain bowl. Heat up some brown rice (or use one of those awesome, steamable frozen bags) and pile the mandarin chicken salad on top.
- In a wrap or pita: Make salad as instructed, and add it to the inside of a whole wheat or low-carb wrap. These Mandarin chicken wraps are a favorite lunch in our house.
- In spring roll: Grab some rice paper and make a new version of a classic spring roll.
- With cold noodles: Toss this salad with some cooked rice noodles, soba noodles, or cold spaghetti for an Asian-inspired pasta salad.
Variations and Recipe Ideas
There are tons of ways to customize this mandarin salad and make it your own.
- Change the greens: Instead of Romaine lettuce, swap in shredded green or red cabbage. Or use a quick and easy coleslaw mix or broccoli slaw mix.
- Add more veggies: Add cucumbers, carrots, sugar snap peas, snow peas, spinach, or
- Change the dressing: Use a store-bought sesame dressing instead of homemade or try it with peanut sauce.
- Swap the protein. Instead of chicken, you can make this with shrimp or pork. Try tofu, tempeh, or edamame for a plant protein option.
- Add grains: Toss in some cooked quinoa or rice to make this salad even more filling.
Make it Crunchy!
If you haven't figured it out by now, I love a good crunch. And to make a salad worthwhile, it has to have a lot of it. For this one, the crunchy Romaine and red pepper help, but you can definitely add more. Here are some of my favorite ways to add more crunch:
- Chopped peanuts
- Chow mein noodles
- Red cabbage
- Water chestnuts
- Snow peas
- Sliced almonds
- Sesame Seeds
- Ramen noodles (uncooked, it's a thing)
- Baked wonton strips
My suggestion would be to not keep a dressed salad in the fridge. It will get wilted and soggy fast. Keep the dressing, veggies, and chicken all in separate containers. Then put the salad together when you're ready to eat it.
It will last stored like this in the fridge for about 2-3 days. If this is something you are going to pack and take with you for lunch or dinner, you can put the chicken and veggies together and pack the dressing separately as well.
Empty spice jars are great for taking dressing on the go, as they typically have a lid that you screw on which means the dressing will not end up all over the place.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the most common questions about this Mandarin Chicken Salad.
The Wendy's Mandarin Chicken salad is very similar to this salad but also has shredded red cabbage and carrots. It is topped with chow mein noodles and sliced almonds.
The dressing is similar but the Wendy's version is creamy. To make a creamy dressing, simply add 1-2 tbsp of mayonnaise to the dressing in the recipe.
If you are using canned mandarin oranges, make sure to drain off any of the liquid or syrup they are packaged in. It is up to personal preference if you rinse them or not. Some people like they "wet" with the canning liquid and others prefer them rinsed and lightly dried with a paper towel.
Mandarin Chicken Salad
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- 1 lb. cooked boneless skinless chicken breast, chopped
- 6 cups Romaine lettuce (or shredded cabbage or cole slaw mix)
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 2 mandarin orange, peeled and chopped (or canned)
- 6 green onions, chopped
- 2 tbsp sesame oil (toasted)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp honey (more to taste)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp ginger, grated
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- Nutritional Information
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* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
For a more traditional version of this salad, add chow mein noodles or wonton strips.
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