Chinese Chicken Salad with crunchy cabbage, juicy chicken, and the best tangy sesame dressing is a healthy way to enjoy this popular salad.
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This Healthy Chinese Chicken Salad takes all the flavors of the restaurant version in an easy to make, at home version that’s actually good for you. Packed with flavorful chicken breast, cabbage, edamame, mandarin oranges, and an Asian sesame vinaigrette, it’s so good. You’ll also want to try this Crunchy Thai Chicken Salad and Sweet Chili Chicken Salad.
Before we dig into what makes this Chinese Chicken Salad healthy, let’s just talk about how delicious it is. Seriously – it has everything you want in a salad. It’s crunchy, filling, and is made with the best Asian sesame dressing. Plus the sweet touches of the honey and mandarin oranges, it’s hard to beat. Also one important note, I somehow forgot the mandarin oranges in the photos – will update soon!
If you’re like me (or like how I used to be) when you go out to eat, you probably only look at the salad options and order one of those because, after all, a salad is always a healthy option, right?
Unfortunately, that’s oftentimes very, very wrong. Some so-called “healthy” salads can pack in an upwards of 1,000 calories and enough saturated fat for the next two or three days.
Although they might even look healthy, what with all that lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and shaved carrots, don’t overlook the other ingredients. What really gets you is all that cheese, the handfuls of nuts and croutons, the fried chicken strips, the tortilla strips, and the guacamole, not to mention the dressing! These dressings are no ordinary olive oil and vinegar. They are loaded with saturated fats, cholesterol, and sugar.
That’s why I always get scared when I search for nutritional information for some of my favorite restaurant salads. I know what I’m about to see, but I look anyway. Seriously, I know that not everyone ordering a salad is hoping for a healthier dish but thousand-calorie salads just seem insane.
Not surprisingly, with all their toppings and sugary dressing, Chinese Chicken Salads can be one of the worst offenders. My personal favorite version has 960 calories and over 70 grams of fat — 70!
Armed with this knowledge, I knew there just had to be a better way to make one at home that was significantly lower in calories and fat. And, lucky for my waistline, this version uses lots of veggies and a vinegar-based dressing but still packs in plenty of flavor. If you really want that added crunch, consider adding some chop suey noodles or a little shredded Brussels sprouts or kale.
Ways to Serve Chinese Chicken Salad
I tend to just eat this salad as-is. But, you could:
- Saute all of the veggie ingredients (except the romaine) and eat this dish hot.
- Roll all of it up into a low-carb tortilla and eat it as a wrap with a side of fruit.
- Add all of the ingredients on top of some cold rice noodles for a little cold rice noodle salad.
- Keep the romaine leaves whole and use them as wrappers for the rest of the ingredients — now you have low-carb lettuce wraps!
- Add the warm ingredients over some spaghetti or zucchini noodles.
Ideas for Customizing Chinese Chicken Salad
I’ve mentioned above about the crunch. If you like crunch, then by all means, add some…just be sure it’s a healthier version of something crunchy, not fried wontons. Other ways to make this dish your own:
- Add chopped pineapple or thinly sliced apples or pears.
- Sprinkle black or white sesame seeds or even flax seed on top for a little extra nutrition and that all-important crunch!
- Use a veggie spring mix instead of romaine.
- Make your own coleslaw mix or use the shredded broccoli slaw for a different taste and texture.
- Add drained water chestnuts or bamboo shoots to the salad for texture and crunch.
- Make your dressing a little spicy with the addition of some Sriracha.
What Is Chinese Chicken Salad?
Chinese Chicken Salad is, at its most basic, a lettuce salad with Asian-flavored, chopped chicken in it. What makes it “Chinese” though is the usual addition of deep fried wontons, vermicelli, and nuts, and of course the dressing. The dressing contains several oils, vinegars, ginger, citrus juice, and other spices.
Without all the unhealthy embellishments that American restaurants typically add to all their salads, Chinese Chicken Salad isn’t so bad in and of itself. But you have to make it at home to know what really goes into it. (And therefore goes into you.)
What Is the Dressing on Chinese Chicken Salad?
Typically the dressing contains soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, vegetable and/or sesame oil, brown sugar and chili sauce.
I lightened this one up by using less oil, more vinegar, and lots of fresh spices and honey to bring out more natural flavors and sweetness.
How Long Will Chinese Chicken Salad Keep?
If you’ve made a lot of this salad and have leftovers, that’s great! My advice though is to put the salad together as you go. Definitely keep the chicken, dressing, and greens separate in the refrigerator when storing. This will help keep the romaine and other veggies fresher longer. When it’s time to make the salad the next day, just reassemble.
I would not keep the lettuce and chicken more than two to three days, or get rid of it if it starts to turn or smell bad sooner. The dressing can keep for up to one week.