Treading Lightly into Fall: Cheap Chinese Chicken Salad

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Do you find your tastes migrating as the summer heat dwindles? I mean, I know I will be craving hearty soups and pumpkin goodies very soon, but even my salad desires are slowly drifting.

Since we will be moving to a much cooler climate, I am sure that some warm salads will be on the horizon, but right now I guess my tastes are simply transitioning from “bright and fresh” to “comforting.” It is still 90+ degrees out, so by comforting I mean dishes like a quick quiche (recipe coming up!) and this Chinese chicken salad …


I know, I know … it looks just like all of my other salads. I didn’t have any of those crunch chow main noodles, and I used romaine instead of Napa, but trust me, it is all about the taste … and you can use whatever add-ins you like to make it more “authentic” (see recipe below!).

Back to the point, this is one of those simple and flavorful dishes that I have always loved, but for some reason, until now, had never, ever made at home. What a fool I have been … so delicious! As an added bonus, unlike restaurant versions of this popular salad, this one is quite low in fat, and very inexpensive to make!

So I must know (okay, it is my greedy desire for inspiration in addition to insatiable curiosity), do you have any favorites that you have yet to adventure in your own kitchen?


Cheap Chinese Chicken Salad

This recipe is Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, optionally Gluten-Free, optionally Nut-Free, and optionally Vegan / Vegetarian. It was adapted from Ellie Krieger’s recipe on the Food Network.

Don’t let the ingredients fool you, this is a fast and easy recipe! I have broken the recipe into three parts simply so you can make the dressing or the chicken separately should you want to use them for another dish. While the chicken bakes, you will have just enough time to whip up the dressing and chop the veggies for a light and healthy meal on the table in 30 minutes!


  • 1 lb Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce or Wheat-Free Tamari
  • 1 Teaspoon Sesame Oil
  • 1 Large Garlic Clove, crushed or minced

If the chicken breasts are thick, butterfly them. Place the chicken in a single layer in a glass baking dish. Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic, and drizzle over the chicken. If you have time, allow the chicken to marinade for at least 30 minutes or overnight. If not, pop them in the oven as soon as it preheats.

Preheat your oven to 350º. Bake the chicken for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it is cooked through. The juices should run clear, but be careful not to overcook the breasts, as they can easily dry out. Once done, slice the chicken into bite-sized pieces.


  • 1/3 Cup Rice Vinegar (unseasoned)
  • 3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce or Wheat-Free Tamari
  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar or Sweetener of Choice (agave, honey, or maple syrup will also work nicely)
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Sriracha or Chili-Garlic Sauce
  • 1 Teaspoon Minced Fresh Ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons Peanut, Olive, or Grapeseed Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Sesame Oil

 In a small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients. (I usually combine everything but the oil, and then drizzle the oil in while whisking out of habit. It seems to work well).


  • 8 to 10 Cups Greens (In the salad pictured, I used 2 small romaine hearts and 3 cups of bagged coleslaw mix. Napa cabbage, purple cabbage, etc. would also work well)
  • 1 Large Carrot, shredded
  • 2 Green Onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 Cup Sliced Almonds

Optional Add-ins:

  • 1 Cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 8oz Can Sliced Water Chestnuts
  • 1 11oz Can Mandarin Oranges in Water, drained
  • 1 Small Can Crispy Chow Mein Noodles (not gluten-free)
  • Etc…

Combine all of the salad ingredients, except for the almonds, in a large bowl. Add the chicken, drizzle with the salad dressing, and toss to coat. Divvy up the salad amongst four plates, and sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon of the almonds.

Nut-Free Option: Substitute toasted sesame seeds or crispy chow mein noodles for the almonds.

Vegan / Vegetarian Option: You can use faux “chicken” but a cheaper and more natural option would be to substitute tofu. Use the chicken marinade and baking technique above, but use ¾ to 1 lb of extra-firm tofu. It should bake in about the same time.

Untried Ideas: If you like a peanut-y Chinese Chicken Salad, try subbing 2 tablespoons of PB (or other nut butter) for the oil. But keep the sesame oil!


22 thoughts on “Treading Lightly into Fall: Cheap Chinese Chicken Salad

  1. This is pretty much my favorite salad concept ever. I love Asian salads 🙂

  2. The change of seasons is always bittersweet, for more reasons than one. And as you mentioned, just as I get in full swing of preparing summer-type meals, it’s fall and I have to re-evaluate my repertoire all over again. This salad though, regardless of the season, looks divine!

  3. Delicious salad! I love the dressing & the addition of almonds!

  4. I love the cooler weather – in the midwest our temps are already dipping into the high 40’s at night – awesome sleeping weather!

    So I am looking forward to casseroles and heartier dishes – but your salad looks delicious!

  5. Your salad looks so pretty! I like spicing up my salads with an Asian flair like yours or a southwest flair. Much more adventurous than plain, boring lettuce.

  6. The dressing looks good, I just concocted one of my own that’s vegan, dairy/gluten/& wheat (no tamari)/soy free (no miso) and it’s off the hook.

    Your salad looks delish! It was great emailing w/ you the other day and I hope things are calm and moving right along in your world 🙂

  7. Sandie – I hear ya. I always seem to be cooking and baking slightly out of season … slow to adapt I guess!

    Biz – Thanks for reminding me, I forgot how wonderful the nights are for sleeping when it isn’t hot.

    Averie – Awesome peanut sauce on your site, I will definitely be trialing that out once you tell me what ACV is! 🙂

  8. Ow! Love this and love even more that you give options on how to make it vegetarian or nut free! You rock 🙂

  9. THIS would be favorite that I’ve yet to try out on my own… I hesitantly admit that I love Cheesecake Factory’s Chinese Chicken Salad… Perhaps I’ll give your recipe a try. It looks delicious… might throw in some mandarin oranges for some fruit love

  10. beautiful salad! mine always end up looking like someone ate it already, lol

  11. The recipe look amazing, I like the addition of almond on top.

  12. Beautiful salad! The dressing sounds really good. And I love that you gave suggestions to make it nut free or vegan/vegetarian.

  13. I love a good Chinese Chicken Salad–it looks delicious!

  14. Your salad looks delicious! Great way to make the summer last a bit longer 🙂

  15. This salad looks delicious, as per usual! The changing seasons here is definitely making me crave casseroles and pumpkin. But I think I always crave pumpkin…

    Bread is one of my favorite things but I have been too scared to try to make it at home. Time to face my fears!

  16. I made soup in the slow cooker this week, it’s official, it’s fall.

  17. Thanks for sharing this delicious-looking salad recipe! I am looking forward to make one this weekend! can’t wait!

  18. Chinese Chicken Salad dressing was the very first thing I learned in culinary school, waaaay back then. Never fell out of love of this salad even this many years. I use to fry some wonton skin strips and toss up with the salad for a nice crunch.

  19. Wow, the cooking method of this dish is great, I’ll try it later and I hope it tastes the way it look. Thanks for sharing!

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