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Chinese Chicken Salad

Chinese Chicken Salad – It might not be authentic, but we love the fresh flavors, satisfying crunch, and gorgeous colors of this potluck and picnic favorite! (Gluten free and paleo friendly!)

Chinese Chicken Salad - This is a healthier take on the one we grew up with. Gluten free, paleo friendly, and totally delicious. The perfect no-cook dinner!
Post and photos updated + video added June 2017. Originally published Oct. 2015.

When Michael and I got married, we each brought with us a food history. Both our mothers are great cooks, and each has her own style. At my home, we rarely ate meat (my mom had a huge aversion to handling raw meat after her first pregnancy) and favored big flavors–my mom added lots of cumin to her chili, big handfuls of cilantro to the salsa, etc. Michael came from a meat-and-potatoes home with lots of classic homestyle recipes, some of which had been handed down for generations.

Having fallen for cooking at a young age and a few years into cooking for myself, I’d developed a few recipes all my own and couldn’t get enough of trying new things. Which is why, when my new husband asked me to make some of his old favorites, I kind of felt like, “but…we could be trying new things every night.”

Chinese Chicken Salad - It might not be authentic, but we love the fresh flavors, satisfying crunch, and gorgeous colors of this potluck and picnic favorite! Gluten free and paleo friendly!
Still, I made it a point of adding in a favorite family recipe once or twice a week. And there were some GOOD recipes. Be a fancy grown-up all you want, there are some simple, seen-em-at-potlucks-all-your-life recipes that are just plain good. Michael’s mom’s “Chinese Chicken Salad” recipes was one of them. Her original recipe featured a packet of ramen noodles, using the seasoning packet (and a handful of other things) in the dressing and the uncooked, crunchy noodles as an ingredient in the salad. I was dubious until I tasted it, then I totally understood.

It’s one we’ve made every year or so when the craving hits. As our tastes and diet have changed, so has our recipe. These days I mix up a simple blend of veggies, herbs, lettuce and cabbage for the salad, then whisk up a super-simple salad dressing to go on top. I add plenty of toasted almonds for crunch in place of the ramen and a few juice-packed mandarin oranges for a touch of sweetness, and the results are incredible.

Our fresh new take on Chinese Chicken Salad (with plenty of big flavors and healthier ingredients), is one we make much more regularly.

Chinese Chicken Salad - The perfect summer meal! So much flavor and you don't have to turn on the oven! (gluten free, and paleo friendly!)

Notes on the Recipe:

The Best Tool For the Job. If you have a food processor, making this salad is going to be REALLY fast. Attach your shredder blade for the lettuce and cabbage, then use your grater blade for the carrots. You’ll be done in just a few minutes. If you don’t have a food processor, you’ll be slicing for a few extra minutes, but it’s worth it!

Shortcuts and Substitutions. If you’d prefer to skip the shredding, you can totally buy a bag of coleslaw mix, and add some extra carrot (you can even buy them pre-grated). Also, feel free to use rotisserie chicken (it’s awesome!) or leftover grilled or cooked chicken for this recipe. If you’re eating paleo or doing Whole30, see below for approved substitutions.

Scale it Up or Scale it Down. The recipe makes a big, family-style salad. If you’re serving a smaller crowd, feel free to half the recipe. I keep the components separate in the refrigerator for a few days of awesome lunch leftovers.

Tips for Meal Prep. If you’re making this ahead of time for meal prep or to serve later, you can mix up the salad mixture up to a day ahead of time, then store the chicken, almonds, Mandarin oranges, and dressing separately. Then, just add your toppings and dressing when you’re ready to serve!

Start Small. This recipe makes plenty of dressing to serve a crowd, so if you’re making it smaller, you definitely won’t need all the dressing. The dressing also breaks down the lettuce and cabbage, so you want to start with less dressing than you think you need. Within just a few minutes, everything will start to soften and you’ll find that things are just about right. You can always add more, but things get soggy if you add way too much.


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Chinese Chicken Salad - We love this easy gluten free and paleo friendly dinner. So much color, crunch, and flavor!
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Chinese Chicken Salad from One Lovely Life

Chinese Chicken Salad

  • Author: One Lovely Life
  • Yield: 6-8 as a main dish or 10-12 as a side 1x



For the salad mixture:

  • 3 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • 3 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced

For the add-ins:

  • 12 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 12 cups mandarin oranges (I buy the 100% juice-packed ones)
  • 1/41/2 cup toasted almonds

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup gluten free tamari (or coconut aminos or soy sauce)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar (seasoned or unseasoned) or cider vinegar for paleo
  • 23 Tbsp olive oil (or avocado oil)
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil


  1. Combine the salad mixture and toss until well blended.
  2. Whisk together salad dressing ingredients until well blended.
  3. If serving the whole salad immediately, stir in the salad add-ins (chicken, oranges, almonds) and enough dressing to coat the salad. Try not to add too much dressing at the beginning, as it breaks down the salad after a few minutes.
  4. Serve immediately or keep components separate and prepare just as much as you need. If stored separately, leftovers should keep 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

Chinese Chicken Salad - It might not be authentic, but we love the fresh flavors, satisfying crunch, and gorgeous colors of this potluck and picnic favorite! Gluten free, paleo, and whole30 friendly!



  1. Hi!! I came across your sweet potato chili recipe while searching fro Whole 30 crock pot recipes, and I am in love with your blog!!! I am so excited to try the chili and this Chinese chicken salad this week! I’m a newbie blogger, having recently adopted a gf/df lifestyle so I’m always on the hunt for delicious recipes!!

  2. My fav is a savory salad made in a wok not assembled from a pantry or grocery. The chicken is hard fried chicken skin and bits from a real chinese restaurant, crunchy and tasty. The noodles are the explosive rice noodles wok fried and puffed to a cloud of tender white beauty. The rest is cilantro, lettice, scallions tied together with a spicy dressing with a noticable amount of dried or chinese mustard. Enjoyed in 1976 at the original Mings on the El Camino Real south of San Francisco. The sweeterv recipes are great for hot weather dinners.

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