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Asian Sesame Salad is loaded with color and crunch to create a beautiful and delicious — not to mention healthy — one-bowl meal.
So much better than Panera’s Asian Sesame Salad (with romaine lettuce as the only vegetable), this sesame chicken salad is loaded with carrots, red bell pepper, green onions, purple cabbage, chopped romaine, and mandarin oranges.
Fresh ginger and a few other simple ingredients are all you need to make a slightly sweet and tangy sesame ginger vinaigrette. Use the vinaigrette to toss the salad as well as to marinate the chicken breasts which top the salad.
Either grill or bake the chicken then add to the salad along with a few almonds, sesame seeds, and Chinese noodles for even more crunch!
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Fun and festive. This salad is chock full of colorful and tasty veggies.
- Flavorful and crunchy. This salad has the perfect balance of flavors.
- Perfect for meal prep. Great packed lunch idea!
- Beautiful dish. It’s a great make-ahead salad for parties — prep everything then toss together when ready to serve!
Let’s dig in!
Asian Sesame Salad starts with creating a dressing where the rich, nutty flavor of toasted sesame seeds is the star. As with any vinaigrette, this dressing is comprised of oil, vinegar for acidity, and spices.
Instead of a red or white wine vinegar, sesame vinaigrette is made with rice vinegar or rice wine vinegar, which adds a delicate somewhat sweet flavor to this chicken salad recipe.
In addition to extra-virgin olive oil, a few tablespoons of toasted sesame oil are added. Sesame oil is potent, so a little goes a long way. The vinaigrette serves as the Asian sesame chicken marinade as well as the salad dressing in this recipe.
STEP 1 | Make the vinaigrette
- Start by grating fresh ginger (I love using my microplane zester for grating ginger and citrus zest!) and crushing a garlic clove.
- Place the ginger and garlic in a small bowl and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Press with the back of a spoon to muddle the mixture and make a paste.
- Add rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, and lemon juice and give it a good stir.
- Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly until the vinaigrette is emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the toasted sesame seeds.
- Toast the sesame seeds for more flavor. Toasting the sesame seeds is definitely worth the couple of extra minutes, and it’s so easy to do so why not? Place sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat. Shake or stir for 2 to 3 minutes, until lightly golden.
STEP 2 | Marinate the chicken
- Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and place in a large resealable plastic bag.
- Pour in half of the vinaigrette, seal the bag, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Reserve the remaining vinaigrette for tossing the salad.
STEP 3 | Prep the salad greens
While the chicken marinates, you have plenty of time to prep the salad greens and other salad toppings.
- Chop one head of romaine, rinse and spin dry in a salad spinner
- Coarsely shred the red cabbage — you should have about 1 1/2 cups — with a box grater
- Shred or julienne a cup of carrots
- Slice the green onions, both the white and green parts
- Remove the seeds and veins from the red bell pepper and julienne, or cut into thin strips
- Drain a can of mandarin oranges, and gently pat dry with a paper towel to remove any extra moisture
- Toss everything into a large bowl and refrigerate until ready to finish assembling the salad.
STEP 4 | Cook the chicken
- To grill the chicken: Preheat thee grill to medium high heat, approximately 400 degrees. Cook the chicken over direct heat (discard the marinade in the bag) for 10 minutes, turning once, until the juices run clear and the chicken is done.
- To bake the chicken: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the chicken on a lightly greased baking sheet, discarding the marinade. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
- Once cooked, remove the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing or cutting into cubes.
STEP 5 | Toss the salad
- Add the chicken to the salad bowl, drizzle with the reserved vinaigrette, and toss until all the ingredients are coated. If you have leftover vinaigrette, it can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- Top the salad with wonton strips and sliced almonds and serve immediately.
- If all of the salad will not be eaten in one sitting, portion the salad into bowls and then drizzle with the vinaigrette. Once the greens are dressed, you won’t want to keep any leftovers as the salad will get soggy.
- Other topping ideas include chow mien noodles, crispy rice noodles, or edamame.
- To make this salad gluten free, omit the wonton strips.
How to meal prep this salad
This recipe is great for meal-prepped lunches! The key is portioning and packing ingredients separately. This bento 3-compartment lunch box set is perfect for that!
- In the largest compartment, add the salad greens tossed with the veggies, but leave out the mandarin oranges as they could wilt the lettuce. Sprinkle with almonds.
- Add the mandarin oranges to one of the small compartments and add cubed cooked chicken to the other.
- Use smaller resealable containers to pack servings of sesame ginger vinaigrette and wonton strips.
Asian Chicken Salad
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 1 medium garlic clove crushed
- sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds toasted
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 bunch romaine lettuce chopped
- 1/2 small red cabbage shredded
- 1 medium red bell pepper julienned
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 3 green onions sliced
- 1 11-oz. can mandarin oranges, drained well
- 1 cup wonton strips salad topper
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds optional
- Grate the ginger and place in a small bowl with a crushed garlic clove. Sprinkle with sea salt and muddle to make a paste.
- Add the rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, and lemon juice and whisk until combined. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in the toasted sesame seeds.
- Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and place in a large resealable plastic bag. Pour half of the vinaigrette into the bag with the chicken Seal the bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Reserve the remaining vinaigrette for tossing the salad.
- While the chicken marinates, toss together the romaine, red cabbage,, red bell pepper, carrots, green onions, and mandarin oranges in a large bowl and set aside.
- Preheat the grill to medium high heat, approximately 400 degrees. Cook the chicken over direct heat (discard the marinade in the bag) for 10 minutes, turning once, until the juices run clear and the chicken is done.
- Remove the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing or cutting into cubes.
- Add the chicken to the salad and drizzle with the reserved vinaigrette. Top with wonton strips and almonds and serve.
To bake the chicken:Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the chicken on a lightly greased baking sheet, discarding the marinade. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
About Sheila Thigpen
Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer
Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.