Asian Sesame Chicken Salad
A copycat recipe for Panera’s Asian Sesame Chicken Salad. Crispy, fresh romaine, sliced almonds, sesame seeds, tender sliced grilled chicken, and wonton strips — all topped with a sweet and tangy Asian sesame vinaigrette. So much goodness all packed into ONE salad!
Crispy, crunchy, sweet, tangy, savory! This Asian sesame chicken salad has a little bit of it all.
Don’t be surprised when you want to pencil in this recipe for dinner at least once a week. It’s light and refreshing for a yummy spring or summer lunch but also for dinner. It’s goodness overload with this Asian sesame chicken salad. The crisp romaine lettuce is all chopped up and is the perfect base for what’s to come on top! Lots of mandarin oranges, grated carrots, grilled chicken, chopped green and red cabbage, a little freshy freshness from my most favorite herb of all time, cilantro, and a sweet and tangy Asian sesame vinaigrette that will have you CRAVING it all day long.
And as if a delicious salad with simple ingredients wasn’t enough, I went ahead and topped with a handful of sliced almonds and lots of extra crunchy wonton strips! If you’re thinking this salad looks a little familiar, it’s because this is a perfect copycat Panera Sesame Chicken Salad recipe.
I think it’s pretty safe to say this salad DELIVERS on every level.
Ingredients for Sesame Chicken Salad:
- Rice Vinegar: This is the base of our Asian vinaigrette. I like to bring the rice vinegar to a simmer then allow the sugar to melt into the vinegar with a couple cloves of smashed garlic. We’ll toss the garlic out so you aren’t getting chunks in your salad, but this way you get all of that flavor!
- Granulated Sugar: Adds sweetness to the dressing. I like to bring the vinaigrette to a simmer then whisk in the sugar until it dissolves.
- Whole Garlic Cloves: Helps flavor the rice vinegar, we’ll discard the garlic once it releases the flavor so the dressing isn’t too pungent!
- Toasted Sesame Oil: Gives the dressing a boost of toasty sesame flavor.
- Canola Oil: Is the oil base in the dressing. I used canola oil when I first shared this recipe many, many years ago. But in recent years, I’ve been using avocado oil to make the dressing instead.
- Soy Sauce: Helps flavor the dressing with a rich umami flavor. You can also use gluten-free tamari here to make the recipe gluten-free. Keep in mind you’ll also need to replace the wonton wrappers for this recipe to be properly gluten-free.
- Toasted Sesame Seeds: Add crunch and a little more nutty flavor to the dressing.
- Salad base: This can be anything from shredded romaine, baby spinach to green cabbage, a cabbage slaw mix, or even kale.
- Mandarin Orange Slice: Add a floral, citrusy sweetness to the salad. I used canned orange slices but you can also use a few freshly peeled Cuties or clementines here too.
- Shredded Carrots: This is another ingredient that I’ve started to add in recent years. A shredded carrot not only adds a bit more color is also its another veggie serving! Use it or don’t; totally your call.
- Sliced Almonds: Toasted sliced almonds add crunch and an extra bit of protein.
- Cilantro Leaves: Adds freshness and pairs beautifully with the sweet sesame dressing.
- Grilled Chicken: I usually make a quick chicken marinade using a couple tablespoons soy sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes, and a little garlic powder. Toss the chicken on an indoor or outdoor grill while preparing the dressing and cook over medium high heat until it’s cooked through. Let the chicken breasts rest then dice on a cutting board using a sharp knife. However, to make this salad even quicker, I suggest swapping the grilled chicken for a shredded rotisserie chicken! Feel free to toss the chicken in a tablespoon or two of the dressing to flavor it before hand!
How to make an epic sesame chicken salad:
- Prepare the dressing. Add the rice vinegar to a small pan over medium heat until it starts to simmer. Then add the sugar and smashed garlic cloves to the vinegar and let simmer for 1 minute. Discard the garlic cloves and add the vinegar to a large jar. Add the sesame oil, canola oil, soy sauce, and toasted white sesame seeds. Allow the dressing to come back to room temperature. Then, place a lid on top and shake the jar to combine the dressing. If the dressing starts to separate later before you toss the salad, just shake it again!
- Combine it in a bowl. Grab a large bowl that can easily hold all the ingredients. Add the shredded lettuce or whatever salad base you’d like to use. Top with orange slices, almonds, cilantro, diced chicken, and shredded carrots.
- Toss and serve. Add roughly half of the vinaigrette to the salad and toss or stir to combine. Taste and adjust with more dressing as desired. I like to save the almonds and the wontons strips and add them in right before serving so that they maintain their crispy texture without softening!
FAQs about this recipe:
- How do you suggest storing leftovers? Since the dressing is a vinaigrette, the acid in the dressing will cause the lettuce or other salad base to wilt. For this reason, I suggest storing the dressing separate from the salad base until ready to serve. Leftover undressed salad can be kept in an airtight container and the dressing can also be kept in a separate container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- Can I add a different kind of protein to this? Yes, the chicken can be swapped for grilled or cooked shrimp, thinly sliced steak or even seared salmon. Don’t be afraid to make this your own!
- Where do you find wonton strips? Usually prepared wonton strips are in the same aisle as the croutons or salad dressing. Most of the time, I’ll use prepared store-bought wonton strips. Occasionally, I like to prepare my own. You can easily use wonton wrappers. These are usually sold at Asian supermarkets in the freezer section. Cut the squares into small strips. Heat at least 1-2 inches of oil in a skillet or in a deep fryer. When the oil is hot, add the strips and cook them for about a 30-60 seconds or until lightly golden. Remove them from the pan to a plate lined with paper towel. Let the wonton strips cool before topping the salad.
If you like this recipe, you might also like:
- Simple Asian Grilled Chicken
- Super Saucy Chicken Broccoli Stir Fry
- Sesame Chicken Pasta Salad with Ginger Dressing
- Crispy Chicken Banh Mi Bowls
- Rainbow Thai Noodle Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing
Recipe originally shared Aug. 2015 updated with new images, minor recipe updates and new post, May 2022.
- ½ cup rice vinegar
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 whole cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- ¼ cup canola oil (or avocado oil)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- 6-7 cups shredded romaine (or baby spinach/mixed shredded cabbage etc.)
- 1 large carrot, shredded
- 1 (15 oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained
- 1 cup prepared wonton strips
- ⅓ cup sliced almonds
- ½ cup cilantro leaves
- 12 ounces grilled chicken, diced (or shredded rotisserie)
- DRESSING: Add rice vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat and allow it to just come to a gentle boil. Add sugar and garlic cloves and let sugar dissolve; about 1 minute. Remove from stove, discard garlic cloves. Place the rice vinegar in a mason jar, add sesame oil, canola oil, soy sauce, and sesame seeds. Allow the dressing to come to room temperature; about 10-15 minutes. Place lid on the jar and shake until the dressing mixes together. If dressing separates, shake again to combine.
- ASSEMBLE THE SALAD: In a large bowl, combine the ingredients for the salad, except the wonton strips. Ttop with the sesame vinaigrette and toss to combine. Top with wonton strips and serve immediately.
- WONTON STRIPS: Use store-bought or make your own. Purchase square wonton sheets, defrost according to package directions. Cut into thin strips and fry in hot oil for about a 30-60 seconds or until lightly golden. Remove to a paper towel lined plate. Let cool before using in salad.
- GRILLED CHICKEN: Add 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sugar, ¼ tsp red pepper flakes, ¼ tsp garlic powder, and ½ tsp sesame oil in a bowl. Add the chicken and let marinate for 5-60 minutes. Grill chicken for 5-6 mins per side or until cooked through. Slice or dice and use.
update 05/22: Recipe
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 560Total Fat: 31gCarbohydrates: 35gProtein: 36g
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