Asian Sesame Chicken Salad
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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!
It’s time for another Asian inspired salad.
And this one, I gotta say, is going to be one that’s going to stick around for a while. I’ve already penciled in this recipe for dinner at least once a week. <– You guys know about my food binges. I get on a never-stopping roller coaster of a particular food and don’t get off until I’ve enjoyed the same thing at least a bazillion times. Brace yourselves; I may never end up getting off this one.
Color. Crunch. Texture. Savory. Sweet. Salty. Heat. Gah! This salad has it goin’ on!
It’s a 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, grilled chicken, 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 IF you don’t make some for yourself, you may even start dreaming about it. It’s some powerful stuff. But wait. a. minute. I haven’t even told you that I topped this salad with a handful of crispy golden brown wonton strips PLUS (wait for it…) toasted sliced almonds.
I think it’s pretty safe to say this salad DELIVERS on more than one level. The salad gods were a little hesitant when they found out I was sharing this salad with you today. They didn’t think the world was ready for something that was this jam-packed with flavor.
Let’s start with that Asian sesame vinaigrette. It’s a few simple ingredients – rice vinegar, a little sugar, garlic, oil, soy sauce, and sesame seeds. Nothing complicated or fancy. My food philosophy is simple. A salad is absolutely nothing without a good homemade dressing. And Honey, this Asian sesame vinaigrette will knock your socks right off and is sure to have you dreaming and drooling over it at 10 am and hoping that lunch rolls around soon.
And the crunch! So much crunch. SO much crunch that your lunch neighbor may just start feeling a little envious and have the need to say, “well alright then girl, GO ON WITH YOUR CRUNCHY SELF.”
I’m going to say it. Just double the dressing. DO IT. Okay, well, don’t if you aren’t someone who hearts eating the same thing every single day. But DO if you’re like me and cannot get sesame chicken salads off your mind. This salad. Lunch. Every single day. Rest of my life.
The other component to this sesame chicken salad is the chicken. So really, you could just shred up a rotisserie chicken on nights when you’re just not having it. It’ll be just as good. Really. Or if you’re one of those super prepared people that completely have their lives in order and grill up chicken breasts on the weekend for dinners and lunches for the week ahead, pop that chicken right in and this Asian sesame chicken salad will be on the table in no time. I grilled mine with a little soy sauce, a hint of sugar, garlic powder, sesame oil and red pepper flakes, then sliced it thin because that’s how we do. And in my food blogger mind, somehow, thinner sliced chicken is not only more appealing, but it’s also more delicious.
I’m just stating real, hard facts here.
Full disclosure here for a second.
This salad wasn’t supposed to find it’s way to the blog today as Monday’s post. I was supposed to be posting a recipe for summer quinoa salad loaded with baby tomatoes and hot house cucumbers and a most delicious dressing made with pomegranate molasses. Yup. But then I had some amazing (read: way too much) food in San Antonio this past weekend and when I came back, I kind of just wanted an Asianesque salad loaded with sesame dressing, crispy wontons, and mandarin oranges. Hey, the [foodie] heart wants what it wants. And that’s why I took .02 seconds and made the executive decision that the summer quinoa salads sun would rise on a different day.
All I know is, I had the most overwhelming need to make (and eat) this Asian chicken salad and I NEEDED to have you make it too. I don’t even know what comes over this foodie’s brain sometimes.
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 whole cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- 4 hearts romaine lettuce, chopped (or spring mix)
- 1 (15 oz can) mandarin oranges, drained
- 1/2 cup wonton strips (see notes)
- 1/3 cup sliced almonds
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
- 12 ounces cooked grilled chicken, sliced or diced (see note)
- FOR THE DRESSING: Place the rice vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat and allow it to just come to a gentle boil, add the sugar and garlic cloves and let the sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Remove the rice vinegar mixture from the stove and discard the garlic cloves. Place the rice vinegar mixture in a mason jar and add the sesame oil, canola oil, soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds. Allow the dressing to come to room temperature, about 10-15 minutes. Screw on the lid and give it a good shake until the dressing mixes together. Please note, homemade salad dressing will separate as it sits, just give it a good shake before pouring onto the salad.
- ASSEMBLE THE SALAD: In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the salad and top with the sesame vinaigrette. Serve immediately.
- WONTON STRIPS: I used store bought already prepare wontons strips for this recipe, if you'd like to make your own, purchase square wonton sheets. These are usually sold at Asian supermarkets in the freezer section. Cut the squares into small strips. Heat 1-inch of oil in a skillet when hot, add the strips and cook them for about a 30 seconds to a minute. Remove them from the pan before they're totally brown to a paper towel lined plate.
- GRILLED CHICKEN: I marinated my chicken breasts in 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil. Just cook it in a cast iron skillet for about 5-6 minutes or until cooked through. You can also grill the chicken on an outdoor grill. Shredded rotisserie chicken or previously cooked, cubed chicken is also okay to use in this recipe.
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