Sesame Chicken Pasta Salad with Ginger Dressing
An Asian-style sesame chicken pasta salad has tons of fresh lettuce, diced chicken, mandarin oranges, and crunchy romaine. The sesame ginger dressing is so irresistible you’ll want to pour it on everything. This salad is sure to be a family favorite!
It’s the summer of salads!
And this one hits all the high notes we look for in a good Asian inspired salad. This Sesame Chicken Pasta Salad comes with the most delicious dressing I’ve ever made in the history of my life. Friends, think sweet, tangy, savory, ginger and garlic flavor with hints of sesame. I’m planning on keeping a mason jar full of this stuff in the refrigerator at all times for all 93 days of summer lunches, but more on ginger dressing later.
Let’s hop right to it! It’s the day before the 4th, what are your plans? Whether you’re getting together with people or just hangin’ and taking it easy, a sesame chicken salad with pasta is the way to do Independence day right. Send the s/o out to grill a little chicken, maybe do a few extra pounds because I’m pretty sure the fam-jam is going to want this sesame chicken pasta salad for dinner more than one night this week. Then, it’s as simple as chopping that baby right up and toss it together with chopped cilantro, scallions, a bag of romaine salad mix and some pasta. Drizzle on that ginger dressing. Sprinkle the salad with your crunchy faves: almonds, sesame seeds, and oh yes, don’t you forget the chow mein noodles or wonton strips!
THAT CRUNCH makes this salad worth living for!
This salad is inspired by the Panera sesame chicken salad that 2015 was all about. We’ve just remixed it a little with some pasta action, spruced up the dressing a bit to make it even more delicious, and redelivered it in a simpler, more filling package. That first bite has a little bit of everything. Just watch the flavors unfold: first it hits you with a tang from the rice vinegar then it mellows to a sweet note on the dressing with crunchy almonds, crisp romaine, and perfectly cooked farfalle pasta.
Friends, this is love on a fork. You’ll keep going back for more with every bite. Know that when I say it’s irresistible, it really, seriously, unbelievably is.
I always have to say it, because it’s that important. Here is yet another salad recipe that ISN’T just all leafy greens! We’ve got juicy mandarin oranges, perfectly cooked bow ties of pasta, tons of chopped chicken and yes, a few handful of romaine in the mix too. It’s all about that balance, babe.
Let’s give you a little breakdown on that sesame ginger dressing. It starts with a whole lot of rice vinegar. We’ll balance the flavors with a little sugar, crushed of minced garlic, ginger (a full 1 1/2 tablespoons because this is ginger dressing after all), sesame oil, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and any colorless, flavorless oil that you’ve got at home. To make this dressing a little sweeter, use two tablespoons of soy sauce. For a more balanced flavor, use three. We prefer the dressing with three tablespoons because it’s got that perfect salt/sugar ratio. My homemade dressings are usually as simple as popping the ingredients in a mason jar and giving it a good shake.
See what I mean? This ginger dressing is dangerously easy to make. You might as well commit from now and make a double batch!
If there’s something you just don’t care for too much in this salad, don’t let it keep you from the sesame chicken pasta salad experience. You can easily swap the romaine for a spring baby mix or use freshly peeled cuties if you’ve given up on things that come from a tin can. If you’re gluten-free swap out the pasta for one that you can have and be sure to use GF tamari in the dressing. Almonds can be swapped for walnuts or even sunflower seeds if that’s more your thing. And for my cilantro haters out there – I see you, you can use parsley in its place, and the world will be a better place for you all over again.
The way to do this salad on a weeknight: grab a rotisserie chicken on the way home, cook the pasta while you prep the dressing and pop everything into a big bowl. What I love most about this sesame chicken pasta salad is that the ingredients we need to chop are kept to a minimum: cilantro and scallions are the only things that require your attention if you purchase prewashed/chopped a romaine salad mix as I do.
There you go friends. Make it dinner tonight. Make it lunch tomorrow.
Make it like pronto!
- 6-ounces farfalle pasta
- 12-14 ounces (~1 3/4 cup) cooked diced chicken*
- 4 cups romaine salad mix
- 1 (15-ounce) can mandarin oranges
- 1/3 cup toasted sliced almonds
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/2 cup chopped scallions
- wonton strips or chow mein noodles*
- 1-2 small cloves garlic
- 1 1/2 tablespoon ginger paste
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 2-3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup clear flavorless oil
- Pasta: Boil the pasta according to package directions.
- Salad: Add the romaine mix, cooked pasta, chicken, mandarin oranges, sliced almonds, chopped cilantro, and scallions to a large bowl. Dress the salad with the desired amount of dressing.
- Dressing: Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a mason jar, cover and give it a good shake until the ingredients combine. Note that if you use 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, you'll get a sweeter dressing, 3 tablespoons yield a more balanced flavor. We prefer it with 3 tablespoons.
- If you'd like to grill your own chicken, I usually marinate it in 2 tablespoons soy sauce + 1 tsp sugar + 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes + 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder + 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil. Just let the chicken hang around for about 20 minutes and grill it up. Let it rest at room temp for a few minutes before dicing.
- I've found wonton strips in the salad aisle of my grocery store where they keep the croutons. The chow mein noodles are the crispy ones that they keep in the Asian section of the international aisle. They're crunchy and usually come packaged in a blue can.
- Leftover salad dressing can keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, but I really doubt it'll stick around for that long!