Learn how to make easy Chinese Chicken Salad that is dressed to impress! Made with tender chicken, veggies, pasta and a tangy Asian-style dressing, this easy pasta salad is potluck staple or a wonderfully light lunch or dinner.
Chinese Chicken Pasta Salad
Growing up in an active Lutheran Church, potlucks were a wonderful part of my childhood and teen years. Every month it seemed there was another reason for a potluck, and I’m not complaining! There would always be delicious food, and it was a no-brainer that at least three families would be bringing Chinese Chicken Salad.
The pasta salad I’m sharing today is a spin on the classic to make it a little heartier. Adding pasta to the chicken, cabbage and other vegetables bulks up the salad and makes it stretch a little further.
What is a Chinese Chicken Salad?
This famous dish is a 1970s potluck classic. While the basis for this dish dates back to a Chinese restaurant in the 1960s where it was requested by Cary Grant, the popular version we know and love today is credited to Chef Wolfgang Puck.
In reality, this dish is not really Chinese. In China, lettuce was rare and imported and salads were pickled. Chinese Chicken Salad gets its name from the Asian ingredients used, like soy sauce and ginger, which were considered exotic back in the 60s.
How to Make Chinese Chicken Pasta Salad
Recipes vary across the US, but there are three mainstays that make the dish what it is.
- Crunch – cabbage, carrots, snow peas, water chestnuts and chow mein noodles.
- Sweetness – Carrots add a subtle sweetness, as does the honey in the dressing.
- Umami – That dressing is absolutely full of Umami flavor!
Simple to make, in about 30 minutes. This recipe assumes that you have cooked chicken on hand, but if you don’t just grab your Instant Pot to make fully cooked shredded chicken in about 20 minutes.
- Gather up all of the ingredients you’ll need for the salad and the dressing.
- Toss veggies, chicken and chow mein noodles in a large bowl.
- Whisk together dressing ingredients. Pour over the Chinese Chicken Salad and toss to coat.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Use pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, or make a big batch in your slow cooker to store for recipes like these.
- Shred your chicken fast using a stand mixer or hand held electric mixer.
- Make Ahead Pasta Salad: Make the salad (minus the chow mein noodles) and dressing separately, up to a day ahead. Toss everything together and garnish just before serving.
- Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt will work in place of the plain yogurt.
- Garnish Chinese Chicken Pasta Salad with extra sliced green onions, sesame seeds, toasted almonds or more chow mein noodles.
- A lot of recipes you’ll find call for canned mandarin oranges. I left them out as a personal preference, but you could certainly add then if you like. Just be sure to drain the juice off really well.
More tasty Pasta Salads:
- Best Ever Classic Macaroni Salad
- Tuna Pasta Salad
- Easy Vegetable Pasta Salad
- Greek Pasta Salad
- Chicken Spinach Pasta Salad
- Southwest Pasta Salad
Chinese Chicken Pasta Salad
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
- 4 cups cooked rotini about 3 cups dry
- 1 cup fresh snow peas
- ½ cup diced red bell pepper
- ½ cup shredded carrot
- 2 cups chopped napa cabbage
- ¼ cup sliced green onions
- 8 ounce can sliced water chestnuts drained
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 cup chow mein noodles
- ⅔ cup plain yogurt
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- Honey to taste
- Salt to taste
- Combine chicken, pasta, vegetables and chow mein noodles in a large bowl; toss gently and set aside.
- Combine yogurt, soy sauce, mayonnaise, pepper and ginger in a bowl; stir well. Taste and add honey to your desired sweetness level. Add salt if desired.
- Add to chicken mixture; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with toasted almonds.