Mom's Chinese Chicken Salad

Chinese chicken salad was one of my mom's go-to family potluck recipes. She would often prepare it in one of those disposable aluminum trays, carefully layering the ingredients. Then when it was time to serve, she would shake-up the dressing, pour it over the salad, and toss everything together.

Mom's Chinese chicken salad

For me, all the ingredients she used are "essential" but if I had to pick a couple of things it would be the dressing and the crispy wonton strips that really make this salad. Yes, I know, I didn't mention any vegetables but as I said, I think everything in her recipe is essential.

The great thing is that you may find that your choices of what should be in this salad are different than mine, and that's okay.

What makes a Chinese chicken salad?

There are as many different versions of this salad as there are Chinese families but here are some of the common ingredients my mom's recipe shares with others:

  • Crisp shredded green(s) - my personal preference is iceberg lettuce for its crunch but you could also use Napa cabbage or a softer lettuce like Manoa or butter lettuce
  • Green onions/scallions
  • Chinese parsley/cilantro - this is obviously a personal preference and, to me, a crucial ingredient for many Chinese dishes but if you are one who cannot stand this herb, leave it out
  • Celery - optional but a key ingredient in my mom's salad
  • Cooked chicken breast - rotisserie chicken is easy but you could also use poached chicken breast. Season it simply, no teriyaki sauce.
  • Char siu (Chinese roast pork, also known as boneless spare ribs in Chinese restaurants in the mainland U.S.) - optional but a key ingredient in my mom's salad
  • Crispy wonton strips - homemade or store-bought
  • Sweet Asian vinaigrette
Here are other ingredients you may include based on your personal preference:
  • Shredded carrots or shredded red cabbage - both add color and crunch
  • Raw bean sprouts (mung bean sprouts)
  • Toasted sliced almonds
  • Slivered water chestnuts
  • Crispy chow mein noodles - these are probably easier to find than wonton chips in a mainland U.S. grocery store
  • Toasted sesame seeds

As you can see, the ingredients can vary. I have a particular idea/memory of how this salad should taste and that's the way I will always make it. But as I often say, use this recipe as a guide and make it your own. If you hate celery and cilantro, leave them out. If you love almonds, add them in.

Chinese chicken salad

Great for meal prep

What makes this salad great for a potluck also makes it great for weekday meal prep. Undressed, this salad stores well for several days. The salad can be portioned out with separate containers for the dressing and the crispy wonton strips. Packed in a lunch bag, it's a quick assembly to enjoy a delicious lunch.