Get your taste buds moving with our delicious Spicy Asian Chicken Salad. Packed with fresh crunchy vegetables and tossed together with a hot chilli garlic soy dressing, this shredded chicken recipe is perfect for entertaining the crowds.
Why You’ll Love Our Spicy Asian Chicken Salad
I am a big fan of Asian salad recipes. Of course, growing up in a Vietnamese Chinese family, we were spoilt with many delicious Southeast Asian salads.
My favourite Asian salad recipes all have similar characteristics. I love the freshness of the herbs, the crisp textures, and the spicy chillies and quintessential punchy dressings.
The perfect balance of sweet, sour, hot and savoury flavours just makes Asian salad recipes so tasty.
For this Spicy Asian Chicken Salad, I have taken inspiration from both my Vietnamese and Chinese heritage.
The main salad ingredients are very similar to a Vietnamese chicken coleslaw recipe, Goi Ga, but the Asian salad dressing is inspired by Northern Chinese flavours similar to our Spicy Tofu Skin Salad with black vinegar and my favourite chilli oil, Lao Gan Ma.
What makes our spicy chicken salad recipe so amazing is not only the crunchy combination of shredded chicken with cabbage, carrot and cucumber but the punchy chilli salad dressing. It’s zingy, spicy and full of flavour. A perfect match with poached chicken and fresh vegetables.
This is a super easy spicy chicken salad recipe to prepare. With ingredients you can find every day, this is a great Asian salad with chicken recipe to entertain the crowds or whip up any weekday if you feel you want to spice things up.
How To Cook Chicken For Salad
The most common way to cook chicken for salad would be to poach chicken. It’s simple, healthy and keeps the shredded chicken meat moist and tender. I poach my chicken in a large pot over a stovetop but you can also poach chicken breast in an instant pot.
You can also pan fry or bake chicken breast in the oven and then shred the chicken meat for salad.
This is also a great recipe to use pre-cooked rotisserie chicken if you are short on time. We often have shredded rotisserie chicken meat in the fridge for sandwiches with our coleslaw recipe or fried rice, so why not use it for Asian chicken salad? Using rotisserie chicken would turn this recipe into a no-cook salad!
Tips For Poaching Chicken Breast
I usually use chicken thighs for most of my stir-fry dishes, curries, etc.. I seldom use chicken breast because I tend to overcook it, and the chicken pieces become too dry.
One method I have learnt to keep the chicken breast juicy and tender is to poach it gently. The process is not complicated but takes a little patience to avoid overcooking.
Most methods of poaching will instruct you to continue simmering the chicken breast until fully cooked.
I prefer to turn off the heat just before the chicken breast is fully cooked and rest the chicken breast in hot water so that it will continue to cook but not overcook the meat. This will take a little longer, but I know it works.
Flavour/Texture: This Asian spicy chicken recipe is full of crunch and mouth-watering flavours.
Hot, zingy and super fresh; juicy shredded chicken breast mixed with crunchy cabbage, carrot and cucumber, aromatic coriander, and green onions. The flavoursome salad dressing combines black vinegar, soy, sesame oil, and garlic.
Ease: I found this spicy salad very easy to make. Poaching the chicken took a little more time and care, but if you plan to use a rotisserie chicken and a store-bought coleslaw mix, this will make it super easy!
Time: The majority of the time is to poach the chicken gently. It takes between 35-40 minutes for the recipe.
These are the ingredients you need for Spicy Asian Chicken Salad:
Chicken: I chose to make poached chicken breast for this recipe as I had more time. However, if I were busy and wanted something quick, I would add shredded rotisserie chicken for a flavourful meal.
Cabbage: Red, white cabbage or a combination of both would be fine for the recipe. I had white cabbage in the fridge at the time.
Cucumber: Adds extra crunch and delicate sweetness to the salad. You can use either Continental or Persian cucumbers. If the cucumber has a lot of seeds, remove some of them.
Carrot: Popular in most Asian slaw recipes, carrot adds texture, colour and flavour.
Coriander/Spring onions: You can use a mix of coriander and spring onion or omit coriander if you are not a fan.
Sesame seeds: I love the aromas of sesame seeds on top of the salad. It not only adds to the overall look of the salad but another level of delicious fragrance.
Chinese black vinegar: Chinese black vinegar forms the base of the spicy chilli dressing. It adds depth and an earthy umami profile. The sharp, tangy flavours are a perfect balance to chilli oil.
Soy sauce: A good quality light soy sauce adds salty flavours to the black vinegar dressing.
Chilli oil: I have used Lao Gan Ma chilli oil in this salad dressing recipe, but you can use your own homemade Chinese chilli oil or any other brands.
Sesame oil: The aroma of sesame oil is second to none. It adds a nutty fragrance to the dish that is delicious.
Garlic: For added punchy flavours, I added garlic to the dressing. When grated through, the aromas are enhanced.
Variations and Substitutions
Poached chicken substitutions: As mentioned, you can use shredded rotisserie chicken or pan-fried chicken instead of poached chicken for the recipe. If you have leftover turkey or roast duck, the salad combination will also work well together.
Coleslaw variation: If you are short on time, you can use store-bought coleslaw mix or substitute the vegetables with salad leaves.
Chinese black vinegar substitution: If you don’t have Chinese black vinegar in the pantry, you can use rice wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar. Balsamic will be sweeter, so I would taste before adding any sugar.
Adjust the heat: My kids love Lao Gan Ma chilli oil, so I am not afraid to dial up the spice. Adjust according to your tastes.
Gluten-free option: substitute soy sauce for tamari.
Step by step instructions for how to make Spicy Asian Chicken Salad:
How to Poach Chicken Breast
Place chicken breast fillets in a large saucepan. Cover the chicken breast with water. Place the saucepan on the stove and bring to a boil.
Once boiled, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for another 5-6 minutes. Then turn off the heat, place the lid on the saucepan and let the chicken breast rest in hot water to continue cooking.
After 5 minutes, check if the chicken breast is fully cooked. The meat should be opaque and not pink. If not, rest a little longer in hot water.
Remove cooked chicken breast and run it under cold water or place in an ice bath to stop it from further cooking.
Once cooled, shred chicken breast into fine strands. Set aside for assembly.
How to Prepare the Salad
Thinly slice the cabbage leaves or shred using food processor. Set aside for mixing.
Peel the cucumber and trim the ends. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and then again, so you have 4 long quarters. Thinly slice into matchsticks.
Peel the carrots and shred with a julienne peeler. If you don’t have one, cut the carrot into thin matchsticks or use a mandoline to shred it.
Wash and finely slice 2 sprigs of spring onion.
Wash and roughly chop the coriander.
How to Make Chilli Garlic Salad Dressing
In a small bowl, add crushed garlic, black vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil.
Mix well together until sugar dissolves.
Add chilli oil to dressing and mix well. You can also adjust the spice level depending on how much you like.
How to Assemble the Salad
In a mixing bowl, add shredded poached chicken, cabbage, cucumber and carrot together.
Mix together with the chilli garlic salad dressing. Make sure all poached chicken and vegetables are fully coated with dressing.
Scatter with chopped spring onion and coriander and toss together.
Tumble into a large serving bowl and scatter sesame seeds to finish.
How to Make This Salad Perfectly (Expert Tips)
Do not overcook chicken breast: As much as I know the poached chicken will be shredded and then mixed with salad dressing, avoid overcooking the chicken breast as it may become dry.
Remove cucumber seeds: If you have a cucumber that has a lot of seeds, trim some of it off because you don’t want the salad to be too wet.
Serve salad at room temperature: If you are preparing salad ahead of time and keep it in the fridge to store, remove the salad a little bit earlier before serving. I prefer this salad at room temperature.
Great Mains for This Salad
What to serve with spicy chicken salad? Try these delicious main dish recipes:
This tom yum soup with noodles is perfectly paired with our spicy chicken salad.
Frequently Asked Questions
This is a great recipe to prep ahead. You can even dress it as well. The shredded chicken and cabbage will soak in all the hot and spicy flavours.
Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. You can keep it for another day.
For me, I get in with my hands and pull the chicken breast apart. Alternatively, you can use two forks to help shred the chicken meat. This would be less messy!
I’ve also seen people use a hand mixer to shred chicken breast. Pull the chicken breast into a few big pieces. Place the pieces in a deep mixing bowl and start the hand mixer on low speed. Let the beaters pull the chicken and shred it apart.
I sometimes poach a whole chicken at the start of the week and use the shredded chicken meat for various meals. You can add to noodle dishes, fried rice, sandwiches and salads.
If you have a whole rotisserie chicken, you can use any leftovers in roast chicken salad or rotisserie chicken salad recipe with healthy green tahini dressing. Alternatively, if you like something a little more tangy and spicy, replace the duck in our Thai-inspired pomelo salad recipe.
I prepared this hot and spicy chicken salad recipe for a last-minute potluck dinner with friends on a weekend and it was a hit. The recipe is simple to make with minimal fuss. I even dressed it before taking it over.
My Spicy Asian Chicken Salad has bold flavours that will satisfy any chilli lover. These are flavours to wake the taste buds for sure.
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Spicy Asian Chicken Salad
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- Place chicken breast fillets in a large saucepan. Cover the chicken breasts with water.
- Place the saucepan on the stove and bring to a boil.
- Once boiled, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for another 5-6 minutes.
- Turn off heat, place the lid on the saucepan and let chicken breasts rest in the hot water to continue cooking.
- After 5 minutes, check if the chicken breasts are fully cooked. The meat should be opaque. If not, rest a little longer in the hot water.
- Once cooked through, remove chicken breasts and run them under cold water or place them in an ice bath to stop them from further cooking. Shred once cooled down.
- Thinly slice the cabbage leaves or shred using a food processor. Set aside for mixing.
- Peel the cucumber and trim the ends. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and then again, so you have 4 long quarters. Thinly slice into matchsticks.
- Peel the carrots and shred with a julienne peeler. If you don’t have one, cut the carrot into thin matchsticks or use a mandoline to shred it.
- Wash and finely slice 2 sprigs of scallion (spring onion).
- Wash and roughly chop the cilantro (coriander).
- Peel and finely crush the garlic clove.
- In a small bowl add garlic, black vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil. Mix well together until sugar dissolves.
- Add chilli oil to dressing and mix well.
- Taste and adjust flavours as required.
- In a mixing bowl, add shredded poached chicken, cabbage, cucumber and carrot together.
- Mix together with dressing.
- Scatter with chopped scallion (spring onion) and cilantro (coriander) and toss together.
- Tumble into a large serving bowl and scatter sesame seeds to finish.
- You don’t have to use Lao Gan Ma Chili oil. Any Chinese / Sichuan chilli oil would work, especially for those that have a nut allergy. Choose another brand of chilli oil that does not have peanuts.
- For a gluten free recipe, substitute soy sauce for tamari.
- Alternatives for poached chicken include shredded rotisserie chicken or pan-fried chicken. If you have leftover turkey or roast duck, the salad combination will also work well together.
- If you are short on time, you can use store-bought coleslaw mix or substitute the vegetables with salad leaves.
- Substitute Chinese black vinegar for rice wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar. Balsamic will be sweeter, so I would taste before adding any sugar.
- If you prefer slightly less spicy, try our soy ginger dressing recipe or spicy peanut dressing for something a little more creamy.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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