The fresh citrus flavor in this Mandarin Chicken Salad with Creamy Ginger Dressing is over-the-top delicious. The sweet-savory flavors combined with the creamy element from the dressing make a dinner salad everyone loves! This salad has all fresh ingredients and vibrant flavor, but it couldn’t be easier to make.
This simple salad is my answer to fresh flavors through the winter months. Citrus season is in full swing, and what better way to celebrate than with a delicious salad? The sweet and savory combo is extra tasty here and will leave you wanting to make this one again.
Add in a creamy ginger dressing and some crunchy toasted almonds and this salad becomes something you look forward to in the winter. And for another fun variation, try using your favorite peanut dressing, or my peanut sauce.
If you can’t have peanuts, no worries because you can use any nut butter in that sauce. Whichever dressing you choose, this salad is sure to become an instant favorite.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Spinach – is most easily available and tasty during the colder months. But feel free to sub in your favorite salad mix or something crunchy like romaine lettuce.
- Chicken – is the perfect flavor to add protein to this salad.
- Green onions – are the perfect mild onion flavor here, but we also love mixing it up with slivered red onions as well.
- Mandarin oranges – fresh Mandarin oranges sliced or broken into sections are the tastiest here. But I’ve also used canned Mandarin orange segments, just look for the kind without added sugar.
- Cabbage – I love the crunch and color of purple cabbage sometimes called red cabbage here. But you can use green cabbage as well. I used to use slivered red bell pepper as well in this salad, but it’s been hit or miss lately. So feel free to leave out the optional pepper.
- Slivered almonds – or any toasted nut you love works here. I love the flavor of the almonds with the ginger dressing but also use cashews and peanuts.
- Cilantro – is also optional, but adds lots of tasty fresh flavor.
- Creamy Ginger Dressing – bottled or from my recipe below works so well with these flavors. But peanut sauce or your favorite peanut dressing is a seriously good variation as well.
How to make this Mandarin Chicken Salad recipe step by step
Step 1: Blend the dressing and set it aside/refrigerate until you’ve prepped the salad
Make this easier tip: buy your favorite bottled ginger or peanut dressing or make the dressing ahead of time! My ginger dressing recipe keeps well in the fridge for a week.
Step 2: Prep all the veggies, and fruit, cook the chicken, and toast the slivered almonds.
Nut free tip: use toasted sesame seeds if you can’t have nuts!
Step 3: Arrange all the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Start with the spinach as a base, then scatter everything on top for the prettiest salad. Or you can serve everything separately and let each person toss together their own salad to taste.
Ways to serve this
- Prep this recipe ahead and assemble it into Mason Jar Salads for the week.
- Add steamed rice to ‘bulk’ up your salad. This is one of our favorite ways to make salads a ‘bigger’ dinner. You might be surprised at how tasty rice is in a salad – I sure was the first time I tried it!
Yes, but you will sacrifice fresh flavor. Fresh Mandarins are super easy to peel and add just a couple of minutes of prep time. They add infinite tasty flavor, but I have used canned in a pinch.
Yes, you can use a basic bottled vinaigrette, ginger dressing, or peanut dressing. However bottled dressings are never as tasty and homemade. If you really want to have an incredible salad, definitely make the dressing. Try making it on the weekend for meal prep ahead of time to make things easier.
Yes, any chopped cooked chicken works perfectly here. I’ve even used leftover turkey before which is tasty too.
Regular oranges work here as well or Tangerines would be my first pick for a flavorful substitution.
- To store – keep everything separate to store in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
- To freeze – I’ve frozen both the Ginger Dressing and pre-cooked and chopped chicken. That way you’re even closer to a quick salad!
Tips & Tricks
- The Ginger Dressing freezes well and can be used as a super good stir-fry sauce as well!
- Meal prep your chicken ahead of time, or use leftover chicken from rotisserie or roast chicken. I like to cook 3+ pounds at a time on the grill or roasted in the oven. Then cool, chop, and freeze until needed.
I really hope you enjoy this Mandarin Chicken Salad! If you do get a chance to make this recipe, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Mandarin Chicken Salad
- 8 cups washed baby spinach - 8-10 ounces
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs - oven roasted or grilled
- 10 small mandarin oranges - peeled and separated into sections, 3 cups or 1 1/2 pounds
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions - or slivered red onion
- 2 cups finely chopped purple cabbage
- Optional: 1 red bell pepper - seeds removed, and thinly sliced
- 1 cup slivered almonds - toasted
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
Creamy Ginger Dressing:
- 1/2 cup avocado oil - sesame oil (not toasted) or neutral tasting oil of your choice
- 3 tbsp minced fresh ginger
- 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice or mandarin juice - from 1-2
- 2 tbsp tahini - toasted not raw
- 1/2 cup chopped celery - 2.5 ounces
- 1/4 cup gluten free soy sauce - tamari, or coconut aminos
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice - or rice vinegar
- Start by cooking the chicken if you’re not using leftover roast or rotisserie chicken. Preheat the oven to 425ºF and roast the chicken thighs until no longer pink in the center, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly then chop into bite sized pieces.
- Next make the dressing. Place all the dressing ingredients except the avocado oil into a blender. Blend until smooth.
- Then add the oil in a drizzle at low speeds until completely combined and emulsified. Set the dressing aside/refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.
- Place the baby spinach in a large serving bowl. Add the chopped chicken, Mandarin oranges, green onions, purple cabbage, and optional bell pepper to the bowl.
- Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and cilantro. Serve with the dressing on the side, or toss as much as you’d like together with the salad.
- Keep each salad item separate if you know you’ll have leftovers to store!
This recipe was originally published in 2018, but has been updated with nutritional information, tips, and new photos in 2022.