Mandarin Orange Chicken Salad

Even though I know many of you live in 100+ temps consistently and happily, I have to tell you, my cold-blooded bones are not cut out for the heat wave we are getting here in southwestern Idaho. It’s supposed to be ridiculously hot for the next seven days and I kind of feel like if I can’t drive the three miles from the grocery store to home without my chocolate chips melting in the backseat even with the a/c cranking, there’s a serious {albeit very 1st world} problem.

Since I already heart salad for dinner in a big way (do you?), this quick and delicious mandarin orange chicken salad fits right into the category of fabulous meals to make when the heat is sucking the life out of me.

Mandarin Orange Chicken Salad

It doesn’t require an oven. It’s super fast to throw together. It’s wonderfully light and refreshing. It has the perfect amount of crunch and sweetness and flavor. And it is healthy (but still filling!) enough to give me license to finish up the meal with about 42 scoops of ice cream to cool things off even more.

I’ve been playing around with versions of this salad for a while now because I believe wholeheartedly that everyone needs a really great oriental-style mandarin orange salad in their go-to files. It may not be the most commonly made or requested salad but it certainly should be in the running. It’s a keeper. So tasty, it’s one of those salads I find myself craving nearly 99.3% of the time even if I’ve just eaten it minutes before. It never gets old. And if you ask me, that’s a sign of a really, really good salad.

Mandarin Orange Chicken Salad

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Mandarin Orange Chicken Salad

Yield: Serves 6

Mandarin Orange Chicken Salad

I freeze 1-inch segments of fresh ginger (unpeeled) and pull them out to grate on my microplane or the small holes of a box grater for recipes like this. Works like a charm. Also, the chile-garlic sauce adds great flavor to the dressing - add more if you want a touch of heat and just a tad if you want to enhance flavor without a lot of spice.


  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger (see note above)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons chile-garlic sauce (see note above)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Salad:
  • 3-4 cups shredded cabbage (can use coleslaw mix)
  • 3-4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 2 cans (11-ounces each) mandarin oranges, drained
  • 3 cups cooked, chopped chicken (from a rotisserie chicken or this simple, stovetop method)
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1-2 cups chow mein noodles or toasted, chopped almonds (or both)


  1. For the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use (it can be made several days in advance and refrigerated).
  2. In a large bowl, toss together all the salad ingredients except for the chow mein noodles.
  3. When ready to serve, pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine (add the dressing gradually if you like less dressing - you may not need to add it all). Sprinkle the chow mein noodles or almonds on top and serve immediately.

Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

48 Responses to Mandarin Orange Chicken Salad

  1. Rachel Marie says:

    This looks amazing!

    Rachel Coco

  2. Alicia Quigley says:

    This looks delicious. I could eat it everyday. However I don’t think my littles could or would. Do your littles eat this? Or what do you do when you make something you would like but you know it won’t get touched by anyone else? (I know your kids are better eaters than most but still).

    • Mel says:

      Hi Alicia – my kids do eat this but I also try to serve main-dish salads with other things so they are more willing to eat (have you seen this post? I talk more about that there). I’ve served this several times for our dinner and my kids eat it pretty well especially as they dig for bits of mandarin oranges and chow mein noodles. I know what you mean, though, it’s hard to want to make something if you know no one is going to eat it.

  3. Liss says:

    Delicious! Summer is when I’m most thankful I live on the Redwood Coast. Hello, high of 70!

  4. Liz says:

    The heat … seriously!! Here in NW Montana … Montana!! we broke records a few weeks ago with 94 and 95 and although we are now enjoying somewhat normal low 80’s, it is to be 100!!! over the weekend. I am preparing for an inside siege just like I do when a blizzard is forecast, except for salads and cool things. Your cranberry salsa is on the menu and I cooked and shredded a LOT of chicken which is in the freezer in small pkgs for salads and came to the blog this morning not only for Wednesday’s post, but also to make a list of salads. Bonus!

    I am going to sub fresh mango for the mandarin (don’t like canned mandarin) and almonds for the noodles.

    I am however, grateful that humidity is nil here and that I have a good A/C unit and a small house that is easy to keep cool AND a plethora of good recipes and conversation her at MKC!

    • Liz says:

      I made this last night with mango and fresh garden picked spinach and lettuce, sliced almonds, but all else the same. That dressing is superb! ( used chile flakes instead of the sauce and it had the perfect kick to go with the fruit-salad mix.

  5. Looks simple, fresh and wonderfully tasty!

  6. Lindsay says:

    Looks delish! Thanks for the tip about freezing ginger root. Have you ever tried just freezing the whole root? I can’t grate anything smaller than an inch without grating my fingers, so freezing a larger piece of root works best for me. Plus, then I don’t have to deal with all the dry/freezer burned ends. Anyway, keep all the great recipes coming!

  7. Holly W says:

    Hey Mel! We have been eating salads for dinner at least once a week since the beginning of May and nearly all my salads come from MKC! They have been gobbled up by my family. You have such great recipes! We just had your chopped thai chicken salad so I have leftover cabbage to make this latest salad recipe! Perfect. I have never purchased chili-garlic sauce before. Do you find it near the ketchup and barbecue sauce or on the spice aisle or in the Asian section at your store (I’ll be shopping at Walmart.)

    • Mel says:

      Hey Holly – this is the kind I buy (just an image of it here) – it’s the Huy Fong brand – and I usually find it in the Asian foods aisle at my grocery store. Amazon also has it, too, but I’m almost positive I’ve seen it at Walmart by the soy sauce.

  8. Kirstin says:

    I am wondering about the chile-garlic sauce. Not sure what that is or where you find it. Thanks! I’m looking forward to this salad for lunch today. We are in Utah and the heat is draining every bit of energy I have so this will save me!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Kirstin – good question! I keep chile-garilc sauce on hand all the time because it lasts FOREVER in the fridge. This is the kind I buy (just an image of it here) – it’s the Huy Fong brand – and I usually find it in the Asian foods aisle at my grocery store. Amazon also has it, too.

  9. This salad sounds amazing Mel!! You know how people go on their computers to surf fb, Pinterest or QVC? Well I love to go to Mel’s Kitchen Cafe and surf your site!! Anytime I need a recipe your the first go to. Read your story about your 1/2 marathon too. Your awesome and congrats on doing it!! Good luck with your heat wave! I think its 114 here today in Palm Springs, Ca. Yuck!! 😉

  10. Karen K says:

    Hi! Looks good! But, I have both seasoned & unseasoned rice vinegar. Which one did YOU use? Thanks.

  11. Rebecca says:

    God bless you, Woman. I need a source I can trust (you) as I make cautious forays into Asian-inspired dishes. I love all the ones I’ve tried of yours so far!

  12. Allison says:

    We live in Vegas where the summer is consistently over 100 degrees well into October.
    But I don’t live through it very happily. 🙂 This salad looks amazing! Making it tomorrow for dinner!

  13. Becky says:

    I made this for lunch today and it was awesome! It’s going to be my lunch for the rest of the week 🙂

  14. Sheila says:

    Mel originals are our very favorite! You had me sold with the adjectives “sweet” and “healthy”. 🙂

    • Sheila says:

      Delicious! I can’t believe my meat and potatoes man really likes this. You rock, Mel! The dressing is so good. I am so impressed with your skill!

  15. Alice E says:

    The salad looks very tempting. Bless you and your heat wave. We get a lot of hot temps in Kansas, but I don’t have to like them. One tip, because cars can get so hot inside from sun coming through the glass windows, in summer I always put groceries in the trunk. I guess that is assuming you have a car with a trunk, not a van or SUV. The trunk seems to stay cooler in my experience. It seems like the A/C should make the inside the car cooler, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. My guess is it’s the residual heat from while it sat empty, and the heat coming through the windows combined. I have been known to take along an ice chest, even, especially if planning to buy ice cream.

  16. katie says:

    Hi Mel! I also have a busy household and even more so now with summer here. I’m wondering how you handle lunches around your house? Does everyone fend for themselves or do you plan out meals for everyday..? I have gone back and forth and cant decide what is better. I also need some lunch ideas!!! Your amazing btw.. thanks for all your hard work that makes my life easier:)

    • Mel says:

      Hi Katie – good question about lunches. I don’t plan out specific recipes for lunches because we keep it mostly simple. My kids don’t fend for themselves quite yet – I’m still there to kind of moderate although my older kids can definitely get lunch together if I’m busy doing something else around the house. We kind of rotate through the basics: lots of sandwiches on whole wheat bread, my kids love tuna rolled up in large romaine lettuce leaves, occasionally we boil elbow noodles, drain and toss in shredded sharp cheddar until it melts (not necessarily creamy like mac and cheese but my kids love it), ham (or other lunch meat) rollups with mustard and cheese and pickles for the pickle lovers, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and we always pull out the cottage cheese and applesauce. As you can see, nothing too special. Sometimes if I get a hankering for something besides the usual, I’ll make a quick caprese salad (fresh basil, fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and a little vinaigrette similar to this recipe) and eat that but I usually keep it simple for myself too.

  17. Barbara says:

    Made this for dinner last night and it was fabulous! Thanks Mel.

  18. Sarah says:

    Preach, sister. I’m glad I’m not the only cold-blooded one out there. You would not believe the looks I get when I declare loudly (usually in a stinky pile of my own sweat) that I DO NOT LIKE HEAT. And now that I’m not a teacher anymore, I see no reason to look forward to summer. Give me Spring and Fall weather all year around. Anyway. Plan on making this for Sunday meal!

  19. Lisa says:

    My son recommended this site to me. I made this salad last night for dinner. It was so yummy! Definitely a great easy summer meal I’ll make again. Thanks Mel!

  20. CC says:

    Made this for dinner tonight. Delicious!

  21. stephanie says:

    I made a very modified version of this tonight, just using what I had on hand. I did, however, make the dressing as written and it was SO good! My new go-to dressing for asian-inspired salads! Very similar to other asian dressings, just…. perfected!

  22. Jenn A says:

    Looking forward to trying this. Wanting to get my kids eating more salad. Usually salads are considered “mom food.” Ha! Ha!

  23. Kim in MD says:

    I am with you about the hot temps- anything above 90 degrees (especially with our high humidity here in MD) is too hot for me! We eat salad almost every night this time of year, as I try not to turn on my oven. This looks so delicious and refreshing, Mel!

  24. Amanda says:

    I made this tonight and everyone in my family gobbled it up (and I can’t say that very often). Thanks for sharing a great recipe!

  25. Sheree L says:

    Made this tonight and it was awesome! Since I used the maximum amount of ingredients, I would have liked more dressing. Mmm, that dressing is so delicious, I’m going to have to keep some on hand for regular salads. I subbed ramen noodles for the chow mein noodles. I cooked the chicken in the slow cooker outside, since it’s been about 110 degrees here in AZ. Mel, you entice me to cook with all your amazing recipes. I thank you and my family thanks you!

    • Sheree L says:

      Just had to add that we had the leftovers for lunch today & I added chopped cilantro (and extra dressing!) and thought the salad was even better. My hubby commented that “this is the best salad I ever had”!

  26. Danielle says:

    I made this for lunch and it was so good I ate it again for dinner. I didn’t have rotisserie chicken so I seasoned my chicken breasts with s&p and rubbed them with a few drops of sesame oil and put them to broil. I think I could eat this salad every day. Thank you!

  27. Colleen says:

    I made this today for lunch for the kiddos and me. They are not salad eaters at all, so in an attempt to get them past that, I put this into wraps. Added some Craisins and drained, crushed pineapple (kids, look at all the stuff in there you like!) and it was a hit with 2/3 of us. Thanks for helping me get them a little bit closer to liking salads!

  28. Kathy B says:

    This was a great salad. We ate it two nights in a row. The dressing really makes it – I made a bunch extra to use for other things.

  29. Loretta says:

    We loved this salad — it was fresh, delicious, and so simple to make. Thank you so much!

  30. Helen G says:

    I made this salad and it was delicious. Actually, every one of your recipes that I have tried are great! This comment comes to you from a 60+ grandma. I read somewhere on your site, can’t remember where, you shared comments about an author, a fantasy author that you really enjoyed. Would you mind telling me again who that was?
    Keep bloggin’, keep cooking; your recipes are excellent!

  31. Judy Hintz says:

    We LOVE this recipe at our house! My husband & I made a half batch for dinner one night and loved it so much we made a second half batch to share with friends the next day. The boys (ages 5 & 8) ate it but didn’t beg for more. 🙂 What we discovered with friends is that it is delicious rolled in a warm flour tortilla. I must have eaten 3! I’m reading through all of your salad recipes now to find more summer dinner ideas. Thanks!

  32. Mistie Barfus says:

    Yum! I love salad for dinner and have converted three of my six children. I am still working if the other three! I will have to try this recipe–salad for dinner is such a great summertime meal!

  33. Katherine Riggs says:

    I made this tonight for dinner and our little family of 4 just ate the entire salad! This was delicious and thank you for doing all the cooking you do, your website is one of my go to for yummy food that I can always count on to be good even if its the first time we’ve tried the recipe!

  34. Tori says:

    Oh this is so good! Husband loved it, kids loved it, I loved it!

  35. Anna says:

    I made this last night, and we loved it! I used mango instead of mandarin oranges (saw that idea in the comments and it was a great one), and baked tofu on my portion instead of chicken. Other than that kept it the same. Yum!

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