This is one of those dishes that calls to us on restaurant menus, that satisfies the desire for a combination of textures, colors, and a symphony of flavors that makes our mouths feel happy. And luckily it is easy to create at home. It’s satisfying and exciting and hard to stop shoveling in.
So, what is Indonesian food? Hard to capture in just a few sentences, since it’s actually a big category, with a variety of influences. Indonesia is actually comprised of about 6,000 islands, and there are over 300 culinary influences represented. Isn’t that crazy? Sumantran, Javanese, Polynesian, Malaysian, Chinese, Middles Eastern, European, Indian…bits and pieces of these cuisines are all represented in various places in Indonesian recipes.
In dipping a toe into this cuisine, one quickly realizes that you might in fact need to jump into the deep end of the pool and start swimming furiously to get a real handle on it. Someday I will…today I’m simply offering up this Indonesian chicken salad. Savory and packing some heat (two characteristics of many Indonesian dishes), this dish is probably one of the Indonesian-inspired dishes you are most likely to see on an American restaurant menu.
Asian Chicken Salads
Similar salads might be called Chinese Chicken Salad (which may have water chestnuts, bean sprouts, mandarin orange slices, and crunchy noodles) or Asian Chicken Salad. Usually the ingredients are fairly finely chopped, slivered or shredded—it’s really nice to get a little of everything (or mostly everything) in each forkful. (Try Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken in this salad!)
Indonesian Chicken Salad Dressing
Often all of these salads have dressings similar to this one—with peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar or citrus juice, ginger, and some form of heat. I used Sriracha sauce, which originated in Thailand and is available everywhere, from Walmart to almost every supermarket. It has been my go-to hot sauce for years, though I do continuously play around with different hot sauces, and you should feel free to use whatever chili sauce you have on hand.
You can use any leftover cooked chicken you have, as long as it’s simply seasoned. Or, you can definitely use a rotisserie chicken, or try Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken in this salad. Another thought – make a vegan version with Crispy Tofu instead of chicken!
A collection of amazing Asian flavors come together in this salad. Crunchy vegetables stand up to the tender chicken and a spicy peanut dressing.Tweet This
Vegetarian Asian Salad
The crunchy vegetables stand up to the tender chicken and creamy rich peanutty dressing in such a nice way. You could make a vegetarian version simply by skipping the chicken, or perhaps adding some cubes of sautéed tofu. The amount of ginger and garlic and hot sauce can be dialed up or down to achieve whatever level of flavor intensity you like.
What is in Indonesian Chicken Salad:
The dressing is made of:
- Creamy peanut butter – this gives the dressing its nutty flavor, and thickens it up. Use natural peanut butter if possible for the best peanut flavor.
- Rice vinegar – adds a gentle acidity
- Garlic – just a little for a bit of heat and flavor.
- Soy sauce or tamari – for saltiness and umami
- Lime juice – more acidity and a nice citrus lift
- Minced fresh ginger – this makes the dressing, adding a bit of heat and that inimitable fresh ginger flavor. Do not sub in powdered ginger here.
- Sriracha or other hot sauce – brings a nice amount of heat. dial the amount up or down as you like
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
For the Salad:
- Thinly sliced green cabbage and romaine lettuce – I prefer Napa which has a lighter texture and slivers up very finely. You could also use iceberg lettuce instead of the romaine, but you do want a crunchy lettuce here to stand up to the thick rice dressing.
- Grated carrots and slivered bell pepper – for color and crunch, and a bit of sweetness.
- Shredded cooked chicken – the star protein. You can use your own cooked chicken, or shred a purchased rotisserie chicken. Feel free to use either dark or white meat, or a combination.
- Sliced scallion – every salad need a member of the onion family. Use both the white and green parts. Slivered red onion is a good substitute.
- Crushed roasted peanuts – to top the salad with a nutty crunch.
- Fresh cilantro leaves – some people don’t like cilantro but if you do, it’s the perfect herbal finishing touch to the salad.
This Indonesian-style chicken salad would be a great addition to a picnic menu, a potluck gathering, or a lunch buffet. And, if you thought chicken salad was boring….well, this recipe should make you reconsider.
Other Non-Boring Chicken Salad Recipes:
- Chicken Sate Salad
- Smoky Chipotle Chicken Salad
- Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
- Chopped Salad with Chicken, Tomatoes and Lemon Thyme Dressing
- Chicken Piccata Orzo Salad
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Indonesian Chicken Salad
For the Spicy Peanut Dressing
- ½ cup creamy peanut butter preferably natural
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- 1 clove garlic finely minced
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce low-sodium or tamari (which is gluten-free)
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha or other hot sauce
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
For the Salad
- 4 cups thinly sliced green cabbage preferably Napa
- 4 cups thinly sliced romaine (iceberg is another possibility
- 2 carrots peeled and grated
- 1 red yellow or orange bell pepper or a combo of half of two different colored peppers, cored, seeded and very thinly slivered
- 4 cups shredded cooked chicken
- 4 scallions trimmed and sliced (white and green parts)
- ½ cup crushed roasted peanuts
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves optional
- Lime wedges to serve
- Make the Dressing: In a food processor combine the peanut butter, rice vinegar, garlic, soy sauce, lime juice, ginger, Sriracha and salt and pepper – you can also which this all together in a bow of you prefer.
- Make the Salad: In a large bowl combine the lettuce, cabbage, carrots, bell pepper and chicken. Pour oven the dressing and toss to combine. Pile into a shallow serving bow and top with the scallions, peanuts and cilantro leaves. Serve with the lime wedges.
The nutrition values are provided as an estimate. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.
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Made this last night and it took me right back to Chin Chin in L.A. I lived on their Chinese chicken salad in my 20s and have never come across a worthy contender until now. Correction to serving size: this only serves three if one of them is making up for lost Chinese-chicken-salad-time.
What is your serving size for nutrition panel, so often bloggers do not give serving size.
the recipe serves 6 (generously!)
Hi Katie- We met at Dana Cowan’s birthday party many years ago and chatted about my former life as a food editor and your current career. I’ve made many versions of this salad over the years—-with noodles, with chicken, without chicken and this is the best! Because I’m always the one to ask for “extra dressing please,” I added 2 T. vegetable oil to make the dressing stretcn and feel more silky and it was perfect. We are big fans of the Mom 100—I’ve bought it for all my adult kids with kids —- but I’m happy to say that your recipes are just as great for foodie grandmas and grandpas either when the kids come or when we’re on our own!
Hi Freddi. So nice to hear from you! And I’m thrilled that this salad is a winner – I love it, too. Thanks for passing The Mom 100 to your whole family!
The Indonesian Chicken Salad sounds wonderful. Soy sauce is not gluten free, though. Tamari sauce is the replacement for soy.
yes, that is completely true! making the adjustment.
yes, I made an additional note about that, thanks!