Today we’re sharing our Panera-inspired Asian Sesame Chicken Salad. It’s one of our favorite salads with great flavor and the perfect crunch. We’ll go over the ingredients and cover all the prep from the chicken to the sesame vinaigrette.
Why oh why did Panera remove their Asian sesame chicken salad from their menu? It was so good. It disappeared along with the Sierra Turkey sandwich we loved. We would order for our kids who are fans of the chicken that comes on top and the crispy wontons. And they would even try bites of lettuce dipped in the dressing. Hey, that’s a big deal for our kids. We’re trying to slowly move them towards being good salad eaters. But this Panera salad…
…this salad they would actually try! So we were pretty bummed when they took it off their menu. So, only on thing to do…
We used Trader Joe’s soyaki marinade for the chicken, but your favorite soy sauce/teriyaki based asian chicken marinade would work just as well–we may have to try out this soy sesame grilled chicken marinade. We have also used a homemade marinade similar to our fajita grilled chicken recipe, but removed the chili powder and cumin and added in some soy sauce. Then we grilled the chicken, let it rest, and then sliced it. Or just buy a rotisserie chicken (a nice shortcut when you’re short on time) and add a little soy sauce to the dressing and skip cooking the chicken all together.
We use romaine lettuce and tatsoi or baby spinach, but if you use something different I’m pretty sure the salad police still aren’t going to show up at your door. We found tatsoi at our local farmers’ market. Apparently, tatsoi is the new spinach. I really liked it, but if you can’t find it, stick with baby spinach.
Next comes a lot of great color and texture with mandarin orange slices, sliced almonds, toasted sesame seeds, and crispy wontons. We couldn’t find a container of crispy wontons at the store, so instead just bought wonton wrappers in the refrigerator section near the produce. Then cut the wontons into 1/4 inch strips, placed them on a baking sheet, sprinkled with salt, and baked them at 425F for about 6-8 minutes. We almost didn’t have enough baked wontons for the salad because my kids devoured them plain.
To really complete the flavor profile for this asian sesame chicken salad we topped it with toasted sesame seeds and then make a killer Asian sesame vinaigrette. We used rice vinegar and some sesame oil mixed with regular olive oil (you don’t want to use extra virgin or any other more powerful oil–canola would also work). Then a little salt and pepper to season the dressing. Plus some agave to sweeten it. I think that’s one of the reasons my kids (and I) like the dressing so much. It has a hint of sweetness. Sugar would also work, just make sure to whisk it in thoroughly.
This makes four smaller salads. In our instructions, we have you assemble seperately, but feel free to mix everything together, toss, and serve in a large salad bowl.
Asian Sesame Chicken Salad
Copycat Panera Asian Sesame Chicken Salad. Sesame vinaigrette, baked wonton strips, and mandarin oranges.
For the salad
- 2 chicken breasts marinated, grilled, and cut into strips
- 1 head romaine lettuce washed and cut
- 3 oz tatsoi or baby spinach
- 6 oz mandarin orange slices
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 1/4 cup cilantro
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup baked wonton strips
For the sesame vinaigrette
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1 tbsp agave
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Whisk all vinaigrette ingredients together or shake up in a small mason jar.
Divide chopped romaine and tatsoi or baby spinach evenly in four bowls.
Divide and arrange chicken slices and mandarin oranges evenly between bowls.
Pour desired amount of dressing over salads and toss.
Top each salad with almonds, toasted sesame seeds, and wonton strips.