Pasta salad is one of those dishes that always catches our attention anytime we come across it. We think it has to do with how many different ways it can be made, so there’s always something unexpected about it, intriguing us from the get-go and ensuring we scoop a generous helping onto our plate. If you had pasta salad a lot growing up and mainly associate it with a heavy coating of mayonnaise, let us assure you things have changed; pasta salads aren’t what they used to be, so don’t get hung up thinking you’re only getting a one-note scoop of blandness…that couldn’t be further from the truth, especially with this tasty dish.
No mayo to be seen here, this is an Asian-inspired sesame chicken pasta salad that’s bursting with flavor and freshness. While this easily makes for a tasty side dish, there’s enough protein packed in here to make it a very feasible main course as well; bow tie pasta, chicken, romaine and almonds fuel you up, with a bright, citrus-y kick from the mandarin oranges and fresh ginger to kick the flavor into high gear. Along with that, we’ve got fresh cilantro and green onions to keep things extra refreshing – this is a filling, yet still light pasta salad that’s perfect for lunch or dinner throughout the week.
While the main ingredients speak for themselves, it’s the combination of ingredients for the dressing that really ties everything together and makes the whole thing sing. To keep things light, but full of flavor, we used rice vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil as the base, built on further by the garlic, ginger, sesame seeds and red pepper flakes. The resulting dressing coats all the main ingredients perfectly, plus balances out the sweetness of the mandarins and remind you of dishes from your favorite take-out place. You can’t beat this!
Asian Chicken Pasta Salad
Serves 6-8; 25 minutes
- 8 oz. (1/2 package) bow tie noodles, cooked and drained
- 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or diced
- 4 cups romaine salad mix
- 1 (15 oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained
- 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted, optional
- 1 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1/2 cup green onions, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup wonton strips or chow mein noodles, plus more for garnish
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 2 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- In a medium bowl or measuring cup, whisk together rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and vegetable oil, then stir in garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, sugar and red pepper flakes.
- In a large bowl, combine romaine mix, pasta and chicken and toss together.
- Add mandarin oranges, almonds, cilantro and green onions, and mix together until fully incorporated.
- Pour dressing over the salad and toss again, then let sit 15-30 minutes.
- Add wonton strips or chow mein noodles just before serving and enjoy.