Grilled Sesame Chicken Salad with 3 Dressing Options . about $5.75

These salads with an Asian flair seem to be all the rage these days and it’s no wonder: crisp lettuce, chicken and dressings that are almost addictive. And if you’re lucky, you’ll find one with a few little fried won-ton strips, just in case all that health is too much for you! Make them at home, though, and you’ll spend a fraction of the money, up the nutritional value and lower the calories.

Grilled Sesame Chicken Salad
Grilled Sesame Chicken Salad

The flaw of most of the Asian style salads that can be picked up at the drive through or a cafeteria type restaurant is they’re usually mostly lettuce, and while low in calories, lettuce doesn’t give the nutritional punch of many other vegetables. When you make a salad like this at home you can fill it full of all kinds of goodness and customize it to your taste.

I based my marinade off of the chicken I had in a Wendy’s salad (but I straight up stole the Fried Won-Ton strips from Panera) which had an interesting tanginess but things can be sped along by using chicken that’s already cooked and shredded. Perhaps a planned left over from chicken made early in the week. A plus for this salad is that it’s sturdy enough to pack for lunches and will hold up well – just keep your dressing separate.

I’ve included 3 of my favorite dressings here – I can’t seem to pick just one! The first, a hot little number with a lot of sesame taste is the Creamy Sesame Tahini Dressing, shown with the salad – if you want to tone it down, replace some of the sesame oil with another oil – as it’s written, you might find yourself making faces! This was adapted from a Robert Irvine recipe.

The second, Asian Sesame, is a vinaigrette with sesame and a bit of sweet/sour heat, similar to Wendy’s but not nearly as sweet. I found this, of all places, at the Southern Living site, although I changed a few things. The last is a Sesame Ginger, quite a bit like ones I’ve had in Asian restaurants that I reworked from a Bikini Bootcamp recipe.

Trio of Asian Dressings: left Asian Sesame, Top Sesame Ginger and right Creamy Sesame Tahini
Trio of Asian Dressings: left Asian Sesame, Top Sesame Ginger and right Creamy Sesame Tahini

Grilled Sesame Chicken Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 min + rest
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Chicken & Marinade:

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed and minced
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 12 ounces of chicken breast, sliced horizontally in half if very thick

Place chicken in a Ziploc bag. Add marinade ingredients. Mix & close; place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes & up to 3 hours, the longer the better. The chicken continues to absorb the marinade and after three hours may get a bit strong-tasting and the acid in vinegar may deteriorate the chicken.

Remove as much marinade as possible before quickly grilling or sauteing. Slice and set aside for salad.

Salad:

Really, anything goes here, but classics are romaine or iceberg, red or green cabbage, cucumber and any colored peppers of your choice. Other great additions are edamame, baby corn, water chestnuts or your favorites.

Any type of nut you fancy can be substituted for the sesame seeds. Wendy’s salad had spicy cashew nuts.

Cut several won-ton wrappers into 1/4 inch strips and shallow fry in about an inch of 350 degree oil for several minutes, stirring now and then until crunchy. Lightly salt when removed from oil.

Dressings:

Sesame Tahini Dressing, 3/4 cup

  • 2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 2″ piece of onion, quartered
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tahini (may use peanut butter)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup sesame oil (if you have the less intense Japanese sesame oil, try it here.)

Add 1 at a time through the feed tube of a running blender, vinegar, onion, salt, pepper, tahini, honey, red pepper flakes, water and sesame seeds. Leaving the blender running add the oil in a slow thin stream.

Note: this dressing has a lot of spiciness. If you’d like, part of the oil may be replaced with a different type, perhaps a light olive oil and only a teaspoon or so (to your taste) of sesame oil used. If dressing is too thick, add a bit of additional water – it will thicken upon standing in the fridge.

Asian Sesame Dressing, 1/2 cup

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

Whisk all ingredients together until sugar is dissolved. This dressing will separate, so store in a jar so that it can be shaken back together.

Sesame Ginger Dressing, 1/2 cup

  • 1/4 cup mild olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and emulsified.

 

Notes on Dressing: Wendy’s Asian Cashew Salad uses Marzetti® Simply Dressed® Light Spicy Asian Chili Vinaigrette – it is quite a bit sweeter than the Asian Sesame Dressing above, A close approximation to Wendy’s dressing would be to use the Asian Sesame Dressing recipe, add a bit of corn syrup (yep, corn syrup is the only way I found to sweeten the dressing enough to come close to Marzetti’s) then add a touch of Sriracha and a bit of white or black pepper.

Conclusion:

The salad from Wendy’s was around seven bucks or so, Panera’s a bit more, about $8.65 with tax – made home-made they are far better and a fraction of the cost. I could feed a small army the above salad for less than the cost of one large salad at Wendy’s, and for far less than one at Panera. I spent about $4.00 and bought a head of Romaine, a small head of cabbage, a red bell pepper and a huge cucumber. The dressings are pennies to make, especially if you watch for sales and coupons and stock up on ingredients. The chicken for four was about $1.50 and still more than was on the restaurant salads.

The bottom line is, that even if you are a single person like some of my friends, who always pick up salads because they think it costs less because they won’t use up everything in time – it doesn’t pay to do so.

Even if you picked up all the ingredients and made only ONE salad, and the rest of the ingredients rotted away in the fridge (don’t get me wrong, I hate waste and am not recommending this) you’d still save money! It would cost you around five seventy five instead of seven to eight or more and you’d have half a pound of chicken left over. If you made two, three or four salads, you’d be way ahead. Your cost would still be the same, but the ones you bought would have ran you up to 35 dollars.

While most restaurant items I’ve remade (from the lower priced places and chains) are priced at about 4 to 5 times the cost of home-made, the cost of salads seems to be around 7 to 10 times the cost of home-made. Plus you get about 50 cents worth of lettuce that’s been sitting around for how long, a few measly vegetables and a smidge of anything else.

2 thoughts on “Grilled Sesame Chicken Salad with 3 Dressing Options . about $5.75”

    1. My pleasure, Kimberly, and thanks for commenting. If your family includes small children, I’d start with the Sesame Ginger dressing as the other two do have a bit of a kick, especially the Sesame Tahini.

      All could easily be toned down in intensity by adding a little less sesame oil, ginger or red pepper or by adding a little more sugar/honey or diluting with just a little water, too.

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