For all my office worker bees, or anyone who packs a lunch during the week: this is for you! I understand the effort required to A. make lunch ahead of time, B. pack it up for work, C. make and pack up a lunch for work that still sounds appetizing come lunchtime when there are paninis/pizza/pho just around the river bend AKA block. I rely on make-ahead lunches for work and I promise I’ll only ever tell you about them if they’re worth it. Chicken salad is one of my favorite things to make because there are so many directions you can go with it (traditional, with celery and tarragon / summery a la Pioneer Woman with sweet corn, blueberries, and feta / Asian, loaded with veggies, Sriracha sauce, and sesame notes—the list goes on), and all feel indulgent and satisfying. I know the reputation chicken salad has—that it’s packed with mayo and the furthest thing from a salad—but this doesn’t have to be the case for a few reasons. I always cut my mayo with sour cream or yogurt or both because I genuinely like it better this way. And the dressing should be made thin and flavorful using other ingredients too. And as an aside, I often eat chicken salad without bread or over greens instead because it’s so good on its own and feels much lighter. Those are my solutions for lightening up this lunch, although there is zero wrong with not caring, not measuring, and eating it in a pita, or a wrap, or on good bread.
Asian sesame chicken salad
Yields 3 servings
2 cooked chicken breasts (leftover chicken works great!), cut/pulled into thin strips (nothing too small—the chicken salad should contain big pieces so the texture isn’t too monotonous)
¼ cup diced sweet onion
5 florets of broccoli, broken up a bit
1 celery stalk, chopped
Handful of thinly sliced red cabbage
1 large carrot, shaved
3 mini sweet peppers, sliced (I like an assortment of red, yellow, and orange)
1 T sesame seeds
**Note: these are looooooose guidelines—you do not need all of these veggies on hand to create this dish, and you could also substitute different veggies for the ones I've used
Sesame Chili Dressing
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 T sour cream
1 T nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 T vinegar (I’d suggest white or champagne)
1 tsp pure sesame oil (the good potent stuff—a little goes a long way, and I love this brand)
1 tsp Sriracha chili sauce
Squeeze of fresh lime juice
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Start by making the dressing in a small mixing bowl. Add all ingredients and whisk to thoroughly combine. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if need be. Set dressing aside.
In a separate bowl, add all prepared ingredients (except sesame seeds) and mix to combine. To dress, start by folding in half the dressing. Add more and more dressing to taste. When you’ve added enough, finish by sprinkling with sesame seeds and tossing one more time. If you’re making this ahead of time, the salad can now be refrigerated until lunch the next day. I’ll usually make this salad no more than a couple days ahead—and if I want it a third or fourth day, I’ll throw it together again later in the week with the chicken I already cooked.
When serving, serve with extra Sriracha sauce. Serve as is, or in a pita or sandwich, or over baby spinach.