Bright, crunchy and insanely fresh – this Vietnamese Chicken Salad will fill you up without weighing you down! Made with chopped or shredded chicken, crunchy veggies, fresh herbs and coated in a Vietnamese style nuoc cham dressing. The end result is a healthy and vibrant salad that’s as delicious as it is colourful! | Paleo + Oil Free + Low Carb
Crispy, crunchy, herby goodness. That’s what we’ve got going on in this bowl here.
With warmer days approaching, this is the type of simple salad you want up your sleeve when you’re craving healthy and filling without turning on your stove.
Herby Vietnamese Chicken Salad
Shredded chicken, mountains of chopped veggies and a generous amount fresh herbs all tossed and coated in a bright and salty nuoc cham dressing.
What is Nuoc Cham?
Nuoc cham (Nước chấm) is a popular Vietnamese style condiment often served as a dipping sauce to a wide variety of dishes and sides.
Like most popular and traditional recipes, there are many different ways to make nuoc cham, but the essence of the recipe is always the same as it also makes up the foundation of Vietnamese food: sugar (sweet), fish sauce (salty) and citrus (acid).
Simple, but incredibly impactful in transforming an otherwise boring meal into a truly delicious experience.
How to Make it
Simply combine the water, fish sauce, lime and sugar in a mason jar (or something with a secure lid) and shake until the sugar has dissolved. Warm or hot water is recommended to help the sugar dissolve quickly and easily.
Then, simply add the chopped chili and garlic and mix once more (this time gently) and that’s it. Set your sauce aside as you prep your salad and you’re good to go.
Look for Vietnamese fish sauce (Nuoc mam) if possible. It’s known for being slightly sweeter and lighter in both color and flavor when compared to Thai fish sauce.
On to the salad…
- Cooked Chicken Breast – Leftover chicken is a great option if you have some available. You can buy a rotisserie chicken and shred it for the salad or just cook your own quickly. Check out the recipe notes for instructions on poaching your own chicken breasts if you need.
- Cabbage – I used a combination of red cabbage and white cabbage. Don’t worry too much about what type – any will work. Chinese cabbage (also known as napa cabbage) is a good choice if you can find it.
- Carrot – I julienned my carrots because I wanted the crunch and taste to be especially noticeable in my salad, but shredded carrots are easier to prepare and still delicious!
- Spring Onions – Snip off the root ends and thinly slice your scallions.
- Fresh Herbs (lots of herbs) – The fresh coriander (cilantro) and fresh mint are crucial as they keeps things fresh while mellowing out the more punchy flavors from the fish sauce dressing.
Substitutions, Additions and Ways to Make it Your Own
As written, this recipe makes for a fairly simple Vietnamese chicken salad. Simple, but in no way lacking oomph. That being said, there are still plenty of ways to play around with the ingredients to make it your own recipe.
- Fried Shallots – This recipe is quite similar to a popular Vietnamese salad, Gỏi gà bắp cải (chicken cabbage salad). Top off your salad with some crispy fried shallots and roasted peanuts and you won’t regret it!
- Check out my Honey Mustard Quinoa Apple Salad With Crispy Shallots recipe for a quick tutorial on frying shallots.
- Salted Peanuts – amp up the crunch factor with a handful or salted or roasted peanuts. Cashews are another good option if peanuts don’t work for you.
- Rice Noodles – Vermicelli noodles are a great way to bulk up this salad for a more complete meal without too much effort and time.
- Lime Zest – Grate a bit of zest before juicing your lime and mix it into the salad dressing for an extra zing of flavor.
- More Veggies – Pack in even more nutrients by adding crunchy vegetables like bean sprouts or sliced bell pepper.
- Use a premade coleslaw mix.
- Swap out the chicken for tofu for a meat free alternative.
- Rice wine vinegar will work as a replacement for fresh lime juice if needed.
- No fish sauce? Try a gluten free soy sauce or tamari instead (or coconut aminos for a soy free option).
- Sensitive to spice? Leave out or use a less spicy chili instead.
- Replace the green onions for sliced white onion, red onion or shallots.
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) warm water
- 2 tablespoons (24 g) sugar
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) Vietnamese fish sauce (ensure gluten free)
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) lime juice
- 1 red birds eye chili, deseeded and diced
- 1 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups (450g) cooked chicken, shredded or chopped
- 3 cups (about 250g) purple cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
- 3 cups (about 250g) white cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
- 1 large carrot (130 g) grated or julienned
- 6 spring onions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
- Add the water, sugar, fish sauce and lime juice to a jar with a fitted lid. Screw the lid securely onto the jar then shake vigorously to dissolve the sugar.
- Add the chili and garlic to the jar. Fasten the lid once more and gently shake to combine. Set aside as you prep the salad.
- Add all of the salad ingredients to a large mixing bowl and mix together.
- Pour the Nuoc cham dressing over the salad and toss well until fully combined.
- Serve and enjoy.
- Vietnamese fish sauce is ideal but you can use Thai fish sauce if needed.
- If you plan to make this in advance, wait to add the dressing just before serving. Store the salad and dressing separately in airtight containers in the fridge and this will keep 3-4 days.
- You can use rice wine instead of lime juice if needed.
- Feel free to omit or use a less spicy chili if needed.
How to Poach Your Own Chicken
Leftover or rotisserie chicken work well here, but if you don't have any on hand you can poach a couple of breasts instead.
- Lay the chicken breasts at the bottom of a medium sized sauce pan - make sure not to overlap the chicken so they cook evenly. Cover with at least 2 inches of cold water. Add the salt. Bring the chicken to a boil over a medium/heat and then cover and reduce down to a simmer. Let gently simmer for about 15 minutes to cook internally.
- Once done remove the chicken from the water and let cool a couple of minutes. You should be able to easily shred the chicken with a couple of forks at this point.