This chicken rice salad is the perfect combination of flavors and textures. It is so good as a side dish, but it's also complete enough to be a meal! Change it up with different vegetables, or make it meatless by skipping the chicken completely and subbing it with mushrooms or more vegetables.
This is not just any old plain rice salad.
You've got a rice blend that has texture and chew and has been cooked in seasoned water.
It is loaded with tender chicken and perfectly crisp-tender asparagus.
And everything is tossed together with a fresh and tangy dressing with just the right amount of sweet, sour, and savory.
Served chilled, this chicken rice salad is a delicious side dish, but it's also hearty enough to stand alone as it's own meal.
While you can certainly use one type of rice for this salad, like a regular long-grain or jasmine, I find it tastes so much better if you use a rice blend.
A friend of mine had introduced me to the concept of this salad a few years ago, but she used Uncle Ben's instant rice. While I could certainly have used the same, I decided that coming up with my own flavored rice was more appealing as I could control the flavor and, most importantly, the amount of salt.
An example of a wild rice blend might include brown, red, and wild rice, and when mixed with a regular long-grain rice, you get a really nice mix of textures just from the rice itself! The long grain is soft and tender, the rice blend offers some chew to the mix. I used Lundberg's Wild Rice Blend with equal parts plain basmati rice, but you can also find some wild rice blends that already include a long-grain white rice.
And then you don't want to just cook the rice in plain water. Adding seasonings and spices to the water gives the salad another of flavor that's been cooked right into the rice. You could even do something as simple as replace the water with a chicken or vegetable broth.
The Protein, Vegetables and Dressing
I use simple poached chicken breast for this salad, but you could use chicken thighs, rotisserie chicken, or roast chicken. You don't even have to stick with chicken if you don't want. You could substitute it with shrimp, or make it completely meatless and use mushroooms.
I like having something crisp and green in this salad, too, and I have found that I like the texture of asparagus or sugar snap peas the most. I give them a quick parboil and chill them down so that they don't lose that little bit of crispness, but aren't completely raw. You could do the same with broccoli or bell peppers, or if you don't want to fuss with parboiling, go with something like cucumber.
The dressing is a simple enough mixture that also packs a punch, giving the chicken rice salad another layer of flavoring on top of the seasoned rice.
The mixture of rice vinegar, oil, garlic, honey, sesame oil, salt and pepper gives just the right balance of sweet, savory, and sour to the dish. It gets mixed in with all the rice, chicken, and veggies really well before letting it hang out for a bit in the fridge to really let the flavors soak in.
The salad, at this point, is ready to eat and so good as it is. But you could take it up a notch by sprinkling some freshly grated Parmesan on top for extra salt and umami. I also like to chop up some pecans or walnuts and sprinkle those on top for a bit of crunch.
Other possible garnishes are chopped green onions, Japanese furikake, or fried garlic.
As you can see, this chicken rice salad is really versatile, can be easily modified to suit your diet or what you happen to have on hand. And as I mentioned above, it's a great side dish but is also so complete on its own that it makes a perfect meal.
My family loves this chicken rice salad. It is a simple yet satisfying meal, and did I mention that it makes great leftovers and is a perfect for school lunches??
Simple to make, real ingredients, and full of flavor…you're going to love this dish.
Chicken Rice Salad Medley
- Cut asparagus into bite-sized pieces and parboil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from boiling water immediately and transfer to a bowl of ice water. Drain and set aside.
- Rinse rice in cold water until water runs clear. Add 2 ½ cups cold water and let the rice soak for 1 hour.
- Add seasonings to rice and stir to mix well before cooking. Fluff cooked rice and set aside to cool completely.
- Combine all dressing ingredients and whisk together well. Set aside.
- Mix together cooled rice, chicken, and asparagus.
- Add dressing and mix well.
- Chill salad in refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving.
- Top with chopped pecans and grated Parmesan, if desired.
- Feel free to substitute the asparagus with your favorite vegetables. Broccoli, peppers, artichokes, spinach, and snap peas are some great alternatives.
- For even more flavor, cook the rice using chicken broth instead of water.
- You could substitute the chicken with shrimp.
- To make this vegetarian, skip the chicken completely and replace it with more vegetables.
This post was original published October 29th, 2017 and was republished in April 2020 with updated photos, writing, and recipe notes.