This simple chicken salad recipe is made with shredded breast meat and a Korean pine nut dressing! It’s a healthy dish you can easily make for a quick lunch. Or, double/triple the recipe for a potluck or Korean BBQ party.
This Korean chicken salad is made with a traditional pine nut dressing. No mayonnaise! The pine nut dressing is light, creamy, nutty, and tangy! It certainly is a healthier option for you. Chicken salad is called dak naengchae (닭냉채) in Korean. Dak means chicken, and naengchae refers to a cold salad type that’s typically served with some sort of protein and a traditional dressing such as this pine nut dressing and hot mustard dressing.
How to cook chicken for the chicken salad
I usually use a poached chicken breast(s) for this salad for a nice clean taste. Boneless, skinless breast meat cooks up really fast. First, boil some water with aromatic vegetables such as onion, garlic, etc. And then add the chicken breast and simmer over medium low heat for about 8 -10 minutes. Remove the chicken and allow it to cool. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred and lightly season it with salt.
To make this chicken salad recipe even faster and easier, you can use store-bought rotisserie chicken.
How to make Korean pine nut dressing
Pine nuts have a rich nutty flavor and give the dressing a creamy texture. Always toast the nuts lightly to bring out the flavor, and then either finely chop or ground it in a blender. The garlic and hot mustard (called gyeoja in Korean) add robust flavors to the dressing. The acidity from the vinegar and lemon juice ties everything together, brightening the taste of the dressing.
If pine nuts are not available, you can use other nuts such as peanuts or walnuts or sesame seeds. You can also make chicken salad with a mustard dressing (gyeoja sauce).
How to serve chicken salad
I often serve this salad over a bed of lettuce or spring mix. You can use any salad vegetables. Red radishes add some crunch and color. Cucumbers and carrots are good additions as well.
Another option is to toss the salad, before serving, with crunchy vegetables such as cucumbers and colorful bell peppers.
Thinly slice the vegetables and mix well with the chicken salad before serving.
I love having this salad in my fridge for a quick lunch for week days. It’ll keep well up to 4 days in the fridge. Also, if you double or triple the recipe, it’s a great dish for a potluck or Korean BBQ party!
This Korean chicken salad recipe was originally posted in October 2010. I’ve updated it here with new photos, recipe card, and minor changes to the recipe.
More Korean Cold Salad Recipes
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Korean Chicken Salad with Pine Nut Dressing
This simple chicken salad recipe is made with breast meat and a Korean pine nut dressing! It’s a healthy dish you can easily make and grab for a quick lunch.
Pine nut dressing:
- 4 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (or any clear vinegar)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon hot mustard paste – gyeoja, 겨 (or dijon or yellow mustard if desired)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
- 1 chicken breast (8 to 10 ounces)
- 1/4 medium onion
- 1/2 stalk celery
- 1/2 carrot
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 bay leaf – optional
To serve on a bed of salad vegetables:
- a handful spring mix or other salad vegetables of choice
- 2 to 3 red radishes (thinly sliced)
Or to toss with salad:
- 1/4 red bell pepper (julienned)
- 1/4 yellow bell pepper (julienned)
- 1 small Kirby cucumber (cut lengthwise and then thinly sliced diagonally)
- To make the dressing, toast the pine nuts in a pan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. This will enhance the flavor. Grind the pine nuts in a blender or food processor (or finely mince them with a knife). Add the remaining dressing ingredients and blend well. Refrigerate while preparing the chicken and vegetables.
In a medium size pot, bring 5 cups of water and the aromatic vegetables to a simmer over medium heat. Add the chicken breast and simmer over medium low heat for about 8 -10 minutes (increase the time if cooking more than 1 chicken breast). Remove the chicken and allow it to cool.
When cool enough to handle, shred and lightly season with salt. Refrigerate while preparing vegetables. Wash salad vegetables in ice water and drain well. Cut them into desired sizes if needed.
- Combine the shredded chicken with the dressing, leaving a couple of tablespoons of dressing.
Line the platter with the salad vegetables. Place the chicken salad in the middle. Drizzle with the remaining dressing, and garnish with a few pine nuts if available.
OR thinly slice the optional vegetables and mix well with the chicken salad before serving.
This chicken salad can be stored in the fridge up to 4 days.