Applebee’s Chicken Salad

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This easy restaurant copycat Applebee’s Chicken Salad combines romaine and coleslaw with crispy chicken, sliced almonds, crunchy chow mein noodles, sweet mandarin oranges, and an irresistible creamy & sweet dressing.

Overhead image of the Applebees chicken salad

This Applebee’s Chicken Salad is a part of our “Back-To-School Lifesavers” — a series of recipes that are intended to have little (or no) veggie chopping, minimal prep time, around 10 ingredients or less (not including pantry staples), and use kid-friendly ingredients. Click here to see all the recipes in the series!

Applebee’s Chicken Salad

Applebee’s Chicken Salad is mega-popular — and for good reason! It’s crunchy, sweet & savory, and completely satisfying. If you order the salad in the restaurant you’re looking at spending a good chunk of change and over 1500 calories, but making it from home can be tedious, expensive, and not so nutritious too!

So today we’re simplifying the process, making it a bit more nutritious, and doing this all while keeping all the flavors you know and love. 

We do add one ingredient you won’t find in Applebee’s salad — mandarin oranges; we love the sweetness and texture these add to the salad, but feel free to leave them out for a more authentic version.

Ingredient shot-- image of all the ingredients used in this dish

Applebee’s Chicken Salad Ingredients

  • Coleslaw mix. Nothing fancy here — just a store-bought package of coleslaw works great here! Most coleslaw mixes are in the produce section of the grocery store near other packaged salad mixes. The only ingredients in the coleslaw should be green cabbage, red cabbage, and carrots (don’t grab a prepared coleslaw mixed with dressing)
  • Romaine lettuce mix. Again, nothing fancy here just romaine lettuce that has been chopped. You can always grab full hearts of romaine lettuce and chop them yourself, but that will add time to the overall prep. When grabbing a lettuce mix, spend an extra minute to look through the bagged lettuce and grab the freshest bag available.
  • Mandarin oranges. To keep things easy, we grab mandarin oranges in a can (without added sugar). Alternatively, use fresh clementines in place of the canned mandarins. Peel the clementines, segment them, and add those to this Applebee’s Chicken Salad.
  • Chow mein noodles. These are deep-fried crunchy golden egg noodles and add a great savoriness and crunch to the salad. They’re typically found in the international aisle with Asian products or in the dry pasta aisle of the grocery store. 
  • Sliced almonds. These almonds can be thrown right from the bag into the salad or you can toast them if you’d like. See “quick tip” box below for more info.
  • Crispy chicken tenders. More on this ingredient below.

QUICK TIP

How to toast almonds: Place the almonds in a single layer in a heavy skillet (you don’t need to add anything else) and stir them around on medium-low heat. It only takes about 2-3 minutes (sometimes less depending on how much heat they are getting) until they are toasted and smelling quite fragrant. Make sure you are stirring them around and watching constantly so they don’t have a chance to burn!

Crispy Chicken Tenders

Taste of Home® shares the best chicken to use for this recipe. I personally use Tyson’s® crispy chicken strips for this salad (not sponsored). I recommend baking or air frying the chicken tenders, not microwaving them, for this Applebee’s Chicken Salad. (If you do have an air fryer, that is our favorite method — it’s super quick, you don’t need to wait for the oven to be pre-heated, and it yields the best texture!) Let chicken tenders cool to a warm temperature and then thinly slice and add to the salad. 

Ingredient shot--image of all the dressing ingredients used in this Applebees chicken salad

Applebee’s Chicken Salad Dressing Ingredients

  • Mayonnaise. We love and recommend Hellman’s/Best Foods® mayo; it has a robust flavor without being too sweet.
  • Dijon mustard. We love Grey Poupon® Dijon best. Make sure to use Dijon, not yellow mustard. There’s a big flavor difference! 
  • Sesame oil. Even though there is a very small amount in this dressing, it really delivers a great authentic flavor and is the “secret” ingredient in this dressing. (This oil is typically found with the Asian ingredients area, rather than with the other oils in the grocery store.) We love the flavor of toasted sesame oil best
  • Rice vinegar: This balances the sauce and adds a subtle tang. If you see a label saying rice wine vinegar, it’s the same thing.
  • Honey. We prefer this dressing on the sweeter side, so if you’re concerned about sweetness, add the honey slowly and to taste.

QUICK TIP

This dressing mixes best by being throughly whisked with a small whisk instead of being stirred with a spoon or fork.

Process shots-- images of the chicken being air fried and the sauce being whisked together

STORAGE

Applebee’s Chicken Salad Storage

This salad doesn’t sit or store well after it’s made. Once assembled, the salad needs to be eaten soon after; otherwise the dressing wilts the greens and the ingredients (almonds, chicken, & chow mein noodles) soften. This recipe can easily be halved to ensure it can be enjoyed without having leftovers. 

To make ahead: Prepare everything, but store ingredients separately in the fridge. Cook chicken tenders and assemble everything right before eating.

Dressing can be made one day in advance. Simply store in a mason jar and thoroughly whisk to recombine before adding to the salad.

Up close overhead image of the copycat Applebees chicken salad

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Applebee's Chicken Salad

This easy restaurant copycat Applebee's Chicken Salad combines romaine and coleslaw with crispy chicken, sliced almonds, crunchy chow mein noodles, sweet mandarin oranges, and an irresistible creamy & sweet dressing.
Print Recipe

Applebee's Chicken Salad

This easy restaurant copycat Applebee's Chicken Salad combines romaine and coleslaw with crispy chicken, sliced almonds, crunchy chow mein noodles, sweet mandarin oranges, and an irresistible creamy & sweet dressing.
Course Dinner, Main Course, Salad
Cuisine American
Keyword Applebee's Chicken Salad
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 358kcal
Cost $9.96

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (300g) frozen breaded chicken tenders Note 1
  • 1 package (10 oz.) hearts of romaine salad Note 2
  • 1/2 of 1 (16 oz.) package coleslaw mix--227g Note 3
  • 1 can (15oz, 425g) mandarin oranges
  • 1/3 cup (24g) crispy chow mein noodles Note 4
  • 1/3 cup (28g) sliced almonds

Dressing

  • 1/3 cup (67g) good mayo (we love Hellman's/Best Foods)
  • 3 tablespoons (68g) honey
  • 2 tablespoons (28g) rice vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Instructions

  • CHICKEN: Start by preparing chicken tenders according to package directions (we like air frying them best!). Let cool to warm and then thinly slice/chop.
  • DRESSING: While chicken is cooking, prepare the dressing by whisking together all the dressing ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper; I add 1/4 tsp fine sea salt & 1/8 tsp. pepper.
  • SALAD: In a large bowl, combine romaine lettuce, half of coleslaw mix, throughly drained mandarin oranges, and sliced chicken.
  • ENJOY: Drizzle on dressing (read instruction #5 first) and toss well to coat. Serve on plates and divide chow mein noodles & almonds evenly on individual plates. Enjoy!
  • STORAGE: Dressed salad doesn't sit well, so if you want to have leftovers or make ahead, store the dressing separately from the salad. Store the chicken, almonds, & chow mein noodles separately from lettuce/coleslaw and dressing.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: I use Tyson® Crispy Chicken Strips (not sponsored) which cook up in about 18 minutes or 11-12 in the Air Fryer. Make sure to cook them in the Oven or Air Fryer, not the microwave. Use whatever chicken tenders you like; you can even do homemade crispy chicken strips. Unless they're little, you'll want to slice the chicken so they can be evenly distributed throughout the salad. We want about 8 ounces (~2 cups or 4-5 tenders) total for this salad.
Note 2: This is just plain romaine lettuce that has been chopped.
Note 3: Most coleslaw mixes are in the produce section of the grocery store near other packaged salad mixes. The only ingredients in the coleslaw should be green cabbage, red cabbage, and carrots (don't grab a prepared coleslaw mixed with dressing)
Note 4: These are deep-fried crunchy golden egg noodles and are typically found in the international aisle with Asian products or in the dry pasta aisle of the grocery store. 

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 358kcal | Carbohydrates: 33.2g | Protein: 7.3g | Fat: 23.4g | Cholesterol: 13.8mg | Sodium: 300.8mg | Fiber: 5.5g | Sugar: 21.6g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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