Asian Pasta Salad

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The ultimate BEST EVER Asian Pasta Salad! Mandarin, chicken, almond pasta salad with the BEST sesame dressing! via chelseasmessyapron.com

This Asian Pasta Salad is loaded with tender pasta, fresh baby spinach, crisp red peppers, toasted sliced almonds, sweet and juicy mandarin oranges, crunchy carrots, and fresh herbs. We toss this salad with an addictive sesame-soy sauce dressing that is the perfect complement to all the ingredients. Rotisserie chicken adds protein, but it’s optional, so this salad can be made vegetarian!

We love this pasta salad served with these Asian Chicken Tacos — it’s a match made in heaven!

Asian pasta salad deliciously dressed with fresh mandarins and more.

This is a step away from mayo-laden pasta salads (Hi, still love you guys too!) to a fresh and light Asian-inspired dish. We love the crisp textures, the fresh flavors, and the insanely good dressing.

While pasta salads can often feel heavy and one-note, this salad is anything but that. It’s got plenty of fresh veggies (and fruit — thanks to the mandarins!) and the dressing has plenty of components — soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame seeds, and sesame oil to give it depth of flavor and textural components.

Asian Pasta Salad recipe tips

  • Salt the pasta well as it cooks, since salting is the only chance you have to season the actual pasta. As a rule of thumb, I add 1 teaspoon salt to 4 cups of water, so about 1 tablespoon of salt when cooking the rotini noodles for this salad.
  • Use a small, textured pasta. Choose pasta that has plenty of nooks and crannies to hold the delicious sesame-soy sauce dressing. If you can’t find rotini, I recommend miniature shells, mini farfalle, or fusilli.
  • Cook the pasta to al dente. Since the pasta sits in dressing, it has a tendency to get soggy if it has been overcooked. On the flip side, pasta becomes a little firmer when served cold, so don’t undercook it! I cook it right to the package directions of what al dente is (for rotini, that is 7-8 minutes).
  • Make the dressing in advance. The flavors meld together and intensify as the salad chills, plus it does taste better chilled.

Cooking and cooling pasta, adding all salad ingredients on a bed of spinach, making dressing, and pouring it over the asian pasta salad recipe.

Rotisserie chicken

Rotisserie chicken adds protein and staying power to this salad, but you can omit it for a quicker prep or if this salad will be more of a side dish than a main course. You can omit the chicken to make a vegetarian salad.

I like using rotisserie chicken for a quick prep time. And since the rotisserie chicken is seasoned, it lends more flavor to this salad.

If you aren’t purchasing a rotisserie chicken, you can make your own rotisserie chicken and use the leftover meat in this salad. Alternatively, you can use leftover grilled chicken or any other leftover chicken; just make sure to chop it into bite-sized pieces.

I’ll usually buy (or make) a rotisserie chicken and use it in one meal (like these Rotisserie Chicken Tacos or Peanut Chicken Lettuce Wraps) and set aside 1 and 1/2 cups of the chicken to use in Asian Pasta Salad later in the week.

Tossing all the ingredients together.

Variations

  • Add a creamy element. My favorite creamy element is avocado. Since avocados don’t hold up well in the salad, if you add them, add them to individual plates right before serving instead of stirring them into the salad bowl.
  • Use a roasted red pepper. While a raw red pepper is great in this salad and it’s what I typically use, you can try roasted red peppers for a softer, smokier flavor. You can buy jars of roasted red peppers at the store; they are usually near things like pickles, capers, and artichoke hearts.
  • Use fresh clementines. In place of the canned mandarins, peel and segment some clementines and use those.
  • Replace the spinach with chopped baby kale. (Read about how to prepare it in this Kale Couscous Salad!)

How to toast sliced almonds

Spread the sliced almonds into an even layer in a small, dry (no need to add oil) skillet over medium heat and stir them around a bit until they are fragrant and toasted to your liking.

Watch the almonds carefully; they can go from perfectly toasted to burnt in an instant! I like to remove them as soon as they begin to smell fragrant. They make the perfect crunchy topping for this Asian Pasta Salad.

Pouring the dressing over the finished dish, ready to be enjoyed.

Storing Asian Pasta Salad

  • This salad doesn’t sit or store well once dressed. The dressing will wilt the spinach, the veggies soften, and the almonds get soggy.
  • You can make this salad in advance; store everything separately and toss together right before serving.
  • Asian Pasta Salad does not freeze or thaw well.

More pasta salads

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Asian Pasta Salad

5 from 8 votes
 Asian Pasta Salad is loaded with tender pasta, fresh baby spinach, crisp red peppers, toasted sliced almonds, sweet and juicy mandarin oranges, crunchy carrots, and fresh herbs. The salad is tossed with an addictive sesame-soy sauce dressing that is the perfect complement to all the ingredients. We like to add in some rotisserie chicken for added protein, but it's optional, so this salad can be vegetarian!
Pouring the dressing over the finished dish, ready to be enjoyed.
Print Recipe

Asian Pasta Salad

Pouring the dressing over the finished dish, ready to be enjoyed.
5 from 8 votes
 Asian Pasta Salad is loaded with tender pasta, fresh baby spinach, crisp red peppers, toasted sliced almonds, sweet and juicy mandarin oranges, crunchy carrots, and fresh herbs. The salad is tossed with an addictive sesame-soy sauce dressing that is the perfect complement to all the ingredients. We like to add in some rotisserie chicken for added protein, but it's optional, so this salad can be vegetarian!
Course Salad, Vegetarian
Cuisine Chinese
Prep Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Chelsea Lords
Calories 452kcal
Cost $6.23

Ingredients

  • 1 package (16 ounces) rotini pasta
  • 4.5 cups (5 ounces) fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 can (15 ounces) mandarin oranges
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/3 cup fresh green onions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Optional: 1/3 cup sliced almonds (toasted if desired)

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

  • PASTA: Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook according to package directions. Drain pasta, and rinse under cold water until cool. Transfer to a large bowl and immediately toss with 3-4 tablespoons of the dressing (see next step).
  • DRESSING: While the pasta is cooking, prepare the dressing. Combine vegetable oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, ginger, pepper, and sesame seeds in a mason jar. Place the lid on and shake until combined.
  • ASSEMBLE SALAD: Add the coarsely chopped spinach, shredded rotisserie chicken, chopped red pepper, drained mandarin oranges, shredded carrots, chopped green onions, and fresh cilantro to the large bowl with the cooled pasta.
  • DRESS SALAD: Toss all the ingredients together gently and then coat with the dressing as desired. Enjoy immediately. (This salad doesn't store well with the dressing, so only dress what will be eaten right away). If desired, top with sliced toasted almonds (Note 1).

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Toasting the almonds: If desired, toast the almonds. Spread the sliced almonds into an even layer in a small, dry (no need to add oil ) skillet over medium heat and stir them around a bit until they are fragrant and toasted to your liking. Watch the almonds carefully; they can go from perfectly toasted to burnt in an instant! I like to remove them as soon as they begin to smell fragrant.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 8servings | Calories: 452kcal | Carbohydrates: 20.2g | Protein: 26.4g | Fat: 29.3g | Sodium: 500.8mg | Fiber: 1.3g | Sugar: 9.4g

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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5 from 8 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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27 Comments

  1. Oh this salad looks just perfect, Chelsea! I’ve never had a pasta salad with a mandarins before, so I’m loving this! Looks like the perfect combination of sweet and crunchy.

    1. You would LOVE the mandarin with the pasta Gayle! 🙂 Thanks so much for the comment and the pin!

  2. You AND me both found our new favorite pasta salad! I have always loved chicken with oranges, and this salad is just screaming to be eaten for dinner tonight. Perfect Spring eats!

  3. What a colorful and lovely pasta salad! The almonds and oranges are such a nice touch – little bits of crunchy and sweet. I’m looking forward to trying this!

  4. 5 stars
    Made this for a Sunday dinner gathering. It was a hit. The bowl was licked clean. Everyone loved it. Provided a nice light cooling salad for heat of summer. Love it will make it again.

  5. Great salad. I’ve been doing a (complicated—like all day!) Chinese sesame chicken salad for years so I decided to switch this one up by using shrimp instead of chicken. This recipe elicits applause—and it’s pretty easy on the chef. Thanks!

      1. 5 stars
        Update (2nd time in 2 weeks….blessed with a load of mandarins and baby spinach…) this time added edamame, snow peas, still shrimp in lieu of chicken and pine nuts (because I was out of almonds) Endlessly adoptable and delicious.

    1. I’ve only tested this recipe as written, sorry April! I don’t think it would be a huge deal to swap out the oil though, maybe a slightly different flavor depending on the oil you switch in

  6. 5 stars
    I’ve made this recipe from you several times. It’s been a hit every time! Next week I will be taking it to a Quilt Retreat. Thank you for your great recipes!!!

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