Vietnamese-Style Cabbage and Chicken Salad
Yield: 6 entrée-size servings; 12 as a side dish
The flavor of this light but filling salad improves over time, making leftovers a welcome gift over several days. Though pre-shredded cabbage or slaw mix may be used, I do find that leftovers hold up even better when starting with a head of cabbage and thinly slicing or shredding it yourself. If you do prefer a smaller yield, the recipe may absolutely be cut it in half.

For the salad:

  • 1 – 1¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2-3 breasts)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ a medium red onion, thinly sliced*
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) rice vinegar*
  • ½ a medium green cabbage, cored and shredded (about 1½ pounds; could use a mix of red and green cabbage or a pre-shredded slaw mix)
  • 1 large carrot (about 3-4 ounces), thickly shredded or cut into matchsticks, or 1 cup pre-shredded carrots
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (I chop the stems too; could omit if not a fan or sub mint, Thai basil, or a mix)
  • Optional extras: 1 cup edamame, thawed; 1 small red bell pepper, julienned; and/or 1 cup chopped mango
  • Topping options: ½ – ¾ cup fried onions or fried shallots (look for gluten-free if needed), chopped peanuts, and/or sunflower seeds

For the vinaigrette:

  • ¼ cup (60ml) unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2½ tablespoons (37ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) fish sauce (like Red Boat)
  • 1½ tablespoons (30g) honey
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon (15ml) sriracha, or to taste


  1. Before you start: Instead of poaching the chicken as described in Step 1, you may use about 3 cups of shredded rotisserie, chicken Slow Roasted Whole Chicken, Parchment Packet Chicken, or even leftover grilled chicken like Chili Lime Chicken or this lemon-soy marinated option. Also, if you have these pickled onions (or something similar) on hand, you may use ½ cup of them instead of making the speedy version described in Step 2.
  2. Prepare the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, honey, garlic, and optional sriracha. Make ahead tip: The vinaigrette may be covered and refrigerated up to a day in advance.
  3. Cook the chicken: Place the chicken in a single layer in a medium saucepan. Add water to just cover the chicken and stir in the 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cover and cook, flipping once midway through for more even cooking, until just cooked through, about 15 minutes. When done, transfer to a plate or cutting board, let cool, and then shred into bite-size pieces. Make ahead tip: The chicken may be prepared a day in advance. In this case, for added tenderness, I often shred it and then ladle some of the poaching liquid overtop before covering and refrigerating. Drain before adding to the salad.
  4. Prep the onions: While the chicken is cooking, place the red onion in a small bowl, add the 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, and toss to combine. Set aside for 15 minutes; longer is fine.
  5. Prep the salad: To a very large bowl, add the cabbage, carrot, cilantro, and optional extras of choice (red pepper, edamame, and/or mango). When the onions are ready, drain off the vinegar and add them to the bowl along with the shredded chicken.
  6. Give everything a good toss (I find it helpful to use my hands), and then drizzle with the dressing and toss to thoroughly coat. Let sit for at least 10 minutes so the flavors can meld; longer is fine. (Make-ahead tip: The salad may be covered and refrigerated up to 24 hours in advance. Toss well before serving.) Taste and season with more lime juice, fish sauce, and/or sriracha, as desired.
  7. Serve: Sprinkle each serving with 1-2 tablespoons fried onions, peanuts, or sunflower seeds (or a mix) and enjoy.
  8. Storage: Leftovers can be covered tightly and refrigerated for up to 5 days.


*You may use ½ cup pickled onions instead of the red onion and rice vinegar.

For an extra layer of complementary flavor, top individual servings with a drizzle of your favorite peanut sauce.

For added heft, serve with a side of rice. We also like to stir the rice into the chicken and cabbage salad, so the grains absorb the flavorful vinaigrette.

More recipes at