Vietnamese-Style Cabbage and Chicken Salad

By Ann Fulton

Shredded chicken and cabbage form the base of this crisp, Vietnamese-inspired dish, which is bursting with flavor, texture, and wholesome appeal. Great for meal prep and entertaining.
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Shredded chicken and cabbage form the base of this crisp, Vietnamese-inspired dish, which is bursting with flavor, texture, and wholesome appeal. Great for meal prep and entertaining.

 

In the mood for a salad that satisfies like a heartier meal? This is your recipe!

Shredded chicken and cabbage form the base of this crisp, Vietnamese-inspired dish, and extras like edamame, quick pickled onions, and a few crunchy toppings ramp up the flavor and texture.

The vinaigrette consists of rice vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, honey, garlic, and sriracha, and the combination delivers the signature flavor.

New to fish sauce? The flavor of fish sauce is savory and salty like soy sauce, yet it’s a bit more pungent with a slight sweetness.

Arguably the most important and most widely used seasoning in Southeast Asian cuisine, the condiment is made from fish that have been salted and cured for up to two years. That is to say, do not be alarmed by the aroma when you open the bottle for the first time. It’s pungent! 

But think of using fish sauce as you would Worcestershire sauce. It provides unmatched flavor and little goes a long way – and you wouldn’t consume it straight up. It’s also worth noting that, when mixed with the other ingredients, the smell is not obvious.

For the most authentic flavor, I recommend Red Boat brand fish sauce. It’s widely available and what I typically use, although the photos do show a different bottle. One of my husband’s cousins lives and works in Vietnam, and he thoughtfully brought us the pictured bottle the last time he visited. 

The vinaigrette consists of rice vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, honey, garlic, and sriracha, and the combination delivers the signature flavor.

For the vinaigrette, rice vinegar and lime juice are balanced with honey and optional sriracha, while fish sauce helps to create the signature Vietnamese flavor.

The vinaigrette consists of rice vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, honey, garlic, and sriracha, and the combination delivers the signature flavor.

Feel free to prepare the vinaigrette up to a day in advance.

Shredded chicken and cabbage form the base of this crisp, Vietnamese-inspired dish, which is bursting with flavor, texture, and wholesome appeal. Great for meal prep and entertaining.

The recipe makes a big batch, so I find it easiest to toss with my hands. You could cut the recipe in half, but the salad improves with age, making it great for meal prep and leftovers. Keep it in mind for casual entertaining too. 

A quick tip: Don’t have a really big bowl? Just prep the salad in a large pot to make the tossing easier.

The dish requires very little cooking and could be made with a rotisserie chicken if you prefer a truly no-cook meal. In the recipe instructions, I include a quick poach option. For added ease, however, I often plan for leftovers when making chicken earlier in the week.

My go-to methods are the following: 

  • Parchment Packet Chicken – The texture is tender like a rotisserie, but there are no bones to pick around and the cleanup is practically nonexistent. 
  • A Third – A Third – A Third Chicken – A three-ingredient marinade delivers exceptional flavor with an Asian profile, so it’s a value add to the shredded chicken and cabbage salad. When I grill this chicken, I plan for leftovers. They make a great chicken salad too.
  • Chili Lime Chicken – Another great grilling option, a combination of spices you likely have on hand creates memorable flavor with ease.  
  • Slow Cooked Chicken for the Week – Like to meal prep? Use this tender, all-purpose chicken in soups, salads, casseroles, quesadillas, sandwiches, and more. I like to freeze it in one- or two-cup portions for convenient use whenever a recipe calls for cooked chicken. 
  • Slow Roasted Whole Chicken – I regularly put this tender, juicy chicken on the menu because it feels special but is truly the easiest, most foolproof recipe (as the 250+ comments attest to!).  
A mandolin will make consistently thin shreds and quick work of shredding the cabbage. Alternatively, a sharp knife may be used to thinly slice the cabbage.

Tips for preparing the cabbage: Remove any wilted or discolored outer leaves. Trim the core, and then very thinly slice the cabbage with a large, sharp knife. Optionally, a mandolin will make consistently thin shreds and even quicker work of the job. I have this inexpensive mandolin and it works very well.

Tips for preparing the carrot:  Peel and then cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces. Cut the pieces lengthwise into ⅛-inch-thick planks. Stack a few planks at a time, and very thinly slice lengthwise into matchsticks. A mandolin works well for this too. Alternatively, pre-shredded carrots may be used.

These quick pickled onions are truly fast and add a hint of tang to the salad.

The super speedy pickled onions add complexity to this salad. Of course, if you already have pickled onions on hand (like this trusty pickled red onion recipe), by all means use them.

Shredded chicken and cabbage form the base of this crisp, Vietnamese-inspired dish, which is bursting with flavor, texture, and wholesome appeal. Great for meal prep and entertaining.

In Vietnam, this dish is called Gỏi gà, and the words translate to “chicken salad.” Heavy on crisp vegetables and tossed with a tangy dressing, the refreshing salad is really quite easy. Toppings like fried onions or shallots and peanuts finish the dish off with extra crunch. 

Shredded chicken and cabbage form the base of this crisp, Vietnamese-inspired dish, which is bursting with flavor, texture, and wholesome appeal. Great for meal prep and entertaining.

Perfect on its own, you can bolster the meal with a side of rice. The “mixers” among us like to stir rice into the salad, allowing the grains to absorb the vinaigrette and adding another layer of texture to the salad. Cilantro Lime Rice is a little special, but this foolproof baked rice or even black rice work beautifully too. 

I’d love to know if you try this recipe. Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo @fountainavenuekitchen on Instagram and Facebook. Your feedback is always appreciated.

Vietnamese-Style Cabbage and Chicken Salad
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
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
Instructions:
  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.
Notes:

*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.

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