Copycat Panera Asian Sesame Chicken Salad

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If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, then you know I have a fondness for making healthier versions of my favorite, not-so-healthy restaurant dishes at home, such as…

P.F. Chang’s Lettuce Wraps (less grease!), Food Court Baked Ziti (less cheese!), Pizza Rolls (less shame!), Chipotle Burrito Bowls (less funky chicken!) rise to the top as some of my top picks.

But some of my favorite dishes to grab on the go, don’t necessarily need a makeover. They’re light and satisfying on their own, without having to go back to the drawing board. One such meal is Panera’s Asian Sesame Chicken Salad.

All-natural, antibiotic-free chicken, romaine lettuce, fresh cilantro, sliced almonds, sesame seeds, crispy wonton strips & our reduced-sugar Asian sesame vinaigrette.

I recently enjoyed one of these masterpieces as part of Panera’s You Pick 2 Combo, natch, and it was perfectly light, crunchy, sweet and savory. The only thing that needed changing was the location of the salad. As in, from Panera’s kitchen, to my own. :)

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Reader Lisa took care of my dilemma by pointing me to Art + Food + Life, who has an awesome copycat version of the dressing recipe on her blog. Sweet!

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The recipe for this salad is broken into 3 parts for easy preparation. Don’t let the long(ish) ingredient list scare you – it comes together lickity split.

Part 1: The Chicken

Start by mixing up a savory, sesame-flavored marinade for boneless, skinless chicken breasts, that combines sesame oil and soy sauce with ground ginger, garlic powder and some other far-east flavahhhs.

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Marinate the chicken in the mixture for 15 minutes, or up to an hour, then grill or cook in a non-stick sprayed skillet until done. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then slice, and set aside.

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Part 2: The Dressing

This recipe for Panera’s perfectly sweet & tangy Asian Sesame Dressing is SPOT ON, plus it’s a cinch to make. Start by whisking sugar into boiling vinegar until it fully dissolves, about 30 seconds.

 

Once cooled, combine it with canola oil, sesame oil, salt & pepper.

 

Next, add in toasted sesame seeds. You don’t HAVE to toast the seeds, but it adds so much, plus it takes like 4 minutes. Just add the seeds to a dry skillet over medium heat, and shake the pan every 30 seconds or so until they’re are golden brown. Presto.

Add ‘em in, and shake ‘er up!

 

Dressing = done!

Part 3: The Toppings

Toppings are what make the world go round, and this salad has no shortage of them. I used chopped cilantro, mandarin oranges packed in water (just rinse and pat dry if they’re packed in syrup!)

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sliced almonds, and baked wonton strips. You could snag some fried wonton strips from your grocery store’s Chinese buffet ($.50 or so) or do what I did and cut wonton squares into strips, spray with non-stick spray, and bake at 400 degrees for 3-4 minutes. I wouldn’t buy a package of wontons just to make these strips, but dear Ben cleaned out the freezer for us this weekend (cabin fever makes husbands do crazy things – j/k he actually loves organizing,) and found a whole, unopened package of wonton wrappers, which is why I made my own vs buying. This is far longer than I wanted to talk about wonton strips.

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Assemblage:

Pile romaine lettuce and baby spinach onto a plate, then top with the chicken and toppings. Drizzle with zee dressing, and dive in! :D

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Copycat Panera Asian Sesame Chicken Salad

Print this recipe!

Serves 4

Dressing from Art + Food + Life

Ingredients:
1 bag pre-washed romaine lettuce
1 bag pre-washed baby spinach
4 medium chicken breasts

For the chicken marinade:
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar (or agave nectar, or honey)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

For the dressing:
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1-1/2 teaspoons sesame oil, toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden brown
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted

Salad toppings:
Chopped cilantro
11oz can mandarin oranges packed in water or 100% juice (rinse in water if packed in syrup)
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Baked or fried wonton strips
Sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. For the chicken: Whisk together chicken marinade ingredients, and marinate chicken for 15 minutes. Grill, or cook in a non-stick sprayed skillet until done, then let the chicken rest for 5 minutes. Cut into slices.
  2. For the dressing: Bring vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan. Turn off the heat, then add in the sugar and stir until dissolved. Let cool. Combine with the rest of the dressing ingredients in a jar, and shake to combine.
  3. Divide lettuce and spinach between four plates. Top with sliced chicken, salad dressing, and toppings.

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Panera’s version:

and mine!

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The addition of mandarin oranges, which Panera doesn’t use, to this salad was totally clutch. That burst of juicy sweetness is fantastic with the bold cilantro, and sesame-laced dressing.

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The textures in this salad were out of this world too. Love it when a recipe remix comes together like this!

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Now if only I could find a recipe for Panera’s Cinnamon Crunch Bagel… ;)

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In other news, all that salad must’ve gone to my brain because Ben just talked me into going for an evening walk in the snow. Wish me luck…

See ya’!

~~~~~

If you could make any food instantly healthy, what would it be?

Easy. Oreos.

~~~~~

LOCALS:

Care to partake in mini martinis, bite-sized sweets, and an olive bar this weekend? (Twist my arm, right?!)

Living History Farms is hosting an event called Spirits & Sweets this Saturday, February 11, from 3-6pm. Local Iowa artisan distillers, including Templeton Rye, will be on hand mixing mini martinis to sip on while nibbling sweets from local bakeries. Gateway Market will also be onsite with an olive bar. YUM!

Tickets are $18 for LHF members, and $20 for non-members, but they gave me 2 tickets to giveaway for free – whee!

Enter to win 2 tickets by tomorrow at 5pm by telling me what your favorite cocktail is in the comments section below. Ready, set, go!

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Comments

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  1. one of my fav things from panera!

    • sandra 04.27.2013

      YUMMO…..Panera Bread has a recipe for their Asian Sesame Chicken Salad Dressing too. It states on the page that it is not exactly the same as the store. It is nasty, full of oil, disgusting flavor. They should be ashamed that they are directing people to waste fairly expensive ingrediants to pour down the drain. It really, really upset me. This recipe is very good. I use brown sugar in mine. So sweet and tangy and minimal oil where paneras recipe is over half oil. Grrr. Hopefully you found this page before you used their fake recipe. Thanks for the recipe!!

      • Patty 06.19.2013

        Yes, the Panera recipe is truly awful! I am at this moment eating a salad I made with their recipe…I knew it wasn’t going to be just exactly like theirs, as they state on their website, but it’s nowhere even near!! I didn’t want to waste the fix’s so I’m eating it (but I did leave out the sesame seeds-just didn’t want to waste those yummy little seeds)!
        I knew if I did a search I’d find others who are equally as disappointed as me. Tomorrow I’m going to make this recipe…at least it even looks more like the original!
        Thanks for posting it!

    • Liz 03.20.2014

      My favorite Salad and dressing, and I actually bought the Asian dressing from Publix today, but 4.00 is sort of high, so I will hide it for only me. LOL

  2. I’d make any sort of cookies, cakes, donuts, etc healthy. But then maybe that’d take the allure from them, right? :)

    Salad looks delicious!

  3. Jess 02.06.2012

    Absolutely love this salad! Looks like you nailed it!

  4. My favorite cocktail is Absolut Pear and lemonade. Try it. Now.

  5. danielle 02.06.2012

    That looks amazing!! <3 panera

  6. Tracy 02.06.2012

    I feel like an old man when I order it but I really like 7&7s lately! Or a good whiskey sour!

  7. This looks AMAZING! I’m going to have to try this!

  8. Karla Bromwell 02.06.2012

    I am a huge fan of 7&7, as well as grapefruit and vodka. Yum!

  9. Aimee 02.06.2012

    My fav is rum & diet coke ohh yeah

  10. Thanks for the feature and I am really glad you like the recipe!!

    I was too lazy to marinade my chicken. I will try your recipe for the chicken next time I need a Panera fix :)

  11. Lauren 02.06.2012

    Such a great version of this…okay next, I think you should attempt the Fugi Apple Chicken Salad….I think it’s those apple chips that make it…so so good!

  12. Kalli Wilson 02.06.2012

    Malibu and pineapple! Crossing my fingers! :-)

  13. AC 02.06.2012

    My favorite cocktail is anything+disarono! Yum!! Milk, juice, sprite…whatver!

    Did you really mean february 11th, not march 11th? (If you have the power to fast forward winter, feel free to do so after this weekend’s snow!!)

    And thanks for the super bowl recipes! We tried 2 of them this weekend, & they were both a success!

  14. Brandi 02.06.2012

    Whiskey sour closely followed by anything containing cake vodka.

  15. Megan G. 02.06.2012

    A dirty gin martini! I love green olives!

  16. melissa 02.06.2012

    Grape bombs!!!

  17. I’m not entering the giveaway, but had to say that this recipe looks so yummy! I’ve gotta try it!

  18. Stephanie 02.06.2012

    I love a manhattan! That event sounds awesome!

  19. Megan 02.06.2012

    My favorite cocktail is a plain margarita on the rocks!

  20. Katie d 02.06.2012

    I’ve taken to vodka tonics recently – what a fun give away!

  21. Ellie 02.06.2012

    Yum! I love Jeremiah Weed with coke or water :)

  22. Brittney 02.06.2012

    Miller Lite. (I love how must of us chose booze :)

  23. J 02.06.2012

    agreed – I would make oreos healthy in A HEARTBEAT if I could!!

  24. Jennie Andersen 02.06.2012

    Since giving up pop, I’ve been drinking Bacardi Limone & water with a slice of lemon. Delish!

  25. This is my favorite salad at Panera, totally making this :)

  26. Amanda Betts 02.06.2012

    Definitely a Malibu and pineapple. Mmmmmm.

    That salad looks amazing! Love Panera! I had a cinnamon crunch bagel STRAIGHT out of the oven the other day! Perfect timing! It was so hot they couldn’t even cut it for me! Soooooooo good!!!

  27. Christine 02.06.2012

    A classic cosmo!

  28. Jessie B 02.06.2012

    Salad looks great…heads up the Super Target at Jordan Creek sells ALL of the Panera dressings and soups in their produce section if ever needed =)

    For a cocktail…I am a beer drinker BUT the girly side in me does love a good grapefruit vodka and cranberry aka a ruby red slipper!

  29. Linda F 02.06.2012

    Would have to be a cosmopolitan.

  30. Stefanie 02.06.2012

    I’d like to thank Carrie Bradshaw and the women from Sex & the City for introducing me to the Cosmopolitan. SO much better than the magazine ;)

    P.S. that salad looks amazing!

  31. Jenn 02.06.2012

    Looks yummy!! I love an espresso martini!!!!

  32. J. Evelyn 02.06.2012

    Definitely a beer girl! However, I can always go for a good Bloody Mary with lots of olives, pickles and celery! :)

  33. McKenzie Huseman 02.06.2012

    Cocktail of choice: Italian Beach Tea. Yum!

  34. nicoleigh 02.06.2012

    My favorite cocktail is Grey Goose and lemonade. Strawberry lemonade is the best. Yum!

  35. Mag 02.06.2012

    A Bloody Mary… mmmm :)

  36. Carla A 02.06.2012

    My favorite cocktail is an eggnog martini sprinkled with cinnamon! I make the martinis for all my relatives when we get together at Christmas.

    Thanks for sharing your Super Bowl recipes. The mini corn dog muffins were a big hit!

  37. Kaelin 02.06.2012

    My favorite cocktail is a long island iced tea, and its many variations! It has been a long time since I had one though!

  38. Gabby Bladdick 02.06.2012

    I loooove a simple vodka, cranberry and lime. Yum! :)

  39. Angel 02.06.2012

    My favorite cocktail is any kind of sweet wine.

  40. Shanson 02.06.2012

    Recipe looks yummy; I love reading your blog! Thank you! My favorite is a good Irish Coffee :)

  41. Deanna 02.06.2012

    Thank you so much for your blog… made the buffalo chicken bites, no yeast cinnamon rolls, mini corn dog muffins and spring rolls for Super bowl. All were a huge hit! Thank you!!!

    My favorite cocktail is the Skinny Girl Margarita. =)

  42. Eleni 02.06.2012

    If I could make any food instantly healthy, it would probably be Girl Scout cookies!

    My favorite drink would have to be a big strawberry margarita or wheat beer.

  43. Jordan 02.06.2012

    I would love to attend this event!! My fav cocktail is my version of a skinny girl marg: silver tequila, triple sec, limeade, & club soda…so refreshing!

  44. Shayla Ammerman 02.06.2012

    I’m a beer girl but could also go for an amaretto sour anytime.

  45. Jill 02.06.2012

    I am a local gal!!! I love a good gin & tonic. :-)

  46. jenn from b-more 02.06.2012

    Love this – totally making it soon… are there any more copycats for panera salads? Thee thai one is amazing too!

  47. This is hands down my favorite Panera salad. I can’t wait to try that dressing. It looks to die for. If I could make something healthier… creme brulee. That would be quite the challenge!

  48. Jessica 02.06.2012

    Mojito with fresh mint from my garden!
    Thanks for the salad recipe! It’s one oft best friends favorites!:)

  49. Liz 02.06.2012

    I really love a good gin and tonic or an apple martini!

  50. Rachel 02.06.2012

    Amaretto and diet coke. So delicious!

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