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Hawaiian Chicken Salad is one of those colorful foods you can eat as much with your eyes as with your mouth. But, don't worry: it's delicious either way!


If you’re anything like me, this Hawaiian greeting may feel like a bear hug the first time you hear it. Depending upon the situation it can mean, “Hello” or “Goodbye.” Whichever, the attitude behind the word is always one that communicates, “You are welcome here!”

In a similar way, this Hawaiian-style chicken salad is a sure way to declare “Welcome! So glad you’re here!” in a way your guests will understand.

  • First of all, as a dish that draws from a parade of flavors throughout Asia and the Pacific basin, Hawaiian Chicken Salad is a taste treat.
  • It’s also a cinch to prepare within 30 minutes. So, even on short notice, you can feed your people well without stressing and have a great time yourself, too.

  • Finally, the recipe can help you make good use of leftover roast chicken.

And don’t we almost always have leftovers after a roast chicken dinner?

Now in our family, the leftover chicken meat comes from the breast. It seems that everyone  — yours truly included — grabs the thighs and legs first because, well, juicy, juicy, juicy.

But whatever parts of cooked chicken you happen to have in your fridge, whether dark or white, this recipe will work wonders with it.


The people who live in Hawaii hail from the islands themselves, sister islands in the Pacific, and Asia. As a result, the cuisine of Hawaii is a treasure chest of edibles from these places: noodles and rice, root and sea vegetables, soy and poi.  

In the main, this salad draws its inspiration from Vietnam. Foods from Japan play a part as well so no wonder it’s full of color. An array of garden ingredients including cilantro, red onions, and daikon radish are in abundance.

The ingredients for Hawaiian chicken salad, in its various versions, often include cilantro, onions, and daikon or cucumber.

Yet, the dish is not at all fussy. Except for the matchstick carrots that help the salad look purty, there’s no fancy cutting required. If you can shred cabbage and chicken with your fingers, you’ve got this. Hawaiian chicken salad is as fun and easy to prepare as it is to eat. 

That’s why, for decades, Hawaiian islanders have made it a top go-to dish for parties, pot lucks, and other gatherings. Try this recipe yourself and it may soon be the same on your island, too!

Print Recipe

Hawaiian Chicken Salad

A sweet and spicy chicken salad from Hawaii that is simple to prepare. The garden veggies and other ingredients from Asia and the Pacific make the flavors pop.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American Pacific Rim, Central Asian Cuisine, Hawaiian


  • small bowl
  • large bowl
  • small dish
  • long-handled spoon, wooden or bamboo, for mixing & tossing
  • cutting board
  • sharp knife



  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce Vietnamese
  • 2-3¼ cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tsp ichimi togarashi (Japanese red chile flakes) OR 1 small red chile pepper, finely chopped
  • tbsp organic sugar
  • cup cilantro and/or fresh mint (optional) to be rinsed, removed from stems, and chopped


  • 4 cups cabbage (Approx. 14-16 ounces or ½ of a small head)
  • 4 cups cooked chicken (Approx. 16 ounces)
  • ½ cup carrot (Approx. 2 ounces or 1 small carrot) — to be cut into matchsticks
  • ½ cup daikon (optional) (Approx. 2 ounces or 2 inch section) — to be sliced thin
  • ½ cup red onion (Approx. 5 ounces) — to be sliced thin



  • Into a small bowl, combine the rice vinegar, fish sauce, minced garlic, red chile, and sugar.
  • Rinse the herbs: cilantro and/or fresh mint (if using). Remove the stems and chop. Take ⅔ of the herbs and combine with the other dressing ingredients in the small bowl.
  • Set the remaining ⅓ of chopped herbs aside AND the small bowl with the dressing while you prepare the salad.


  • Into a large bowl, shred both the cabbage and the cooked chicken.
  • Using a cutting board, slice the carrot, daikon, and red onion as described in the instructions. Add these to the large bowl with the cabbage and chicken and combine.
  • Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  • Garnish the salad with the remaining ⅓ of chopped herbs and serve.


Once again, feel free to use dark meat for this recipe if that’s your preference.
I’ve specified using breast meat only because:
  1. It is the portion I’ve used most often to prepare Hawaiian Chicken Salad (since, as I shared earlier in this article, the other parts of the chicken have already DISAPPEARED!) Also:
  2. It’s an economical choice if you sourcing your leftovers from a typical ready-made rotisserie chicken from the supermarket. The breast/white meat of the smallest of these birds — just under 3 lbs. — weighs close to the one pound you need for this recipe. 
The brands/products I use are:
Try it:
  • Swapping out the sugar for 1/4 cup of finely chopped organic candied ginger. Refreshing!
  • Adding even more texture (and sweetness) to your salad with mango or pineapple chunks.
Keyword picnic food, small group, sweet & spicy

Hawaiian Chicken Salad puts the flavors of the Pacific Rim within our reach. Once you taste it for yourself and see your peeps going for seconds, you’ll find yourself making it again and again. And that won’t be a problem since it’s easy to prepare and uses ingredients you’re apt to already have on hand. 

It’s easy, ono, and reminds us of Hawaii. What’s not to love about that?

Hawaiian Chicken Salad in a wooden bowl topped with a pair of black chopsticks atop a wooden table.