Cheap Eats: Asian Chicken Salad

Cheap Eats: Asian Chicken Salad

A few weeks after Baby Girl was born and the generous meals from friends and family had subsided, Johnny and I had to start feeding ourselves again. And after a couple nights of Johnny’s gourmet hot dog, grilled cheese, and cereal cooking, we needed reinforcements. Unfortunately, this meant eating out more than our waistlines and our budget were used to. It also meant that Johnny and I stumbled across a delicious Asian salad from Chick-fil-A. We both loved it and started coming up with excuses to eat it. At $7.00 a pop, this Asian chicken salad habit was starting to become a dangerous one.

“Well, Johnny, looks like all we’ve got left is cat food. I guess it’s that or one of those salads.”

“Since we got through a full day without Baby Girl peeing on us, we deserve that salad.”


I was at Walmart on Saturday (the worst day ever to grocery shop), and I decided to pick up some ingredients to try to replicate this too-expensive meal. And let me tell ya, I did good. It tastes spot on. So much so that Johnny ate it for three meals in a row… typing that now makes me think that’s probably not the best thing, but whatever. And even better? Now instead of $7.00 each, it’s only $2.45 each. Us: 1, Chick-fil-A: 0.

Here’s how we did it:

Asian chicken salad and cat Persie-approved Asian Chicken Salad.

  • Kraft Asian Sesame dressing: $1.95 (we used 1/10 of the bottle) = $.19
  • Canned sliced mandarin oranges: $0.78 (we used ½ can) = $.39
  • Sliced almonds: $2.72 (we used 1/25 of the bag) = $.10
  • Spring mix packaged salad: $2.54 (we used ¾ package) = $1.90
  • Frozen breaded chicken strips: $6.90 (we used ⅓ bag) = $2.32

Grand total: $4.90 or $2.45/person

The key to this salad is that Kraft Asian Sesame dressing. It tastes just like the Chick-fil-A salad dressing. So make it. Eat it. Love it (or not, but we do). Now that I’m getting back into my cooking groove, anyone have any recipe links or recommendations to shoot me?

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  • Reply Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank March 13, 2013 at 7:55 am

    $2.45/person is great! I don’t think we have a single meal that would be that cheap to make.

    • Reply Johnny March 13, 2013 at 10:48 pm

      Well, then here’s your first! It must have started when we were getting out of debt, but we’ve generally tred to keep meals under $5 for the two of us. Obviously, that doesn’t always work out, but you’d be surprised at how many meals we make at home that don’t go over $5. Especially meals with rice, pasta, salad.

  • Reply Michelle March 13, 2013 at 8:21 am

    Looks yummy and cheap! 🙂

    • Reply Johnny March 13, 2013 at 10:48 pm

      My three servings of it this week can vouch for the yummy.

  • Reply Johnny Moneyseed March 13, 2013 at 8:50 am

    My wife loves the chicken strips salad from Chic-Fil-A. I don’t really know why. It’s just a garden salad with chicken strips on it. Oh well. I don’t really complain, because we never buy ‘combo meals’ when we buy fast food, so it’s not too big of a hit to our wallet.

    • Reply Johnny March 13, 2013 at 10:50 pm

      When we do fast food, we almost always hit the value menu and walk away spending $5 to $7 total. But for whatever reason, that Chick-fil-A salad sucked us in. But now that we’ve reverse-engineered that sucker, no more of that.

  • Reply JMK March 13, 2013 at 10:17 am

    Two of our best recipes that fall into the fast/cheap/easy category are fried rice and chili. I’m sure there are far more complicated recipes and techniques available but both of these can be assembled in under 10 minutes and cost very little. Below are a list of ingreditents, just mix, heat and serve.

    Fried Rice: leftover rice (don’t use fresh rice, it’s too wet); left over chicken bits, or scramble some egg (fry flat like an omlet and slice in strips); frozen peas (defrost in microwave or hot water while frying the eggs); soy sauce; chopped green onions (optional). We fry the eggs in the wok, slice on a cutting board and return to the wok with everything else. Stir until heated through.

    Chili – cook 1lb ground beef, with chopped onion/gr pepper (optional); drain; add a large can of undrained diced tomatoes, lg can of rinsed kidney beans, 1T chili powder & 1t ground cumin. Simmer a bit and add more spice if you like. We buy many pounds of ground beef when it goes on sale and fry it all (plain) and freeze it in 1 lb amounts. Having precooked beef for this means chopping the veggies and opening cans is the longest part of the process. If you are using precooked beef, just microwave the veggies in the bowl you plan to eat from and eliminate dirtying a frying pan. Now it’s a one pot dinner – fast to prepare and simple clean up.

    • Reply Johnny March 13, 2013 at 10:52 pm

      Ahh! I LOVE chicken fried rice! And I have no idea why we have never tried cooking it. We will definitely give that one a whirl. And I’ve always been a chili fan.

      Thanks for the recipes, JMK!

  • Reply Roo // NiceGirlNotes March 13, 2013 at 10:52 am

    That looks tasty, and now I’m hungry, and no one’s invented the ability to download food yet.

    Way to go in recreating a fave!

    Do you have a slow cooker, Joanna? I’ve been using mine a ton lately, and it’s a total time-saver/sanity saver for me. I’ll be keeping an eye on the comments to see what everyone else says!

    • Reply Johnny March 13, 2013 at 11:00 pm

      I am not Joanna. Also, I just asked Joanna what a slow cooker was. We do have one. But we (or maybe just I) call it a crock pot. I don’t know what “crock” or “a crock” is, but that’s been our go-to cooking savior these days, as well. Italian chicken, chicken tortilla soup, meatballs—all crocked up. So should you have some fave recipes, crock ’em on over. Sorry for the crock talk. Just crocking with ya.

  • Reply Wendy March 13, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Black bean tacos in the slow cooker…

    Slow cooker on “keep warm” all day long. Add 2 cans black beans, drained & rinsed. Add 1 can diced tomatoes, one small diced onion, one bell pepper diced. Add 1 packet of low sodium taco seasoning. Let it sit all day on the “keep warm” setting (low makes it all mushy). Serve with a salad & salsa. We use crunchy shells. Would probably feed 3-4 people & costs roughly $5 to make. Very tasty & easy!

    • Reply Johnny March 13, 2013 at 11:03 pm

      Now that’s what I’m talking about! I’m all about Mexican. And ALL about under $5 meals. This definitely sounds like a win. And I know for a fact we have cans of black beans to use because I bought them by accident the last time Joanna mistakenly sent me on a solo grocery trip. 🙂

      • Reply Wendy March 14, 2013 at 9:45 am

        Oh, and I’ve recently purchased dried black beans…We eat a fair amount of these and I’ve heard it’s not that hard to cook a bunch and freeze them in “can” size servings. That way they’re convenient to use. Also, much healthier without all the canning additives and you get a lot more bean for your buck.

  • Reply anna March 13, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    That looks really good – I love spring mix. One of my favorite go-to’s is to saute some onions, garlic, mushrooms, and spicy turkey sausage (out of the casings) in a skillet that has a lid, and once it’s all brown then I add 8 oz. of penne pasta, one can of diced tomatoes (don’t drain), 2 cups of chicken broth, 0.5 cup of cream (or just use extra chicken broth), and some salt/pepper. Bring it to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes so the noodles cook. Once it’s done, garnish with cheese and green onions – it’s easy since you don’t have to boil the noodles first, so less stuff to clean up!

    • Reply Johnny March 13, 2013 at 11:14 pm

      Onions? Check. Garlic? Check. Mushrooms? Check. Spicy turkey sausage? MEGA check. Man, that stuff is good. I don’t know why, but I was only recently introduced to it and that stuff is killer.

      Thanks for the suggestion. We’ll definitely give it a go.

  • Reply JW_Umbrella Treasury March 13, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    That looks delicious! I’ll have to try that out. And it seems like a great option when you’re short on time.

    We’re really trying to watch our grocery budget this month. Last month, we spent $1300 on groceries for two people (yikes!!!). I think we’re doing much better this month. Our dinners for this week should only cost $50…all using local, seasonal food, too 😉

    Thanks for sharing a yummy recipe!

    • Reply Johnny March 13, 2013 at 11:16 pm

      Buying local and seasonal ain’t cheap, that’s for sure. We’re trying to do a better job with that and getting a lot of our produce these days from our local farmer’s market. But it’s definitely tough to reconcile a budget and local/organic food.

      Here’s to a lower March grocery budget!

  • Reply Well Heeled Blog March 13, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    I like baking fish – take a frozen fish filet, defrost, put it in a foil envelope with some teriyaki sauce, and bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Clean up is a cinch because you just throw away the foil.

    • Reply Johnny March 13, 2013 at 11:18 pm

      We can definitely do a better job of including fish in our diet. I didn’t grow up eating a ton, so I had an unreasonable aversion to eating it. But now I actually enjoy it a lot. And sad to say, but when you said “clean up is a cinch,” that made this meal 1000x better. Easy clean up means EVERYTHING to us right now. 🙂

  • Reply Chris March 13, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    I love that you did this. I do this with the mexican food restaurants. It’s easier when I can get fresh green chiles fire roasted at the farmer’s market though. A friend of mine sent me this recipe and said it was amazing.

    • Reply Johnny March 13, 2013 at 11:20 pm

      We need to start trying out some authentic Mexican stuff. We’ve only ever cooked TexMex or watered down Mexican. We just need to stock up on some of the real Mexican ingredients and cook up some tamales and posole.

      All I really needed to read from the URL was “buffalo-chicken” to know I’d dig that recipe.

  • Reply Mo' Money Mo' Houses March 13, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Ooo I’m gonna have to try out that recipe for sure!

    • Reply Johnny March 13, 2013 at 11:23 pm

      Do try. And if it ends up not being that awesome and we overhyped it, please forgive us. But on the plus side, you’ll only be out a couple bucks.

  • Reply Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies March 13, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    Okay, so now you’re job is to figure out how to make Chik-Fil-A’s nuggets and fries for $2.50 instead of the $8 combo meal. Mr. PoP LOVES those nuggets with the sweet and sour sauce.

    • Reply Johnny March 13, 2013 at 11:26 pm

      What I wouldn’t give to crack that one. And the sweet and sour sauce is good, but you know what’s better? The Chick-fil-A sauce. And that one I think we can figure out with a little experimenting.

  • Reply Dacia March 15, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Here’s our favorite faux-Asian recipe (with Kraft’s Asian Sesame dressing, no less) –

    It’s so easy and tastes the closest to real Asian food I’ve ever made at home.

    • Reply Johnny March 19, 2013 at 2:57 am

      Awesome! We’re seriously obsessed with that Asian Sesame dressing stuff. And the photos look freaking delicious.

      Thanks for sharing, Dacia!

  • Reply Nicole January 24, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    I am so glad to see someone else who is obsessed with the Asian Salad. Our closest
    Chik-fil-a is an hour away, so factor that into the budget of two teachers with three daughters! I was googling to find a comparable recipe and your blog was the answer to my problem. It got to the point that I became excited about the prospect of driving an hour away to go to the doctor, I could get a salad! 🙂

    • Reply Johnny February 18, 2014 at 1:44 am

      Haha. Glad we could be of service. This is still one of our favorite go-to meals.

  • Reply Megan July 8, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Somehow I lucked out and got an extra packet of dressing and wonton strips the last time I ordered this salad at CFA, so today I’m chowing down on a homemade version with leftover grilled chicken and mandarin oranges from the pantry. The dressing really is the key flavor. There is no CFA in the town where I work, so this is HUGE for me!! If your claim about the Kraft dressing is anywhere close to this, I’m sold. I think I could eat this salad every single day. I am all about reverse engineering any and all of my favorite restaurant finds.

    • Reply Joanna July 9, 2014 at 5:25 pm

      Awesome!! And we feel the same way. We’re obsessed with this salad. I just bought ingredients to make it this week!

  • Reply Zoila May 9, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    Thanks for sharing! You saved me time & money, priceless!!!

  • Reply Jason March 12, 2016 at 7:52 am

    Now that they have discontinued this salad, my wife is despondent. If I can make this work, I will be a hero. Any ideas on recreating the won ton strips? That is her favorite part.

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