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Orange Chicken Pecan Salad

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1-1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 (16 ounce) package gemelli pasta
2 rotisserie chickens
2 (15 ounce) cans mandarin oranges, drained
2 cups whole small pecans, toasted

Orange Chicken Pecan Salad

  • Serves 8
  • Easy

About This Recipe

Orange Chicken Pecan Salad is one of my newest creations. This beautiful salad combines fresh orange juice, orange zest, mandarin oranges, pecans, chicken, and pasta in a creamy dressing. It’s gorgeous and fresh tasting and perfect for dinner any night during the summer months.

It’s unusual that I make a pasta salad with such a narrow range of ingredients (my salads typically skew towards lots of veggies, like this Chicken Pesto Salad), but I really wanted to highlight the sweet and tart flavor of the oranges. This fruit is perfect with chicken, which is tender and nutty, and with the pasta and the crunchy pecans. It’s really all you need for dinner.

As always, it’s important that the dressing is done before you cook the pasta. Adding hot drained pasta to the dressing ensures that the pasta absorbs the dressing (and its flavor) and makes the creamiest salad. I also make sure that the chicken is hot when it goes into the dressing, for the same reason. The chicken will be very tender and moist when treated this way.

So make this salad early in the morning on a hot and sticky day, and enjoy its cool sweetness for dinner (and lunch!).

How to make the best Orange Chicken Pecan Salad

  • Make the dressing ahead of time. I like to make more than the recipe calls for, and then I can add some to the salad before I serve it so the salad is creamy.
  • Use a rotisserie chicken for best results, and take the meat off and cube it while the chicken is as hot as you can stand. The chicken stays moist and soft when it’s mixed, hot, with the cool creamy dressing.
  • Add the  mandarin oranges last and toss gently. They are very delicate. They are in season in the winter, so canned mandarin oranges are used in this recipe.

Why this recipe works

  • The sweet and tart mandarin oranges and orange juice contrast with the tender chicken.
  • The toasted pecans add necessary crunch and add a different flavor to this simple salad.

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Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, orange juice, and orange zest and mix well.


Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dented according to the package directions. Drain and add to the dressing; mix well.


Then pull the meat from the chickens, discarding the skin and bones. Cube and add to the dressing with the pasta as you work and mix.


Add the pecans and toss, then gently mix in the oranges. Cover and chill for 4 to 5 hours before serving.


Linda is a bestselling cookbook author and home economist who has written 54 books (53 cookbooks and Medical Ethics for Dummies) since 2005. She has worked for Pillsbury since 1988, on the Bake-Off and other projects. Linda has been a web presence since 2002, developing recipes and teaching people how to cook.

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