This amazing Hawaiian Rice Salad will surprise you with how delicious it is! Filled with texture and creaminess, it's a perfect appetizer "dip" or cold rice salad recipe to have at your backyard BBQ or your Sunday potluck. It's a brown rice salad that tastes like the best chicken salad ever! Just add crackers or croissants and you're all set!
What is Hawaiian Rice Salad?
Well, that's a great question. Let me tell you how I came across this recipe.
Several years ago I went to a party at my friend Elaine's house and I met a new friend...Hawaiian Rice Salad (the name my friend with the recipe gave me 😊)
It was instantly something I knew I had to have the recipe for! I just could not stop eating it! When another guest (Kari!) agreed to share her recipe, I was over the moon!
It's really a chicken salad, sort of, but not. It's different. Now I love lots of chicken salads...so long as they don't have onion in them - YUCK! But this one is not like other chicken salads. In fact, after eating
half the bowl a few bites at Elaine's house, then asking what was in it...I was shocked!
First of all, I had assumed it was just a chicken salad because that's what it tasted most like, but that's not technically what it's called - it's a rice salad. I was also shocked because I'm not a fan of raw crunchy celery (which this has but I hadn't noticed), and I wouldn't have dreamed it had rice in it (and that's part of its name).
Anyway - even if the ingredient list doesn't sit right with you, but you like chicken salad - give this one a shot! I don't think you'll be sorry!
Is this Cold Brown Rice Salad with Chicken & Pineapple really Hawaiian?
On another random note. While writing up this recipe, I asked my friend Debbie (who lives in Hawaii) if this was an authentic Hawaiian recipe and she said no. Womp-womp-woooomp... oh well, it's still delicious and I wanted to share because I've never seen another recipe like this on the whole interwebs.
Serve this salad all on its own (with a fork!) or make this to go along with other appetizers like Cold Veggie Pizza with Crescent Rolls or Sweet & Tangy Make Ahead Meatballs or serve it as a side dish with the perfect burgers!
These ingredients are very basic and it's going to surprise you how delicious they are all together in a cold chicken salad!
- Brown Rice, cooked and cooled - you can use any brown rice that you like. I find that Minute Rice is the easiest to cook and get a perfect texture every time. Or cooking brown rice in an Instant Pot is another way to get more consistent results. Leftover rice would also be terrific for this recipe if you had enough!
- Pineapple Tidbits, drained (save the juice). You can also buy pineapple chunks and cut them up smaller
- Diced Celery
- Cooked Chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces. You could use rotisserie chicken (shredded), or canned chicken (our favorite), or bake and chop some chicken breasts.
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
- Sesame Seeds (optional, for garnish & a little extra va-voom)
- See recipe card for quantities.
How to Make Hawaiian Rice Salad
To prep for this cold rice salad recipe, you will need to:
- Cook the brown rice and let it cool completely.
- Cook and chop the chicken.
- Dice the celery.
Then, to put the salad together, follow these instructions...
1. Combine the cooked rice, pineapple, diced celery, and shredded, cooked chicken in a bowl.
3. Pour over rice & chicken mixture.
4. Toss lightly until mixed well. Chill for at least 2 hours!
5. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired. It can be eaten straight from a bowl with a fork or you can serve it on croissants or with crackers!
Hint: This recipe can be made in stages over two days. You can cook the chicken and rice the first day, then let them cool overnight. Then on the second day, you can mix up all of the ingredients a couple of hours before you want to serve it, pop it in the fridge, and it will be perfect!
- Chicken - as mentioned above, you can use leftover chicken, canned chicken, rotisserie chicken, etc. If I'm cooking chicken for the salad, I use boneless, skinless chicken breast halves or chicken tenders. You could also use boneless, skinless chicken thighs if you like dark meat.
- Celery - you can skip the celery in this recipe if you don't like celery. My family mostly hates celery, so I get it! But if you want to keep the texture/crunch, you can add in chopped nuts like pecans or walnuts. Or for other crunchy vegetables, try cubed cucumber or water chestnuts.
- Mayonnaise - while it may slightly change the flavor, you can use low-fat or olive oil mayo in this recipe.
- Instead of crackers or croissants, you could eat this salad on its own with a fork OR use sliced cucumbers in place of crackers to get another veggie in your life.
This Brown Rice Salad with Chicken & Pineapple is a dairy-free recipe.
Note: In a pinch, I once made this recipe with white rice. Personally, I did not like this substitute at all. The texture of the rice just didn't "go" with the rest of the ingredients. But if you're adventurous, you might try it and love it!
- A pan, instant pot, or microwave to cook or boil the brown rice.
- A cookie sheet or pot to cook the chicken (unless you use canned or rotisserie chicken)
- Knife - to chop the chicken and celery
- Cutting boards - to chop the chicken and celery
- Mixing Bowls
- Silicone spatulas or spoons
- Storage bowl to chill the Hawaiian Rice Salad, or plastic wrap to cover it if you want fewer dishes to clean.
How to Store Chicken Rice Salad
I recommend eating this salad the day it's made or the next day for the best results. However, you can keep this chicken, pineapple, and brown rice salad in the fridge for up to 3 days in a covered bowl.
- Make sure the rice and chicken are completely cooled before adding the dressing. Otherwise, the mayonnaise will "melt" and it will be greasy.
- Don't make it too far ahead of time. the rice continues to absorb liquid the longer it is stored and the celery will get soggy. Both of those are yuck!
- Although they're totally optional, sprinkling a couple of tablespoons of sesame seeds at the end really improves the overall recipe. It gives a little extra nuttiness, texture, and flavor to the recipe.
It's best served within a few hours of you making it, but it will keep for up to 3 days, covered in the refrigerator.
I like to use frozen, boneless skinless chicken breasts and bake them in the oven. I place the frozen chicken breasts straight onto a baking sheet and cook them at 350°F for around 45 minutes, turning them once about halfway through. This makes for really moist chicken!