Get an easy & flavorful dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes with this Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing.
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Enjoy all the flavors of dining out or takeout without the hassle or expense with this Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing. Spicy, sweet, sour, crunchy, salty, spicy, and creamy -- this refreshing salad has all the Thai flavors you know and love.
This recipe does call for a few Thai pantry staples like fish sauce and sesame oil, but they're worth the effort in finding them, will come in handy for other Thai recipes, and will last a while in your cabinet!
Any other Thai food lovers out there?! 🙋
As far as I'm concerned, Thai food is such a culinarily perfect cuisine: with acid, fat, salt, heat, crunch, creaminess, and lots of herbs. It's so complex, yet still perfectly balanced food.
The food is balanced, yet intriguing and full of flavor that isn't just from fat! Not all cuisines do that to the level that Thai food does.
Take French food, for instance. Still amazing (please hear me out here) in its own right, but most of the flavor is based on fat (from butter and/or cream) and salt. Not a ton of acid or heat to round the flavors out or add dimension.
Indian food, on the other hand, is a very dimensional and still balanced food. There is fat, spices and heat, and salt to add so much character to the dishes, but they don't always have a ton of acid to really make them pop and tie them together. Still, one of my favorite cuisines, but just illustrating flavors here. 🙂
But, before I bore you to death with an analysis of different world cuisines, let's get into this kicking Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing I have here for you today!
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I'm thinking (and hoping!) you're going to love this salad because it's a complete and flavorful meal you can make in under 30 minutes; it's full of veggies and lean protein, and you get to enjoy that peanut dressing to your heart's content.
Because, of course, I forgot to mention that luscious peanut sauce in my dissertation of why Thai food is so amazing. But, let's be real, Thai food cuisine could consist just of peanut sauce and I'd still say it's the most perfect and balanced cuisine out there.
So, quickly whisk up that peanut sauce -- make a second batch if you'd like some to drizzle on whatever else you make this week -- and get to chopping your veggies because one of my favorite meals is going to be on your table soon!
I hope you enjoy, friends! And let me know in the comments -- which cuisine do you think is the most perfect?! I look forward to nerding out with you. 🤓
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This Thai Chicken Salad is...
- Full of veggies
- Rich in lean protein
- Feeds a crowd
- Great for meal prep
- Delicious year-round
- Ready in under 30 minutes
With the complex sweet and sour flavors of Thai food and all the veggies you're looking for in a healthy dinner, this Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing checks all the boxes of a healthy and satisfying dinner!
As I mentioned earlier, this Thai salad calls for a few Thai and Asian cooking staples, but I promise they're worth the hassle of finding them. They make this recipe what it is and can be easily used in other Thai and Asian-inspired recipes!
You can find almost all of the staples at Trader Joe's and they often also have them Whole Foods, or Amazon.
- Dinosaur or lacinato kale - finely sliced and massaged thoroughly (more on that below)
- Thinly sliced Napa cabbage - Napa cabbage is more delicate and typical in Thai recipes, but in a pinch you can also use finely shaved green cabbage
- Sweet red pepper
- Green onions
- Dry roasted peanuts (or dry roasted almonds) - peanuts are classic, but you can also use almonds if you have a peanut allergy
- Natural creamy peanut butter - unsalted or salted is ok. I used salted peanut butter in my recipe.
- Toasted sesame oil - use toasted if you can find it; it adds an extra depth to the dressing
- Rice wine vinegar
- Lime juice - this start ingredient brings out all the flavors in the salad
- Fish sauce - Red Boat is my favorite brand. Here in Colorado, they sell it for under $4 at Trader Joe's
- Soy sauce - I used low sodium
- Ginger powder
- Red pepper flakes
- Honey - I prefer raw honey, but any type should do
- Boneless skinless chicken breasts - boneless skinless chicken thighs can also be used, but call for a shorter cooking time. I offer directions for that on the recipe card
- Avocado or olive oil - avocado oil offers a mellower cooking flavor, but olive oil also works just fine
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Ingredient substitutions and other mix-ins:
The flavors in this salad are bright and they're welcoming to so many mix-in options. Here are some of the favorite items I like to mix into this salad:
- Sliced mango
- Cooled rice noodles
- Red cabbage
- Sugar snap or snow peas
- Halved baby tomatoes (not typical Thai food, but still so delicious!)
- Sliced green papaya
- Cubed avocado
- Thai basil
If you're not feeling chicken, you can also top this salad with grilled steak or shrimp! Have fun and serve this salad however your heart and taste buds please!
Why and how do you massage kale?
We massage kale because it tenderizes the kale. Tenderizing it makes it more delicate to chew and even makes it easier to digest, therefore allowing you to absorb more of its nutrients (source).
To massage kale, first slice it up into the size you want. For this recipe, you want to slice it into thin ribbons.
Then place the kale in a mixing bowl and massage it with your hands, firmly "squishing" the kale together as you move your hands throughout it.
Continue massaging the kale for 20-45 seconds, or until it's tender, some of the juices have released, and is a darker color green.
Can I use chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts?
Yes, you most definitely can use chicken thighs in this recipe instead of chicken breasts.
Season the thighs as you would the chicken breast and saute them in the skillet them for 6-8 minutes, or until cooked through an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also grill them over medium to medium-high heat (or 400 degrees Fahrenheit) for about the same amount of time.
Can you make this salad vegetarian or vegan?
Yes to both! To make this salad vegetarian or vegan, just omit the chicken from the recipe and use an extra tablespoon of soy sauce in place of the fish sauce in the salad dressing.
Is this salad gluten-free?
This salad is not gluten-free as-is, but it's super easy to make gluten-free. Just use liquid coconut aminos in place of the soy sauce and make sure your fish sauce has no gluten or wheat ingredients in it.
Can you make this salad into Thai chicken protein bowls?
Yes, it is pretty easy to make this salad into Thai chicken protein bowls. Here's how:
- Cut the salad recipe in half
- Make the recipe
- Serve it in individual bowls over brown rice or cooled rice noodles with extra peanuts, lime wedges, and even sriracha to serve
Can you use other nut or seed butter for the dressing?
Yes, if you have peanut or any other food allergies, you can substitute almond butter or sunflower seed butter in for the peanut butter.
You also can substitute in chopped and dry roasted almonds in place of the dry roasted peanuts.
Can you also grill the chicken?
You most definitely can grill the chicken. Grill the breasts over medium-high heat, or around 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-10 minutes, flipping every 2-3 minutes, or until cooked through to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you are grilling boneless skinless chicken thighs, you can cook them over the same heat for 6-8 minutes, or until cooked through.
How to make Thai chicken salad...
Though the ingredient list may be long, it's worth it because the recipe steps are actually quite simple! The recipe specifics and measurements are on the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Combine all the vegetables on a salad or serving platter or in a large salad bowl.
- Season the chicken and saute it until it's cooked through.
- Let the chicken rest.
- While the chicken rests: whisk the peanut dressing ingredients together.
- Slice the chicken and place it on the salad. Squeeze extra lime juice over the salad.
- Drizzle the peanut dressing over the salad, toss, and serve!
How do you store this salad and how long does it last?
You can store this salad it an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, undressed.
The salad does not store as well in dressing so if you're using this for meal prep or know ahead of time that you are going to have leftovers, just dress the amount of salad you want to eat and store the rest of the salad separately from the dressing.
Can you serve this salad for meal prep?
This salad is perfect for meal prep! You can...
- Make protein bowls of out them (see above)
- Put together mason jar salads (add dressing to the bottom of the jar and add the salad mix on top)
- Roll up tortilla wraps with the salad filling
Have fun experimenting and find your favorite way to make this salad!
What do you serve this grilled chicken salad with?
This chicken salad is a complete meal so can be served on its own. If you're extra hungry however, you can choose some of the extra mix-ins I shared above (brown rice, cooled rice noodles, etc.).
Otherwise, this salad goes perfectly with the following drinks:
- Singha Thai Lager Beer
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Riesling Wine
- Pinot Grigio
- Sapporo Beer
Tools needed to make this recipe:
- Cutting board
- Chef knife (I say it all this time, but this knife is an amazing deal for the under $30 price tag!)
- 12" Non-stick saute pan OR cast-iron skillet
- Medium mixing bowl
- Large salad bowl
- Salad tongs
- Meat thermometer
More healthy salad recipes:
- Greek Quinoa Salad
- Blueberry & Spinach Salad with Poppyseed Dressing
- Chickpea & Grilled Corn Salad
- Italian Tuna Pasta Salad
- 5 Bean Salad
If you make and like this recipe, please review and rate it 5-stars at the top of the recipe card. This helps other people to find the recipes and helps me out, too!
Thank you so much for your feedback and support of Mae's Menu!
Sweet and sour, spicy and salty this Thai Grilled Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing checks all the boxes of a great meal.
Add sliced mango to the salad or use boneless skinless chicken breasts instead of the breasts. See my notes below the recipe for chicken thigh cooking instructions.
- 3 cups dino or lacinato kale, thinly sliced and massaged
- 4 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage
- 1 cup. shredded or match-stick cut carrots
- 1 cup match-stick cut cucumber
- 1 cup thinly sliced red pepper
- 3 green onions, white and light green part thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
- 1/2 cup mint leaves
- 1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts
- 1 mango, sliced (optional)
- 2.5 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon avocado or olive oil
- 1.25 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Peanut Salad Dressing
- 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce (or liquid coconut aminos if gluten-free)
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1/8-1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2-4 tablespoons water (optional)
- Combine all the salad ingredients -- kale, cabbage, other veggies, mango (if using), and peanuts -- except for the lime juice in a large salad bowl.
- Heat a 10-12" non-stick skillet or cast-iron skillet over medium or medium-high heat. Add the avocado oil until it sizzles when flicked with water.
- Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Add it to the pan and cook the chicken for 8-12 minutes, flipping every 3 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Remove the chicken from the heat and let it rest for 5 minutes.
- Combine all the dressing ingredients except for the water in a medium-size mixing bowl, small blender, or food processer. Whisk or blend/process together until combined and creamy. If the dressing is too thick, whisk or blend in an additional 2-4 tablespoon water until smooth.
- Slice the chicken crosswise and layer it on top of the salad. Squeeze the extra 2-3 tablespoons lime juice on the salad, dress it with the peanut dressing, and toss the salad until combined. Serve the salad and enjoy!
1. Undressed ftovers last covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
2. To make this salad more filling, you can also mix in sliced baby tomatoes, super snap peas, sliced red cabbage, avocados, sliced mangos or green papaya, cold rice noodles, or Thai basil leaves. You can also top it with grilled steak or shrimp instead of chicken.
3. You can also make this salad with boneless skinless chicken thighs. Just cook them for 6-8 minutes, or until cooked through an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Adjust the spiciness of your salad dressing with the amount of red pepper flakes you use. You can even use 1/2 teaspoon if you like your dressing super spicy.
5. To massage kale, add the massage to a bowl and massage it by firmly grabbing and squishing handfuls of kale until it's tender and a darker color green.
6. To make this salad gluten-free, use liquid coconut aminos in place of the soy sauce and make sure your fish sauce has no gluten or wheat ingredients in it.
7. To make this salad vegetarian and vegan, omit the chicken from the recipe and use an extra tablespoon of soy sauce or liquid aminos in place of the fish sauce.
8. You can also grill the chicken on an outdoor grill. Grill over medium-high heat, or around 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-10 minutes, flipping every 2-3 minutes, or until cooked through to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are grilling boneless skinless chicken thighs, you can cook them over the same heat for 6-8 minutes, or until cooked through.
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Serving Size1/8 of the salad, recipe, and chicken
Amount Per Serving Calories 345Total Fat 18gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 12gCholesterol 60mgSodium 557mgCarbohydrates 19gFiber 4gSugar 8gProtein 30g
This nutrition breakdown is just an estimate of the nutritional value of this recipe and cannot be taken as facts. The owners of Mae's Menu are not nutritionists or dieticians and therefore cannot be held accountable for this nutrition estimate. Please contact your nutritionist or medical professional for a nutritional breakdown of this food. Furthermore, this food is not intended to prevent, diagnose, cure, or treat any disease.