Thai Chicken Salad is hands-down the best salad I have ever made! Fresh, healthy greens combine with grilled and marinated chicken, veggies, peanuts, a spicy Thai peanut sauce, and sweet chili dressing. This chopped Thai salad recipe is one you can’t stop eating and is super kid-friendly as well. Now, if you can keep a secret, I will share with you the secret ingredient that makes all the difference….
Last weekend, our church had a two-day conference that was simply outstanding. After it was over, I left feeling like a better version of myself: humbled, energized, uplifted, happy, and ready to conquer the challenges life flings at me. We all need that in our lives every so often. Sometimes we don’t realize how far from our goals we have strayed until we take the time to step aside from the daily madness and re-evaluate exactly where we are.
I allowed myself to become too busy to recognize I wasn’t where I wanted to be. Course correction time. Have you ever had one of those moments when you realize you can do better? Not just better, but significantly better.
Why I Love This Chopped Thai Chicken Salad Recipe
After our conference was over on Sunday evening, I served this gorgeous Thai chicken salad for dinner, a departure from the normal Sunday fare of pork loin roast, mashed potatoes, homemade potato rolls, and dessert. In general, serving a salad as the main dish doesn’t go over very well with the Jones kiddos, but when I replaced their most sacred meal of the week with one….boy, oh boy! You should have seen the looks and heard the grumblings. However, after actually eating the salad, the response was….(no lie, this is a direct quote)….”If salads always tasted as good as this one, I would eat them all the time!”
This main dish Thai salad recipe was addictive! The last of it was eaten for lunch two days ago and I can’t stop thinking about it: salty, savory, sweet, sour, spicy, and completely satisfying. Honestly, salads can’t get much better than this one. The fact that it is healthy doesn’t even come into your mind because you are too busy shoving it in your pie hole as fast as you can.
Just toss this Thai chicken salad together in your favorite big serving bowl and let the feasting begin. Remember that however much salad is tossed with dressing should be eaten. If you aren’t going to eat the whole salad in one sitting, then hold off on the Thai salad dressing and only dress enough for your serving. Leftovers that are dressed will only wilt.
What is Thai Chicken Salad?
Thai Chicken Salad is a healthy salad inspired by all the best flavors of Thailand, a southwest Asian country known for its perfect balance of sweet, savory, sour, and spice. That balance keeps one flavor profile from overpowering the others. Not too spicy. Not too sweet. The base of the salad is a mixture of romaine lettuce and Napa cabbage. Those greens are topped with a variety of vegetables, grilled and marinated chicken, peanuts, a Thai salad dressing, and a spicy peanut sauce.
How to Make Thai Chicken Salad
While there are multiple “layers” to this chopped Thai salad, none of them are difficult. I know it is tempting to skip either the sauce or the dressing, but it is only a few extra ingredients and a few minutes of preparation. And, it is completely worth it!
- Marinade & Grill the Chicken – combine the chicken and marinade ingredients in a bowl or zipper bag for 2-4 hours in the fridge. Grill it, let it rest, then chop it into small pieces. You can also use leftover chicken as a substitute.
- Assemble the Salad Layers – in a large bowl, layer the romaine and Napa cabbage, vegetables, cilantro, peanuts, and the cooked chicken.
- Toss with Thai Salad Dressing – after mixing together the dressing ingredients, toss it into the salad. Remember to only dress the amount of salad you will eat at that time. If you dress it all at once, the greens will wilt and won’t be good the next day.
- Drizzle with Spicy Peanut Sauce – mix together the simple peanut sauce and drizzle a generous amount over each serving.
Thai Chopped Salad FAQs
What is Napa cabbage?
Napa cabbage, also known as Chinese cabbage, is a leafy green that looks very similar to a large head of romaine lettuce. This popular cabbage is widely used in east Asian cuisine and can be found in most grocery stores in the United States. It is a lot more tender than a regular head of cabbage and has a much more mild flavor. These two qualities are what make Napa cabbage very popular in salads and stir fry recipes here in the states.
Do I have to use cilantro in a Thai Chicken Salad?
While cilantro provides the traditional Thai flavor profile for this recipe, I understand that for many people, this fresh herb tastes like soap or metal. That strange reaction to cilantro is actually a genetic variation, not picky eating. While it won’t be quite the same, if you choose not to use cilantro in the recipe, try some flat-leaf parsley or even some Thai basil instead. That fresh herbiness really adds an amazing flavor to the salad so don’t skip it.
Does the salad really need both the spicy peanut sauce and the Thai chicken salad dressing?
Can you make the salad with just the Thai salad dressing? Yes, absolutely! Will the salad taste as good as it can, and have the same balance of salty, sweet, sour, and spicy that Thai food is known for? Nope! The peanut sauce is just four ingredients, two of which you’ll use in other parts of the recipe. So please, trust me when I say, it is the peanut sauce that makes this salad shine. And no, the sauce is not very spicy. Just a hint of warmth to balance out the salad.
Can I substitute regular cabbage for Napa cabbage?
Please don’t try to substitute regular cabbage for Napa cabbage. Doing so will result in a completely different salad. Napa cabbage is truly the perfect balance between cabbage and romaine lettuce. It is like the two mated and had the perfect little leafy baby. And don’t worry, if I can get it at my store here in the middle of nowhere Minnesota, I’m sure your local grocery store carries it as well.
Can I substitute other nuts for the peanuts?
Yes, other nuts would work well in this Thai Chicken Salad. Peanuts are the classic choice but if there is an allergy of some type. e or you just don’t like peanuts, there are definitely options. You could easily substitute almond butter and salted roasted almonds, or even cashews and cashew butter. Or, you could try sun butter as a substitute for the peanut butter, then use walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts for the peanuts. Just be sure that any nut used has been
Is Thai Chicken Salad healthy?
The question of whether a recipe is healthy or not always leads to debate in the comments because one person’s view of “healthy” can be very different from another’s. For me, yes I do view this Thai Chicken Salad as a healthy meal. And, one of my favorite ones to be specific. As far as nutritional value, this chopped Thai salad has 47 grams of protein, 8 grams of fiber, and 23 grams of carbs in a large serving, all for under 450 calories. In my eyes, that is one healthy dinner.
How spicy is the Thai peanut sauce?
Not very spicy at all. The source of the spice in the Thai peanut sauce comes from the sweet chili sauce. That sauce is not very spicy on its own. Just a nice warmth on the palette. So, once that chili sauce is combined with the other three ingredients, the end result is a fairly mild heat. In fact, if you are looking for more intense heat, I suggest adding a squeeze or two of some sriracha to raise the heat level.
Can I use leftover chicken instead of grilling more for the chopped Thai salad?
If you have cooked chicken in the fridge, definitely grab that! I am always an advocate for reducing food waste by using up what we already have on hand first. There is so much food waste in our country and with food prices being so high right now, definitely use that leftover chicken first. Just be sure to use fully cooked chicken and well season it before adding it to the salad. Also, warming up the leftover chicken before putting it on the salad also helps replicate the original recipe experience.
Looking for More Great Asian Recipes?
Each one of these recipes provides those similar Thai flavors your whole family will love!
Craving more than chopped Thai chicken salad? Subscribe to My Kitchen Escapades to get new recipes and a weekly newsletter delivered straight to your inbox! You can also stay in touch on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok, and YouTube for all the latest updates.
Are You Part of the Squad?
Our PRIVATE Facebook group is for anyone who is DONE with the stress of getting dinner on the table every night! We got you covered for everything: planning, shopping, meal prep, cooking, and clean-up! Click here to join for free!Print
Thai Chicken Salad with Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce
My favorite salad recipe because not only is it super healthy, it is completely satisfying as well. Loaded with chicken, peanuts, veggies and an amazing Thai Salad dressing.
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 6 main dish servings 1x
Thai Chicken Marinade:
- 1/2 C vegetable oil
- 2 Tb rice vinegar
- 1/4 C sugar or 2 Tb Truvia
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
- 1 lime, juiced
- dash of salt and pepper
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts – about 2 1/2 pounds total
- 2 hearts of romaine, chopped
- 1/2 large head of napa cabbage, chopped
- 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 2 carrots, shredded
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 5 green onions, chopped
- 1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
- 1 C salted peanuts
Thai Salad Dressing:
- 1/4 C rice vinegar
- 1/4 C Thai sweet red chili sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp sugar or Truvia
- pinch of salt and pepper
Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce:
- 1/4 C natural peanut butter
- 2 Tb soy sauce
- 1 Tb rice vinegar
- 1 Tb Thai sweet red chili sauce
- 2 Tb water
- In a ziplock bag, combine all the ingredients for the chicken marinade. Mush it all around, then place it in the fridge for at least 4 hours to marinade. Cook the chicken either on a hot grill, 6-8 minutes a side or in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. Allow it to cool a bit, then chop up all the chicken into bite sized pieces.
- Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl, except for the peanuts, then add the chicken. Combine all the dressing ingredients then pour over the salad. Toss until the salad is evenly coated with the dressing. Dish out the individual servings of the salad.
- Stir together the ingredients for the peanut sauce in a small bowl. If the sauce is too thick to drizzle, add a bit more water. Generously drizzle the peanut sauce over each serving of salad then top with the peanuts.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Fresh
- Cuisine: Thai
- Serving Size: 1/6 th
- Calories: 454
- Sugar: 11 g
- Sodium: 1024 mg
- Fat: 21 g
- Saturated Fat: 3 g
- Unsaturated Fat: 15
- Trans Fat: 0
- Carbohydrates: 23 g
- Fiber: 8 g
- Protein: 47 g
- Cholesterol: 92 mg
Keywords: healthy chicken salad recipe, Thai chicken salad
This salad was absolutely incredible!!!! I’m not a huge salad fan but have been trying to eat healthier and this recipe is awesome! So good! Thank you for sharing
Loved reading your comment Joy! I couldn’t agree more -Carole
Joy Hawkes says
Hi, Carole. I don’t have Thai sweet red chili sauce. Is there a feasible substitute? Thanks! Joy
Joy- that sauce mainly adds both sweetness and heat to the recipe. You could sub in some red chili flakes and some type of liquid sweetener, just know that the result will be a bit different
What do you like to serve with this salad? I’m going to make it for a family gathering on Sunday for lunch. Thanks ever so much!
How about a nice crusty loaf of bread? Heat it in the oven before slicing it and you have perfect lunch
I made this for dinner last night and it was fantastic! I had the leftovers for lunch today. I think my boyfriend and I agreed it was one of the best salads we’ve ever had. Will be making this one again and again!!
So glad to hear it Angela! Click on my recipe index up top to find some more recipes to give a try 🙂
I only have regular Jiff peanut butter on hand, not natural. Can I use that? What is the significance of using natural?
Jody- you can certainly use your Jiff. The natural PB has no added sugar and will have a richer peanut taste to your sauce. Great question! -Caroleq
Made this for dinner and it was amazing! Subbed sugar for honey and didn’t have chicken so I skipped it, but it was still heavenly! New favorite chopped salad to make, and quick prep time too~!
Thanks so much Melanie! It has been a couple months since I have made this but it is part of this week’s menu because it is so yummy
I made this recipe just about exactly per the recipe and I am in love. It tasted just like a Thai lettuce wrap but easier to eat. My variations are: I used sliced almonds instead of peanuts. I added a splash of soy to the chicken marinade. The spicier the better for me so I also added a little fresh jalepeno, thinly sliced to the salad as well as red pepper flakes to the dressing. For more crunch I used lo mein noodles but that wasn’t quite what I’m looking for. Thank you for sharing! This is definitely going to become one of my regulars! If you like fresh asian flavors this is a great beginner recipe.
Thanks so much Jennifer for coming back and letting me know. It is still one of my all time favorite recipes
Hi Carole…I am obsessed with recipe and my fiance hates salads (any kind) but loves this one!!! Thanks for sharing:)
I completely understand why! This salad has magical powers 🙂 On my menu again for this week
andrea remke says
this is so good…………………like crazy-crack good. so many thai dishes do not cut the mustard when actually made bu this one……………..YIKES!
thanks for sharing!
Sweet Andrea! So glad you are as addicted as I am 🙂
This is absolutely the best salad I’ve ever eaten or made…Wow! I used my Ninja to mix each of the marinade, dressing, and sauce…made it easy. This definitely goes into the monthly meal rotation! Thank you for sharing this, Carol!
I couldn’t agree more Mary! This salad makes any salad hater a salad lover 🙂
This was one of the sides that I made for our family Christmas dinner. The dressing is to die for! It’s hard to believe that just a few ingredients can taste so delicious. It was a big hit. Thanks so much for sharing!
You are so welcome Freya!
This sounds delicious! Could I sub Sriracha for the Thai sweet red chili sauce? How would that affect the flavor profile?
Hi Jenny! Sriracha is significantly spicier than Thai sweet chili sauce. Plus, the chili sauce adds a lot of sweetness to the recipe. My small grocery store has some here in the middle of nowhere Minnesota so it is very easy to find. And only a couple bucks per bottle.
Can you use PB2 instead of peanut butter? I’m doing WW so trying to keep the points low. Thanks!
I’ve never used PB2 before but I think I would work!
I’ve never left a comment on a recipe before, but I thought I would share that I made this 3 nights in a row. Three!! The first night I didn’t have the Napa cabbage, so of course I told my husband I had to make it a second time with the cabbage, then realizing I spent $12 on one head of cabbage, we made it a third night. I am officially out of rice vinegar so I can’t make it again, haha. I had to make a few modifications switching the switch the sweet Thai chili sauce with sriracha (holy nasal passages!) but my husband and I both loved the pain. He’s not a salad-for-dinner kind of guy, and the fact he ate this three nights in a row with me is the ultimate nod to the creator! Can’t wait to get more vinegar and finish off this cabbage!
Thank you Zia for your great comment! It is a life changer 🙂
Made this today. I must say that this was the best salad I ever had. Yes, you read right. I have never tasted a better salad in my entire life. Thank you so much for this recipe. By any chance do you have nutritional info for this recipe? I know it’s a lot of stuff but was just curious? Thanks so much again!
I’m so glad you loved it as much as I did Amani! I don’t have the info but there are a lot of great online calculators that can get you the numbers you are looking for.
Lucille Hall says
My kitchen smells so good! This is one of the best salads I have ever made. MMMMMMM Good! 🙂
Howdy Lucille! I’m so glad you loved it as much as I do 🙂
I assume you used the flavored rice vinegar? Sounds like a great recipe. Thx
Howdy Barb! I did not use flavored rice vinegar. Just the regular stuff
Lisa Ferell says
This is the best salad ever. Seriously, the salad dressings are better than a restaurant, especially that they’re so easy and have just a few ingredients. I have to admit tho, that I did make my own Thai sweet chili sauce (no bottle stuff ever, if I can help it!) This will be on our summer rotation for sure and served to company as well. Great recipe! Thanks so much for sharing!
Howdy Lisa! I am thrilled you loved it as much as we did. Still one of my favorite all time salad recipes.
Kristina Landry says
This is the best spicy peanut salad ever!! I think I left a comment a year or so ago, but I just have to say again how much I love it. Thank you Lisa!
Hey there Kristina! I love that you had to come back a second time and that you are still making it. Always our family’s favorite salad recipe.
Deb Gale says
Carole yur MIL told me about your website. I made your Thai Chicken Salad tonight and we loved it! I’m trying to watch my gluten and carbs so this seems super healthy to me.
I am so glad you loved it Debbie and I’ll have to tell my MIL thanks for the referral 🙂
I just finished eating this salad, and it is absolutely worth the hype! I made it almost exactly as described, except I left out the romaine lettuce (ran out of room in fridge), added a little extra peanut butter (extra 2 tbsp), marinated the chicken in slices (not whole), and forgot to add the peanuts. The flavors are brilliant, will definitely remember the peanuts next time. Definite repeat!
Isn’t it great when the hype is correct once in awhile 🙂
Heather Corn says
I made this recipe last night and thought it was delicious. My husband LOVED it. I added crunchy chow mein noodles to give it a crunch. The flavors mixed very nicely. Will definitely make again! Thanks
I’m so glad it was a hit Heather!
Ann Alkire says
How many servings does this recipe make? Thanks!
Hey Ann! It easily serves 6-8 people depending on portion sizes
This is a very delicious meal I will be making it again
Awesome! So glad it was a hit Anne 🙂
Made this lady night and it was a huge hit. My family absolutely loved it. They woke up asking for more. Lol I will definitely be making this often. Thank you for sharing.
It is still my favorite salad of all time!
This salad is amazing!! I add half sriracha for half the sweet chili sauce to give it more of a kick. My husband requests it ALL THE TIME. YUM!
I’m so glad you loved it Priya! Thank you for coming back and leaving a review. It helps a lot!
I’ve made this several times over the past year. Absolutely awesome! Thanks for sharing the recipe!
I’m so happy to hear that Mary! Thanks for coming back and leaving your review. It helps so much 🙂