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.
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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