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
I need to eat that – right now! That is so delicious looking, Carole. Fresh, healthy, fabulous!
Cara Jones says
Yum!! That even looks good to this pregnant lady who thinks NOTHING looks good right now, except maybe chocolate 🙂 When I start attempting to make meals again this is top of the list.
Patty Albertson says
Kevin Lynch says
What a tasty salad!
My husband and I tried this last night and it was DELICIOUS! Thanks for posting 🙂
I just made this for lunch and it was delicious! Love the tangy spice of the chili and the freshness of the cilantro and the saltiness of the peanut sauce. I can’t wait to make it for my boyfriend… He’s going to love it!
This was amazing. A new staple in our house for sure! I substituted eggplant for the chicken and after marinating it, I breaded and pan fried it in a little oil. All the flavors were so great together. Best salad I’ve had in ages.
Bonnie Bosch says
I love your idea of substituting eggplant for chicken. Will definitely try thay.
Love that idea! I will have to give that a try myself for sure. So glad you loved it as much as we do!
Union Street Eats says
MMM this is the perfect filling salad to start out a healthy new year with! Thanks!
Sabine Gagnon says
I just made this last night and HOLY YUM! It was heavenly. Unfortunately, I didn’t have cilantro which I thought could really add flavor but it was excellent even without! I’ll be making this time and time again. Thanks for sharing!
I made this for dinner last night and just evoked the leftovers for lunch. I used the crockpot for the chicken breast and browned them in a little sesame oil just before serving. It was fabulous- Thanks for the great recipe!
This was the best salad I have ever made at home. Probably beats out the majority of salads I’ve eaten at restaurants. Thank you for sharing the deliciousness.
Has anyone done the nutritional information breakdown on this recipe?
Any thoughts on the length of marinating? Do you think it’s alright to leave in the fridge overnight?
Yes, it is alright. The lime juice in the marinade will actually begin to cook the chicken after a few hours but it won’t harm anything per se.
you can get the sweet red chili sauce at Trader Joes. It’s pretty inexpensive and so yummy.
Thanks for the tip Jenni!
Who's Loosh? says
David and Leah says
This looks amazing! I do have a question, though–I have Asian garlic chili sauce, and I have Thai red curry paste, but I don’t know if I have seen Thai sweet red chili sauce. Would either of the things I have work as a substitute? I’m excited to try this! Also, will another vinegar work? I am kind of cheap 😉
David and Leah – Definitely do not use the red curry paste! The garlic chili sauce might work, but I can’t guarantee what your results will be like. The sweet red chili sauce is quite sweet, yet spicy and it really needs those flavors. As far as the vinegar, you could try substituting a different sweet vinegar, like an apple cider vinegar, but again, the flavors will be different and I can’t guarantee what the end result will be. As always, I strongly encourage you to stick the recipe as written.
How spicy is spicy? I am a wuss and can’t handle much in terms of spice. You say it’s a sweet chili sauce but is it overpowering with spice? What would you compare it to to give me an idea of the heat? Thanks.
bob linke says
I use Mae Ploy sweet and spicy chili sauce
Sharon H says
Yes, I also cannot handle spicy. I am curious to know how much kick it has
I don’t care for spicy either. For me, it isn’t really spicy at all.
Gilly- it is very mild. Even whimps can handle it 🙂
Shawna Potocki says
LOVE LOVE LOVE this recipe! Thanks for posting!
This is the best salad I have ever made, and quite possibly eaten. It is amazing!!! I have had it four times this week, and see no reason to slow down. It is sweet, tangy, spicy and fresh. I’m actually eating right now!! It is so good, and deserves a food award. Thanks so much for posting, it’s a treasure. Kristina
Kristina- so glad you loved it!! I made it this week as well and my daughter got so many comments from the lunch ladies when she brought the leftovers for lunch at school.
This recipe sounds very similar to the Thai Chicken Salad from Panera Bread, my favorite salad! The one from Panera adds fresh edamame beans which is really yummy! Thanks for the recipe
I’ve never tried that salad from Panera before but I think edamame would be amazing in this salad. Thanks for the suggestion Julie! -Carole
This salad was one of the best things I’ve made in a long time! I never feel compelled to leave reviews on food blogs, but this was the exception because the recipe was unbelievably good. Thanks for posting it!
Thanks so much Marie! I appreciate you taking the time to come back and let me know how it went! -Carole
Do I really need permission to print? Google Drive is saying I have to have your permission 🙂
Thanks Torie – not quite sure how the setting for that was private, but now it is public. – Carole
My daughter made this for a birthday potluck and it was so fresh and delicious. And you can keep the the leftovers for a couple of days because of the hearty greens in it. So good!
Send your daughter over here so she can make me some too please 🙂 -Carole
Janelle Moore says
I have never posted a response comment to an online recipe; however, this recipe is soooooo yummy it warrants a reply! I searched all over for a good tai chicken salad recipe and chose this one by chance. I am addicted! It tastes very fresh and it’s extremely hearty. I’m on a no carb fast so it’s been the perfect lunch and dinner meal. This is my second week (consecutively) making it!
So glad you love it Janelle and I feel honored that you came back to post a comment 🙂 Carole
You aren’t kidding about it being addictive. I have found myself making it on a Sunday and making enough to have for lunch a couple times during the week. I added the Chinese noodle doo hickeys to it too and OMG that made it even more addicting.
Jenn- so happy to hear you are as addicted as I am 🙂
Get in mah belleh!!
Gonna make this tonight! Hopefully I can find the Napa cabbage. I’ll return to post how it turned out. I like the edamame idea as well and maybe some won ton crispy strips you can find in the salad toppings section in the grocery store. Wish me luck.
Laurie- love the idea of crispy won ton strips! Can’t wait to hear how your turned out
Everything is prepared. Just need to wait for my husband to tell me he’s on his way home from work (which takes about an hour). That’s when I’ll cook the chicken and throw everything together. This was really easy to prepare. I’m not sure if I can wait from my husband. LOL
It’s delicious! I added edamame and won ton strips. I tried to post a pic in here, but it won’t let me. Ima go stuff my pie hole now!
I’m so glad it turned out for you Laurie! It is hands down our favorite salad
Truly delicious! Best salad I’ve ever eaten and dh will absolutely love it!
So glad to hear it Mary because I couldn’t agree more
Donna M. says
My goal with the new year is adding more fresh fruits and veggies to our eating routine. This salad was fabulous and a complete meal. The dressing and peanut sauce made it so savory. When a dish requires a fair amount of prep work, I rarely make it more than once. During the chopping I said I probably wouldn’t make it again. After tasting, I quickly changed my mind. Well worth every minute of prep.
I’m so thrilled you loved it Donna! Some recipes are worth the little extra effort and this is definitely one
Is the salad still crunchy for leftovers even though you put the dressing on the entire salad before serving? I know some recipes suggest only putting the dressing on individual servings in order to prevent the entire salad from wilting.
Carrington- if you wont be eating the whole salad, only dress the amount you will eat
Absoloutly delicious. Cilantro in the UK is coriander. I couldn’t get Napa cabbage so just doubled up on the Romaine. About 350 cals per portion, 24g carbs, 22g fat and 13g protein. I’m low carving at the moment and this fits the bill. Thanks Carole
So glad you loved it Jill! It is on the menu here once again this week
What are your thoughts on substituting Rice Vinegar with Regular Distilled White Vinegar and substituting Sesame Oil with Peanut Oil?
Sonny- I would say the vinegar would not be the best but would be ok if you added a bit more sugar. Apple cider vinegar would be a better substitute than white vinegar. For the sesame oil, it is a must have for sure!! It has a strong flavor and is there for taste and not as an oil. Great questions!
Thank you for the super quick response. Ill stick to your recipe for now 🙂 I have a tendency to experiment!
You learn something new everyday 🙂
Thank you for the super quick response. Ill stick to your recipe for now 🙂 I have a tendency to experiment!
What is your recommendation, toasted sesame oil or extra virgin? Only two choices here in frozen Boston suburbs.
Use the toasted sesame oil Sonny
Didn’t have napa on hand but had purple cabbage and it was fantastic! Also added some beautiful color to the dish 🙂
Great suggestion Mo. Thanks for sharing
How many ladies would this feed as the main dish? Also, I know you say not to deviate from your recipe but……would Splenda be the same as Truvia?
Great questions Leilani! I would say 6-8 women depending on what else you are serving and how much they eat. You can make that substitution but Splenda has a strong aftertaste that will effect the taste of the dish. I strongly suggest using Truvia or real sugar.
Kristi Rimkus says
I found your recipe over at Pinterest, and couldn’t resist stopping by to tell you how fantastic it looks. I can’t wait to give it a try, and linked to it on my healthy recipes roundup over on my blog to share with my readers.
Thanks Kristi! It is a great recipe and thanks for sharing it with your readers -Carole
Hi looks yummy. I don’t use sugar substitutes so what is the equivalent amount of real sugar.
Thanks for your comment Jonalee. If you look at the recipe, I list both options and their proper measurements
i was wondering if I could use regular peanut butter instead of natural? Would that change the recipe very much?
Great question Andrea. You could use regular but you will want to reduce the amount of sugar because regular peanut butter has quite a bit of sugar