An easy main-dish salad that you make in advance, Thai chicken salad with peanut dressing is wonderfully flavorful.
The flavors and textures of this salad are magnificent. Crunchy cabbage, fresh-flavored scallions and aromatic cilantro combine with shredded chicken to create a tasty base that's further enhanced by the dressing - a wonderful combination of creamy peanut butter, salty soy sauce, and spicy red curry paste.
While it is by no means authentic (here's an interesting article about traditional Thai dishes), this Thai chicken salad is incredibly good and has quickly become one of my family's favorite main-dish salads. I especially like to make it the day before I anticipate being too busy to cook. Needless to say, it's the perfect meal-prep dish.
The ingredients you'll need
You'll need ten ingredients to make this tasty salad. The exact measurements are included in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
For the dressing: Creamy peanut butter plus water to thin it out, soy sauce, rice vinegar, Thai red curry paste, garlic, and ginger.
Chicken: I use shredded cooked chicken breasts. For the ultimate ease, you can use shredded rotisserie chicken, leaving the skin out.
Coleslaw mix: Rather than shred vegetables (green cabbage, red cabbage, and carrots) by myself, I find it easier to use a bagged coleslaw mix.
Green onions: I use the green parts only, and I slice them thinly.
Cilantro: It adds so much flavor to this salad! In some recipes, you can substitute it with parsley, but in this one, I don't recommend it.
How to make Thai chicken salad
It's easy! Scroll down to the recipe card for the detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps:
1. You start by mixing up the dressing. I mix it right in the salad bowl. First you mix together the peanut butter with water, soy sauce and vinegar. It takes a few minutes to reach a smooth consistency, so keep whisking! Than you add the curry paste, garlic and ginger, and whisk them in.
2. Now add your salad ingredients - shredded chicken, coleslaw, scallions and cilantro - to the same salad bowl, mixing after each addition.
3. While you can serve the salad immediately, I do recommend covering it and refrigerating for an hour or so to allow the flavors to meld. Mix it one more time before serving.
What peanut butter to use
I use a no-stir peanut butter spread in the dressing. It contains palm oil, sugar and salt in addition to peanuts. Some would object to those added ingredients, but I don't. That's the peanut butter I usually have on hand so I use it in this Thai chicken salad.
Although I haven't tried that, I assume it's fine to use natural peanut butter - the kind that contains just ground peanuts and that you need to stir. Depending on its thickness you might need less or perhaps more water to achieve a salad dressing consistency. You might also want to add a touch of sweetener if you go that route - perhaps a teaspoon of honey (real or sugar-free).
Variations and substitutions
I LOVE this salad and I adore the peanut dressing. So I rarely make any changes to it. But if you'd like to try, a few possible variations include:
- Using boiled and cooled shrimp instead of chicken.
- Replacing the green onions with chives or with diced shallots.
- Using tahini paste (sesame seed paste) instead of peanut butter and adding a tablespoon of sesame oil to the dressing.
How to serve Thai chicken salad
It's a main-dish salad and it's a full meal that includes meat and veggies, so you can simply serve it as is on a plate, and that's what I normally do.
You can also serve it in a lettuce wrap or on top of shredded lettuce or baby spinach leaves. If you eat bread, you can stuff it inside tortillas, creating a very tasty and filling wrap.
What to do with leftovers?
That's the beauty of this salad - you SHOULD make it ahead of time, and it keeps well in the fridge, in an airtight container, for 3-4 days. Just remember that if you've used leftover chicken to make it, you should count those 4 days from the day the chicken was cooked.
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Thai Chicken Salad
- ¼ cup creamy peanut butter (I use a no-stir peanut butter spread)
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce or a gluten-free alternative
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
- 1 lb. cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts shredded (from about 20 oz raw chicken)*
- 2 cups coleslaw mix (5 oz)
- ¼ cup green onions thinly sliced
- ½ cup cilantro chopped
Make the dressing:
- In a large salad bowl, whisk the peanut butter, water, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. Whisk for a few minutes until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula once or twice.
- Whisk in the red curry paste, the garlic, and the ginger. Check the mixture's consistency and add a bit more water if needed (try a tablespoon). Your goal is to achieve a dressing consistency. Take a look at the video to see the consistency I get with my ingredients. Not too thick, not too runny.
Make the salad:
- To the same bowl, add the shredded chicken, the coleslaw mix, the green onions and the chopped cilantro. Mix after each addition.
- Mix the salad for a few more minutes, slowly and thoroughly, until all salad components are well-coated in the dressing and there's no excess dressing pooling on the bottom.
- Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for one hour to allow the flavors to meld. Mix one more time, then serve.