This 15 minute Thai Chicken Salad recipe is bright and full of flavor with a creamy dressing and lots of fresh, crunchy veggies. It is a perfect year-round option for an easy mid-week meal and is a healthy, wholesome, gluten free, filling Thai peanut chicken salad!
High protein, meal-prep-friendly salads like this one, healthy chicken salad, healthy tuna salad, and healthy shrimp salad are a must for my fridge during the week. Especially during the summer – give it a go and you’ll thank me!
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A Fresh, Crunchy, Flavor-packed Thai Peanut Chicken Salad
I love Thai cuisine and the fresh, fun flavor combinations. Whenever I think of Thai food, my mouth starts salivating at the idea of the combination of sweet, savory, tangy, and spicy – this Thai chicken salad has all of that. With a combination of tender shredded chicken, crunchy fresh red cabbage and bell peppers, a savory bite of peanuts, and a creamy yogurt mayo sauce with a dash of spice, it’s truly satisfying!
Whether you’re hosting a summer garden party, going on a picnic, making a themed Thai inspired meal, at a BBQ or potluck, or just want to enjoy a fresh and healthy salad, this Thai peanut chicken salad will impress all!
As much as I love even the simplest of salads (like this cucumber and tomato salad or Mexican kale salad), for those who are salad wary – there’s no need to be with this one. All you need is a combination of the right ingredients and dressing for a salad that’s super satisfying, flavor-packed, AND healthy!
This Thai salad has more than enough flavor and texture to keep you from being bored! But I also suggest trying this flavor-packed healthy cobb salad, healthy taco salad, or shrimp avocado salad for more ‘fully-loaded’ style salads packed with flavor!
Unlike many Thai chicken salads, I’ve used a creamy yogurt-based sauce rather than a soy-sauce and/or peanut butter-based option. This provides richness while remaining light and healthy – it’s a family favorite. Though, if you are in the mood for extra peanut flavor, I also have an easy peanut sauce! Plus, this recipe is also super customizable; bump up the heat if preferred or keep it mild (like I do for my kids).
Best of all, this Thai chicken salad recipe requires just one bowl (two max!), ten minutes of prep time, and you can store it in the refrigerator for up to five days – that’s lunch sorted for a week! So try it today!
The Ingredients and Substitutions
The Thai Chicken Salad:
- Chicken breast: Use leftover cooked and shredded chicken for this recipe for a quick 10-minute salad! Read below for more on the best chicken to use and check the FAQs for chicken substitutes.
- Red Cabbage: I love the color that red cabbage provides. However, you could happily use green cabbage instead. Shred the cabbage using a mandoline or knife.
- Bell Pepper: Use thinly sliced red bell pepper for the best results. You could also use orange or yellow bell pepper if that’s all you have. I wouldn’t recommend using green bell pepper as it’s more bitter.
- Cilantro: Cilantro is a popular addition in Thai cuisine. If you’re not a fan, you could experiment with using fresh mint or parsley instead.
- Green Onion: I love the addition of fresh green onion in a salad.
- Peanuts: I use roasted, unsalted peanuts for this Thai peanut chicken salad. If you have a peanut allergy, then feel free to substitute them with roasted, unsalted cashews or almonds.
The Yogurt Dressing:
- Yogurt: You can use plain yogurt or Greek yogurt with at-least 2%+ fat content. You could even use homemade yogurt! Avoid fat-free/0% yogurt as it will lack flavor and creaminess.
- Mayo: I’ve made this Thai chicken salad recipe healthier by almost entirely omitting the mayo from the sauce, but just a couple of spoonful’s really help to pack in that extra rich creaminess. Omit it if you prefer, though.
- Maple Syrup: The slight sweetness balances the tang of the yogurt and vinegar well. Feel free to use a liquid sweetener of your choice, though the flavor will vary, so I prefer maple.
- Rice Vinegar: Provides a wonderful tangy flavor not to be missed.
- Lime: Please use fresh lime juice, not bottled, for the best flavor!
- Seasonings: I include a combination of salt, sugar, and red pepper flakes to capture the sweet, savory, spicy flavors of Thai cuisine.
- Shredded carrots
- Shredded green, napa, or savoy cabbage
- Raw zucchini
- Cucumber: Remove the seeds to avoid a watery salad if you’re not using low-seed/seedless varieties.
- Noodles: Cooked and chilled rice noodles work amazingly within Thai salads for a complete lunch.
- Red chili: Thinly sliced.
- Chopped cooked hard boiled eggs: Like I do with tuna egg salad!
What Chicken Can I Use?
The key to making this Thai peanut chicken salad in 15 minutes is using leftover shredded chicken.
If you’re running short on time then feel free to use a rotisserie chicken. However, they can be fairly packed with sodium so it’s not usually my first choice. Instead, I love to prepare some cooked chicken in advance, ready for a week’s worth of meals. Best of all, you can prepare your chicken in one of several ways based on your schedule and preferred cooking method:
- Bake the chicken breast in the oven
- Make Instant Pot chicken breast (even from frozen)
- Use whole roasted chicken leftovers.
- During grilling season prepare grilled chicken breast
- You can also prepare marinated chicken to pack in even more flavor to the salad; like this slow cooked Thai chicken or lime cilantro grilled chicken.
I am personally obsessed with batch cooking chicken in my Instant Pot. It is something I do automatically every week now. You can set it all up in 1 minute and walk away- easy peasy.
How to Make Thai Chicken Salad
- Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, mayo (if using), maple syrup, rice vinegar, lime juice, sugar, salt, and red pepper flakes. Whisk well to combine and then set aside
- Assemble the salad: Prepare all of the ingredients. In a large salad bowl combine all the remaining salad ingredients, add the sauce, and then mix well to combine thoroughly.
Before adding the sauce give it a quick taste (after it’s sat for a few minutes) and adjust any of the ingredients to your liking. I.e., more lime juice, more sweetener, more chili flakes (or even chili sauce), etc.
How to Serve?
This Thai chicken salad recipe is already practically a full meal. To bulk it up slightly further, add in some cooked cold rice noodles and you have a complete meal. I love to enjoy it with lime iced tea or a healthy green smoothie.
You could also serve this Thai chicken salad as an appetizer or part of a Thai-style spread including dishes like:
Zoodle Pad Thai, Pad Thai sweet potato meal, Thai cauliflower rice, Thai meatballs, Thai shrimp or chicken curry (or chicken soup). This peanut chicken soba noodle dish would also pair well with this salad.
You sure can! If you want to prepare the salad 2-3 days in advance, it’s best to prepare the salad and dressing separately and then combine the two 20-30 minutes before serving (to marinate slightly) or even just before serving.
Store any leftover Thai chicken salad in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to five days – if it lasts that long (we usually eat it within a couple of days!).
The salad veg will begin to lose its crunch as it sits, so if you know you want to save some, feel free to prepare some separately as mentioned above to ‘make ahead’.
I don’t recommend freezing the Thai salad, as freezing can affect the texture of fresh crunchy veggies.
Yes, of course, growing up in Ukraine we were always encouraged to use what we have to hand and I’ve become used to this versatile cooking style. Feel free to substitute the chicken with:
– Cooked turkey breast, shredded
– Salmon – you can use oven-baked salmon, grilled salmon, or even marinated like this Thai salmon
– Grilled shrimp
-Meat-free: You could use chickpeas (I’ve tried this and it’s delicious) or even pan fried tofu.
– Cooked quinoa or brown rice would also add protein and fiber.
This might sound a little weird (and some people won’t be fans), but you could quickly stir fry this salad in a wok with a little sesame oil for just a couple of minutes then mix in the dressing and serve the salad warm. The aim is to retain crunch in the veggies so just 2-3 minutes should be more than enough.
- Keep the peanuts crunchy: If you plan on storing this Thai peanut chicken salad for longer than a single-serving, the peanuts can soften over time and lose their ‘crunch.’ To avoid this, you can keep the peanuts to one side and add some to each portion, as served.
- Prepare the dressing separately: While it’s possible to prepare all the ingredients in one bowl, I’ll often prepare the sauce in advance and incorporate it with the salad after. Not only is it great for when you’re making it ahead, but it makes sure all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated before mixing it in with the salad.
- The dressing: Though the Greek yogurt might seem a little thick when you first add it to the salad, it will thin as the salad sits, so keep stirring it occasionally, and all the veggie juices will thin it.
- Peanut dressing: I have a recipe for a peanut sauce that will also work well as a peanut dressing for this Thai peanut chicken salad. I suggest blending it up, tasting, and adjusting any of the seasonings to your liking.
- A nut-free option: I love the combination of this Thai peanut chicken salad, but I understand that not everyone can enjoy nuts due to allergies. In that case, omit the nuts – you could instead add some lightly sauteed sesame seeds or use pumpkin seeds to provide crunch.
More Healthy Protein Salad Recipes:
If you enjoyed this healthy Thai chicken salad, then you might some some of these other high-protein salads.
Thai Chicken Salad Recipe
For the Salad:
- 2 chicken breasts cooked & shredded
- 2 cups red cabbage chopped
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1/2 cup cilantro chopped
- 1/4 cup green onion chopped
- 1/2 cup peanuts roasted & unsalted
- In a small bowl, combine yogurt, mayo (if using), maple syrup, rice vinegar, lime juice, sugar, salt and red pepper flakes; whisk well to combine. Set aside.
- In a large salad bowl, add chicken, cabbage, bell pepper, cilantro, green onion and peanuts. Add previously prepared dressing and mix salad with large spoon until well combined.
- Serve cold with quinoa or in a healthy sandwich with sprouted whole wheat bread.
Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days. It is also best to add peanuts right before serving to help them retain the crunch.
- How to cook chicken: Here is how to bake chicken breast, make Instant Pot chicken breast (even from frozen) or use whole roasted chicken leftovers. Or use rotisserie chicken if short on time.
- Make sure not to use 0% yogurt: It can be Greek or regular but look for 2% and higher. Non-fat yogurt lacks flavor and creaminess.
- Make dressing separately: Although photos show all salad ingredients in one bowl, it will be much easier to make dressing separately and incorporate with salad after.
- Keep stirring: Greek yogurt might seem too thick, but as you keep stirring gently, juices in veggies will loosen it up.
- A bit of mayo: Is optional and depends on personal preference to “seal the deal” with creamy chicken salad.
- Keep peanuts crunchy: Some people do not like peanuts in a salad the next day. They lose crunchiness and become soggy. Store peanuts in a dry place and add them to salad right before serving.
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