Thai Peanut Chicken Salad is packed with crisp cabbage, plenty of veggies, slivered almonds, and crunchy wonton noodles. It’s tossed in a quick sesame vinaigrette and topped off with crispy, saucy peanut-laced chicken. So many delicious flavors and textures happening here!
Thai Peanut Chicken Salad
Let’s eat salad. A salad that’s actually hearty enough to fulfill an entire meal. A salad I could eat every single day and stay blissfully happy. Salad that even my kids will eat. I’m talking about Thai Peanut Chicken Salad. This is kind of a mix between a Chinese chicken salad and a thai chicken salad, but the best parts of both.
If you can’t tell by looking at the photos, this peanut chicken salad is PACKED with good things. Crunchy things. Healthy things. Saucy things. All things I adore.
But if we’re getting into specifics, we have a bed of romaine lettuce littered with shredded cabbage, carrots, red bell peppers, and chopped snow peas. The combination of veggies is colorful, irresistibly crunchy, and is sure to fill you up. The great thing about peanut chicken salad though? Add whatever veggies you want. I’d also love to see some baby corn in here, water chestnuts, or baby bok choy.
Adding to the crunch factor? A handful of blanched slivered almonds and crispy wonton strips. Again, you can switch things up. Crispy rice noodles would be great. Chopped peanuts, delicious. Spicy cashews, yes please.
All of the aforementioned additions to our peanut chicken salad are good things, great things, but the pièce de résistance is the saucy peanut chicken nestled on top. This is what takes this from a side salad to an entree salad and honestly, it makes it my favorite salad to date. Although this thai chicken salad is a close second.
The peanut chicken portion is super similar to our Peanut Chicken Lettuce Wraps. It uses basically all the same ingredients in the sauce, but in a condensed form. It’s a quick peanut and soy sauce that has a hint of sweetness, and if you want, a hint of spice as well. Instead of using ground chicken, I chop up a few chicken breasts into tiny pieces so each piece gets super crispy when cooking in a little bit of sesame oil before bathing it in the savory sauce.
I like to toss everything except the chicken together, season with salt and pepper, and then nestle the warm chicken on top just before serving.
In the Peanut Chicken
Chicken breast. I use whatever I have on hand – chicken breast, chicken thighs, chicken tenders – they all work. Regardless of what part of the chicken you use, use a sharp knife to slice the chicken into small bite-sized pieces.
Sesame oil. Not only is the sesame oil the fat we cook the chicken in, but it adds the perfect nutty bite to compliment the peanut butter.
Rice vinegar. A traditional peanut sauce uses rice vinegar, but if you don’t have it on hand, white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or regular white vinegar will also work.
Peanut butter. Any kind of creamy peanut butter will work here.
Tamari. I like to use tamari instead of soy sauce, which is gluten-free, and typically a little bit more rich in flavor.
Honey. Even though honey is a natural sweetener, is doesn’t make this peanut chicken salad sweet per se, it just balances out the flavors so you aren’t overpowered by the soy sauce and peanut butter.
The great thing about the dressing we’re whipping up, is it utilizes all of the same ingredients the peanut chicken salad calls for. So even though we do have the added step of making it, you already have the ingredients out, so you might as well whip up a quick homemade dressing.
Sesame oil. Every dressing needs a fat, and sesame oil adds the loveliest nutty essence to the dressing.
Rice vinegar. Again, I prefer to use rice vinegar, but you can also use white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or even lime juice if you have it on hand.
Honey. I would say 90% of my vinaigrettes use honey in them. I love the subtle sweetness they add, plus they’re a great thickener.
Garlic. One medium garlic clove is all you need. To evenly distribute the garlic flavor, I like to grate in on a microplane directly into the sauce.
Salt and pepper. Because the sesame vinaigrette only has a few ingredients, it’s really important to season it properly. Use plenty of salt and pepper, more than you think you’ll need.
Everything in the salad
Lettuce. Instead of a traditional bed of lettuce beneath the peanut chicken, I wanted something a little heartier. A pre-packaged cabbage mix does the trick! It comes with shredded yellow cabbage, red cabbage, and carrot and has the perfect texture mixed with a little bit of chopped romaine lettuce.
Snow peas and red bell peppers. Again, when it comes to salads I’m all about packing as many healthy things into them as possible. Chopped snow peas add the perfect amount of crunch, while adding virtually no calories at all.
Shredded carrots. Because there’s never enough shredded carrots in the cabbage mix, I like to add in a little bit more.
Almonds. For me, no salad is complete without a little crunch from nuts. My favorite nut to use in an Asian-inspired salad is a slivered almond, but you could also use chopped almonds, sliced almonds or chopped peanuts.
Wonton Strips. Ok, so these aren’t the healthiest things on the planet, but they are so darn good. If you’re really worried about adding little bit of carbs to the mix, you can absolutely leave these out. But keep in mind, it’s all about moderation!
Cilantro. My peanut chicken salad isn’t complete without a generous addition of chopped cilantro, and honestly, the more the better. If you’re more of a conservation cilantro user, feel free to reduce the amount I suggest.
How to make Thai Peanut Chicken Salad
Cook the chicken. Season the chopped, raw chicken with plenty of salt and pepper. Heat a large wok, cast iron skillet or non-stick pan to a medium-high heat. When the pan is super hot, add the chicken.
Cook undisturbed until the chicken is brown and crisp. Use a wooden spoon to toss the chicken and continue to cook until crispy and brown on all sides.
Make the sauce. While the chicken is browning, whisk sesame oil, rice vinegar, peanut butter, soy sauce, and honey together in a small bowl.
When the chicken is brown and cooked through, add the sauce. Toss and cook for another minute or so until the sauce has coated the chicken. Turn the heat off.
Make the dressing. Whisk the rest of the vinegar, honey and garlic together. Whisk in the sesame oil. Season with plenty of salt and pepper.
Assemble the salad. Add the romaine, cabbage mix, carrots, snow peas, half of the almonds, half of the wonton strips and all of the cilantro to a large salad bowl. Toss to combine. Add the dressing and toss again. Season with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle the remaining wonton strops and almonds top. Top with chicken.
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- If the chicken seems at all dry after tossing it in the peanut sauce, stir in a little bit of chicken stock or water to loosen it up.
- Be sure to season the chicken with plenty of salt and pepper before cooking.
- Any medley of vegetables will work in thai peanut chicken salad, I happen to love the combination of red bell peppers, snow peas, and carrots, but you could also use baby corn, water chestnuts, edamame, or really, anything you can think of.
- If you want to skip making a homemade dressing, you can buy a store-bought dressing as well.
For more recipes like today’s Peanut Chicken Salad check out these recipes
- This Peanut Broccoli Ramen Salad is one of our favorite easy dinners. It’s packed with tender broccoli, red bell peppers, and plenty of other veggies. It’s tossed with crunch ramen noodles and an easy peanut dressing. So delicious.
- While these Peanut Noodles aren’t as healthy as today’s salad, they only have 5-ingredients and come together in about 20 minutes.
- This version of a peanut noodle salad couldn’t be more different than today’s peanut chicken salad, but it is just as delicious. Instead of lettuce, this cold pasta salad is packed with soba noodles, a nutty tahini dressing and plenty of crispy veggies.
- 1 lb chicken breast or tenders, cut into a dice
- 2 tbsp sesame oil, divided
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar, divided
- 2 tsp creamy peanut butter
- 3 tsp soy sauce, divided
- 1 tbsp honey, divided
- 1 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1 cup sliced red bell pepper
- 1 cup roughly chopped snow peas
- 2 cups shredded cabbage mix
- 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1/2 cup wonton strips
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- saute pan
- Salad bowl
- Season chicken with 3/4 teaspoon salt on all sides. Season with a little bit of black pepper.
- Heat a medium wok or non-stick skillet to a medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons of sesame oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken. Cook the chicken until golden brown and crisp, on all sides. About 4-5 minutes.
- While the chicken cooks, whisk 2 teaspoons rice vinegar, 2 teaspoons peanut butter, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons honey in a small bowl.
- When the chicken is done cooking, turn the heat down to medium-low and add the sauce. Toss until coated. Cook another 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Whisk together remaining rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, and garlic together in the same bowl you made the peanut sauce in. Slowly whisk in remaining sesame oil. Season with plenty of salt and pepper.
- Add carrots, bell peppers, snow peas, cabbage, romaine, half of the almonds, half of the wonton strips and all of the cilantro. Add the dressing. Toss to combine. Season with a little bit of salt and pepper.
- Top with remaining almonds, wonton strips, and chicken. (You can also just toss everything together to evenly distribute the chicken.)