This salad is my nirvana. It completes me. I hate to pigeon hole myself here but if I had to buckle down and choose a perfect meal, this would be it.
That will all change the next time I eat something fabulous, of course, but today? It’s this. Brian made this for me on Mother’s day last month (the kids had a heyday helping chop everything up) and I’ve already made it several times since, tweaking little things about it here and there. It’s definitely one of those meals that I could eat day after day and maybe only start to get sick of on day #64 (kind of like these Thai Crunch Wraps I waxed poetic about earlier this year; I’m sensing a theme here). I’ve been on the search for a really great chopped Thai chicken salad – reminiscent of the one I’ve gotten in the past at Panera when I lived closer than 100 miles away – and this is most definitely, 100% it and dare I say, even better.
It is just so crazy good. Every bite is filled with bursts of flavor and texture and crunch, crunch, crunch.
Above the beauty (isn’t it gorgeous?), you also get two layers of dressing: a light, tangy, sweet vinaigrette that’s tossed with all the salad ingredients and another level of yumminess with the creamy, slightly sweet and spicy peanut dressing that is drizzled over the top (and if spice scares you, the spice is pretty minimal here; but wowee, that peanut dressing makes this salad stellar).
Don’t let the long list of ingredients turn you away – both dressings can be made in advance and everything else is just chopping, marinading and chopping some more. There’s a lot of chop factor in this chopped salad, obviously. Loaded with crunchy vegetables, while I love them all, I always find myself digging for those delicious edamame morsels and maybe, once or twice or a dozen times, snatching stray edamame from my kids’ plates. You know, just so nothing goes to waste.
PS: For those of you with younger kids, I know that sometimes salad-for-dinner can be tricky. It took a while of salad training (i.e. eating salad for dinner for a month straight) so my kids would actually eat it as the main course and not just pick at it. Serving it with a bread/roll option (some ideas below under What To Serve With This) helps, too, but this is definitely a hearty salad that fills all of us up and gives my kids a lot of ways to count their colors.
The salad ingredients are very adaptable. We've made this before and omitted the red cabbage entirely, adding a bit more napa cabbage - you can definitely play around with all of the fresh salad ingredients.
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lime juice (from about 1 lime)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
- 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 4 tablespoons sweet Thai chili sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- Salt and pepper (pinch of each)
- 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Thai sweet chili sauce
- 2 tablespoons very hot water, plus more as needed
- 4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
- 2 cups chopped napa cabbage
- 1 cup chopped red cabbage
- 1 cup diced cucumber, peeled or not
- 1 cup edamame
- 1 cup small diced carrots
- 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 4 green onions, white and green parts finely chopped
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- Peanuts for topping (optional)
- For the chicken, whisk together the oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice, salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a ziploc bag or shallow dish and cover with the marinade. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or up to 24 hours (the longer it marinates, the better the flavor). Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill 6-7 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and let cool. Chop into bite-sized pieces.
- For the vinaigrette, combine all the ingredients in a liquid measure or small mason jar and whisk (or shake) until well combined. Refrigerate until ready to use. The dressing can be made up to a week in advance.
- For the peanut dressing, whisk together (or again, shake in a mason jar), all the ingredients until well combined. Add additional hot water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dressing is smooth and thin enough to drizzle.
- In a large bowl, toss together all of the salad ingredients with the cooled and chopped chicken. Pour the vinaigrette over the top and toss until the ingredients are coated with the dressing.
- Serve the salad with the peanut dressing on the side to drizzle on top.