Chopped Thai Crunch Salad

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.

Chopped Thai Crunch Salad

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.

Chopped Thai Crunch Salad

What To Serve*This is a pretty complete meal with all the vegetables and chicken so I keep the side(s) pretty simple*
Pao de Queijo or other dinner roll

One Year Ago: Thin and Crispy Oatmeal Cookies
Two Years Ago: Healthy Banana Bran Muffins
Three Years Ago: Key Lime Bars

Chopped Thai Crunch Salad with Sweet and Spicy Dressing

Yield: Serves 4-6

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.

Ingredients

    Chicken:
  • 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
  • Vinaigrette:
  • 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons sweet Thai chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Salt and pepper (pinch of each)
  • Peanut Dressing:
  • 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
  • Salad:
  • 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)

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Serve the salad with the peanut dressing on the side to drizzle on top.
http://www.melskitchencafe.com/chopped-thai-crunch-salad/

Recipe Source: adapted from Kitchen Escapades by way of Taste and Tell (I reduced the oil and cut out the sugar in the marinade, used a different combination of ingredients for the marinade and added soy sauce, cut out the sugar in the vinaigrette and the oil in the peanut sauce, using hot water instead to thin it out)

57 Responses to Chopped Thai Crunch Salad with Sweet and Spicy Dressing

  1. Sheila says:

    Yum! I just made your French Bread Rolls yesterday to re-stock the freezer. And then my husband ate the last frozen Philly Cheesesteak Calzone so I need to squeeze try in to re-supply these favorite sandwiches. You make my family so happy, Mel!

    All this goodness looks and sounds delicious! I will have to make a trip to the grocery store for a lot of these fresh vegetables but this is so now on my meal rotation — can’t wait to try!

  2. Yes!! Love all the gorgeous colors in this salad. My kiddo can make himself a sandwich, I’ll be too busy eating this to care ;)

  3. Gorgeous Mel! I love all those bold colors. Pinning!

  4. Joyce says:

    Out of all the food blogs I read, you, without a doubt have the tastiest recipes EVER! Never disappoints my taste buds. Thanks!

  5. Becky says:

    I may never stop eating this.

  6. Army of 7 says:

    Mel, you are my favorite! I love Panera Asian sesame chicken salad & I can’t wait to make this one too. Your food & pictures are to die for :-)

  7. Tanya says:

    I will be getting the ingredients for this today. It looks delicious and just what I’ve been craving, a hearty salad to cure the “it’s too hot to cook” summer blues.

  8. auntie M says:

    Oh, man! I’m going to make (eat) this ASAP!

  9. Maui says:

    We adore your Thai Crunch Wraps and will be sure to give this salad a try :) It sounds so good!

  10. Ericka S. says:

    Mel, do you have any suggestions on how to store this if I want to eat it all week long without it getting soggy? Wasn’t sure if that jar method that is all over the web actually works.

    • Mel says:

      Good question, Ericka – I haven’t tried the jar method but think it might actually work. If I know I’m going to make this and eat it all week (versus serving it as a main course where it will mostly get eaten), I store all the chopped ingredients together and the dressings separately. Then I toss my individual serving with dressing (heating up the peanut sauce slightly since it gets really thick in the fridge). I’ve actually eaten the leftovers of this that have already been tossed with the vinaigrette dressing – and even a day or so later, it’s not terribly soggy. I pour off the excess liquid in the salad before eating.

  11. This looks amazing Mel! Love the look of the peanutty dressing – bet it would taste amazing with veggies like broccoli or even diluted for soba noodles!
    http://youtube.com/addalittlefood

  12. Kim in MD says:

    Yum! One of my favorite salads is the Thai Crunch Salad at CPK! This reminds of that delicious salad. I am going to make this for dinner tomorrow night!

  13. Oh yes please. I can tell I’d love this salad.

  14. caly says:

    You are officially my hero! My current salad obsession is the thai chicken from Panera and I’ve day dreamed of making it myself…and now, I can!

  15. Kristin says:

    Beautiful Thai Crunch Salad recipe!
    Thank you for all that you do!
    Pinned!
    K-

  16. Maria says:

    OMG OMG OMG
    The most amazing salad EVER …….!!!!!!!!

  17. Tami says:

    My teen daughters love this kind of dinner. We all licked the bowl. This is a keeper.

  18. Mel, this looks awesome! I’m a huge fan of salads for dinner, especially chopped salads.

  19. Pauline says:

    Stunning! Will be Thursday night’s dinner (my husband works out of state and makes a 6-hour drive home and likes a lighter dinner). My question (and if it’s in the recipe, please forgive me….I’m the worst at looking right at something and not seeing it!), about how many servings does this make?

    Thanks, AGAIN, Mel! You inspire me!

    • Mel says:

      Pauline – I’d say this serves 6 adults moderately. It feeds our 2 adult, 5 kid family with a bit leftover. Serving it with a roll or bread of some sort helps it go further.

  20. Sarah says:

    Hi Mel!
    I am in love with your blog and use it as my reference for our dinner menu about 6 times out of the week! But I am having trouble loading one recipe I’ve been dying to try.. The chicken and vegetable dumpling soup. I don’t know if it’s a glitch only I experience or something wrong with the website but I have tried using other devices and it always crashes every time I try opening it. Is this just me? Thanks.
    Sarah

    • Mel says:

      Sarah – Try the recipe again and see if it loads, it is working for me? Just in case it doesn’t though here is the recipe:
      Chicken and Vegetable Dumpling Soup:
      Ingredients
      Chicken and broth:
      4 cups chicken broth
      4 cups water
      2-3 chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
      Vegetables:
      1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
      2 stalks celery, chopped
      2 large carrots (6-7 baby carrots), chopped
      1 onion, chopped
      1 ½ teaspoons salt
      1 teaspoon dried thyme
      1/4 teaspoon pepper
      1/2 cup frozen peas
      Dumplings:
      1 cup flour
      2 teaspoons baking powder
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or sage
      1/2 cup sour cream
      1/2 cup milk
      1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
      Directions
      1. In a large pot, boil the chicken broth, water and chicken breasts until the chicken is cooked through
      and tender (about 15 minutes). Remove the chicken from the pot, reserving the broth in the pot, and
      shred the chicken with two forks. Set the chicken aside and keep the broth warm on the stove.
      2. While the chicken is boiling, in a large skillet, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat.
      When the oil is hot, add the celery, carrots and onions. Saute for about 6-7 minutes until the
      vegetables are tender. Add the vegetables to the hot broth in the pot after the chicken has been
      removed. Add salt, thyme and pepper to the vegetable/broth mixture and stir to combine. Heat the
      soup to a simmer.
      3. In a small bowl, blend ½ cup cold water and 1/4 cup flour with a wire whisk until smooth. Whisking
      vigorously, slowly add the flour mixture into the hot vegetables and broth and whisk until well
      combined. Add ½ cup frozen peas and the reserved chicken and cook, stirring gently for one
      minute.
      4. For the dumplings, in a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine
      sour cream, milk and oil. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until
      combined (don’t overmix, it is ok if there are a few dry spots of flour here and there).
      5. Heat the soup to boiling and drop teaspoonful amounts (the dumplings should be fairly small, they’ll
      expand while cooking) of dumpling dough into the boiling soup, covering the entire surface of the
      soup (don’t make more than one layer of dumplings). Reduce the heat to simmering, cover and let
      the dumplings cook for 15 minutes. Do not lift the lid of the pot while the dumplings cook.
      6. When the dumplings have cooked fully, remove the lid and gently stir the dumplings to break them apart. Serve.

  21. Cristal says:

    We had this for dinner tonight! It was SO DELICIOUS! Everyone rated it a 10 out of 10! Including my 7 year old daughter. I know we will be making this often especially to use up leftover meat.

  22. Cindy says:

    Not familiar with edamame but I bought a bag of frozen shelled edamame. Do I just thaw it and put it in the salad or do I steam it in the microwave, cool it and then add it to the salad? Need your expertise!

  23. Anna says:

    This salad was amazing!!! I made it the same day as I saw your post and the whole family loved it – we will be enjoying this a lot over the summer!! The only change I made was to roast the red pepper, carrot, and edamame under the broiler. Thanks so much for the amazing recipe!

  24. Helen says:

    Ok .. I need suggestions on where to buy edamame… I haven’t had luck finding it in my little town… Is this in the salad recipe fresh, frozen, from a bag or canned? The only thing I could find was dried, with salt… I don’t think that’s what this is in the recipe. I only have a Walmart … that often doesn’t have what i’m looking for.. and a small town grocery store… I’m sure i’m going to have to get it the next time I’m in the city (an hour 1/2 away) But I need to know if it’s something I buy fresh or in some other form? Thanks.. I really want to make this!!! And I want to add the edameme

    • Mel says:

      Helen – Hi Helen, I have a pretty small town store too and was thrilled when they started carrying it. I find it in small bags in the frozen section next to the peas and such. The kind I find comes in the shell so I let it thaw and then pop it out of the pod and throw it in the salad (no cooking).

  25. Nicole H says:

    I made this last night for dinner, and it was so delicious that I woke up today already planning to eat the leftovers for breakfast! Who knew salad could be such an exciting way to start off the day? I loved all the crunchy components, and the dressings are both so tasty! Thanks for sharing another great recipe!

  26. Celeste says:

    Although I visit your blog daily, I rarely comment. However, after making and eating this salad I had to tell you thank you for this amazing recipe. I’ve had great success with every recipe of yours I’ve tried, but I loved this so much, I may never have to eat another thing. Also, when I was crunched for time, I just ran to the grocery store and filled up a container from the salad bar. Everything came together in a snap.

  27. Rayanne says:

    Just made this tonight. Amazing! Thank you.

  28. Barb says:

    This looks wonderful, but unfortunately, where I live, it would be cost-prohibitive to buy all these ingredients. Bummer.

  29. Pauline says:

    OH MEL!!!! You were SO right! This is FABULOUS!!! Where in the world did you find this recipe? Yes, I did half this recipe and it was plenty for two with a bit leftover for a midnight snack. Many thanks.

  30. megan says:

    made this last night and LOVE it. Can’t wait to eat the leftovers today. Thanks for sharing! I felt so great about myself buying cabbage. Not typically on my shopping list.

  31. Ruth says:

    We’ll be trying this recipe this weekend…thanks so much Mel.

    I’d so love it if you could someday do a week or two just on delicious, main-course salads. My family is trying to eat salads more and more, and our kids are starting to like them, and when you post salads they’re always creative and different and delicious. I want more of them!!

    Anyway, just an idea…we’re really looking forward to marinating the chicken today and eating the salad for dinner tomorrow!

    Ruth

  32. Liz says:

    Hi Mel, I love your site! Can you suggest another way to cook the chicken other than grilling? Unfortunately I live in NYC and don’t have a grill. Thanks! Liz.

  33. Em R. says:

    I made this tonight and it was fantastic! Loved the flavors and crunch, they work perfectly together and will become a summer staple in our house.

  34. Linsey says:

    Amazing!! Made this for dinner tonight and everyone loved it. It’s so flavorful. How long would this last in the fridge for?

  35. Ericka S. says:

    FYI, my lettuce went bad before I could throw this salad together but I made some rice and threw it all into a tortilla. AMAZING (and a great dinner save). :)

  36. Katie says:

    I made this last night for some friends we invited to dinner and it was so delicious!!! Everyone was raving. I didn’t add the cilantro or green onions because my husband doesn’t like them. My two-year-old twins were literally crying this afternoon when I told them all the leftovers were gone. Thanks for another fabulous/healthy recipe.

  37. Kim says:

    Absolutely delicious!! Perfect summer meal – thanks for always being my go-to food blog.

  38. Maria S. says:

    I made this for dinner last night and it was fantastic. I omitted the cilantro because the kids don’t like it. I served it with scallion pancakes and it made a great meal for a hot summer night. The peanut dressing is extra tasty!

  39. Jenny says:

    Mel,

    I wanted more crunch and there was no daikon to be found, but I diced up some jicama and it was lovely. I am not sure if you allow white to count as a color or not but, we loved it.

    Have you made your own sweet chili sauce? I used She Simmers recipe: http://shesimmers.com/2009/02/how-to-make-thai-sweet-chili-dipping.html

    I caught my man eating it by the spoonful and he wanted a dinner composed of Things You Can Dip in Thai Sweet Chili Sauce. And I couldn’t fault him for that.

    Thank you so much for all the work you do and being so generous and willing to share.

  40. Julia says:

    Yummy! My two-year-old and I loved this! The rest of my family thought it was okay but I’ll be making it again for my little buddy and me. Next time, I think I’ll add some chow mein noodles. The rest of them might like it better that way.

  41. Jess says:

    Made this last week and loved it. I happened to have some sunflower seeds around so I threw those in, too. The only down side was that my husband hogged the peanut dressing — I should have known he would and made more to begin with!

  42. Susan Z says:

    I lovvved this recipe so much, I made it twice in one week. My daughter is a vegetarian, so did not add the chicken. We both ate it like starvin’ Marvins.

  43. Kristen says:

    Hi Mel,
    I have never posted a comment on anything, anywhere! However, I discovered you through a blog (sorry, can’t remember which one) and have been trying your recipes ever since. I absolutely LOVE every single one of them. Tonight, I made this salad and I felt so good about serving it to my family–so fresh and full of healthy ingredients! My husband was going on and on about it–couldn’t stop eating it. And, the way I know it’s good is when I said, “This could be served in a restaurant.” For me, salads are always better in a restaurant. Not anymore!!! I also LOVE your Greek, pita, feta salad. I have made it several times. Thank you so much for your great recipes! Tomorrow night, spaghetti pie….

  44. Sharri says:

    I’ve made this 3 times in the last month! I make a big bowl and eat it all week. I love, love, love, it! My husband enjoys it too (but not everyday like I do :-D ). Thanks for another great one!

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