Thai Chicken Salad

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This colorful Thai Chicken Salad is loaded with fresh herbs and vegetables, grilled lemon chicken, and a pantry-friendly peanut dressing. It’s a great recipe to add to your meal rotation if you’re looking for nutrient-dense, unprocessed meals.

A Thai chicken salad on a plate with a small jar of dressing next to it.


 

When it comes to Thai cuisine, expect an abundant use for fresh herbs (rather than dried), and look for a combination of sweet, salty, sour, and spicy flavors. Inspired by those elements, I created this Thai Chicken Salad with juicy grilled lemon chicken, lots of crunchy veggies, and a sweet-and-sour peanut dressing.

This salad is a healthful lunch idea especially if you love meal prepping. Make a big batch of the grilled chicken on Sunday, then prepare up to 4 day’s worth of salads. Shake up the dressing in a mason jar or other covered container. Don’t dress the individual portions until you’re ready to eat them, but everything else can be combined during meal prep.

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for Thai Chicken Salad.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Peanut butter: I love Crazy Richard’s brand peanut butter because it is made with only peanuts (no added sugars or palm oil) and they support American peanut farmers, using only 100% US-grown peanuts. If you’re ambitious, you can certainly make homemade peanut butter which might be even better.
  • Rice vinegar: Or substitute apple cider vinegar.
  • Chicken: Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are a cinch to cook on the grill. If your chicken breast seems especially large, you can butterfly the chicken breast into 2 pieces so it cooks faster. Or use leftover rotisserie chicken.
  • Butter lettuce: Or substitute romaine lettuce, green leaf lettuce, or even regular cabbage (for more crunch).
  • Thai bird chiles: These tiny red chiles are available at well-stocked grocery stores and Asian markets. They pack some serious heat, especially if you leave the seeds in as is traditional.

Step-by-step instructions

To make the dressing:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together peanut butter, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, lime juice, ginger, sesame oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I like 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper). If the dressing is too thick, thin with water, 1 teaspoon at a time.
Thai peanut dressing in a small clear bowl.

To make the chicken:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme leaves. Place the chicken in a large freezer-safe plastic bag. Pour in marinade, squeeze out air and close the bag. Mash until chicken is evenly coated. Place the plastic bag in a dish and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Raw chicken marinating in a plastic bag with lemon juice and thyme.
  1. Preheat grill over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Oil grates. Place chicken over direct heat on the grill, close the cover, and grill 5 minutes on each side, turning once. Transfer chicken to indirect heat and continue to cook until an internal thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the largest chicken breast reaches 165 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes longer. 
Lemon chicken on a grilled with grill marks.
  1. Remove to a cutting board and tent with foil for 10 minutes. Slice or chop into small pieces and season to taste with salt.
Some grilled lemon chicken on a pan tented with foil, other pieces on a cutting board.

To assemble the salad:

  1. In a large bowl, add lettuce, drizzle with half of the dressing, and toss until evenly coated. Divided the lettuce between bowls or arrange on a large platter.
Someone mixing lettuce and Thai dressing in a wooden bowl.
  1. Top with chopped chicken, red bell pepper, cilantro, mint, and Thai bird chilies (if using). Garnish with peanuts and drizzle with the remaining dressing.
A Thai chicken salad on a plate with a small jar of dressing next to it.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes four entree-sized salads with 6 ounces of chicken per salad.
  • Storage: Store leftover chicken covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Make ahead: The chicken, red bell pepper, cilantro, and mint can be prepared up to 3 days in advance. Store separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator. Wrap the washed, dried lettuce leaves rolled in a clean kitchen towel in the refrigerator.
  • Blended dressing: Blast the salad dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor if you want it extra blended.
  • Crunchy: Instead of peanuts, try topping the salad with wonton strips, crispy rice noodles (fried until puffy in oil), chow mein noodles, or chopped cashews.
  • To bake the chicken: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking dish with oil or nonstick spray and arrange chicken in a single layer. Cover with parchment paper, tucking the paper around the chicken so it is completely covered. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken reaches 165 degrees when tested with an internal thermometer. Remove to a platter and tent with foil for 5 minutes.
  • To sauté the chicken: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chicken in a single layer and cook until browned on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip chicken, reduce heat to medium, partially cover, and continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees on an internal thermometer, about 10 to 15 minutes. 
  • Chinese Chicken Salad: Instead of using the “kitchen sink” approach, this crunchy, colorful Chinese Chicken Salad has a carefully-curated selection of vegetables and salad ingredients like napa cabbage, red cabbage, carrots, green onions, cilantro, and chow mein noodles.
  • Mango Chicken Bowl: This delicious lunch or light dinner salad is filled with grilled lemon chicken, white rice, butter lettuce, avocado, and sweet slices of mango, all drizzled in a spicy habañero vinaigrette. It’s perfect for meal prepping, too.
  • Thai Peanut Chicken and Noodles: This is 30-minute recreation of one of my favorite Thai takeout recipes. Leftover or rotisserie chicken, pasta, and pantry staples make team up for this easy dinner idea that comes together quicker than delivery can arrive at your door.
  • Rainbow Thai Salad with Mango: A vegetarian version of the Thai Chicken Salad, this version has kale, carrots, and sweet slices of mango.
Two plates with Thai chicken salad.
Colorful Thai Chicken Salads served with warm Grilled Lemon Chicken, dressed with Thai Peanut Dressing, and garnished with fresh mint and cilantro.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a different nut butter in the dressing?

Feel free to substitute almond butter, cashew butter, or any other nut butter as you see fit. Just know the flavor will change.

How do you cut butter lettuce?

To prepare butter lettuce, place the head on the cutting board with the stem facing up, and the leaf-side down. Using a sharp knife, remove the stem by inserting the knife at an angle, and gently rotate the head of lettuce. Remove the stem, take apart the leaves, rinse the leaves to remove the dirt, and pat dry. Tear into pieces by hand to prevent bruising the leaves.

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A Thai Chicken Salad in a white bowl.

Thai Chicken Salad

This colorful Thai Chicken Salad is loaded with fresh herbs and vegetables, grilled lemon chicken, and a pantry-friendly peanut dressing. It's a great recipe to add to your meal rotation if you're looking for nutrient-dense, unprocessed meals.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Marinate Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Main Course, Salad
Cuisine Asian, Thai
Calories 401
5 from 3 votes

Ingredients 

For the dressing:

For the chicken:

For the salad:

  • 1 head butter lettuce cut or torn into 1-inch pieces (see note 4)
  • 1 red bell pepper cut into strips, about 1 cup
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
  • 2 thai bird chiles sliced, optional (see note 5)

Instructions 

To make the dressing:

  • In a small bowl, whisk together peanut butter, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, lime juice, ginger, sesame oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I like 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper). If the dressing is too thick, thin with water, 1 teaspoon at a time.

To make the chicken:

  • In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme leaves. Place the chicken in a large freezer-safe plastic bag. Pour in marinade, squeeze out air and close the bag. Mash until chicken is evenly coated. Place the plastic bag in a dish and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.
  • Preheat grill over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Oil grates. Place chicken over direct heat on the grill, close the cover, and grill 5 minutes on each side, turning once.
  • Transfer chicken to indirect heat and continue to cook until an internal thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the largest chicken breast reaches 165 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes longer. 
  • Remove to a cutting board and tent with foil for 10 minutes. Slice or chop into small pieces and season to taste with salt.

To assemble the salad:

  • In a large bowl, add lettuce, drizzle with half of the dressing, and toss until evenly coated. Divided the lettuce between bowls or arrange on a large platter.
  • Top with chopped chicken, red bell pepper, cilantro, mint, and Thai bird chilies (if using). Garnish with peanuts and drizzle with the remaining dressing.

Notes

  1. Peanut butter: I love Crazy Richard’s brand peanut butter because it is made with only peanuts (no added sugars or palm oil) and they support American peanut farmers, using only 100% US-grown peanuts. If you’re ambitious, you can certainly make homemade peanut butter which might be even better.
  2. Rice vinegar: Or substitute apple cider vinegar.
  3. Chicken: Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are a cinch to cook on the grill. If your chicken breast seems especially large, you can butterfly the chicken breast into 2 pieces so it cooks faster.
  4. Butter lettuce: Or substitute romaine lettuce, green leaf lettuce, or even regular cabbage (for more crunch).
  5. Thai bird chiles: These tiny red chiles are available at well-stocked grocery stores and Asian markets. They pack some serious heat, especially if you leave the seeds in as is traditional.
  6. Yield: This recipe makes four entree-sized salads with 6 ounces of chicken per salad.
  7. Storage: Store leftover chicken covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.25 saladCalories: 401kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 49gFat: 20gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0.03gCholesterol: 145mgSodium: 850mgPotassium: 1058mgFiber: 2gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 2563IUVitamin C: 56mgCalcium: 41mgIron: 2mg
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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