Thai-Inspired Chicken Chopped Salad is exploding with contrasting flavors and textures of crunchy Napa cabbage, juicy chicken, colorful peppers, sweet carrots, salty peanuts, & fresh cilantro, all finished off with an amazing Peanut Dressing!
So how fabulous and gorgeous is this Thai-Inspired Chicken Chopped Salad?! Let me assure you that it tastes even better than it looks.
It's a pseudo-copycat, inspired by the Thai Chicken Salad at Panera Bread. But I decided to swap out a few of the ingredients for additions that I liked more.
And instead of mimicking their Thai Chili Vinaigrette, I borrowed a page from one of my most popular ever crock pot recipes -- Slow Cooker Thai Peanut Chicken -- and adapted that peanut sauce into a dressing. I'm telling you...it's so good it's downright drinkable.
Incidentally, I found it a bit confusing that Panera calls their salad "Thai Chicken Salad." Because when I think chicken + salad I think this or this or THIS (<--insert heart eyes emoji here).
So I decided to call today's recipe Thai-Inspired Chicken Chopped Salad with Peanut Dressing, since all of the ingredients are chopped or semi-chopped. Hopefully that alleviates any confusion for my chicken salad and chopped salad aficionados out there. 😉
The base of this salad is a head of Napa cabbage. Have you tried it before? I meant to take a picture of the Napa cabbage that I bought in case some of you weren't sure what to look for in the grocery store...but I forgot, dang it. Basically, though, it looks similar to a large head of romaine lettuce except it's the same firm texture and light green color as regular cabbage. The great thing about Napa cabbage is that it's nice and crunchy, which means that it complements the other ingredients in this salad while holding up nicely to the dressing.
Alternatively, if you can't find Napa cabbage, you may make this salad with chopped hearts of romaine. Or, as I did for the salad pictured here today, use half Napa cabbage and half romaine (after all, that tub of hearts of romaine in my fridge wasn't getting any younger). Any which way you make it, your salad is guaranteed to be delicious.
As for the toppings?
Chicken. I typically just use a rotisserie chicken for this recipe. The one I picked up this time was from Whole Foods -- whose rotisserie chickens are usually on the smaller size -- but it produced about 3 ½ cups chopped chicken which was the perfect amount for this salad.
During the summer, I'm more likely to grill a few chicken breasts to slice and lay across the top of the salad.
I've also been known to use leftover chopped chicken or turkey.
Whatever's easy and available is the name of the game.
Red bell pepper. You'll notice that this recipe calls for a large red bell pepper, which should yield about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups, sliced.
But during my last trip to the grocery store, I spied one of those cellophane bags of multicolored mini sweet peppers, and I figured if one color is good, three colors are better, right? So I sliced up about 6 mini peppers for my salad.
Carrots. Onto the next ingredient...you may buy a bag of julienned carrots (or julienne them yourself), but I opted for quickly grating some whole carrots in my food processor.
And if you'd like to add even more goodies to your salad, go for it:
- Sliced cucumbers
- Chopped celery
- Sliced green onions
- Fried wonton strips
...the possibilities are endless!
The Peanut Dressing
The Peanut Dressing is perhaps my favorite part of this salad. A base of creamy peanut butter is flavored with honey, soy sauce, freshly-squeezed lime juice, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and sriracha. And, of course, you can easily tweak the ratios to your tastes!
I'd recommend making the dressing as directed to start. But then, should you so desire, feel free to add more soy sauce, honey, and/or sriracha to make it saltier, sweeter, and/or hotter. Also, as tempting as it may be to add more garlic (and believe me, I loveloveLOVE garlic), I find that including too much raw garlic in a salad dressing can result in that garlic revisiting me (*urp*) for the next 12 hours. So that ingredient I'd leave as is. 😉
Finally -- as I request with so many of my recipes -- please don't leave off the garnishes!
Yes, the salad is fabulous already. But sprinkle it with salty peanuts, fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, and cute little sesame seeds (I had black ones in the cupboard), and ohmygosh. Even. Better!
So are you excited to give this Thai-Inspired Chicken Chopped Salad with Peanut Dressing a whirl? My 3-year-old daughter won't yet touch salad (I'll change her mind yet), but my big boys ate three servings each! And if a 3rd grader proclaiming that he's going to recommend this recipe to his salad-loving teacher is not a glowing endorsement, I don't know what is. 😉
More Smashing Salads
- P.F. Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps Salad
- Salad with Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette
- Holiday Honeycrisp Salad
- Ultimate Taco Salad with Avocado Ranch Dressing
Thai-Inspired Chicken Chopped Salad with Peanut Dressing
FOR THE DRESSING:
- 1 large clove of garlic
- ⅓ cup creamy peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lime juice
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil (OR another light vegetable oil)
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil, regular or toasted
- ¼ teaspoon sriracha
- Warm water, 1 teaspoon at a time, to thin dressing to desired consistency (only if needed)
FOR THE SALAD:
- 16 ounces chopped Napa cabbage (OR hearts of romaine, OR a combo of the two)
- 3 to 4 cups chopped or shredded cooked chicken
- 1 ½ cups thinly sliced red bell peppers (OR multi-colored mini sweet peppers)
- 1 ½ cups julienned or shredded carrots
- FOR SERVING: cilantro leaves (chopped or torn), chopped salted peanuts, sesame seeds, and lime wedges
- To prepare the dressing, place the clove of garlic in a small food processor or blender. Pulse until garlic is finely minced. Add the peanut butter, honey, soy sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar, canola oil, sesame oil, and sriracha. Process or blend until completely smooth and combined. If dressing is too thick, add 1 teaspoon warm water and blend again. Repeat until desired consistency is reached. Taste the dressing and adjust to taste by adding a bit more soy sauce (for saltier), honey (for sweeter), or sriracha (for hotter). (Alternatively, finely mince the garlic by hand, combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, and briskly whisk until the dressing is smooth and emulsified.)
- To prepare the salad, place the chopped Napa cabbage in a large bowl. Arrange the chicken, peppers, and carrots on top. Drizzle with desired amount of dressing, toss to combine, and garnish with cilantro leaves, peanuts, sesame seeds, and freshly-squeezed lime juice. Serve immediately.
- Heads of Napa cabbage can vary in size, so I recommend weighing it when you buy it to determine if it's around 1 pound or if it's much heavier, in which case you may not want to use the whole thing. When I made this salad, I needed to use up a 7-ounce tub of hearts of romaine that was nearing its expiration date in my fridge. To that I added ½ of a Napa cabbage -- chopped -- which brought the total amount of my salad greens to about 16 ounces.
- I used a small rotisserie chicken. Once chopped, it measured 3 ½ cups. Alternatively, you may bake or grill 3 large (or 4 medium-sized) chicken breasts to use in this recipe.
This was delicious. I did not have Sriracha so I used sambal olek. I used twice as much sambal as was called for with sriracha. I think I could have used even more. Otherwise I made it exactly to the recipe. A really nice change of pace if you're going to have salad for dinner.
Really great recipe. So healthy & delicious. The dressing is amazing. I will definitely be making this again!
Discovered this recipe yesterday in my search for an Asian salad that would work for my ground chicken. I made the dressing exactly as written, used a mix of Napa cabbage and romaine, and added edamame beans. Didn't have peanuts or cilantro on hand, so just served as it was. Absolutely delicious. My husband couldn't stop raving and was happy there would be leftovers for his lunch today. Will definitely be making this often in the future. Will also be checking out your other recipes for future favorites.
Peggy D Niana
I have made the Thai Chicken Chopped Salad probably over 10 times. I even made it for my Bunco group one night. I love it THAT much! One thing I add is fresh ginger to the dressing. So, so good!
Peggy D Niana
Haha! Apparently, I posted about this recipe back in March! My memory is getting worse! 😉
Samantha at Five Heart Home
Ha...that's okay, Peggy! I love your enthusiasm. 😉 And I'm truly honored that you love this recipe so much! 🙂
I just stumbled upon your website this evening and you've made me so excited! I just bought a medium-sized slow cooker for my boyfriend and I. I love to cook but he can be a bit of a picky eater. I've shown him some of your recipes and he's asking me to make them! They're even high in veggies but don't remind him of that 😉
Samantha at Five Heart Home
Yay, Liss...makes me so happy to hear that! Hope you find some recipes that y'all try and love. 🙂
I absolutely love this recipe. I've made it for my family, for my boyfriend, for my bunco group...for me for lunch! LOVE LOVE LOVE! On special occasions (ie, bunco) I've added wonton strips for crunch. Thank you for posting this!
Would cashew butter work for this recipe? Or not as good? Thanks!
Samantha at Five Heart Home
I think it would work just fine, Maggie. Cashew butter just has a different flavor than peanut butter, so it's going to change the overall flavor of the recipe. But if you like cashew butter, that shouldn't be a bad thing! 😉
I love salad and this one was amazing! Loved the peanut dressing, thinned out with water, so much flavor. I forgot peanuts so I substituted wonton strips. I also gave my chicken an asian marinade before cooking. So delicious, can't wait to make this again!
Oh. My. Goodness! This was amazing! I wanted a crisp salad and this was just right. I made double the dressing and I really shouldn't have because now I might just have to drink it...lol. Thanks for the recipe! Oh, and I added green onions because I am a bit of a fanatic with green onions. They were just right:)
this was really good -- the dressing is ah-maaaazing!!! i had to restrain myself from eating it with a spoon..... i went easy of the sriracha as i can't do too much spice, but it was easy for others in my family to boost the heat by adding a bit to their salad.....
I love spicy, so Thai food is one of my favorite food. Definitely try your recipe out.
Samantha at Five Heart Home
Hope you love it, Vicky! Feel free to boost the sriracha to make it spicier. 🙂
Made this last evening and it was really, really awesome. Peanut dressing is five star. Took me a long time to prepare. Maybe I'm just slow!