Recipe: Crunchy Thai Chicken Quinoa Salad with Peanut Dressing (GF + DF)

Lunch Recipes, Salad Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes

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By: Chris Freytag, CPT

Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

This crunchy Thai salad hits so many levels of goodness. It’s loaded with good-for-you ingredients, it tastes so crunchy and fresh, and it’s gluten-free and dairy-free making it super versatile for an array of people.

Salad is my go-to lunch choice, so I knew this quinoa salad would hit the spot! We love making this Thai chopped salad for a potluck as well as prepping it for healthy lunches all week long. If you’re chopping and making each element yourself, this recipe can take some time. So throw on a podcast, or a favorite playlist and get chopping. But you can also easily use a few shortcuts that make this salad come together much faster (see below).

This crunchy Thai peanut quinoa salad can also easily be kept vegetarian. Just skip the chicken and you’re good to go! Quinoa packs some major protein, plus it’s filling so you really don’t need the chicken if you don’t want it.

Why We ADORE This Crunchy Thai Cashew Quinoa Salad

  • Gluten-Free (be sure to use a GF brand of soy sauce, tamari, or coconut aminos)
  • Dairy-Free
  • Vegetarian/Vegan (omit the chicken)
  • Protein-packed (thanks to the quinoa! And chicken if you include)
  • Filling
  • Fresh

The Best Thai Peanut Dressing

Top view of Thai peanut dressing in a mason jar with a spoon

This Thai peanut dressing is SO good, it’s nearly impossible not to lick the spoon. Just the right amount of heat, sweet and tang, plus that delicious peanut goodness.

This peanut dressing comes together super quickly in a food processor and can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Grilled Chicken Instructions

A cutting board with grilled chopped chicken thighs

If you choose to include chicken, you can buy pre-cooked or cook your own. We love to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs which stay nice and juicy.

You can use your favorite recipe for simply cooked chicken thighs, but we love using this chicken thigh marinade. Simply marinate for 30 minutes up to 12 hours and then cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 160. We love using our nonstick grill pan and press which makes really delicious grill marks without ever having to fire up a grill.

Let rest for 10 minutes and then chop. Top directly onto your crunchy Thai salad or store in the fridge for 4-5 days.

Make Ahead Instructions

This crunchy Thai peanut salad is a GREAT recipe to make ahead/meal prep. We love to prep certain elements of this recipe on Sunday and then store them separately in the fridge to combine for lunches all week long.

  • Cook quinoa in your Instant Pot or on the stove
  • Shred cabbage, carrots, cilantro and toss together
  • Cook chicken thigh and chop
  • Make peanut dressing

Be sure to store each item separately to keep things fresh.

Shortcut Tips

A gluten-free, dairy-free crunchy thai salad with quinoa and chicken in a bowl sprinkled with cashews and edamamev

If you’re short on time or just looking to make this recipe come together a bit faster, here are some great ways to do so:

  • Buy shredded cabbage and shredded carrots pre-packaged
  • Buy ready-to-eat microwave quinoa
  • Buy pre-cooked chicken

If you’re making this recipe for a crowd, it’s more cost-efficient to make each element yourself rather than buying many bags of shredded cabbage and carrots. Using a food processor to shred cabbage, carrots and cilantro makes quick work of what would be a long time spent with a knife in hand.

Other Healthy Main Dish Salads

Total Time: 30 minutes


  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked (yields 3 cups cooked)
  • 1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
  • 1/4 head purple cabbage, shredded
  • 2-3 large carrots, shredded
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup cooked edamame (steam-in-bag mukimame is so easy!)
  • For The Peanut Dressing
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce (gluten-free if needed)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chili paste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 knob ginger, peeled
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • Water to thin (we usually about 2 tablespoons or so)
  • Optional
  • Cooked chicken, chopped
  • For serving
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • Peanuts and/or cashews


  1. Cook quinoa according to package instructions in a pressure cooker or stovetop.
  2. Combine shredded cabbage, carrots, cilantro and edamame in a large bowl.
  3. Place all ingredients for the peanut dressing in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  4. When ready to serve, toss cooked quinoa, shredded slaw blend, and cooked chicken (if using) in a large bowl.
  5. Drizzle with peanut dressing and top with peanuts, cashews, and a big squeeze of lime.

Nutrition Information Per Serving

Calories: 355

Protein: 13 gram(s)

Fat: 19 gram(s)

Carbohydrates: 34 gram(s)

Fiber: 6 gram(s)

Sugar: 8 gram(s)

From the kitchen of:

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