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.


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    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:

    Rate this Recipe

    1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (207 votes, average: 3.65 out of 5)


    on Reply

    good for lunch . thanks

    on Reply

    I am nut free and wonder if I could use Wow Butter for the dressing instead of peanut butter. Wow Butter is a peanut butter substitute made with soy. Do you think this would work? It has the texture and taste of peanut butter...

      on Reply

      Hi Lauren - we haven't tried that before but I'm sure it would work!

    on Reply

    Thank you so much for your response . One more question . What is the serving size? And how many servings does it make ?

      on Reply

      Hi Debbie - this serves about 6 people. The serving size on the recipe author's recipe is 1/6th of the recipe.

    on Reply

    Can I substitute quinoa with cauliflower rice ?

      on Reply

      Hi Debbie - I don't see why not!

    on Reply

    Can I substitute quinoa for cauliflower rice?

      on Reply

      Hi Debbie! Sure, that seems like a fun idea!

    on Reply

    I have not made a recipe with quinoa and not cooked it first. How does that work out in this recipe? Does it soften up due to the dressing?

      on Reply

      Hi Sherry - if you click on the green circle it brings you to the full directions where it tells you how to cook the quinoa :) You definitely do want to cook it first!

    on Reply

    Made this tonight and it was delicious! I didn't realize I was out of quinoa and it was so good I ate it without! Only other substition was that I added raw broccoli. Would definitely recommend adding the beans which added to the nutty flavor. This made a Lot! Definitely enough for 4+ people ( or 4 meals if you're like me and made it for yourself). Yum!

    on Reply

    How far in advance could I make the dressing?

      on Reply

      Probably a day or two!

    on Reply

    Looks like a recipe I would like to share with my kids❣

    on Reply

    add a few handfuls of fresh spinach for a greens boost. i also threw in trader joe's sriracha baked tofu for additional protein - say what?! yum!

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