Easy Thai Chicken Salad
Here’s a riddle for ya: What’s crunchy, but not fried? What has all five tastes (salty, sweet, sour, spicy, savory), but can be made in just 30 minutes?
Okay. You’re reading the answer. It’s this Easy Thai Chicken Salad. It’s so perfect for a hot spring day and can be eaten as a light dinner or packed for lunch. The veggies are crisp, interesting, and fresh and the papaya (an ingredient I’ve somehow never before used in any Macheesmo recipe) gives the whole thing some nice sweetness.
What’s holds it all together though is a slightly spicy and savory fish sauce dressing. Might sound a bit strange, but trust me that it’s addictive stuff. You’ll be the star of your neighborhood picnic with this bad boy. Well, you might not beat the person that brought cupcakes, but you’ll take a close second place.
1) Poach chicken breasts in a medium pot so they are just covered with water. Heat water until it’s steaming, but not quite simmering. Cover and let sit on low heat until chicken is just cooked through. They should take about 20 minutes to poach. Try not to overcook them or they will dry out. Once cooked, remove chicken breasts, cool, and shred with forks.
2) For dressing, combine jalapeño (seeded) and garlic in a small food processor with lime juice. Pulse until minced. Then add other ingredients and pulse until combined.
3) Chop bok choy, red pepper, cucumber, and grate carrot. For papaya, cut in half and remove seeds (you can eat the seeds, but I don’t love them). Peel papaya and slice thin. Toss veggies and fruit with bok choy. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of dressing.
4) Add pulled chicken and thawed edamame. Garnish with a handful of fresh cilantro and mint and an extra drizzle of dressing. Serve extra dressing on the side.
If you’re planning on storing some of this salad for later, don’t dress it until you’re ready to serve it. The dressing will start to pickle the ingredients a bit so just store them separately until you are ready to serve them.
Easy Thai Chicken Salad
There’s nothing too complicated about this recipe, but the dressing is really important. It may seem like there’s a lot of it, but you’ll want to use a lot of it so there ya go.
Toss all your ingredients in a little food processor and pulse them until they are smooth. If you have a decade old mini food processor, like I do, it’s probably a good idea to pulse the jalapeno and garlic first and then add the other stuff.
You can taste the dressing and adjust it to your liking. You might like it a bit sweeter than I like mine so feel free to add more honey or some brown sugar. It should have balanced flavors of sour, spicy, and sweet.
A Bok Choy Base
I’m basing this recipe off of a Thai Cobb salad recipe from Tavern in Nashville and that one used Napa cabbage as a base. My store happened to be out of Napa cabbage when I was making this so I went with bok choy. I really liked it! It was bright and crispy and worked well as a salad base. Either green will work though!
Now let’s talk alien fruit: Papaya. This thing can be scary when you slice it open, but it’s actually super-easy to deal with.
While you can eat the seeds, I don’t really like them so I just scoop them out, peel the papaya and slice it into thin pieces.
Toss the bok choy with the sliced veggies, papaya, and a few tablespoons of dressing.
The only actual cooking you need to do for this recipe is to poach some chicken. The key is to just barely cover the chicken with water and put it over medium heat until the water is steaming, but not simmering. Cover it and turn heat down to low. Let it cook for 15-20 minutes depending on the thickness of your chicken.
When the chicken is cooked, let it cool and shred it. Then toss it in the salad with the thawed edamame also.
(TIP: You can easily use leftover chicken for this or snag a rotisserie chicken from your deli and shred that up.)
Garnish the salad with lots of fresh mint and cilantro and serve extra dressing on the side. If you’re serving the salad right away, I would toss a few more tablespoons of dressing on the salad as a good base. The dressing is what makes everything pop.
If you’re storing the salad for later though, keep the dressing and salad separate until right before you serve it.
Try out this Thai Chicken Salad this spring. It’s a winner winner chicken salad.