Combining Thai-inspired flavors and ingredients to create a colorful salad is easy! Why not add a tropical spin to a mundane pasta salad to make meal time more exciting?
One bowl delivers a satisfying mix of noodles, veggies, and fruit. Generously drizzle some sweet and savory peanut dressing on top to make this an irresistible, craveable salad.
The best part? It takes less than 30 minutes to prepare the noodles and bring the ingredients together to create this light, vibrant dish!
How to Make Thai Noodle Salad
Salads are the ultimate way to add wholesome fruits and vegetables to any meal. However, eating the same plate of plants and carbs can get mundane. One easy way to switch things up is to incorporate some exotic pantry ingredients for a welcomed flavor change.
Now is the time to try some classic Thai elements and see how they transform the taste of common foods. A bottle of fish sauce, dried rice noodles, rice vinegar, and chili sauce are my secret weapons for this salad.
What Is in This Salad?
I always try to make my salads as colorful as possible to maximize the unique nutritional benefits from each plant. Freshly chopped romaine lettuce, red cabbage, red bell pepper, and carrots add a nice crispy snap to each bite.
The bright orange flesh of a juicy mango is a Thai staple and adds a nice fruity and tangy taste. Whole cilantro leaves and sliced green onions add herbaceous notes. Roasted and chopped peanuts are sprinkled on top for a rich, nutty flavor and extra crunch.
What Are the Ingredients in the Sauce?
I’m a big believer that a good salad dressing ties everything together.
This smooth and luscious sauce effortlessly whisks into a pourable blend. Sweet, pungent, savory, and spicy flavors are all hallmarks of Thai cuisine, and they shine through in this dressing.
The base is creamy peanut butter, to which I add lime juice, rice vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, Sriracha chili sauce and just a hint of fish sauce to give an umami punch. To make this dish gluten-free, use gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos instead of the soy sauce.
I also use this dressing as a dip for crudite and fresh springs rolls. It’s a versatile sauce, not just for salad, and it stores beautifully.
What Are the Best Noodles to Buy?
When selecting noodles for the salad, dried rice noodles are my top pick. I used the wider pad Thai style for this recipe. However, thinner rice noodles work great too.
I noticed that once the noodles are cooked, they get stuck together if they sit too long after draining. This is due to the natural rice starches released from the noodles as they cook, creating a tacky surface.
If this happens, it’s an easy fix! Simply rinse the noodles under cool water and gently separate with a fork or fingers. Toss them with the rest of the salad ingredients when ready to devour.
Can I Make This Salad Ahead of Time?
All of the salad ingredients are very robust and will keep about three days after prepping. The dressing can be made and stored in an airtight container for five days. Toss together when ready to serve.
If enjoying the same day, toss all of the ingredients together with some of the dressing so the noodles stay separated. Serve with extra garnishes like chopped peanuts, cilantro, green onions, and more dressing.
Leftovers will wilt a bit, but keep well for 3 to 4 days.
How to Adapt This Recipe
There are endless ways to make this Thai Noodle Salad new and exciting. Give these options a try:
- Add extra protein like grilled shrimp, chicken, pork, or beef.
- Try kale instead of romaine lettuce.
- Add pineapple or papaya instead of mango.
- Use creamy cashew butter or chopped cashews instead of peanuts.
- Use soba or ramen noodles instead of rice noodles.
- Love noodles? Feel free to double the amount in the ingredient list.
Need More Interesting Salad Ideas? Give These a Try!
- Have dinner in a minute with these Vietnamese-Style Noodle Bowls.
- Black Rice Bowls with Tofu satisfy vegetarians and carnivores alike!
- Soba Noodle Bowls with Spinach and Poached Eggs are on the table in under 30!
- Break out your sous vide skills with these Beef Bulgogi Bowls.
Thai Noodle Salad with Peanut Sauce
Stretch this recipe to serve more people by doubling the amount of noodles.
This also makes a great dinner salad topped with cooked chicken, shrimp, or tofu.
- For the salad:
- 1 small head (about 2 cups) romaine lettuce
- 1/4 head (about 2 cups) red cabbage
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 1 large carrot (about 1/2 cup), shredded
- 1 mango
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
- 1/4 cup green onions, plus more for garnish
- 1/4 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish
- 8 ounces (227 grams) pad Thai rice noodles
- For the peanut dressing
- (makes 3/4 cup):
- 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 3 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 4 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
- 4 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon sriracha, or chili paste
- 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Cook the rice noodles:
Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add rice noodles, stirring occasionally, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Drain and cool the noodles:
Transfer to a colander, drain, and rinse with cool water until noodles are cold. Allow to drain well until ready to add to the salad. If noodles stick together, rinse them in cool water to separate.
Slice the ingredients:
While the water is coming to a boil, and while the noodles cook and cool, prepare the vegetables.
Put a large serving bowl nearby and add each element to the bowl as you slice or chop it.
- Cut the romaine lettuce into 1/4-inch thin strips the short way.
- Cut the cabbage into 1/4-inch thin strips.
- Thinly slice the bell pepper.
- Shred the carrot. You want about 1/2 cup of shredded carrot.
- Peel the mango and cut it into slices an 1/8-inch thick.
- Chop the cilantro. Thinly slice the green onions.
- Roughly chop the roasted peanuts.
Make the peanut dressing:
In a small bowl, whisk together peanut butter, lime juice, water, brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, fish sauce, sriracha, ginger, and garlic until smooth.
Combine the salad:
Add the rice noodles to the bowl with the vegetables, herbs, and peanuts. Pour half of the dressing over the salad.
Garnish salad with additional cilantro leaves, green onions, and chopped peanuts. Serve the remaining dressing on the side.