Take-out Inspiration: Thai Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

Friday, July 20, 2012

The perfect accompaniment to Pad Thai? A colorful Thai salad with spicy peanut dressing, of course!

Thai Salad with Peanut Dressing | #pkwayThere’s nothing not to love about a Thai salad, with its tasty dressing and chopped peanut garnish. I often order one alongside Pad Thai. That said, I’ve grown weary of the takeout version with its nutritionally bereft iceberg lettuce and gastronomically challenged anemic tomatoes hiding under that ravishing blanket of creamy peanut dressing. Rather than telephone ordering “Thai salad, please—hold the salad” and risk confusion (and derision), it has become obvious that it’s really just best for everyone involved if I make my own Thai salad at home.

My main goal was to increase the nutritional value of the dish. To retain the traditional flavors, I included a hard-boiled (hard-cooked) egg, cubed tofu, carrots, and a garnish of chopped peanuts. (This is all part of peanut theme. I placed these atop a bed of spinach and savoy cabbage and topped the whole thing with chopped scallions and sliced red pepper; I certainly would have included tomatoes had I any on hand at the time.

Now, if I were to make this into a big dinner salad, I would likely add garbanzos, avocado, and a few other veggies to the mix in order to boost the nutrient density and calories of the meal. There was no need for all that given this was a side salad served alongside a Pad Thai, however. Not to mention that this whole salad charade is designed to create an effective spicy peanut dressing delivery system, obviously. I mean, who are we kidding here?

Sweet and spicy, nutty and creamy, and simply amazing. Here’s the how-to.

Peanut (Satay) Sauce


  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch piece ginger
  • Juice from 1 lime (~2 tbsp)
  • 2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoons low-sodium tamari (soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 3 heaping tablespoon peanut butter, unsalted
  • 1-2 teaspoons Sriracha (Asian chili sauce), or to taste
  • 1-2 teaspoons agave nectar (or honey)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation. Crush the garlic and grate the ginger into a small bowl. Add remaining ingredients and whisk until combined (or blend in a food processor). Taste. Tweak as desired. Too sweet? Pour in a bit more vinegar or give another squeeze of lime. Too thick? Same thing (or more peanut oil). Too bland? Consider more sriracha, soy sauce, or black pepper. Rewhisk, reseason, and you’re done.

The visible difference between my Thai salad and the take-away is the greens. However, I’m also making a number of other changes to improve its nutritional profile such as reducing the salt by using low-sodium soy sauce and unsalted peanut butter. My version likely has less sugar, too, and features brown rice vinegar.

Like a satay sauce, this dressing makes a superb dip for vegetables—cucumbers come to mind—or cubed tofu. It could also be served with fish and vegetables in a main meal and/or with pasta, as it’s rather similar to the sauce for cold sesame noodles. One serving suggestion: salmon satay with noodles, kale, and red pepper. 

Oh, and did I forget to mention that this dressing-slash-sauce will rock your world?

Just to be clear, we still do order Thai takeout on occasion (lest my husband revolt). And you can bet that I still order a Thai salad, although I add a whole bunch of good-for-you greens and veggies to the mix, employing whatever I have sitting in my fridge.

And of course I order extra dressing.

Learn more about food personality and health expert Dr. PK Newby here, or her experience as a nutrition scientist, professor, and consultant here. Or click here if you just want to ogle food porn featuring plant-based, globally inspired cooking.

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Dr. P.K. Newby is a nutrition scientist, speaker, and author with expertise in all things food, farm to fork, whether preventing obesity and other chronic diseases through diet or teaching planet-conscious eating. As a health expert and food personality, she brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability to educate and inspire, helping people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. Healthy Hedonism (TM) is her philosophy: Because healthy food shouldn’t suck.

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