Get your daily dose of veggies while satisfying that Thai food craving with this super simple, colorful Thai Chicken Quinoa Salad.
I’m a sucker for Thai food.
Italian may be my first love, but Thai food is a close second. And sushi. And barbecue. And chocolate! I can’t help it, I just love food of all kinds.
But seriously, if you’ve never tried Thai food, I have to tell you to go find a reputable restaurant. You understand, right? As much as I enjoy cooking, I also get great joy out of a good meal I didn’t have to prepare myself. It’s also my favorite kind of research – find an authentic little place, study what I eat, and then go home to try and recreate it. And then share it with you!
Thai food is this amazing comingling of sweet, salty, and spicy (if you want) dishes that center around ingredients like coconut and lime and Thai basil. Throw in some fish sauce, onions, peppers, and peanuts, and you’re in business.
I know, I know. Quinoa isn’t exactly a Thai staple. But I was trying to find a healthier way of incorporating some Thai flavors. You know, being responsible and stuff… for once. And quinoa is so easy to make, absorbs the flavor of whatever you throw in it, and makes for a hearty salad – plus I think it’s pretty. And pretty food is part of the experience.
So, yes. Quinoa.
What you need for Thai Chicken Quinoa Salad:
- extra virgin olive oil
- unrefined sesame oil
- soy sauce
- white distilled vinegar
- lime juice
- spring mix salad
A few notes on sesame oil:
There’s sesame oil, and then there’s sesame oil. I’ve made the mistake of buying the wrong kind, so let me help you avoid the same thing.
Refined sesame oil is just that – it’s been refined. The sesame seeds were cleaned in some way (which doesn’t sound bad, right?); but cleaned enough to remove their natural flavor. You don’t want this kind. Check the label. If it says “refined,” put it back.
What you do want is unrefined sesame oil. Check the ingredients. It may not say “unrefined,” but as long as it doesn’t say “refined,” you’re golden. You want this kind because it has a really nice nutty flavor that’s crucial to the taste of the chicken as well as the dressing.
How you make Thai Chicken Quinoa Salad:
First, make the quinoa according to the package instructions – rinse well, and then just bring the quinoa and water to a boil, cover, and let simmer until they sprout, 10-15 minutes. (Every package I’ve ever bought suggests to rinse the quinoa first, in order to avoid a soapy aftertaste. I have no idea if that soap taste is a real thing or not, so I do it. I’m usually a rule follower. What can I say?) Set aside.
Heat the olive oil and sesame oil in a pan, and add the chicken, peppers, onions, garlic powder, and ground ginger. Saute until cooked through and the veggies have carmelized a bit – 10-15 minutes.
Next, mix the quinoa and chicken mixture in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate to chill – maybe an hour.
Throw all the dressing ingredients in a jar – garlic, ginger, soy sauce, water, vinegar, honey, sesame oil, and lime juice. Now shake it like a Polaroid picture. Boom. Done.
After the quinoa and chicken have cooled, add some chopped cilantro, shredded carrots, and dressing. Mix until coated with the dressing, and serve cold with cashews on top.
What I love about this recipe is that I can make it ahead and just leave it in the fridge until time to serve. The day before, the morning of, whatever. And even if I run late on time, I can still whip it up pretty quickly and just opt to serve it as a warm dish without the salad. Can’t go wrong!
Want a little spicy kick? Add some sriracha to your dressing or just squirt some on top of your serving.
Think you can get your family to try this healthier approach to Thai takeout? Let us know in the comments!
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our family in this way!
Thai Chicken Quinoa Salad
- 2 c. quinoa
- 4 c. water
- 1 Tb. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tb. unrefined sesame oil
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 orange bell pepper diced
- 2 white onions diced
- 3 lb. chicken diced and uncooked
- 2 tsp. garlic powder
- 2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 bunch of cilantro chopped
- 1 c. carrots shredded
- spring mix salad
- salted cashews
- For the dressing:
- 3 cloves of garlic chopped
- 1 Tb. fresh ginger chopped
- 3 Tb. soy sauce
- 2 Tb. water
- 2 Tb. white distilled vinegar
- 2 Tb. honey
- 1 Tb. sesame oil
- juice from one lime
- Prepare the quinoa per the package instructions and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil and sesame oil in a pan, and add peppers, onions, chicken, garlic powder, ground ginger, and salt. Saute until cooked through and peppers and onions have carmelized – about 10-15 minutes.
- Combine the cooked quinoa with the chicken mixture, cover, and let cool in the refrigerator until chilled – about an hour.
- Prepare the dressing by placing all ingredients in a jar and shake until combined.
- Once the quinoa and chicken have cooled, add the cilantro, carrots, and dressing, and mix to combine. Serve alone or on top of spring mix salad, and top with cashews.