Thai Quinoa Salad

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This crunchy, flavor-packed Thai Quinoa Salad is loaded with good-for-you ingredients: crisp veggies, sweet mango, fresh herbs, and a medley of greens. This simple salad is tossed with a peanut dressing that takes minutes to whip together in the blender.

 

Overhead image of the Thai quinoa salad in a bowl all tossed together

Thai Quinoa Salad

It’s been a minute since I’ve shared a quinoa salad here and, over the years, the various quinoa salads I’ve shared have been very popular.

We’ve got this standard quinoa salad with a lemon vinaigrette, this crazy popular sweet potato quinoa salad, and a personal favorite — this Southwest Quinoa Salad with a tangy cilantro-lime vinaigrette. 

And while there are other flavor variations of quinoa salads (you can browse through my salad archives if you’re interested!), I’ve never shared a Thai-inspired quinoa salad. And this salad — it’s ranking at the top of my favorites list. It’s crunchy, sweet & savory, and loaded with nutritious ingredients you feel good eating. But don’t worry — we aren’t sacrificing flavor for health, this salad delivers an explosion of flavor!

 

Process shots-- images of the quinoa and dressing being made and then it being poured over the salad

Thai Quinoa Salad Base Ingredients: Quinoa, Kale, & Cabbage

Quinoa

I love adding quinoa to this salad as it adds texture, flavor, and lots of protein. I find quinoa to be quite mild, especially in this Thai Quinoa Salad with all the other ingredients. The quinoa tends to take on the flavor of the supporting ingredients and dressing. A few tips:

  • Make sure to rinse the quinoa before cooking it. Quinoa has a natural coating called saponin which can make it taste bitter. Pour the uncooked quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold water thoroughly for 30 seconds to one minute.
  • You can improve the flavor of quinoa by seasoning it properly. A little bit of salt goes a long way — I like to add 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt to every 1/2 cup (uncooked) quinoa.
  • Let the cooked quinoa cool completely before adding it to the salad (we don’t want to wilt the kale & cabbage!) 

QUICK TIP

To speed up the process for quinoa cooling: spread the cooked and fluffed quinoa on a sheet pan in one even layer. Place the sheet pan in the fridge (or freezer) for 10-15 minutes or until cooled to room temperature. Alternatively, cook up extra quinoa beforehand (like when you’re making this Quinoa Enchilada Bake and use it straight from the fridge in this salad.

Kale

Kale can get a bad rap, but prepared properly and it is amazing in a salad — it’s heartier with a bit more texture and holds the dressing nicely. Here’s a quick breakdown for how I recommend preparing the kale:

  • Start by removing the thick stems and then very thinly slice (ribbon) the kale. The smaller the shreds of kale, the better!
  • Once it’s all chopped, throw it in a colander (or even better, use the base of a salad spinner!) and give it a quick rinse.
  • With your hands, massage the kale for about a minute and then give it another quick rinse.
  • Allow the kale to dry completely before adding it to this Thai Quinoa Salad. Wet kale will make the salad less flavorful and keep the dressing from adhering as nicely.

Cabbage

For quick prep, use pre-shredded Coleslaw mix instead! While a pre-shredded mix is overall more spendy, it can be worth it if you don’t have time or want to avoid slicing your own cabbage.

(If you’ve never cut a cabbage before, we share visual step-by-step photos how to cut a cabbage in this coleslaw recipe).

Thai Quinoa Salad Additions

Beyond the base of quinoa, kale, and cabbage, we’ve got all our toppings. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Mango. We love honey mangoes (also known as Ataulfo or yellow mangoes) in this salad. Honey Mangoes are sweeter and creamier than regular mangoes and don’t have the typical fibers throughout. To tell if your mangoes are ripe, gently squeeze the mango. If ripe, it will give slightly. Wait to make this Thai Quinoa Salad until your mango is at peak ripeness for the best flavor and texture. Here’s a quick and helpful visual guide on how to cut a mango
  • Carrots. For the best flavor and texture, I prefer using regular carrots and cutting them into matchsticks, but to save time & energy grab a bag of matchstick carrots!
  • Red Pepper. Avoid bell peppers with soft or sunken areas, black spots, or wrinkly skin. They should feel heavy for their size which means you’ve got a thick-walled and juicy pepper.
  • Edamame. Edamame is sold fresh or frozen in the store, but I typically grab the frozen shelled soybeans since it’s hard for me to find fresh in my area. The recipe details how to prepare frozen edamame, but don’t forget to salt it!
  • Fresh Herbs. We love the blend of fresh cilantro and fresh green onions best — the both add so much to this salad. 
  • Cashews. We love dry roasted and lightly salted best — more flavor without any extra effort on your part. Using salted cashews also add a nice “seasoning” to the salad.

Up close overhead image of the Thai salad with the dressing drizzled over it

Peanut Dressing

We’re obsessed with this dressing; it’s indulgent, rich, and a little tangy! That said, this peanut dressing is far from an authentic Thai dressing. It’s more on the sweet side (as opposed to savory) which is intentional to complement all the raw crunchy veggies.

Although the sauce is sweet by design, you can always tweak it to your preference and make it less sweet (by adding less honey). Alternatively, you can add some spice (start with 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, add red pepper flakes, or add in some chili sauce). 

We add 2 tablespoons hot water to slightly thin the dressing (we like it fairly thick), but if you’d like it a bit more thin, add 1-2 tablespoons additional hot water to thin.

Adding Protein to This Thai Quinoa Salad

While it may seem this vegetarian salad is missing protein, it’s actually loaded with protein. Quinoa, edamame, and cashews are all excellent sources of plant-based protein. 

That said, this salad lends well to additional protein being added; I’d recommend leftover shredded rotisserie chicken!

Overhead image of the salad all tossed and ready to be served

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Thai Quinoa Salad

5 from 1 vote
This crunchy, flavor-packed Thai Quinoa Salad is loaded with good-for-you ingredients: crisp veggies, sweet mango, fresh herbs, and a medley of greens. This simple salad is tossed with a peanut dressing that takes minutes to whip together in the blender.
Print Recipe

Thai Quinoa Salad

5 from 1 vote
This crunchy, flavor-packed Thai Quinoa Salad is loaded with good-for-you ingredients: crisp veggies, sweet mango, fresh herbs, and a medley of greens. This simple salad is tossed with a peanut dressing that takes minutes to whip together in the blender.
Course Dinner, lunch, Main Course, Salad, Vegetarian
Cuisine Healthy
Keyword Thai Quinoa Salad
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 707kcal
Cost $7.81

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1/2 cup (90g) uncooked white quinoa
  • 2 cups (135g) kale
  • 1 cup (118g) edamame (See Note 1)
  • 2 cups (127g) coleslaw mix (or shredded cabbage)
  • 1 red pepper coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup (78g) matchstick (or shredded) carrots
  • 1 cup (150g) coarsely chopped mango (~1 large or 2 small mangos; See Note 2)
  • 1/2 cup (26g) coarsely chopped cilantro (~1/2 bunch)
  • 1/4 cup (17g) thinly sliced green onions (~3-4 onions)
  • 1/2 cup (74g) cashews coarsely chopped roasted and lightly salted

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup (44g) creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 clove garlic coarsely chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons EACH: rice vinegar and low sodium soy sauce
  • Fine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

Instructions

  • QUINOA: Prepare the quinoa by rinsing it under cold water in a fine mesh sieve to remove the bitter saponin coating. Combine the quinoa and water in a small pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, add in 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (or to taste), reduce the heat to low, and cover the pot. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, keep the quinoa covered, and let stand for 10-15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and place in the fridge or freezer to cool to room temperature.
  • EDAMAME: Meanwhile, bring a pot with 6 cups of water to a boil, then add in 1 tablespoon fine sea salt, and the 1 cup of frozen and shelled edamame. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until edamame is tender. Drain thoroughly.
  • KALE: Remove the thick stems and then very thinly slice (ribbon) the kale. The smaller the shreds of kale, the better! Once it's all chopped, put it in a colander (or the base of a salad spinner) and give it a quick rinse. Rub and massage the kale for about a minute and then give it another quick rinse. Allow the kale to dry completely before using in the salad or spin in the salad spinner to dry it quickly.
  • VEGGIE/FRUIT PREP: Thinly slice the cabbage or measure out 2 cups of coleslaw mix. Coarsely chop the red pepper, mango, cilantro (and then loosely measure to get 1/2 cup) and the cashews. Thinly slice the green onions.
  • DRESSING: Place 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter, 3 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons hot water, coarsely chopped garlic clove, 1 and 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 and 1/2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small blender jar. Process until smooth and refrigerate while preparing everything else.
  • SALAD ASSEMBLY: Combine the cooked and completely cooled quinoa, shredded kale, coleslaw/cabbage, red pepper, carrots, mango, cilantro, green onions, and cashews in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing (to desired preference; we use all the dressing, but you may prefer less; see instruction #7). Toss to combine and enjoy!
  • STORAGE: This salad doesn't sit well with the dressing, so only dress what will be enjoyed the same day. Store any leftover salad and dressing separately.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Edamame is sold fresh or frozen in the store, but I typically use these frozen shelled soybeans since it’s hard for me to find fresh in my area. 
Note 2: We love honey mangoes (also known as Ataulfo or yellow mangoes) in this salad. They're sweeter and creamier than regular mangoes and don’t have the typical fibers throughout. To tell if your mangoes are ripe, gently squeeze the fruit. If ripe, it will give slightly. Wait until your mango is at peak ripeness to make this Thai Quinoa Salad, for the best flavor and texture. Here’s a quick and helpful visual guide on how to cut a mango

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 707kcal | Carbohydrates: 85g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Sodium: 197mg | Potassium: 1935mg | Fiber: 13g | Sugar: 34g | Vitamin A: 24590IU | Vitamin C: 276mg | Calcium: 325mg | Iron: 8mg

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