This crispy chicken Thai salad is super refreshing thanks to a light but flavorful lime dressing and plenty of fresh herbs. The chicken is amazing on its own, but transcendent when paired with the crunch and tang of the salad.
If you’re a long-time reader, you may have heard me mention my lack of love for salad. However, I’ve been working on changing that, because eating lots of raw vegetables is so good for you, and salads are generally easy and quick to put together. Also, I get so much lettuce in my CSA, and I definitely don’t want it to go to waste.
Here’s the formula I’ve discovered for making salads that I don’t hate: some kind of greens, preferably fresh from the farm + something sweet (usually fruit) + something crunchy (often nuts) + something creamy like avocado or cheese + plenty of pops of color + a flavorful dressing that’s just tart enough. And if said salad is meant to be an entire meal, add in a good dose of protein.
This crispy chicken Thai salad has all of that covered. I used mix greens for the base and added in plenty of fresh herbs. Cilantro, basil, and mint make this salad unique from the get-go. Thai basil is great if you can find it, but I used Italian basil when I made the salad for these photos and it works really well, too. For our “something sweet”, we have pineapple. The crunchy base is covered a few times over with the red bell pepper matchsticks, the toasted cashews, the sliced scallions, and the crispy chicken skin. Avocado provides the creaminess factor, and almost everything here provides a great pop of color.
And the dressing for this salad is one of my favorite parts: it’s lighter and more refreshing than most dressings because it only has a little bit of oil. I usually follow a 3:1 ratio of oil to vinegar when making salad dressing, but totally broke the mold with this one. It’s mostly fresh lime juice, with a tablespoon of honey, some fish sauce, and just the tiniest bit of oil. Minced shallots mellow a bit as they sit in the limey mixture, so they provide just the right amount of savory goodness. The dressing is light and tastes quintessentially Thai to me–it ties all of the elements of the salad together perfectly. You won’t taste any fishiness here, so don’t worry. The fish sauce just adds an umami flavor that will make everyone who eats this ask what makes the dressing SO good.
And for protein we have crispy chicken, adapted from a Nom Nom Paleo recipe, which may be my favorite discovery since going paleo. I’ve made it countless times and it pairs well with a myriad of sides, but is especially epic on as part of this crispy chicken Thai salad. Years ago I used to eat at a Thai restaurant which offered crispy chicken pad thai, which consisted of regular pad Thai with a crunchy, sliced fried chicken cutlet on top. It was so good, but of course not so good for you. My nostalgic memory of that greasy dish inspired this combo here, in which deboned, skin-on chicken thighs are seared until the skin becomes as crunchy as fried chicken, with a few spices adding just the right amount of seasoning to the meaty side. It is a tiny bit of a pain to debone the thighs, but so worth it. Just get out your kitchen shears and cut along the bone, keeping in mind you also want to remove the cartilage that’s all around one end of the bone. Thighs just have one bone so it’s easy peasy. After you do one or two you’ll get the hang of it, and you’ll be able to debone six thighs in about five minutes.
I really hope you give this crispy chicken Thai salad a try! It’s the perfect way to celebrate the onset of summer.
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons Red Boat fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon avocado or olive oil
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 6 skin-on chicken thighs, deboned*
- Sea salt
- 1 teaspoon avocado oil
- 3 ounces mixed baby greens
- ⅓ cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, torn if large
- ⅓ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro sprigs, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons lightly packed mint leaves
- 2 medium carrots, peeled into strips using a vegetable peeler
- 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, deseeded, and julienned
- 3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
- ⅔ cup cashews, chopped and toasted**
- 8 ounces fresh pineapple, chopped into small chunks (about 1½ cups)
- 1 avocado, peeled, deseeded, and chopped into small chunks
- In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve the salad.
- Season the chicken thighs with salt. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat, then add the ghee or avocado oil. Add the chicken thighs, skin side down. In a small bowl, mix the black pepper, ginger, coriander, and garlic powder. Sprinkle the spices on the meaty side of the chicken. Allow the thighs to cook for 8-10 minutes, until the skin is deep golden brown, rotating the pieces halfway through so they brown evenly. Turn the chicken over and cook for 5 minutes on the second side, or until the chicken is cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a cooling rack, rest for five minutes, then slice into strips.
- Toss all the salad ingredients with dressing to taste, top with the sliced crispy chicken, and serve immediately.
**I toast cashews in a dry skillet over medium heat until they turn light golden brown. Transfer them to a plate and let them cool before adding them to the salad.
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