This Thai-inspired crunch salad is loaded with fresh flavors and textures. Shredded cabbage, crunchy vegetables and fresh herbs are tossed with a delicious, creamy peanut dressing. Serve it on it’s own or paired with your favorite protein for the perfect hearty, main course salad.
If you have ever had the California Pizza Kitchen Thai Crunch Salad, you will love this recipe. The ingredients are easily customized to your preferences and it goes well with any protein. It’s the best salad to throw together in the warmer months when you’re likely to have a ton of fresh, crisp veggies in the fridge. It’s nutritious, colorful and super easy to make. The Thai peanut dressing is so good, you’ll be eating it by the spoonful while you make it.
Copycat recipes really aren’t my thing but I live for large salads and CPK’s Thai Crunch Salad is one of my favorites. I just love the flavor profiles and the satisfying crunch! I can’t get CPK takeout where I live so I knew I had to recreate my own version stat!
This post was first published in September 2020. It has been updated most recently as of May 2022 with new images and detailed recipe notes.
Ingredients and Substitutions
This salad is inspired the popular Thai crunch salad from California Pizza kitchen. I wouldn’t exactly call my version a copycat recipe. My twist on it has similar flavors and it’s a super flexible recipe, leaving plenty of room for substitutions and shortcuts with prepared bagged vegetables. Put your own twist on it and have fun!
For the salad base
- Napa cabbage – also known as Chinese cabbage, it’s an oblong, pale green cabbage with tender leaves and mild flavor. Crisp Napa cabbage makes a great crunchy base for this salad. If you can’t find Napa Cabbage, substitute with thinly sliced romaine lettuce or grab a bag of broccoli slaw or coleslaw mix or even Trader Joe’s Cruciferous Crunch.
- Red cabbage – I love to have two kinds of cabbage in this salad for the base. A blend of Napa cabbage and red or purple cabbage is my favorite. We eat with our eyes and it really makes the colors pop! You can usually find bags of pre-shredded red cabbage in the produce section of the grocery store.
- Red bell pepper – you can use thinly sliced red, yellow or orange bell pepper.
- Carrot – shredded or julienne carrots are what you want here. Bagged pre-cut matchstick carrots are a great shortcut here.
- Cucumber – I recommend using English cucumber. No need to peel and their less watery than regular cucumbers. Julienne cucumbers so they mix well into the salad.
- Green onions – dark and pale green parts only.
- Cilantro – just a small bunch cilantro leaves will do.
- Chopped peanuts – for garnish and more texture.
- Variations – add edamame, ripe Hass avocados, sesame seeds, wonton strips, crispy rice sticks or your favorite protein.
For the creamy peanut dressing
This dressing also doubles as a great peanut sauce for dipping or for cold noodle salad if you have any leftover dressing. I doubt you will!
- Creamy peanut butter – I recommend using no sugar added natural peanut butter
- Fresh garlic
- Fresh ginger
- Soy sauce
- Rice vinegar
- Lime – juice and zest.
- Honey – you can substitute brown sugar, coconut sugar or agave for sweetness.
- Olive oil
- Sriracha or chili paste – optional for a little bit of heat
How to make Thai Crunch Salad
Start by making the creamy peanut dressing so that the flavors have time to meld while you prep the salad base. The dressing can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge in an airtight container or mason jar until you’re ready to assemble.
To the work bowl of a food processor or blender, add roughly chopped fresh garlic and ginger, peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice and zest, honey and sriracha (if using). While the food processor is running, add in the olive oil in a thin stream and blend until the dressing is smooth and creamy. Taste and season with salt. The consistency will depend on the kind of peanut butter you use. If you would like to thin out the dressing a little bit, add in a a few teaspoons water.
Thinly slice the cabbage, scallions and red peppers and julienne the carrots and cucumbers. I recommend removing the seeds from the cucumbers as they can be watery and this recipe is all about getting the most crunch. Pull the cilantro leaves off of the stem. I prefer not to chop the cilantro and add the whole leaves to the salad.
Add all of the veggies to a large mixing bowl and toss with a few tablespoons of the dressing. Serve topped with more scallions, cilantro and chopped peanuts for even more added crunch!
Tips and FAQs
- If you’re into mason jar salads, this is the perfect recipe! Start by layering dressing, then cabbage mix and veggies and herbs on top.
- This recipe makes extra dressing which is definitely not an issue. If you end up not using it all for the salad, use the leftover dressing as a veggie dip or sauce for rice noodles.
- For a paleo-friendly version, you can substitute almond butter for peanut butter. It will have a different flavor profile but it will be just as delicious.
- This salad is great for meal prep as the crunchy vegetables hold up in the fridge for several days. You can prep the base and the dressing and store in the fridge for 2-3 days. If it’s already mixed together, it will stay crunchy for another 1-2 days. This is a great salad to bring for a potluck, picnic or bbq because it stays fresh and crispy and goes well with all types of proteins.
- If a peanut or nut-based dressing isn’t right for you, you can mix it up and try it with my cilantro lime dressing!
What to serve with Thai Crunch Salad
This healthy salad recipe makes a great main course on it’s own. To round out the meal, serve it with:
- Grilled chicken, steak or salmon
- Crispy tofu
More tasty main course salads you’ll love
- Loaded Burger Bowls
- Southwest Salad with Honey Chipotle Chicken
- Crispy Goat Cheese Salad
- Green Goddess Bowl
- Baby Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
- Beets and Burrata with Pistachio Vinaigrette
Thai Crunch Salad
For the salad
- 3 cups red cabbage about half small head, shredded
- 3 cups Napa cabbage about half head Napa cabbage, shredded
- 1 red bell pepper thinly sliced
- 1 cup carrots shredded or matchstick cut
- ½ english cucumber seeded and cut into strips
- ⅓ cup scallions green parts only
- ½ cup cilantro leaves whole, loosely packed
- ⅓ cup peanuts chopped
For the Dressing:
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger
- 2 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp honey to keep it vegan you can use maple syrup or sugar
- ¼ cup creamy natural peanut butter (no sugar added)
- 1 lime juice and zest
- ¼ cup olive oil
- salt to taste
- 1 tsp chili paste or Sriracha optional
- Roughly chop garlic and ginger and add to food processor or blender with the rest of the dressing ingredients. Blend until smooth and set aside.
- Shred cabbage and thinly slice bell peppers and scallions. Julienne cucumbers and carrots. Remove cilantro leaves from stems and keep whole.
- Add veggies to a large mixing bowl and toss with a few spoonfuls of dressing. Top with chopped peanuts, scallions and cilantro leaves.
- Serve with more dressing on the side.