This Thai-inspired crunch salad is loaded with fresh flavors and textures and similar to the California Pizza Kitchen Thai Crunch Salad. 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.
I live for large meal-sized salads and CPK’s Thai Crunch Salad is one of my favorites. The flavor profiles are interesting, delicious and I can’t get enough of that crunch! I can’t get CPK takeout where I live so I knew I had to recreate my own version stat.
If you love big, fresh and crunchy salads, 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, crunchy veggies in the fridge. It’s a great dish to bring to a potluck, picnic or bbq because it stays fresh and crispy and goes well with all types of proteins. 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.
My twist on the CPK Thai Crunch Salad has similar flavors and it’s a super flexible recipe, leaving plenty of room for substitutions and shortcuts with prepared bagged vegetables. Don’t be turned off by the long list of ingredients, put your own twist on it and have fun!
This post was first published in September 2020. It has been updated most recently in July 2023 with new recipe notes.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- 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 peppers.
- 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 of fresh cilantro leaves will do.
- Chopped peanuts – for garnish and more texture.
- Optional – add shredded poached or grilled chicken breasts, salmon or shrimp.
- Variations – add edamame, ripe Hass avocados, sesame seeds, wonton strips or crispy rice sticks.
Creamy Peanut Dressing Ingredients
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! If peanut dressing isn’t your thing, this salad is also delicious with my Cilantro Lime Dressing.
- Creamy peanut butter – I recommend using no sugar added natural peanut butter. For a paleo-friendly version, you can use almond butter. The flavor profile will be slightly different but it will be just as delicious!
- Fresh garlic cloves
- Fresh ginger
- Soy sauce – swap in Tamari or coconut aminos for gluten free.
- Unseasoned rice vinegar
- Lime – fresh lime juice and zest.
- Honey – you can substitute brown sugar, coconut sugar or agave for a touch of 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 bowl and toss with a few tablespoons of the dressing. Serve topped with more scallions, cilantro and chopped peanuts for even more added crunch!
Yes. This is a great meal prep salad recipe – especially when made in a mason jar. Start by layering the dressing on the bottom, then the cabbage mix, veggies, herbs and crispy wontons on top if using. You can also prep the veggies and dressing and store separately in airtight containers in the fridge for 2-3 days. If the salad is already mixed together, it will stay crunchy in the fridge for another 1-2 days.
Yes. For a peanut-free version, swap in almond butter or go with my Lime Cilantro Dressing.
More tasty main course salads you’ll love
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 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon 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 teaspoon 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.