Thai-Inspired Salad of Awesome

Thai cuisine is known for harmonizing sweet, sour, pungent, salty and spicy flavors into dishes that burst with flavor. Unfortunately, many of the dishes on Thai restaurant menus in the U.S. are weighed down with vegetable oils and sugar, and served with heavy portions of rice and noodles. While we can’t promise that Tara Gravenstine’s “Thai-Inspired Salad of Awesome” (submitted for the Reader-Created Cookbook Contest) will demolish any last hankerings you have for Pad Thai, we can say that it will satisfy cravings for the complex flavors that make Thai food so addictive.

What really makes the flavor in this salad pop are three herbs easily found at any grocery store or farmers’ market: basil, mint and cilantro. Fresh herbs bring surprising flavor to any type of salad, not just this one, and are an easy way to make your daily salad a little more interesting. In Tara’s salad, the trio of basil, mint and cilantro is aromatic and refreshing and brightens the mild flavors of mung bean sprouts, bamboo shoots (or water chestnuts), avocado, snow peas and red pepper. Mango adds bright color and sweet flavor to the salad, but if you prefer tart to sweet, try using a firm, unripe mango instead. Unripe “green” mangoes are often used in Thai salads and can be sliced or grated.

Tara’s Thai-inspired dressing has all those delicious salty, sour, spicy flavors we mentioned earlier. A key ingredient is fish sauce, and while that might not sound appealing, fish sauce is one of those secret ingredients that heightens flavor in a good way. Many Asian dishes call for fish sauce and you should be able to find it at your local grocery store. Although most, if not all, brands have added salt and sugar, the sauce is used so sparingly in recipes (2 teaspoons in Tara’s dressing) that the added sugar isn’t much of a worry. In this dressing, the fish sauce is blended with lime juice, tamari and ginger, creating a lively, light dressing with a slightly spicy kick.

We topped the salad with chopped, grilled chicken breast for protein, although thin slices of steak (hmm…or maybe shrimp….) would be delicious, too. And, as Tara says, “some grated coconut on top of the salad would not be amiss.”

Servings: 4-6


  • 1 bunch spinach, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh mung bean sprouts (optional)
  • 1 cup snow peas, julienned (i.e. cut into matchsticks)
  • 1 small can bamboo shoots (or water chestnuts), julienned
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 bunch scallions, julienned or chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil
  • 1/3 cup chopped mint
  • 1 mango, diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced


  • juice and zest of 2 limes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy or tamari sauce
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons ginger juice (or grated ginger root)

*ginger juice can be made by chopping up ginger and squishing it in a mortar and pestle, or in a bowl with a spoon.

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41 thoughts on “Thai-Inspired Salad of Awesome”

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  1. This looks really good – thanks for the recipe. And how’s this for a stroke of luck: I recently planted new basil in my garden, and I already have cilantro and mint! I think I’ll go to the store for the rest now…

  2. Anything I can use in place of the soy/tamari? My son can’t eat soy, but I’d LOVE to try this–Thai food is one of my faves!

    1. Try replacing it for fish sauce.. still has that salty strong flavour and is a very thai ingredient. In combination with the other ingredients it doesn’t have a “fishey” taste either.

    2. Just today I bought a bottle of Coconut Aminos at our co-op. It is a soy-free seasoning sauce made by Coconut Secret from aged organic coconut sap and sea salt. It is delicious and tastes like a slightly sweet soy sauce, yum!

      1. I bought some for the first time yesterday, too, after a colleague introduced it to me. Its flavor is distinct from soy sauce but delicious enough on its own. The unique flavor and thickness relative to watery soy makes coconut sap a better choice for sauces, dressings, and marinades. Less than 200 mg of sodium per tablespoon compared to about 900 for reduced sodium soy and 1200 for regular soy. The sodium content in fish sauce is outrageous – 1,700 mg per tablespoon. Love soy sauce but have always worried about the sodium content. Asians have lower rates of heart disease but higher rates of stroke. In Japan the stroke risk rises with latitude. It’s thought that the higher sodium content of preserved fish and pickled vegetables is the cause.

  3. Thai food is indeed addictive! Now that it is warm outside, I have been Thai crazy since there are several good restaurants near work. But I found a little place near my house that has become my favorite for sushi. Maguro tuna over avocado slices, topped with spicy roe. Oh man is it ever good!


  4. That looks awesome. But this comment is a please for HELP! HELLLLLPPPPP!!!! Day 5 of paleo eating. No bread, no wraps, no oats, no grains. Carbs from 2 pieces of fruit or 1 piece of fruit and 1 sweet potato. Eating protein and veggies. Had a bit of an OD on macadamia nuts (sooooo good) a few days ago. I am running to the bathroom and am experiencing the 8th plague of Egypt in my bowels. Sweet mercy, is this normal? Besides cutting out grain and snacks (and the macadamia orgy) I’m not really eating that much differently. I have always had the opposite problem (more sluggishness). Could bread really have been making that much of a difference?

    Please advise!!

    1. You’ll be fine, just hang in there 🙂 It’s your body adjusting to the lack of fiber and extra fat, it’s going to regulate soon. A lot of people go through that phase!

    2. Stick with it! You’ll feel better, way better, very soon! Yes, the bowels being overactive is normal in the transition. You’re shedding sugar-eating enzymes and creating fat-eating enzymes, to put it plainly. It’s all normal! 🙂

  5. I made this salad with Tara last weekend, it was delicious! Lots of chopping, but it was so worth it. The leftovers were even good the next day, which isn’t usually the case with salad!

  6. YAY!!! I just saw this, after about 8 hours of it being up! Hannah def helped last time I made this, so THANK YOU HANNAH!

    And you all shoud try it, it is awesome!

  7. The thing I always heard about real fish sauce was that the way to know when it is done is when the flies stop buzzing around it and decide to leave it alone, which can sometimes take up to several years. The real stuff seems to have the same idea behind it as Icelandic ferment shark meat or lutefisk.

  8. With avocado, tomato, and olive oil, this salad is really Thai meets Mexican with a touch of Mediterranean. My nose wrinkles at the thought of mixing olive oil and Asian flavorings like ginger, fish sauce and soy sauce. Avocado oil is more expensive, but for this recipe, I’d probably use it instead of olive oil since peanuts and sesame are off the men. I’d also try swapping the ginger for galangal, available at large Asian grocery stores. Galangal has a distinctly clean citrus note that ginger can’t match.

      1. Yeah, I noticed the name, but the salad is really an eclectic mix, rather than mostly Thai, as suggested by the name. No need to pull a sour face because I quibbled with the name.

      2. People see different influences in fusion foods, depending on their backgrounds, Tara, that’s all.

        1. Well Ill have to disagree. I think the only non-Thai thing about it is the EVOO (but lets face it thats the most common salad oil out there). It seemed you were insinuating that its just a badly-done fusion thing, in which case I WAS pulling a sour face. I get sensitive about my cooking. But I do hope you try it (or whatever version you would prefer… do what you like) because even with the EVOO its effin’ delicious. Just sayin’.

  9. This is one of my favorites too. We make it preferentially with grilled beef, and then the beef juices substitute for the vegetable oils usually found in salad dressings. Most any meat or fish works well though. We usually add a bit of sesame oil, hot pepper flakes and raw chopped garlic to the dressing too.

  10. I think i may try this with some seared tuna to top it off 🙂 Great recipe!

  11. My sneaky way to get ginger juice, involves a garlic press and the freezer.

    Just peel some ginger, cut it into small pieces and then freeze them ahead of time. Then when I need some ginger juice, I thaw a piece in warm water and then put it in my garlic press. The freezing process breaks down the fibers so that it presses easily.

  12. OOOOh good tip talia!!!

    I actually juiced it with a juicer, so I have a ton of juice left!

  13. The Salad was out of this world!!
    I had the whole thing in 2 meals…
    it sure satisfies your chewing urge!!!

  14. That’s my idea of a BAS, well done Tara. I eat a ridiculous amount of sprouts by the way. Put my fried eggs right on them so I have a something to wipe up the yolk with : ) Very important! Anyway, I’m a foodie and I love to spend time preparing my meals with love making each bite so grok’n. The chopping makes me happy. Definitely throwing some steak marinated in ginger and citrus on this one. Thanks!

  15. Oh! And yes, excellent tip on the ginger bits and garlic press. Very cool idea and so easy. I often just use a cheese grater and squeeze the pulp dry. yields a good amount. But love new tricks.

  16. Just made this, though without the sprouts, shoots, cilantro, or avocado. Topped with grilled shrimp and it was fantastic:)

  17. Has everyone flipped?
    1/2 CUP of olive oil? ~5 svgs, this is a salad with 30gm of fat…

    does anyone wonder or REALLY research why bowels are runny on a higher fat Paleo diet?

    because the barrage of fat causes the gallbladder to convulse/strongly contract, thereby dumping tons of bile, which then irritates to cause intestinal contraction…


    1. Made this recipe for the first time tonight. Yum salad – great combination of flavours!

      However, the quantity of dressing is way too much – enough for 2 to 3 of the salads unless you want everything swimming in it! Dressing is great though – not sure how well it keeps?

  18. Seriously, this is the best salad ive ever had. It has to be the healthiest as well!

    Love love love it.


  19. re: fat content/dressing concerns…

    i never pay attention to serving size for dressings. simply drizzle a reasonable amount…

  20. I need to make this soon. MMMMM.

    I thought it made just the right amount of dressing! Maybe I like it more …dressy… (lol) than you do! Also my stores’ bunches of spinach are pretty big, so maybe the quantities are off a little? Anyway I think the dressing should keep for a couple weeks… or be used as a marinade!

    RE: fat content… dont see a problem! I dont think most of us have any issues. I like to think the old GB is doing her job. Done see how bile upsets intestinal lining. You poo bile out all the time, thats why your poo is brown.

  21. Thank you.

    Subbed bamboo & water chestnuts w/julienned cucumber cause it’s what U had… w/chicken bites baked in coconut milk, coconut aminos, dash o fish sauce, & lime juice. YUM!

    Mangoes are delicious.

  22. Hi, just wondering if there is something to replace the fish sauce with…can’t eat fish. Thanks! And it looks screaming good! Love Asian food so much!