A healthy pad thai salad with a creamy peanut butter dressing, topped with cooked quinoa and roasted cashews for added protein and an extra crunch.
When I was growing up, we didn’t have a ton of ethnic food options in our area. We had Chinese food and Italian, but that was pretty much it. It wasn’t until I went to college that I started to explore new cuisines – and discovered my love for Thai food.
Like most, I started out with the basic dishes and pretty much only ordered Pad Thai. It wasn’t spicy, had familiar flavors and was made with noodles. Sounded pretty great to me! I just adored the peanut-y sauce, the wide rice noodles, the scrambled eggs, basically everything about it.
But as I started exploring more of the menu, I realized there was so much more to the cuisine than what I was exposing myself to. The curries, the stir-fries, the soups and the green papaya salad. Oh, the green papaya salad. But we’ll save that for another day.
I still love Thai cuisine and we order it about once or twice a month (Fridays and Saturdays are our takeout nights), now I almost never order Pad Thai. There are a few reasons for that, one being that I know that it’s probably one of the least healthy options on the menu, two being I haven’t found a great one in New York yet and three being the fact that I simply prefer other items on the menu (hello, red curry!).
Sometimes the Pad Thai craving hits me and it’s all I can think about for days. When that happens, I most certainly order it. Most recently however, this craving came when I was in Vermont and my Pad Thai ordering options were quite limited.
So rather than spending my time pining away for the dish I longed for, I decided to make my own version of it. While this isn’t quite your standard Pad Thai dish, if it’s the flavor of the dish that you love (like it is for me), this salad will be perfect for you.
My Pad Thai salad starts with a bed of thinly sliced greens, and then is topped with thinly sliced peppers, carrots and zucchini, and sprinkled with roasted cashews and sesame quinoa. The sauce (or dressing, I suppose) is a rich, salty peanut butter sauce that quickly takes this salad from a snooze fest to a bright and spicy Asian-inspired meal that awakens the taste buds and satisfies your love for traditional Pad Thai.
For those of us who are constantly on the go, balancing work or kids or school, this salad is a great option. On Sunday, simply chop up the veggies that you need for the week (I’d recommend doubling the recipe), make a big batch of cooked quinoa, whisk up a double batch of the dressing and you’ll have lunch for the whole week.
Feeling like you need a little extra protein? Perfect, just add your favorite meat or plant-based protein. This salad would be delicious with grilled chicken, baked tamari tofu or even chickpeas. Or just eat it alone because you’re still getting protein from the cashews, peanut butter and quinoa!
Pad Thai Quinoa Salad
With the flavors of pad thai, plus some of the ingredients, this Pad Thai Quinoa Salad is the perfect way to enjoy the classic takeout but in a super healthy way.
or green of choice, thinly sliced
seeded and thinly sliced
or ½ medium zucchini, julienned
- Cilantro to garnish
for the sauce
or other Asian hot sauce
– 3 tablespoons water
or more as needed
Place vegetables into a large salad or mixing bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Pour dressing over veggies and toss to coat.
Transfer to two plates, add 1/2 of the quinoa and 1/2 the cashews to each plate.
Serve immediately and enjoy!
Pad Thai Quinoa Salad
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 180
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 20g
Saturated Fat 3g
Total Carbohydrates 27g
Dietary Fiber 7g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.