Thai Peanut Quinoa Salad


This is a crazy thing, but I just tried pad thai for the very first time, just a few days ago. And I hated it. Okay okay, it had a few good things going on but the first problem may have been it lacked the most of what I wanted it to have. For example, my order came out to me with ONE leaf of cilantro on top. Seriously, what good is that going to do :). Then it also had maybe 3 peanuts throughout the entire dish. Being an annoying foodie, I simply went and asked for more of both and it did offer much improvement once I added them. The thing I think I will have a hard time getting used to is the texture of rice noodles. I’m so used to Italian pasta that the rice pasta seemed soggy to me. The texture kind of freaked me out. Then there were the scrambled eggs that had the texture of rubber but in the first place they seem strange to me there anyway. I was sure a dish like this could grow on me but it would definitely require some tweaking, at least to that version I had tried at the restaurant. With that said, what I’ve made here is something very similar to pad thai but also much different. I left out the fish sauce (another ingredient that’s going to take me a while to want to reach for), left out any shrimp or chicken as well as eggs, and I didn’t plan on leaving out tamarind paste but I couldn’t find any at the store (but after all is said and done I don’t think this needs it anyway), then of course I left out the rice noodles and replaced them with quinoa.

Thai Peanut Quinoa Salad | Cooking Classy

This is a vegetarian meal that doesn’t lack the flavor presence of protein, like chicken or shrimp (although you could definitely add them on if you’d like). I’ve eaten so much junk food lately that I was in the mood for making something healthy and nutritious, and this is just so. And like I said, I wanted to make something pad thai like, that I actually liked. One of the best parts of making food at home is that you can make it just how you like. This recipe makes quite a bit so if you are making it, say for two people, you could definitely get away with making half of the recipe. Enjoy!

Thai Peanut Quinoa Salad | Cooking Classy

Thai Peanut Quinoa Salad | Cooking Classy



Thai Peanut Quinoa Salad

Yield: About 5 - 6 Servings



  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
  • 4 cloves garlic , minced
  • 2 Tbsp Sriracha hot sauce (or to taste)
  • 4 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp onion powder


  • 2 cups dry quinoa
  • 3 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 2 cups matchstick carrots
  • 8 oz bean sprouts
  • 1 cucumber , peeled and diced
  • 4 green onions chopped
  • 1 cup dry roasted peanuts , chopped (unsalted or lightly salted)
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro , long stems removed
  • Optional add-ins: cooked chicken , pork, shrimp or tofu


  1. Combine all dressing ingredients in a blender and puree until emulsified, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Prepare quinoa according to directions listed on package. To assemble salads (I just assembled each serving individually), layer cooked quinoa, cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, cucumber, green onions and peanuts then garnish with plenty of cilantro. Drizzle each serving with dressing to taste and serve.
  3. Recipe Source: Cooking Classy


  • Averie @ Averie Cooks: Peanut sauce can do no wrong. And I love love love the royal purple backdrop! I once made a salad about 15 mos or so ago, and used a royal purple backdrop and even though I dont love the pic now, I really did at the time. lol It’s one of my fave colors and your food is just popping! So pretty! July 23, 2013 at 11:13pm Reply

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar: Thai flavours fit so nicely in a salad like this! Lovely recipe! July 24, 2013 at 4:39am Reply

  • Yammie @ Yammie’s Noshery: This looks awesome!! I’ve always wanted to make my own peanut sauce! July 24, 2013 at 5:02am Reply

  • Margaret: You should definitely keep trying Pad Thai (or Thai food in general), once you have awesome Pad Thai, you will be hooked! It’s very very difficult to find good authentic Thai food outside of Thailand, but I’m very eager to try this dish for the health benefits!! Definitely give fish sauce another chance…it sounds and smells awful, but it truly makes a dish! Also, adding chili sauce, instead of siracha can make it spicier without changing the flavor! July 24, 2013 at 9:06am Reply

    • Jaclyn: Good to know, thanks Margaret! July 24, 2013 at 10:13am Reply

    • Jeanne: I have cooked for a living for YEARS! My first job, in high school, was working at a take-out in a Chinese restaurant. But I never tried Thai food until a few years ago! I am so mad no one ever made me try it sooner! I love it, I dream about it….I can’t handle the real spicy stuff but there’s so much I LOVE. September 28, 2014 at 10:13am Reply

  • Susan: Jaclyn, from your description, I think you had a really bad Pad Thai experience. I didn’t try rice noodles until I’d been through a lot of pasta, and have never had any trouble with it when it was cooked correctly. And a well-made Pad Thai is delicious, even with fish sauce (I’m not a big fish eater and don’t like anchovies on my Caesar salads…) Fish sauce is like sesame oil, something to be used in moderation. The only Thai restaurant I’ve been to in the US is Tara Thai, and I thought their food was awful, especially after spending a couple of months in Bangkok eating real Thai food. I don’t know what restaurant you went to, but I hope that you at some point have a better experience with Thai food; it is a wonderful cuisine. I’m looking forward to trying your recipe – except I will not be putting in a ton of agave nectar. I’m not sure why you put so much of it in, but it would make the sauce too sweet for me. I will, however, enjoy the good amount of cilantro. BTW, if you can find tamarind, it adds a really nice piquant note to whatever you use it in, and it is a key flavoring in real Pad Thai. July 24, 2013 at 1:43pm Reply

  • Julie @ Table for Two: I need to make the whole recipe and then have the leftovers for lunch, so gorgeous!!! July 24, 2013 at 6:09pm Reply

  • Rachel @ Bakerita: OK omg yum. I need to make this! This sounds like a salad my mom and I would order in a SECOND. July 25, 2013 at 8:12am Reply

  • Courtney: Loved this! Made it last night, the dressing is amazing! Definitely a favorite!!
    Thanks for sharing July 26, 2013 at 5:37pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I’m so glad you liked it Courtney!! Thanks for leaving a comment :)! July 26, 2013 at 7:48pm Reply

  • Mikelle Despain (@mikelledespain): I made this tonight for dinner and it was INCREDIBLE! I added a little extra peanut butter to the sauce because I wanted a little stronger peanut flavor, and my husband and I absolutely snarfed our salads. He is a meat lover and usually doesn’t care for the vegetarian dishes that I make (and thinks that most healthy dishes lack flavor), but this got double thumbs up and has a permanent spot in our dinner rotation. Thanks for the great dish! August 22, 2013 at 7:06pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: That’s great to hear Mikelle! I’m so glad you and your husband enjoyed this salad even with out meat :), thanks for leaving a comment! August 22, 2013 at 8:15pm Reply

  • DiniBlini | Thai Inspired Salad with Peanut Butter Based Dressing: […] *Adapted from Cooking Classy. […] December 23, 2013 at 1:51am Reply

  • Surkhab: I love thai food ….and i need to make this .!! :) March 24, 2014 at 9:50am Reply

  • Internet-ing: FOOD BLOGS | DiniBlini: […] better than ANY cupcakes I’ve eaten ever. 2) The savory dishes are simple and good, like the Thai Peanut Quinoa Salad that kickstarted a salad binge in my house. 3) Really regular posts = key in this short attention […] May 7, 2014 at 10:08pm Reply

  • thai peanut dressing | miki's kitchen: […] slightly adapted from Cooking Classy […] June 27, 2014 at 5:58am Reply

  • Kelly R.: Best….salad…EVER! November 23, 2014 at 10:57am Reply

  • Clare: Hi,
    I would love to try this salad but have never used agave nectar. Is there another ingredient that can be substituted?
    Thank you! January 6, 2016 at 9:06pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I would try maybe 3 – 4 Tbsp each honey and sugar. January 7, 2016 at 10:41am Reply

    • Caroline: Honey worked fine for me! Same measurements as the recipe. June 10, 2017 at 4:51am Reply

  • Lauren: Hi there, looking forward to trying this recipe! Do you think I could sub quinoa for farro or barley? I’m not a huge quinoa fan! Also, how many days in the fridge would this stay? Should I wait to dress it until right before I eat it? Thanks! January 29, 2017 at 10:15am Reply

    • Jaclyn: Yes you should be able to sub one of those and it should keep for a few days in the fridge. February 1, 2017 at 1:03pm Reply

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