Thai Crunch Salad

The tang of cilantro and lime. The crunch of wonton strips and rice sticks. The savory flavors of peanuts and edamame. All these go into the popular Thai Crunch Salad, first introduced at popular chain California Pizza Kitchen.

Where Does Thai Crunch Salad Come From?

Thai Crunch Salad was invented by California Pizza Kitchen, which, despite its name, is known for far more than pizza. A couple of Beverly Hills attorneys founded the restaurant in 1985, and it revolutionized the pizza industry with new takes on pizzas, starting with its BBQ chicken pizza.

But CPK, as the chain is known, quickly added other categories to its menu, including salads, sandwiches and pastas. The Thai Crunch Salad, which puts a modern spin on traditional Thai food ingredients such as peanuts and cilantro, quickly became a standout. One of the secrets of this salad? Its use of two different salad dressings.

How to Make a Thai Crunch Salad

While you’ll need quite a few ingredients to duplicate CPK’s famous salad, the process of making the salad can be a quick one, involving more assembly than cooking, if you buy ingredients that are already prepared (cooked chicken or pre-shredded cabbage, for instance). You’ll definitely want to make the dressing from scratch, though!

Step 1: Garlic Chicken

  • Prepare the garlic chicken for the salad by pounding 4 breasts of chicken flat and marinating it for 10 minutes in a mixture of 6 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt.
  • Grill the chicken for 4 minutes on each side, and shred it. You can prepare the chicken up to 3 days ahead of time.

Step 2: Lime-Cilantro Dressing

  • Put one chopped red bell pepper and 1 bunch of chopped cilantro leaves in a food processor.
  • Add to the food processor bowl 1 1/2 teaspoons each of honey, white vinegar, lime juice, and light corn syrup. Add 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon each of Asian sesame oil and kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon each of minced fresh ginger and black pepper. Process until smooth (about 60 seconds).
  • Keep the food processor running as you drizzle in 1/2 cup of olive oil for about 60 seconds, until smooth. You can store this dressing in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Step 3: Thai Peanut Dressing

  • Whisk 2 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter, 1 tablespoon each of seasoned rice vinegar and honey, and 1 1/2 teaspoons each of water and soy sauce.
  • Stir in 1 tablespoon of sugar, 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Whisk in 1 tablespoon of canola oil. You can store this dressing refrigerated for up to 5 days, but bring it to room temperature before serving it.

Step 4: Assemble the Salad

  • Cut 1 head of Napa cabbage into strips and chop 1 head of red cabbage. Peel and julienne 2 large carrots, and chop 2 bunches of green onions. Julienne one large English cucumber. Chop one bunch of cilantro.
  • Toss all the raw vegetables together. Add 2 cups of edamame that have been cooked and shelled, plus 2 cups of roasted peanuts, and toss.
  • Add the cooked chicken to the salad.
  • Whisk the Lime-Cilantro Dressing, then pour it into the bowl, and toss.
  • Toss in 4 cups of fried wonton strips. Divide the salad into four serving plates.
  • Sprinkle 1/2 cup of crispy rice sticks over each salad (a total of 2 cups). Drizzle the Thai Peanut Dressing over the salads. Serve immediately.


Consider adding slices of avocado to your salad. You can also make the fried wontons and crispy rice sticks from scratch if you prefer.