This Thai salad with peanut dressing is super easy to throw together, and great for lunch, dinner, or weekend salad meal prep for work! The peanut dressing comes together quick, too, and packs tons of flavor. This is one of those recipes you'll come back to over and over again!
What's heart healthy about Thai Salad with Peanut Dressing?
Let's start with the elephant in the room: TOFU. Tofu is essentially soybean curd, and it's made by coagulating soymilk so it gets thick, and pressing it into blocks. The process is similar to making cheese. Okay, but is tofu good for me? I know what's out there about soy and soy products. And while an in-depth analysis is a topic for an article all on its own, the Cliffs notes version is that, unless you have a thyroid disease, you're fine with soy. In fact, it can actually improve heart health by lowering cholesterol (1, 2), and may lower your risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) (3, 4). And what about the HORMONES? Not to worry - there's tons of research on that, too, and there are no negative effects seen in men or women with regards to reproduction, hormone balance, or virility (5). Women experiencing severe menopause symptoms may actually get a bit of relief from including some soy (as a whole food) in the diet.
In terms of the salad, we packed it with cabbage, which is generally known for its anti-cancer activity. But colorful veggies, like red cabbage and red bell peppers, are also high in antioxidants, which helps fight the low level, constant inflammation that can lead to chronic diseases like heart disease (6).
This recipe is also high in heart healthy fats, thanks to the peanuts, peanut butter, and sesame oil. I kept the whole thing low in sodium by using low sodium soy sauce for flavoring, as well as some acids like vinegar and lime juice. Just a touch of honey (or maple syrup) in the dressing to cut through the acid.
Lastly, we use spices like ginger, garlic, and crushed red pepper for their fantastic flavor and antioxidant content.
Substitutions and FAQs
Yes. Tofu doesn't have much flavor on its own, so I tend to try to jazz it up. But if you're running short on time, simply slice it up and toss on the salads. You can also find tofu that's already baked and flavored, but watch the amount of sodium and sugar in it if you go that way.
I get it. You can use bagged coleslaw veggies instead! Use 7 cups of bagged coleslaw instead of the napa cabbage, red cabbage, and carrots.
If nuts aren't your jam, or you're allergic to them, or you're prohibited from bringing them to work or school, this can easily be made nut free! Instead of peanut butter, use either soynut butter or sunflower butter. Either will work great and are completely peanut and tree nut free! Instead of the chopped peanuts, I'd recommend either sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. Or just leave them out all together.
Love the tofu in this recipe? You should also try this Simple Stir Fry recipe, which uses the same tofu preparation.
If you try Thai Salad with Peanut Dressing, whether as a meal prep recipe or not, tell me in the comments!
Thai Salad with Peanut Dressing
For the Tofu
- 1 block (14 oz) Extra Firm Tofu, drained, pressed, and sliced
- 1 tablespoon Toasted Sesame Oil
- 1 tablespoon Low Sodium Soy Sauce
- 2 teaspoon Rice Vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper, or to taste
For the Salad
- 3 cups shredded Napa Cabbage
- 3 cups shredded Red Cabbage
- 2 large Carrots, shredded or julienne
- 1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced thin
- 5 Green Onions, sliced (both white and green parts)
- ½ cup Cilantro, chopped
- ¼ cup Mint, chopped
- ½ cup chopped Peanuts
For the Peanut Dressing
- ⅓ cup Natural Peanut Butter
- 2 tablespoon Lime Juice
- 2 tablespoon Honey (or Maple syrup)
- 2 tablespoon Rice Vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Low Sodium Soy Sauce
- 2 teaspoon Toasted Sesame Oil
- 1 inch cube Fresh Ginger chopped or grated
- 1 clove Garlic minced
- Warm water to thin dressing
For the Tofu:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Make the Baked Tofu by adding the first 4 ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk to combine.
- Arrange tofu slices in a 9×12 baking dish, and pour sauce over the slices. Flip slices once to coat.
- Bake for 25 minutes, until edges of tofu begin to brown.
- Remove from oven, and allow to cool.
For the Salad:
- In a large bowl, toss all the salad ingredients together, except chopped peanuts. Reserve those for garnishing at the end.
For the Peanut Dressing:
- Add all the dressing ingredients to a small blender or food processor, and blend on high until smooth.
- If the dressing is too thick, add warm water, 1 tablespoon at a time until it reaches a consistency you like. (I had to add 1 tablespoon to mine)
- Divide the salad among 5 bowls or meal prep containers.
- Top each of the 5 salads with equal amount of tofu, and sprinkle with the reserved peanuts.
- For the dressing, you can either divide it among 5 small dressing cups for transport, or pour an equal amount on each of the salads. The salad is robust enough to have the dressing on it for a few days without becoming soggy.
- Garnish with extra mint leaves, cilantro, and/or slices of lime, as desired.