Home Food Famous Thai-Inspired Quinoa Salad | Ambitious Kitchen

Famous Thai-Inspired Quinoa Salad | Ambitious Kitchen


This gorgeous Thai quinoa salad recipe was originally posted in 2013, the year I met my now-husband. I don’t want to change this post too much because frankly, I want to keep the written memories here about our first date. It’s so sweet.

What I did change about this recipe were the photography, tips, and ways to make it gluten free & vegan. Whoo hoo!

For those of you who don’t know, this recipe is one of the most popular recipes on Ambitious Kitchen!

So without further ado, here’s the story about how we first met:

I just got back from vacation in Arizona. I had so many fun nights I can’t even begin to tell you. The food, the margs, riding around in a red convertible, soaking up the sunshine, swimming at night, baseball games, Mexican food, Froyo, plus a trip to Sprinkles cupcakes!

I want to be on vacation for the rest of my life.

Funny enough, I also went on a date during my trip! (The most random things happen to me, I swear.) I met him through a friend and we hit it off. On our date, we went to the zoo, ate really good Italian food, and laughed hysterically. I don’t think he reads my blog, so in my opinion, it’s perfectly okay to talk about how sweet he was.

FYI: I told him about the life-changing cookies and I think he was sold.

Seriously you guys, I have to stop telling people about the flavor profile of brown butter and those freaking cookies; it’s just too nerdy. Especially on dates.

But but but! What I really need to do is to come to grips with reality and accept that there are no more margs or FroYo in my near future. All I need in my life now is a gorgeous healthy salad.

You in?

two bowls of thai quinoa salad with cilantro and limes on top and a bowl of limes on the side

Ingredients in this Thai-inspired quinoa salad

I love that this salad can easily be vegan and gluten-free, and it’s incredibly crunch-tastic (not a word, but should be). There’s loads of goodness here: lots of veggies and a creamy peanut butter dressing with a hint of ginger is absolutely TO DIE FOR. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

  • Quinoa: as you probably know by now, the base of this salad is made with nutritious, hearty quinoa. One of my fav grains for salads!
  • Veggies: this salad is SO colorful and loaded with shredded cabbage, red bell pepper, red onion, shredded carrots, cilantro & green onions.
  • Nuts: I like to add extra crunch with cashews or peanuts (especially honey-roasted).
  • For the dressing: that creamy peanut dressing is made with all natural peanut butter, fresh ginger, soy sauce, honey, rice vinegar, sesame oil & olive oil. I love Wild Friends peanut butter, and you can use the code ‘AMBITIOUS15’ for 15% off!

In the end, the ingredients all meld together perfectly and somehow the salad just works fantastically — plus it’s filling too! If you want to make this a complete meal or you’re craving more, I suggest adding edamame or chickpeas.

Oh and like pretty much everything else on this blog, I love it from the bottom of my heart. Duh.

bowl of thai quinoa salad with peanut dressing over the top and green onions and cilantro with limes in the background

Customize this Thai quinoa salad

Have fun customizing this salad with your fav ingredients or ones you have on hand!

  • Choose your veggies: you can really use any veggies you have lurking in your fridge. Chopped broccoli or shredded brussels sprouts would be perfect in here.
  • Keep it vegan: simply use agave or pure maple syrup instead of the honey in your dressing.
  • Try a new grain: I think this salad would be lovely with couscous, orzo, farro, or rice noodles!
  • Go grain free: you could also swap the quinoa for kale, or double up the veggies to make it a hearty, grain free salad.

Looking to add a boost of protein?

This Thai quinoa salad is the perfect base for your fav meat or plant-based proteins. Here’s what I suggest:

bowl of thai quinoa salad on a linen with cashews

The best Thai quinoa salad in 4 simple steps

  1. Cook the quinoa. Start by cooking your quinoa until it’s nice and fluffy. Set it aside to cool while you make the dressing.
  2. Make the dressing. Heat the peanut butter and honey in the microwave so that you can easily mix them, then whisk in the rest of the dressing ingredients until it’s nice and smooth.
  3. Dress the quinoa. Toss a little bit of the dressing with your cooled quinoa so that it started to absorb the flavors well. Then fold in all of your veggies and toss with the rest of the dressing.
  4. Garnish & serve. Top the salad with cashews and extra green onions, then serve with a squeeze of lime juice and enjoy!

two bowls of thai quinoa salad

How to cook the perfect fluffy quinoa

Get all of my best tips and tricks for cooking perfectly fluffy quinoa here!

Storing tips

Keep this vegan Thai quinoa salad in an airtight container in the fridge for about 3-4 days. This salad can easily be made the day before, too, and will be delicious served the next day!

a bowl of thai quinoa salad garnished with green onions and cilantro and a lime wedge

So yes, my husband and I met while I was on vacation. A week later, he asked me to send him the life-changing cookies, and now nearly 5 years later, we’re married. Cute story, huh?

More healthy salad recipes you’ll love

Get all of my salad recipes here!

If you make this Thai quinoa salad recipe, be sure to leave a comment below and rate the recipe! You can also snap and picture and post it on Instagram using the hashtag #ambitiouskitchen. And of course be sure to follow Ambitious Kitchen on Instagram. xo!

Crunchy Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad {vegan, gluten-free}

thai quinoa salad in a bowl

Crunchy, flavorful Thai-inspired quinoa salad filled with rainbow veggies and tossed in a creamy peanut ginger dressing. This easy Thai quinoa salad is delicious as-is and great for customizing with your favorite proteins! Perfect for meal prep lunches, picnics or parties. This salad is a crowd-pleaser!


  • ¾
    uncooked quinoa
  • 2
    shredded red cabbage, depending on how much crunch you like
  • 1
    red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4
    diced red onion
  • 1
    shredded carrots
  • ½
    chopped cilantro
  • ¼
    diced green onions
  • ½
    cashew halves or peanuts (honey-roasted is good)
  • Optional: 1 cup edamame or chickpeas
  • Fresh lime, for a bit of tang
  • For the dressing:
  • ¼
    all natural peanut butter
  • 2
    freshly grated ginger
  • 3
    gluten-free soy sauce or coconut aminos
  • 1
    honey (use agave or pure maple syrup if vegan)
  • 1
    rice vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1
    sesame oil
  • 1
    olive oil or more sesame oil
  • Water to thin, if necessary


  1. To cook quinoa: In a medium saucepan, bring 1 ½ cups of water to a boil. Add in quinoa and bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all of the water. Remove from heat and fluff quinoa with fork; place in large bowl and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. You should have a little over 2 cups of quinoa.

  2. To make dressing: Add peanut butter and honey or agave to a medium microwave safe bowl; heat in microwave for 20 seconds. Add in ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, and both sesame and olive oil and stir until mixture is smooth and creamy. If you want a thinner dressing, simply stir in a teaspoon or two of water or olive oil.

  3. Add as much or as little dressing as you’d like to the quinoa. I always start out with a little bit of dressing and usually add more to suit my taste preferences. Alternatively you can save the dressing for later and add when you are ready to eat; however the flavors of the dressing usually soak into the salad so I love adding it to the quinoa first.

  4. Next fold in red pepper, onion, cabbage, carrots, and cilantro into the quinoa. Garnish with cashews and green onions. Serve chilled or at room temperature with lime wedges, if desired.

Recipe Notes

See the full post for tips, tricks & ways to customize this salad!

To store: store in an airtight container in the fridge for about 3-4 days. This salad can easily be made the day before, too, and will be delicious served the next day!


Servings: 6 servings

Serving size: 1 serving

Calories: 260kcal

Fat: 13.5g

Carbohydrates: 27.7g

Fiber: 4.3g

Sugar: 7g

Protein: 8.6g

This post was originally published on April 11th, 2019, and republished on February 9th, 2023.


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