Thai Yummy Salad

When I was a kid, we ate dinner together every night at 5:00 p.m., and we decided at breakfast what was on the menu for dinner. My family loves to cook and eat — and now, I spend even more time cooking (and cleaning!) in the kitchen than I ever imagined. Dave and I don’t eat in restaurants very often, but about every other week or so, he insists on treating me to a dinner I don’t have to cook. I usually pick Thai Orchid in Hanover because I cannot get enough of their Yummy Salad. That’s not my opinion; that’s the actual name of the salad: Yummy Salad. Who could resist that?!

This recipe is my attempt to make a less-sugary, peanut-free, more veggie-loaded version of that irresistible dish.

The magic in this salad, like all Thai cuisine, is its balance of of the five major tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and hot. Nothing makes sweet taste sweeter than enjoying it against a salty-sour background.

This recipe uses multiple vitamin-packed veggies, and it hits the five essential flavors. There’s Napa cabbage and spinach (bitter); carrot, cucumber, red bell pepper, pineapple (sweet); scallions and chives (hot); citrus juice (sour); and fish sauce (mmmm… salty). You can swap vegetables in and out of this salad without taking a wrong turn as long as you keep at least one sweet and one bitter. If you don’t have fish sauce handy, you can replace it 2 tablespoons coconut aminos (or this homemade substitute) mashed with 1-2 anchovies.


Thai Yummy Salad

Serves 2-4 | Prep 10 minutes | Inspired by Thai Orchid in Hanover, NH | Whole30 compliant

  • juice of one orange (about 1/4 cup)

  • juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce

  • 1 tablespoon light-tasting olive oil or avocado oil

  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar or honey (omit for Whole30)

  • 1/2 clove garlic, crushed

  • 1/2 head Napa cabbage, sliced very thinly

  • 3 scallions, cut into matchsticks

  • a handful of baby spinach

  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks

  • 1 medium carrot, grated

  • 1/2 cucumber, sliced into thin half-moons

  • 2 stalks celery, sliced thin crosswise

  • 1/2 cup canned pineapple (packed in its own juice)

  • a handful of fresh chives, minced

  • a few chopped basil leaves

  • a few mint leaves

  • 2 tablespoons chopped cashews


Make the dressing. Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl or jar and allow the flavors to meld 1 hour.


 Toss the salad. Place all the ingredients except the cashews in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Drizzle with the dressing and toss for 1-2 minutes. (If you sing a verse of the Star-Spangled Banner, that should be just the right amount of time.) Sprinkle with the cashews and serve.


Eat immediately. This salad has bold, bright flavors, but the citrus juice also conquers the vegetables rather quickly. Put dressing only on the amount of veggies you think you can eat in one sitting; both the dressing and the salad hold up well in the refrigerator when stored separately. (This is great for potlucks, too; just transport the veggies and dressing separately and toss just before serving.)

You Know How You Could Do That?

It’s really easy to turn this salad into a kickass, protein-powered meal! Dave piled slices of leftover pork chop on top of his veggies; I ate mine with shrimp.  (best/easiest way to poach shrimp.) This would also be scrumptious with strips of grilled steak, chicken, or other seafood/fish.


Bonus Tasty Tip: Toss your protein with a little of the dressing before piling on top of the salad.

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  • Chris B says:

    This salad is great! I couldn’t find any napa cabbage, so used savoy and ran it through a mandolin. It worked just fine.

    Thanks for a winning recipe.

  • Judy says:

    This was so delicious. I saw the recipe this morning, then high tailed it to the store to pick up a few things and had it for lunch today with cold grilled chicken. I can’t wait to have it again for lunch tomorrow (and probably Wednesday, and quite possibly Thursday…).

    I have both of your cookbooks, and they are always inspirational to me. I have been in a bit of a food/eating/weight rut lately, and I truly am finding my way out of it by reading through your blog and getting back into your cookbook.

    You help me get excited about cooking again. Thank you. (Crispy Latin chicken on deck for dinner tonight, and I’m kicking myself for not getting plantains at the market today).

    Sorry for getting all fan-girl on you. 🙂

    • I’m so glad you’re enjoying the recipes! Hope they pull you out of your rut… it’s no fun when your food gets boring 🙂

    • Jacqui says:

      Hey Mel, we recently finished our first whole30 as a family (with our 5 kids aged 15 down to 1 year old), it went super well and we were about half way through when I discovered your site while looking for inspiration. The bulk of our whole30 dinners ended up being baked sweet potatoes and a big lettuce salad every night , with add ins like chicken, nuts, tuna, blueberries etc. cos I knew everyone would eat it!! My hubby and kids like very simple, flavours, the usuals: onion, garlic, Franks hot sauce and coconut aminos about covers it, so getting too adventurous witg the spices usually doesn’t work HOWEVER, the way you blend flavours is simple but definitely not boring and I’m happy to report that I’ve used many of your recipes and every one of them has hit a home run with the whole family. I’m so excited about discovering your recipes, I love cooking and always make meals healthy and from scratch but it seems everything I make tastes the same…it’s good, but definitely boring!! So, I just had to comment and let you know that your recipes and flavour combos are brilliant!! Well done and thank you so much for sharing your skills and ideas so generously, I appreciate it greatly. Shalom!

      • Congratulations to you and your family for tackling the Whole30 today. That’s a big accomplishment. YAY for all of you!

        I’m so glad that you found our recipes helpful. I tend to keep my breakfasts and lunches the way you describe — salads, potatoes, chicken, etc — and then use my more interesting recipes for dinner. Whatever it takes to stay on track AND fight boredom. Because as you’ve probably learned by now, boredom is the first step on the path to pizza delivery 😉

        Wishing you and yours an excellent 2021!

  • Carrie says:

    The flavours in this are reminding me how diverse the world of salad-y things can be… Thank you! We’ve made Damn Fine Chicken from Nom Nom Paleo to have with this, and the combo is wonderful.

    I’m a long-time fan of yours, and just wanted to thank you for the continual inspiration to be healthful and let my foodie tendencies thrive at the same time!

  • Heidi says:

    OMG. I just made this tonight and now I want to tell everyone to stop what they’re doing and make this salad. It actually tastes like something I would get in a Thai restaurant (but maybe cleaner and lighter), and I’m so proud of that! Usually when I try Thai recipes it’s “close, but no cigar”. All the amazing flavors just pop on my tongue. I’d forgotten to add the cashews, and during the first few bites I thought, “This is awesome, but it needs nuts.” And then I looked at the recipe again. Ha! Cashews are the perfect touch. I love this salad! Thanks for sharing it with us, Melissa. (Plus, it was a fun, creative project on the coldest night of the year here on Cape Cod.)

  • Laura says:

    The recipe just says canned pineapple. Does this mean in chunks? Or how is it to be prepared? Is there anything that can be substituted if you don’t like pineapple in salads?