Crunchy Thai Noodle Salad

4-6 people
30 min

This crunchy Thai noodle salad recipe is full of fresh flavor and veggies. Made with vermicelli noodles and a sweet & savory coconut milk dressing, it’s the perfect cold noodle salad, especially for summer!

A nice, cold Thai noodle salad is my idea of a perfect summer dish.

Loaded with crunchy vegetables like cucumber, carrots and bell peppers mixed with rice noodles, and topped with a sweet and savory coconut milk dressing, it’s got TON of authentic Thai flavor.

John and I went to Thailand on our honeymoon and I’d go back again in a heartbeat.

Aside from the beautiful scenery and culture, the food is AMAZING (duh).

I think I could live off Thai food the rest of my life. It’s just got so many fresh flavors and ingredients with that hint of that unforgettable umami-ness. Noodles, curries, fresh seafood…it’s all my favorite.

While this crunchy Thai noodle salad wasn’t on any of the menus we looked at, the flavors are definitely authentic Thai.

Similar to traditional Thai papaya salad, this Thai noodle salad is crunchy with lots of fresh flavors and a sweet and spicy dressing.

Unlike most of the Thai noodle salad recipes you’ll find, this Thai noodles salad is made without peanut sauce and as much as I love a good peanut sauce, I wanted the authentic Thai flavors to really stand out :).

Crunchy Thai Noodle Salad Ingredients:

  • rice noodles (I prefer vermicelli because they’re nice and thin, but you can use any rice noodle you’d like!)
  • romaine lettuce (you could also use cabbage or kale)
  • cucumber
  • carrot
  • bell pepper
  • mint and/or basil
  • crushed peanuts, for serving
  • limes, for serving

Other optional add-ins you could use in your Thai salad are bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, chicken, shrimp or tofu.

What you need for your Thai Salad Dressing:

  • peanut oil (vegetable or canola oil can be used instead)
  • fresh ginger
  • lemongrass
  • chili garlic sauce
  • fish sauce
  • Tamarind paste
  • brown sugar
  • coconut milk
  • lime juice

Lemongrass paste can sometimes be found in the herb section of your grocery store. You may also be able to find fresh lemon grass stalks which you can also use by finely chopping them.

Tamarind is used a lot in Thai cooking. It has a sweet and tangy flavor, most commonly recognized in Pad Thai. You can find the puree or paste at your Asian Market or online.

How to make cold Thai noodle salad:

  1. Make the dressing: in medium sauce pan heat oil over medium heat. Add ginger and lemongrass. Cook for 30 seconds until they become fragrant. Stir in chili garlic sauce, Tamarind, fish sauce and brown sugar. Cook additional 30 seconds. Whisk in coconut milk and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in lime juice. Set aside or store in mason jar until completely cooled.
  2. Cook rice noodles according to package directions. Rinse under cold water and add to large serving bowl.
  3. Mix in vegetables, mint and basil.
  4. Serve with cooled dressing, crushed peanuts and extra lime wedges.

Tips for making Thai noodle salad:

  • If you can’t find Tamarind, you could substitute for extra lime juice or sugar mixed with vinegar (see recipe notes).

  • Simmering the Thai dressing ingredients in the coconut milk enhances the flavors and aromas. Be sure to cool the dressing completely before pouring over the noodles salad.

  • You can make the dressing up to 1 week ahead of time. I like to store it in a mason jar in my refrigerator.

  • I like the combination of mint and basil, but you could use one or the other.
  • Unless eating right away, keep the dressing separate until ready to eat that way the vegetables stay as fresh and crunchy as possible.
  • Keep this Thai noodle salad vegetarian or add your favorite protein like shrimp or chicken!

For more fresh salad recipes try:

Recipe details
  • 4-6  people
  • Prep time: 25 Minutes Cook time: 5 Minutes Total time: 30 min
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Coconut Lemongrass Dressing
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil (or canola/vegetable oil)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 tablespoons lemongrass paste, see recipe notes*
  • 2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup Tamarind concentrate/puree, see recipe notes*
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
Thai Noodle Salad
  • 8 ounces thin rice noodles such as Vermicelli
  • 2 cups chopped romaine lettuce (can also use cabbage or kale)
  • 2 cup cucumber, diced (about 1 medium cucumber)
  • 1 cup carrot ribbons, see recipe notes* (about 1 medium carrot)
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint and/or basil, chopped
  • crushed peanuts, for serving
  • lime wedges, for serving
Coconut Lemongrass Dressing
In small saucepan, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add ginger and lemongrass and cook 30 seconds until fragrant.
Stir in chili garlic sauce, fish sauce, Tamarind and brown sugar.
Whisk in coconut milk and bring to simmer. Simmer for 1 minute.
Remove from heat and stir in lime juice. Let cool completely.
Thai Noodle Salad
Cook rice noodles according to package directions. Run under cold water and place in large bowl.
Add romaine, cucumber, carrot, bell pepper and mint/basil. Toss to combine.
When ready to serve, add cooled dressing, toss and serve with peanuts and extra lime wedges (if desired).
  • *If you can't find lemongrass paste, you can use whole lemongrass stalks. Either grate them with a microplane, or cut into small pieces and place in food processor until finely chopped. You can omit altogether and use an additional tablespoon of ginger.
  • *If you can't find tamarind concentrate or puree, substitute with 2 tablespoons lime juice. The tamarind does have a distinct flavor so I do recommend using it if possible.
  • *Make the carrot ribbons simply by using a vegetable peeler and peeling long-ways into thin ribbons.
  • *Dressing can be made up to 1 week in advance and stored in air tight container or jar in the refrigerator.
  • *I like to keep the dressing and salad separate until ready to eat so the lettuce, mint and basil stay fresh as possible.
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