This Thai Crunch Salad recipe was inspired by the totally crave-worthy salad at California Pizza Kitchen. It’s loaded with chicken, crunchy veggies and topped with a Thai peanut salad dressing and crispy wonton strips.
If you’re a CPK fan, you’ll love my CPK BBQ Chicken Salad recipe too!
Over 10 years ago I decided to create a homemade version of one of my favorite salads of all time, the Thai Crunch Salad from California Pizza Kitchen.
It is the salad of my dreams. It is heaven on a plate.
Thankfully, the salad is still on the CPK menu, but this make at home version hits the spot and 100% satisfies my cravings.
As the name promises, there is a ton of crunch from cabbage, carrots, peanuts, and crispy wonton strips. It’s loaded with protein from lean chicken breast and nutrition-packed edamame. And, it’s topped with the irresistible flavor of a peanut dressing that takes just minutes to whip up at home.
Table of contents
Thai Crunch Salad Ingredients
- Romaine lettuce – Romaine is not in the restaurant salad, but combining it with cabbage makes a slightly more substantial salad. Rinse and drain it well or just place it in a handy, dandy salad spinner and give it a spin.
- Coleslaw – A bag of 3-color coleslaw mix is a mixture of red cabbage, green cabbage, and shredded carrot. If it comes with a dressing, you can save it for another time.
- Cilantro leaves – Cilantro adds so much distinct flavor to this salad.
- Edamame – You can find fresh shelled edamame in the produce section of the grocery store and bags of frozen shelled edamame in the frozen vegetable section.
- Green onions
- Shredded carrot – The coleslaw mix has a little shredded carrot but I add additional for more color and texture.
- Red bell pepper
- Rotisserie chicken – Best kitchen shortcut ever! I use chopped breast meat (not shredded) for a texture similar to the restaurant salad.
- Peanuts – Roasted, unsalted peanuts.
- Wonton strips – Sometimes you can find ready made wonton strips at the store (check the produce section near the salad toppers). But, they’re easy to make with wonton wrappers and some vegetable oil.
A key element to this salad is that everything is chopped into small pieces so you get a little bit of everything in each bite.
Thai Peanut Dressing Ingredients
CPK uses two salad dressings for their Thai Crunch Salad, a lime cilantro vinaigrette and a peanut dressing. Creating two salad dressings for one salad is a bit much, so I came up with one seriously yummy dressing that incorporates the best of both.
- Creamy peanut butter
- Oil – Vegetable oil and a little sesame oil.
- Seasoned rice vinegar – Seasoned rice vinegar has a little sugar and salt for added flavor.
- Brown sugar
- Less sodium soy sauce – You can substitute tamari for a gluten-free peanut dressing.
- Minced garlic
- Red pepper flakes – This is a mildly spicy dressing. You can eliminate or decrease the red pepper flakes, to suit your taste.
- Lime juice – The juice from half a lime.
How to Make Copycat CPK Thai Crunch Salad
- Make the Thai Peanut Dressing – Place all ingredients for the dressing in the bowl of a food processor or small blender. Process for about 2 minutes, or until smooth and emulsified.
- Make the Crispy Wonton Strips – Slice the wonton wrappers into strips ¼-inch strips. Heat about 1-inch of oil in a large skillet or sauté pan. Fry the strips in batches, spreading them out so they don’t stick together. When golden brown, quickly remove from the oil with a slotted spoon drain on paper towels.
- Assemble the Salad – In a large serving bowl combine the Romaine, coleslaw mix, cilantro, edamame, green onion, shredded carrot, red bell pepper, and rotisserie chicken. Toss well to combine.
- Dress the Salad – Drizzle about ¾ of the peanut dressing over the salad and toss well. Add the avocado and peanuts and toss lightly. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the top and garnish with the wonton strips.
Valerie’s Tips and Variations
- Make-ahead – You can make the Thai Peanut Dressing up to 2 to 3 days in advance, transfer it to an mason jar or other airtight container, and refrigerate until ready to use. The wonton strips will stay crispy if made a day or two in advance and stored in an airtight container, like a zippered plastic storage bag. Don’t dress the salad until ready to serve or it will become soggy.
- Rice sticks – CPK’s Thai Crunch Salad includes both fried wonton strips and crisped rice noodles (see gluten-free option below). There is plenty of crunch in this salad without the rice sticks so I opt to leave them out. If you’d like to include them, just follow the directions on the package to quickly crisp them in hot oil and drain them well on paper towels before adding them to the salad.
- Gluten-free – Substitute gluten-free tamari for the soy sauce in the dressing and substitute rice sticks for the wonton strips.
More Main Dish Salads You’ll Love
- BBQ Chicken Salad (CPK Copycat)
- Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
- Easy Chicken Cobb Salad
- Southwest Chicken Caesar Salad
- Mediterranean Chicken Salad
Thai Crunch Salad (CPK Copycat)
Thai Peanut Dressing
- ¼ cup creamy peanut butter
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons less sodium soy sauce, or tamari for gluten-free
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ lime, juiced
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Crispy Wonton Strips (omit for gluten-free)
- 5 to 6 wonton wrappers
- vegetable oil, as needed
Thai Crunch Salad
- 3 cups romaine lettuce, well chopped
- 8 ounces 3-color coleslaw mix
- ½ bunch cilantro, chopped
- 1 cup shelled edamame
- 3 green onions, chopped
- ½ cup shredded carrot
- ½ red bell pepper, diced
- 2 cups rotisserie chicken breast meat, chopped
- 1 avocado, chopped
- ½ cup roasted unsalted peanuts
Thai Peanut Dressing
- Place all ingredients for the Thai Peanut Dressing in the bowl of a food processor or small blender. Process for about 2 minutes, or until smooth and emulsified. Set aside, or if making ahead, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.
Crispy Wonton Strips
- Cut the wonton wrappers into strips about ¼-inch by 3 inches long. You can stack them to do this quickly.
- Heat about 1-inch of oil in a large skillet or sauté pan. Fry in batches, spreading them out so they don't stick together. When golden brown, quickly remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and transfer them to paper towels to drain. (Note – they will brown very quickly and continue to crisp even more after they drain).
Assemble the Salad
- In a large serving bowl combine the Romaine, coleslaw mix, cilantro, edamame, green onion, shredded carrot, red bell pepper, and rotisserie chicken. Toss well to combine. Drizzle about ¾ of the peanut dressing over the salad and toss well. Add the avocado and peanuts and toss lightly. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the top and garnish with the wonton strips.
- Serve immediately.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated using generic ingredients, and is an estimate not a guarantee. For more accurate results, please refer to the labels on your ingredients at home.
This post was originally published on March 29, 2012. It has been updated with new text and images.