The Panera spicy Thai salad is now called “Asian Sesame Salad with Chicken.” Yes, Panera discontinued its famous spicy Thai salad.
But no sweat, all is good. I took a close look at this new variation and combined the two to create a third. The best! There are some modifications to simplify the steps and increase the deliciousness. If you like a crunchy, creamy, spicy, and sweet all-in-one meal, look no further. This is the one!
And because this is an adaptation of a restaurant/take-out meal, I’ve also included two handy shortcuts for super-quick preparation, in under 10 minutes.
Another neat thing is the vinaigrette. You can make a batch the size you want and store it in the fridge for at least a week. After making this peanut chili vinaigrette for the first time, you’ll make a larger batch next time and want to put it on everything. How about on a hot dog?
Peanut Chili Vinaigrette
The peanut chili vinaigrette makes or breaks the deal. There are two ways to make this sauce: One that involves a little more work and a few more ingredients OR a shortcut. We’ll discuss both.
Part 1: Peanut Chili Vinaigrette
Peanut Chili Vinaigrette From Scratch
Creamy peanut butter
Red pepper flakes
Soy sauce (low sodium)
Fresh lime juice
That’s quite a list. But when you think about it, these are all pantry items that are always good to have. Next, instructions:
How To Make Peanut Chili Vinaigrette
Mince ginger and garlic. Mix all ingredients well and let mingle in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. That was easy.
Creamy Peanut Butter
Always have a jar of this yummy multifunctional pantry item. It’s cheap, delicious, and doesn’t even have to be refrigerated after opening.
Red Pepper Flakes
After salt and pepper, probably one of the most versatile dry spices to increase the flavor and depth of any dish.
Always have a jar of your favorite honey handy. This delicious bee product lasts “forever.” Try buying local honey. It might be a little pricier, but you’ll know that you’re getting 100% honey.
Soy Sauce, Rice Vinegar, and Sesame Oil
You can get each of them for under $5 at your grocery store and they’ll go a long way.
Fresh Lime Juice
Every cook should have some fresh lemons and limes in the fridge. Yes, they are pretty on the countertop but last much longer refrigerated, especially once you start using them.
Buy a nice chunk of ginger and put it in the freezer, in a freezer bag. When you want to add some to your dish, use a grater – no need to defrost or peel. Peak freshness lasts three months.
Another pantry no-brainer. I use fresh garlic practically every day. So storage is no issue. Otherwise, an unpeeled head of garlic will last a couple months. Simply store in a place that’s dry, cool (room temperature), and dark. Yes, in your pantry, not in your fridge. How do you know when fresh garlic went bad? The color will change to yellow and it will get soft to the touch.
Salt is awesome…it’s the only rock we eat! In most instances, you should use kosher salt and use it to taste. Salt is not a spice. Salt will bring your food alive. You shouldn’t taste the salt itself (one of the exceptions is, of course, pasta water).
Pepper, on the other hand, is a spice. Use whole peppercorns in a pepper grinder to get the most out of this delicious flower berry.
Peanut Chili Vinaigrette With A Shortcut
And here’s the shortcut: Go to the “international” aisle of your food store and buy a Thai style peanut sauce and you’re done. The positive: Fewer ingredients and less time preparing it. The negative: Limited control over the flavor outcome.
Part 2: Chicken Salad
2 large chicken breasts or 1 whole rotisserie chicken
Similar to the peanut chili vinaigrette, there are two ways to tackle the salad part of this tasty dish. You can either cook up some nice chicken breasts or you could use a rotisserie chicken.
I prefer using a rotisserie chicken because it gives more different “meat options” than a simple chicken breast. A rotisserie chicken comes with skin on the breast meat. And it has lots of wonderful juicy thigh meat and everything in between. It might not look as neat as a perfectly sliced skinless chicken breast on a plate, but it sure makes the taste buds much happier.
If you prefer to use chicken breasts, make sure it stays juicy after cooking.
Romaine lettuce is strong enough to stand tall under all the goodies that we will top it with. But compared to iceberg lettuce, romaine does generally have more taste. To get it ready, simply cut off the end with the stem, slice it perpendicularly into 1/4” strips, and remove some of the core (stem) towards the bottom. Rinse under cold water and let dry on a clean dish towel.
Carrots and Red Bell Pepper
They add crunch, color, and sweetness. Peel the carrots (if necessary) and use the peeler to peel off about 2” long strips. Remove the core (seeds) from the red bell pepper and slice into narrow 2” long strips.
Edamame refers to the preparation of immature soybeans, generally cooked in saltwater. Once cooked, the beans are removed from the pods to enjoy. They’re rich in healthy fiber, antioxidants, and vitamin K. Most grocery stores sell bags of frozen soybeans in microwaveable pouches. Simply pop a bag in the microwave, let cool, and remove the beans from the pods by gently pushing the bean on one side.
For some extra crunch, I like to add some slivered almonds, which can be found in the baking aisle.
Wonton strips are a new addition to my pantry. Adding some to a dish is like adding that little “Asian” touch to it. A large (16 oz) bag costs less than $4. They’re excellent when added to a soup, and I’ve even started using them for little dippers for my guacamole.
Chop roughly and you’re good to go.
Panera Spicy Thai Chicken Salad “Asian Sesame Salad with Chicken” (Panera Copycat)
Part 3: The Assembly
If you’re using a rotisserie chicken, there’s no cooking involved (except for microwaving the edamame (if used).
Grab a large plate – I prefer a bowl-shaped pasta plate. Start by placing the chopped romaine on the plate. Add carrots and bell peppers, followed by the edamame, wonton strips, and slivered almonds. Doesn’t it look pretty already?
Top with sliced chicken meat, drizzle the sauce over, and top it off with some roughly chopped cilantro.
You just made a delicious, crunchy, creamy, spicy, and sweet chicken salad. Enjoy, and please let me know what you think!
As always, use this recipe as a guideline and inspiration. Then adjust the flavors to your preference. Make it your own. You can do it!
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Panera Spicy Thai Salad
For The Salad
- 2 large chicken breasts or 1 whole rotisserie chicken
- 1 head romaine lettuce
- 2 c carrots, peeled into 2" long strips
- 2 c red bell pepper, cut into narrow 2" long strips
- 1 c edamame
- 1/2 c slivered almonds
- 1 c wonton strips
- 1 c chopped cilantro
For The Peanut Butter Vinaigrette
- 2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 4 Tbsp soy sauce (low sodium)
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1 Tbsp grated ginger
- 1 Tbsp garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
Peanut Chili Vinaigrette
- Mince ginger and garlic. Mix all ingredients well and let mingle in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Panera Spicy Thai Salad
- If you’re using a rotisserie chicken, there’s no cooking involved (except for microwaving the edamame (if used). If you prefer to use chicken breasts, make sure it stays juicy after cooking.
- Grab a large plate – I prefer a bowl-shaped pasta plate. Start by placing the chopped romaine on the plate.
- Add carrots and bell peppers, followed by the edamame, wonton strips, and slivered almonds.
- Top with sliced chicken meat, drizzle the sauce over, and top it off with some roughly chopped cilantro.
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