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This delicious chicken salad features roasted sweet potatoes, pickled onions, toasted coconut, and herb marinated chicken. It's a Modern Market Thai Coconut Salad copycat recipe made compliant for the Paleo, Whole30, and AIP diets!
One of my favorite salads to eat is the Thai Chicken Salad from Modern Market. If you have the fortune of having a Modern Market near you (and aren't currently on the AIP Diet), I highly recommend you go get one.
But if not, or if you ARE on the AIP Diet, here's a slightly modified version that you can enjoy. It's not as spicy as the real deal as it doesn't use jalapenos and it doesn't have a peanut butter dressing, but I think this version is delicious all the same.
Table of contents
What's in this salad?
There are several components to this salad, but don't worry, they don't take a long time to make!
• Herb Marinated Chicken – This is a simple chicken breast that has been marinated with some basil, cilantro, olive oil, garlic, and sea salt. It just needs to marinate for about 30 minutes (up to 12 hours) and then is roasted in the oven
• Pickled Onions – these are quick pickled, meaning it only takes a few minutes to get a tangy, acidic taste that pairs with this salad beautifully!
• Grated Sweet Potatoes – I always love how changing the way you prepare an ingredient almost changes the way it tastes, and grating sweet potatoes vs dicing or slicing them is one of these examples! It's just a great way to cook them that allows you to get a little roasted goodness in every bite of salad.
• Mango Dressing – This is the tropical twist to the salad that gives it a slight Thai flavor with notes of ginger, vinegar tang, and cilantro
• Salad and toppers – The components above are served over simple mixed greens and topped with toasted coconut, cucumber, and more cilantro
The main ingredients (plus substitutions)
I'm not going to list ALL of the ingredients here, you can see the full list in the recipe card below, but here are the main ones with any substitutions that you can make.
• Chicken Breasts – I don't usually use breasts over thighs in recipes, but in this situation chicken breasts work well. However, you can always use boneless, skinless thighs if you'd rather! Or change it out with steak – or omit the meat altogether if you want a Vegetarian/Vegan option
• Sweet Potatoes – the sweet nature of sweet potatoes pairs so well with the other flavors in this salad and is a nice balance of carbs for those of us that do much better with some carbs in our lives. If you don't tolerate, like, or are sick of sweet potatoes (which happens on AIP sometimes, ha!), you can replace them with grated carrots or butternut squash as well. Roast them similarly to the sweet potatoes!
• Red Onions – I use red onions for the pickled onions because they tend to be less, well, onion-y than yellow onions and this mild flavor is good for a raw application like this. If all you have on hand is yellow onions I recommend soaking them in the vinegar solution for at least an hour to offset the stronger flavor of the onions. You can also use shallots if you prefer.
• Mangoes – This tropical fruit is the basis of the dressing and really pairs with the other elements in this salad beautifully. You can use either fresh mango, frozen and thawed mango, or canned mango in this recipe.
• Coconut chips – Toasting the coconut is what gives this salad a really satisfying crunch. You can use chips or unsweetened, shredded coconut. Obviously omit this if you need to be coconut-free.
• Cucumber – Refreshing and also adds an element of crunch!
• Spring Lettuce Mix – the base of this salad is a spring lettuce mix as it doesn't have a ton of competing flavor for the other elements, yet still provides nutrients and, well, the salad part of this salad. You can replace it with kale, baby spinach, or romaine if you'd rather.
How to make the salad
Don't be intimidated by the components of this salad. It's really quite simple to make and won't take very long.
• Marinate the chicken – about 30 minutes and up to 12 hours ahead of time, throw all of the ingredients for the chicken, including the chicken, into a bag or bowl and put in your fridge
• When you're going to make the salad, start by making the pickled onions – this is quite a simple process as all you need to do is boil some water, put some vinegar, sugar, and salt in a jar, and slice some red onions. Then pour the boiling water over the onions to semi-cook them and then drain and put the onions in the jar with the vinegar. Set aside.
• Roast the chicken – this simply requires you to remove it from the marinade and put it in an oven safe dish or baking sheet and put it in the oven at 450 F
• Grate and roast the sweet potato – peel the sweet potato and then using a food processor or box grater, grate the sweet potato. Place it on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil or avocado oil and sea salt and then put it into the oven with the chicken to roast
• Toast the coconut chips – If you need a tutorial on how to do this, check out my How to Make Toasted Coconut Chips post and video
• Make the Mango Dressing – this is simply putting ingredients into a food processor or blender and blending until smooth
• Slice the cucumber and prep the greens – this is simply getting the rest of the salad ready
• Once the chicken is done, slice it – You'll want to make sure it's reached 165 F first, and then let it rest for 5 minutes to lock in the juices. But then slice away!
• Assemble the salads – divide everything between plates and serve!
How to make it ahead of time
You can make this salad up to 5 days ahead of time. To do so I recommend storing it this way though:
• Keep the onions in this pickling mixture as they'll get more flavor the longer they sit
• Keep the toasted coconut chips at room temperature as they'll get soggy if they sit in the fridge with the rest of the ingredients
• Store the dressing in a separate container and dress the salad just before serving
More Paleo, Whole30, & AIP salad (and bowl) recipes:
I hope you may find these just as delicious as this one!
Green Goddess Bowl (Paleo, Whole30, AIP)
Winter Steak Salad (Paleo, Whole30, AIP)
Steak Bowl (Paleo, Whole30, AIP)
Winter Bowl (Paleo, Whole30, AIP)
More Helpful AIP & Paleo Resources in the Freebie Library
If you find this recipe helpful, you may really enjoy the resources in my Paleo & AIP Freebie Library! There's a “dump” freezer meal plan, a list of AIP-compliant breakfast toppings, and so much more. Plus, you'll get even more ideas sent to your inbox! Get the password here.
Thai Chicken Salad Recipe
If you make this salad, I'd love to hear how it turned out! Either comment below or share a pic on Instagram and tag me @thrivingonpaleo!
Thai Chicken Salad with Mango Dressing (Paleo, Whole30, AIP)
For the Chicken:
- 1.5 lb boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts
- 3 tbsp Olive Oil or Avocado Oil
- 2 cloves Garlic (minced)
- 1 tbsp sliced fresh Ginger (or 1 tsp dried Ginger)
- 2 tbsp Cilantro (minced)
- 1 tsp dried Basil (or 1 tbsp fresh minced Basil)
- 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
For the Pickled Onions:
- 1 medium Red Onion
- 3/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar
- 1 tsp Coconut or Maple Sugar (Maple Syrup or Honey is also ok – omit completely for Whole30)
- 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
For the Grated Sweet Potatoes:
- 1 medium Sweet Potato
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil or Avocado Oil
- 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
For the Mango Dressing:
- 1 cup Mango chunks (fresh, thawed from frozen, or canned)
- 1 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar
- 1/4 cup Olive Oil or Avocado Oil ((may need up to an additional 1/4 cup – see directions))
- 1 tbsp Cilantro (chopped)
- 1 tbsp fresh Ginger (or 1 tsp dried Ginger)
- 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
For the rest of the salad:
- 1 cup Coconut Chips or unsweetened, shredded Coconut (omit for coconut-free)
- 1 Cucumber (thinly sliced into half moons)
- 8 cups Spring Lettuce Mix
- 1 cup Cilantro (chopped)
Between 30 minutes and 12 hours ahead of time:
- In a medium bowl or gallon-sized ziploc bag, add all of the ingredients for the chicken, stir or massage everything to mix and coat the chicken. Cover the bowl or seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.
When making the salad:
- Preheat the oven to 450 F. While waiting for the oven to heat, heat 2 cups of water to boiling while you slice the red onion into thin slices. Place the onion in a colander in the sink and slowly pour the boiling water over the onion slices to soften and slightly cook them. Add the vinegar, sea salt, and sugar to a small bowl or glass container and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Then add the onion slices to the vinegar and stir to submerge them. Set aside.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and put into a baking dish or on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Put into the oven and set the timer for 15 minutes.
- Peel and shred the sweet potato using a box grater or food processor with the grating blade. Place the shredded sweet potato on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drizzle the oil and sea salt on top and then using your hands or a spoon, mix. Spread the sweet potato evenly on the sheet and put into the oven with the chicken for 10 minutes.
- While the sweet potato and chicken are cooking, toast the coconut chips by placing them in a dry pan over medium heat. Start stirring them occasionally after about 3 minutes and continue to cook until they are lightly toasted and the ends have turned brown.
- While everything is cooking, put all of the ingredients for the Mango Dressing into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth and creamy. You may want to add up to an additional 1/4 cup of oil to make it runnier, totally up to your preference on this. Without the extra 1/4 cup of oil it's a thick sauce.
- Slice the cucumber and chop the cilantro and set aside.
- Check the chicken after 15 minutes – the temperature should be 165 F in the thickest part if taken with an instant-read thermometer. If it isn't, continue to cook until it is. Once it's done, remove it from the oven and cover with aluminum foil or a kitchen towel for 5 minutes to rest.
- Start to assemble the salads – divide the spring mix evenly between the plates. Add toasted coconut chips, shredded sweet potatoes, cucumbers, and cilantro to each plate. Using a fork, remove the pickled onions from the vinegar and place on each plate. Then once the chicken is done resting, slice and divide between the plates. Either dollop some of the sauce on each plate or serve on the side. Enjoy!