Freshly grilled prawns, crunchy red cabbage, aromatic Thai herbs and a zesty chilli tamarind salad dressing, this spicy Thai prawn salad recipe is mouth watering goodness.
- Why You’ll Love This Salad
- What Are Your Favourite Thai Salads?
- Tips For A Great Thai Prawn Salad
- Recipe Overview
- Variations and Substitutions
- How To Prepare the Prawns
- How To Prepare the Salad
- How to Make Chilli Tamarind Dressing
- How To Assemble Thai Prawn Salad
- What To Eat With Thai Prawn Salad
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why You’ll Love This Salad
I pay homage to the traditional Thai pla goong in this prawn salad recipe. The classic hot and sour flavours of chilli and lime mixed with sweet fresh prawns is second to none.
I use the pla goong combination as a base and then add my own twists for this Thai prawn salad. Freshly grilled or barbecued prawns with crunchy red cabbage, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, mint and spring onions, the Thai inspired salad is full of aromatic texture.
To add extra oomph and fruity flavours to the Thai salad dressing, I mix in tamarind puree with lime, chili paste, fish sauce and palm sugar. Tamarind puree in this salad dressing recipe adds not only sweet tanginess but also delicious fruity flavours.
Literally the hot and sour flavours of chilli tamarind salad dressing will create a dance party in your mouth.
And when they say you eat with your eyes, it is true! The stunning red hues of the chilli tamarind dressing with the coral pink colours of the prawns plus the pops of Thai green herbs made this spicy prawn salad a stunner to look at.
I can say this colourful, easy Asian prawn salad recipe will be perfect for sharing with friends and on special occasions like Chinese New Year, summer alfresco celebrations and birthday dinners.
What Are Your Favourite Thai Salads?
When I head out for Thai food, I never go without ordering a Thai salad, usually even two or three!
It is challenging for me to decide on just one salad. I love the perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy in all Thai salad recipes.
The Thai herbs and aromates add freshness and pops of interesting flavours that you don’t always get in other cuisines.
The go-to classic Thai salad for me is som tam, a green papaya salad mixed with fish sauce, lime juice, chillies, dried shrimp, palm sugar and all pounded in a mortar and pestle.
The pla goong recipe I have used to create my own Thai prawn salad is slightly different to som tom as it uses both chilli paste and fresh chillies for its heat. I love this spicy combination as well because of the wonderful red hues it adds to the fresh prawns.
For more Thai inspired salads you may also like Thai Green Mango Salad with Salty Tamarind Dressing or Thai Pomelo Salad with Roast Duck.
Tips For A Great Thai Prawn Salad
- Make sure not to overcrowd the grill with prawns as you want to have a nice charred flavour on the prawns.
- Do not overcook the prawns as they can become rubbery.
- Finely chop all the herbs and aromates as you want to have a burst of all the flavours and not a complete mouthful of just lemongrass or kaffir lime leaves for example.
- Find the right balance of sweet, sour, salty and spice in the chilli tamarind dressing according to your taste.
Flavour/Texture: There are a lot of delicious textures going on in this Thai prawn salad but all combined in a harmonious balance with the grilled prawns, red cabbage and all the different Thai herbs and aromates.
The chilli tamarind dressing delivers the quintessential Thai salad dressing flavours to the prawn salad. There is a delicate balance of sour, sweet, salt and spice in this mixture. The tamarind puree adds another layer of fruitiness and sourness to the overall flavour profile which I love.
Ease: This Thai salad recipe is fairly easy to make. The only cooking component is the grilled prawns and the rest of the salad is just chopping.
Time: I would say 30 minutes at most is needed to make the Thai prawn salad recipe. You can easily prepare the ingredients ahead of time and assemble when ready to serve.
These are the ingredients you need for Thai prawn salad:
Prawn meat: For this Thai prawn salad recipe, I bought shelled banana prawns as I wanted to keep the prawn shells for stock in another recipe. You can also purchase prawn meat already deshelled and cleaned.
Red cabbage: Choose red cabbage mainly for the colours in this recipe. You can substitute for white cabbage.
Kaffir lime leaves: Kaffir lime leaves are leaves of a kaffir lime plant. We don’t often use kaffir limes themselves in cooking due to the knobbly looking fruit but we do use the rind and leaves for their aromatic fragrance in various recipes like our Snake Bean Salad.
You will be able to find them in large supermarkets or Asian groceries.
Red chillies: I used long red chillies in this recipe for a medium-hot heat. If you prefer more spicy, go birds eye chilli.
Spring onion: Also known as scallions, I love to add a little crunch and heat to the salad with spring onions.
Lemongrass: Popular aromate used in Thai cooking, lemongrass adds a wonderful fragrance and flavour to the salad. I also thinly sliced it in the mixture so it gives a slightly woody texture to the overall mouthfeel.
Mint leaves: Fresh mint leaves will add colour and help balance the heat in this Thai salad recipe.
Fish sauce: Choose a good quality fish sauce when making Thai salad dressings. The better quality fish sauce will have higher anchovy content versus added salt content. I normally use the Three Crabs brand at home.
Tamarind purée: You can purchase tamarind puree at large supermarkets or Asian groceries. Tamarind puree is more of a liquid form and less concentrated than tamarind pulp. It is easier to use puree for this dressing as you don’t need to soak it.
Palm sugar: Popular choice to be used as a sweetener for Thai salad dressings, but you can substitute for brown sugar if you don’t have any at hand.
Lime: I love the combination of lime and fish sauce. The sharp contrasting flavours are a match made in heaven.
Chilli paste: There are a myriad of chilli paste available at the supermarket. You can use sambal oelek or Thai chilli paste for this spicy prawn salad dressing.
Variations and Substitutions
Alternative to tamarind puree: If you can’t find tamarind puree, you can use tamarind paste instead. I would probably start with 1 tablespoon first and adjust the taste. Otherwise leave tamarind out and just use lime juice.
Adjust the chilli: If you are serving a group where they can not take spiciness, reduce the chilli paste by ½ teaspoon in the dressing. You can also replace the long red chillies with peppers, so you still have the red colours in the salad but not the heat.
Other mixes of herbs: Coriander or Thai basil would also work in this prawn salad if you don’t have mint on hand or switch the spring onions with red onions.
Other ingredients: You can create your own variation of this Thai prawn salad recipe. These ingredients would also work well with prawns and chilli tamarind dressing including cucumber matchsticks, shredded carrot, shredded green papaya, mango, glass noodles or wombok.
Step by step instructions for how to make Thai prawn salad:
How To Prepare the Prawns
Deshell, wash and devein prawns.
Heat fry pan over medium-high heat and cook prawns for 1-2 minutes on each side.
Do not overcrowd the fry pan with too many prawns. Prawns are cooked when the flesh turns opaque, and there is nice golden char on each side.
Remove from heat and set aside for assembly.
How To Prepare the Salad
There are a few different types of Thai herbs and aromates in this salad that all need to be thinly sliced.
Using a sharp knife, remove the thick stem in the middle of the kaffir leaf. Then stack a few leaves together and roll tightly together or at least fold them in half lengthwise and then thinly slice into fine strips.
Trim the base of the lemongrass and then remove the harder outer layer of the stalk. Then thinly slice into rounds.
Remove mint leaves from stalk, wash and set aside for assembly.
Trim the stalk of the chilli, cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Thinly slice chilli lengthwise, so you get thin strips.
Trim spring onion roots and then cut into 3-4 cm lengths. Thinly slice spring onion lengthwise so you get thin strips similar to the chilli.
Using a sharp knife, make a diagonal cut and trim the stem of red cabbage to remove it. Then place the cabbage cut side down and thinly slice the cabbage leaves. Set aside for mixing.
How to Make Chilli Tamarind Dressing
Thinly shave palm sugar and add to a small mixing bowl.
Add fish sauce, lime juice, tamarind purée, then mix until the palm sugar dissolves.
Add chilli paste and stir well to combine.
Our family does prefer a little heat in our dishes, so this Thai salad dressing includes enough chilli but you can adjust the heat as you please.
How To Assemble Thai Prawn Salad
In a large mixing bowl, place shredded cabbage, grilled prawns and ¾ of the sliced Thai herbs and aromates together. Keep the remaining Thai herbs for serving.
Add chilli tamarind dressing to the salad and mix well. Make sure all the prawns are well coated with the spicy salad dressing.
Tumble dressed Thai prawn salad onto a large serving platter. Scatter the remaining Thai herbs on the top and squeeze extra lime juice to serve.
What To Eat With Thai Prawn Salad
What to serve with Thai prawn salad? Try these Asian delicious recipes.
This slow cooker General Tso chicken version is a healthier recipe and ever so delicious. For a 10 minute cook, try this sticky ginger beef or you can try and re-create a restaurant favourite, salt and pepper chicken wings.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can prepare all the ingredients ahead, in particular the salad components. You can then grill the prawns later and toss together with chilli tamarind dressing when ready to serve.
Tamarind is a fruit grown on trees and comes in a small curvy pod with a brittle shell. The sticky sour pulp is what we use in our cooking. It not only adds a punchy sour taste but a fruity aroma which worked perfectly in the chilli tamarind dressing.
Tamarind paste is compressed dried tamarind pods with pulp and seeds. It has a thick consistency and needs to be soaked before using.
Whilst tamarind puree is more of a liquid form and less concentrated than pulp. The texture of tamarind puree is more like a dipping sauce.
Thai cooking would not be complete without Thai herbs and spices. They form the blueprint of Thai cooking and deliver the beautiful aromatic flavours that we love about Thai food.
The top 3 Thai herbs that are used in their cooking would be basil (holy basil and sweet basil), mint and coriander (both root and leaves).
These Thai herbs are not only tossed in salads or stir fries but also used in creating curry pastes, soups and stews. Lucky for us, these 3 Thai herbs are easily found in our greengrocers and Asian supermarkets.
Kaffir lime leaves are leaves of a kaffir lime plant. Kaffir limes are very different to that of the normal lime. They have lumpy and knobby looking skin and are very bitter. We don’t use the actual fruit in cooking.
Kaffir lime leaves are extremely popular in Thai cooking. The pungent, robust citrus flavours are fantastic in Thai recipes to balance the sweet, savoury and sour flavours. You only need a few leaves to create an impression due to the strong flavours.
I always finely slice my kaffir lime leaves as they have such strong flavours. You need to remove the inner stalk first as this does not breaks
I just loved the final colours of this Thai prawn salad recipe. The chilli tamarind dressing not only gave this prawn salad a burst of deliciousness but the bright red hues brightens up the table for sure!
I do believe this delicious Thai prawn salad will look stunning at a dinner party, Australian barbecues, festive gatherings or Chinese New Year celebrations. You can serve it with rice or noodle dishes. A great recipe to try now and save for many potluck dinners to come.
More Asian Salad Recipes
Thai Prawn Salad with Chilli Tamarind Dressing
- 400 g prawn, meat (shrimp)
- ¼ red cabbage
- 5 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 stalk lemongrass
- ½ cup mint, leaves
- 2 red chillies, large
- 2 sprigs spring onion, (scallions)
- ½ lime
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Deshell, wash and devein prawns (or you can purchase prawn meat ready to go)
- Heat fry pan over medium-high heat and cook prawns for 1-2 minutes on each side. Cook until prawns turn opaque, and there is a nice golden char on each side.
- Thinly slice red cabbage leaves into shreds.
- Using a sharp knife, remove the thick stem in the middle of the kaffir lime leaf. Then stack a few leaves together and roll tightly together or at least fold them in half lengthwise and then thinly slice into fine strips.
- Trim the base of the lemongrass and then remove the harder outer layer of the stalk. Then thinly slice into rounds.
- Remove mint leaves from stalk, wash and set aside for assembly.
- Trim the stalk of the chilli, cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Thinly slice chilli lengthwise so you get thin strips.
- Trim spring onion roots and then cut into 3-4cm lengths. Thinly slice spring onion lengthwise so you get thin strips similar to the chilli.
- Thinly shave palm sugar and add to a small mixing bowl.
- Add fish sauce, lime juice, tamarind puree, then mix until the palm sugar dissolves.
- Add chilli paste and stir well to combine.
- In a large mixing bowl, place shredded cabbage, grilled prawns and ¾ of the sliced Thai herbs and aromats together.
- Keep the remaining Thai herbs for serving.
- Add chilli tamarind dressing to the salad and mix well. Make sure all the prawns are well coated with the spicy salad dressing.
- Tumble dressed salad onto a large serving platter.
- Scatter the remaining Thai herbs on the top and squeeze extra lime juice to serve.
- Tamarind purée can be found in most large supermarkets in the Asian section or at Asian grocery stores. If you can’t find it, you can omit it in the dressing. Increase the lime juice to balance the flavours.
- If you are serving a group where they can not take spiciness, reduce the chilli paste by ½ teaspoon in the dressing.
- You can also replace the long red chillies with peppers, so you still have the red colours in the salad but not the heat.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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