Freshly grilled prawns, aromatic Thai herbs and a zesty Chilli Tamarind salad dressing with a good kick of chilli, this Asian-inspired salad is mouthwatering goodness.
Why I Love My Thai Prawn Salad
Freshly grilled prawns, aromatic Thai herbs, a tangy dressing with a good kick of chilli, this Thai prawn salad is mouthwatering goodness.
We loved the textures together, and the flavour of the spicy prawns was delicious. My family loves Asian salads, and this Thai salad recipe was a hit.
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 salad a stunner to look at.
I can say this colourful, easy Asian salad 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 one salad. I love the perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy in all their salads.
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 hot chillies and tangy green papaya magically meld into one with the sweet and pungent fish sauce dressing. I am getting hungry just writing about it.
I always order som tom, green papaya salad and decide whether or not I am heading back to the restaurant based on this dish. It’s harsh but if you don’t make a good som tom at a Thai restaurant, you ain’t getting my business! Ha.
In creating my own Thai salad recipe, I also wanted a harmonious balance between the flavours and adding interesting textures with prawns, red cabbage and all the different Thai herbs and aromates.
The chilli tamarind dressing delivers the savoury flavour with a good kick of heat and tang as well.
What Are Essential Thai Herbs?
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.
How To Create Your Own Thai-Inspired Dressing
To create your own Thai homemade salad dressing, you need ingredients that will give you the sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours. Key Thai ingredients for this include:
Sour – lime juice
Sweet – palm sugar
Salty – fish sauce
Spicy – chillies
The ratios you use between the different components may vary depending on your taste.
In general, there is more acidity than salt in the Thai salad dressing so I would start with 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, 3 tablespoons of lime juice and 1 tablespoon of shaved palm sugar. The amount of chilli will depend on how much heat you can take. You then adjust from there.
After you have found your balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours, you can layer it with additional herbs, aromates and alliums. Common additional ingredients include crushed garlic, ginger, shredded kaffir limes, cilantro stems and shallots.
For our Chilli Tamarind dressing, I added tamarind puree in conjunction with the lime juice to create another layer of sour.
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.
For some inspiring Asian salad dressing, you can try:
How to Make Thai Prawn Salad
How To Prepare the Prawns
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.
Deshell, wash and devein prawns.
Heat frypan over medium-high heat and cook prawns for 1-2 minutes on each side.
Do not overcrowd the frypan 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.
Prawns, or shrimp, are fantastic salad ingredients. For our pescatarian friends, try these prawn salads:
- Gin and Lime Prawn Salad with Avocado
- Prawn and Avocado Salad with Golden Kiwi
- Prawn and Fennel Salad with Yuzu Jam Dressing
Prepare the Salad
Using a sharp knife, make a diagonal cut and trim the stem of red cabbage to remove it. Then place cabbage cut side down and thinly slice the cabbage leaves. Set aside for mixing.
There are a few different types of Thai herbs and aromates in this salad that all need to be thinly sliced.
How to cut kaffir lime leaves? Using a sharp knife, remove the thick stem in the middle of the 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.
I had a little bit of Vietnamese mint in my garden, so I combined both common mint with Vietnamese mint in the salad. However, if you don’t have Vietnamese mint, that’s ok. Common mint is fine as well.
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.
How to Make Chilli Tamarind Dressing
What I love about this Asian salad dressing is that it is fantastic on other dishes like grilled fish, barbeque chicken, pan fried tofu or even a glass noodle salad. Easily can store in the fridge for a week.
Our family does prefer a little heat in our dishes, so the dressing includes enough chilli but you can adjust the heat as you please.
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.
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.
I just loved the final colours of this Thai salad recipe. The chilli tamarind dressing not only gave this Asian 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, 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
Get inspired by the biggest collection of salad recipes in the one place. We have recipes to suit lifestyle preferences and different occasions. These salads are both delicious and stylish. Search for your favourite ingredient to find a salad you’ll love!
- Spicy Chicken Salad
- Roast Duck, Caramelised Grapefruit and Wombok Salad
- Asian Eggplant Salad with Miso Dressing
- Asian Pear Salad with Soba and Hot Smoked Salmon
- Tofu Puff Salad with Snake Beans and Peanut Butter Dressing
Easy Salad Dressing Recipes
Salad dressings are incredibly easy to make in the comfort of your own home. This way you can control the ingredients to suit your palate and you can make the exact portion you need for that one meal. We have a huge collection of recipes and you may just like some of these:
Ingredient Pairing Ideas
If you’d like to create your own salad and have an ingredient you’d like to hero, we have some great pairing suggestions to help you work out what flavours go well together.
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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.
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