Thai Chopped Peanut Salad with Crispy Sesame Tofu

Thai Peanut Salad | Veggie and the Beast

Happy first week of summer! It’s not official, but after this past weekend it might as well be. I spent 4 days relaxing, walking my dog around various lakes, drinking beer in the sunshine, and starting to get a little tan (which really just means extra freckles, but still).

Thai Peanut Salad | Veggie and the Beast
Thai Peanut Salad | Veggie and the Beast

I took Friday off to reset myself after a stressful week, and ended up making this salad kind of by accident. I’ve been all about Thai peanut sauces lately (sidebar – I made this for dinner on Thursday – super love), but wanted something somewhat light for my day-off lunch. I’ve also been putting Cookie + Kate‘s crunchy baked tofu on errrrrything, so naturally I needed to incorporate it somehow.

This salad is based off of my favorite “You Pick Two” item at Panera Bread. I’m that person who orders “The Big Mac without the meat” (not anymore, but I used to), or “The mediterranean salmon salad without the salmon,” and “The Thai Chopped Chicken Salad without the chicken.” It’s usually met with a friendly “ha! okay,” sometimes with a cocked eyebrow, or every so often with an understanding nod, which makes me think I’m not the only one who orders meat-centric meals without the main attraction (or what most would consider the main attraction).

Thai Peanut Salad | Veggie and the Beast

I veered from Panera’s version with the lack of chicken (duh), but also the wonton strips and the double dressing. I love me those wonton strips, but didn’t want to buy a big bag of fried deliciousness to have around the house, because DANGER, so the crunch in my version comes from the cashews and sesame-crusted baked tofu. Since it always seems unnecessary to me that Panera serves the salad with 2 dressings, I put my energy towards a flavorful Thai peanut dressing. It’s creamy from a little coconut milk, rich from the peanut butter, and tangy from brown rice vinegar. I added sweetness with honey, but feel free to swap it out with agave or brown sugar to keep this salad vegan.

Thai Peanut Salad | Veggie and the Beast

I charred some edamame, red bell pepper, and carrot pieces by quickly broiling them (while watching them oh-so carefully), and then mixed all of the above together with romaine, cilantro, and sliced green onions.

Thai Peanut Salad | Veggie and the Beast

As I mention in the notes below, you don’t want to toss the dressing into the salad until you’re ready to serve, because it will take the crunch out of the romaine, and overpower the sesame tofu. Instead, let each person drizzle as much or as little dressing as they want on their serving. You probably won’t use all of the dressing, so feel free to keep it in the fridge and use it on other salads (or Thai pizza? hmmm…interesting) throughout the week.

Thai Chopped Peanut Salad with Crispy Sesame Tofu

A vegan, gluten free take on Panera Bread's Thai Chopped Chicken Salad with broiled veggies, crisp romaine, crunchy sesame-coated tofu, and a tangy, rich peanut vinaigrette.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes


For the Salad

  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 cup frozen shelled edamame
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces romaine leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews, chopped
  • Crispy Sesame Tofu, recipe follows
  • Thai Peanut Dressing, recipe follows

Crispy Sesame Tofu

  • 1 14-ounce container extra firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium tamari
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Thai Peanut Dressing

  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned brown rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons non-GMO canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium tamari
  • 3 tablespoons honey (or agave, for vegan option)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1-inch square piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 tablespoons light coconut milk


  1. Set oven to broil. Place an oven rack in the top third of your oven. Toss together the red pepper, carrot, edamame and olive oil in a bowl. Transfer to a baking sheet, and broil for 5-7 minutes, stirring/shaking the pan 3 times and checking frequently to keep the veggies from burning.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Slice the tofu block lengthwise, and wrap in a kitchen towel. Place between 2 chopping boards, and place something heavy on top (I use my dutch oven). Let sit for 10 minutes.
  4. After the 10 minutes are up, slice each tofu slab lengthwise again so you have 4 pieces total. Slice each piece down the middle, creating 2 columns, and then slice so you have 4 rows. Place the tofu pieces in a bowl.
  5. Whisk together the sesame oil and tamari. Pour over the tofu and gently fold in. Sprinkle in the sesame seeds and fold again. Dust the cornstarch over the tofu and stir until fully incorporated.
  6. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring halfway through, until golden.
  7. To make the dressing, simply combine all ingredients in a blender, and process until smooth. Set aside.
  8. Toss together the broiled veggies with the romaine, cilantro, green onion and cashews. Transfer into individual bowls, and top with the sesame tofu. Drizzle with the dressing.

Serves 4 as an entree, 6 as a side. You won't need all of the dressing, so I recommend letting each person drizzle on as much as they want.

Do not stir the dressing into the salad if not eating right away - it will make the romaine less crisp, and overpower the sesame flavor of the tofu.


25 Responses to “Thai Chopped Peanut Salad with Crispy Sesame Tofu”

  1. cheri — May 27, 2014 @ 8:17 am (#)

    This is my kind of salad, love Kate’s tofu recipe. Good for you taking a day off, always nice to recharge.

  2. Lindsay — May 27, 2014 @ 8:22 pm (#)

    My husband and I made this tonight and it is a WINNER! We could not stop exclaiming over it. Delicious!!

    • Katie — May 27, 2014 @ 8:39 pm (#)

      Thank you Lindsay! I’m so glad you guys enjoyed it :)

  3. Kelly — May 28, 2014 @ 6:11 am (#)

    What a beautiful salad! This sounds so good to me right now.

  4. Kate Selner — May 28, 2014 @ 8:15 am (#)

    I’m all about these types of salads, with a big variety of veggies for crunch. While I do love a good Panera salad, they just aren’t the finest in terms of ‘good for you’ {but better than a Big Mac} and making a healthier option is awesome. I look forward to all the charred goodness in this!

  5. Isadora @ she likes food — May 28, 2014 @ 10:39 am (#)

    This salad looks amazing!! I’ve been meaning to try that baked tofu for a while now and this must be a sign that I need to make it soon! Also, I love your Thai peanut dressing, it looks like a dressing that I would want to cover everything with :) I used to be one of those people too, who would order my food without the meat and I would always hope that they would give me a little bit of a discount for getting my salad without the most expensive ingredient, but they never did!

    • Katie — May 28, 2014 @ 10:43 am (#)

      Thank you! And I HEAR you on the need for a no-meat discount. Sometimes I even say “can I get [X] ingredient instead of meat?” and get charged extra – laaaaame :)

  6. Raquel @ My California Roots — May 28, 2014 @ 11:55 am (#)

    I’m trying that tofu tonight! It looks so great. Thanks!

    • Katie — May 28, 2014 @ 11:58 am (#)

      Nice! I hope you love it!

      • Raquel @ My California Roots — May 29, 2014 @ 9:06 am (#)

        I made it! And it was great. Honestly, I don’t really like tofu. I TRY to like it, and I’ve tried so many recipes, but for some reason tofu always has a weird flavor. But this time I pressed the crap out of it and made a bit extra of the sauce, and it turned out great! I think I cooked it for an extra 10 minutes or so to make it really crispy, but other than that is was spot-on! Thanks!

        • Katie — May 29, 2014 @ 10:06 am (#)

          I’m so glad you liked it! I agree – pressing the crap out of it makes a huuuuuuge difference. :)

  7. Marie — May 28, 2014 @ 6:56 pm (#)

    Hilarious, we order that salad the exact same way at Panara! This looks fantastic.

  8. Natalie @ Once Upon a Cutting Board — May 29, 2014 @ 8:07 pm (#)

    I love peanut dressing on everything too, and also love anything Thai flavoured. AND I just discovered I like tofu recently so I’m eager to try this, it looks amazing!

  9. sarah davis — May 29, 2014 @ 8:31 pm (#)

    Delicious. I made a few changes out of necessity because I didn’t have a few ingredients. I subbed soy sauce for the tamari (I didn’t have any), stir fried the veggies so I didn’t have to heat the house up with the oven, left out the tofu altogether (I don’t like the stuff), and was shocked to discover that I didn’t have any coconut milk on hand, so I had to just use milk. Loved it, thanks for the recipe.

    • Katie — May 30, 2014 @ 7:08 am (#)

      Sounds great! Glad you loved it!

  10. Arti — May 30, 2014 @ 5:10 am (#)

    This salad tastes as amazing as it looks! I’m not a fan of tofu but loved it baked. Thanks for so many delicious recipes.

    • Katie — May 30, 2014 @ 7:09 am (#)

      Thanks Arti!

  11. Min Kwon — June 12, 2014 @ 8:08 pm (#)

    Katie, I’m so glad I found your lovely blog! All your recipes look so delicious. I just want to dive right in. The tofu looks perfectly prepared and I love that you charred the edamame.

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  15. Kristen — November 19, 2014 @ 4:53 pm (#)

    I make this frequently for my family. They gobble it right dow, so delicious.

  16. Tracy — February 28, 2015 @ 2:10 pm (#)

    This salad is truly wonderful! It has such a great flavor profile and I absolutely love the baked tofu pieces! I’ve made it twice in the last 2 weeks and each time I’ve had to forcefully restrain myself from licking the delicious peanut dressing off the plate after the salad was gone lol!

    • Katie — March 1, 2015 @ 9:53 am (#)

      haha, I hear you! Thanks so much for the comment!

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