This Thai Beef Salad is tangy, spicy, amazingly delicious yet deceptively easy to make in just 30-minutes! Topped with toasted rice powder for a bit of crunch. It’s a healthy salad that tastes so decadent!
This Thai Beef Salad is perfect to serve up as a delicious meal on its own, or as a side dish with other favorite Thai recipes like Pad Kee Mao, Grilled Chicken with Peanut Sauce and Thai Beef with Stir Fry.
It’s loaded with intense, tangy flavors – Citrus, lemongrass, mint and cilantro dance around with a bit of lime juice, spicy jalapenos, and a pinch of brown sugar to lend some sweetness and balance it all out.
This salad is one that I find myself constantly ordering when out to eat at Thai restaurants and I’ve heard it called so many different things…
Thai Beef Salad Names
- Yum Nua
- Crying Tiger Beef Salad
- Nam Tok
- Waterfall Beef Salad
I’ve also found that the heat level can vary so much from restaurant to restaurant. I like my food spicy, but at some Thai restaurants, medium is like burn-your-face-off hot. Others, you can barely notice the heat.
That’s one benefit to making this Thai Beef Salad at home. Taste the dressing as you go and add more or less jalapeno or red pepper flakes to suit your taste.
Keep in mind that jalapenos themselves can vary so much in heat depending on factors like the season or their size. And, while you’re tasting for heat, it’s also a great time to add more or lime juice, sugar, or fish sauce. Give it a taste and adjust – you’re looking for the perfect balance of spicy, salty, sweet. Trust me, when you hit that sweet spot, you’ll know!
Thai Steak Salad Ingredients
- New York Strip Steak – Or, ribeye steak, flank steak, or sirloin steak.
- Fresh Herbs – Mint Leaves & Cilantro.
- Lettuce – I like to use a lettuce blend, but butter lettuce, romaine, iceberg, etc. all work well. Choose your favorite.
- Cherry Tomatoes + Cucumbers
- Toasted Rice Powder (more on that below)
Salad Dressing Ingredients
- Fresh Lime Juice
- Fish Sauce – This is my favorite brand.
- Lemongrass – More on how to purchase and prepare lemongrass below ↓.
- Brown Sugar – Palm sugar is more authentic if you have it available to you.
- Red Chilli Flakes
A Note on Ingredients
There’s a couple ingredients in this recipe that you may not be too familiar with.
- Fish sauce can smell quite pungent out of the bottle, but once it gets mixed with the other ingredients you won’t even know it’s there. It just gives a nutty, salty, umami characteristic to the dish. That hint of something extra that just takes this salad over the top.
- You should be able to find it easily in the international foods aisle of your supermarket. Or, purchase it online. This is my favorite brand.
- Lemongrass looks like thin, pale green stalks and it’s generally sold in bundles of two or three. You’ll need about three stalks for this recipe because only the lower stalk (near the bulb) is tender and edible.
- When cooking with lemongrass, you only want to use the tender part of the bulb section. To cut lemongrass, first remove the knobby end of the stalk and cut it in half lengthwise. Remove the tough outer leaves and find the inner tender flesh (it should pierce easily with your fingernail). Then, finely chop that tender inner section.
- You can also take a shortcut and purchase lemongrass paste that is sold in plastic bottles in the produce department near the packaged herbs.
- I like to think of toasted rice powder as my Thai alternative to homemade croutons. It gives an amazing crunch to the Thai Beef Salad and has a nutty, creamy flavor to it.
- Just toast some white rice grains in a small sauté pan and then grind them up using a mortar and pestle, until they’re about the size of breadcrumbs.
- Or, you can use a coffee grinder to get that breadcrumb like texture. Honestly, that’s what I do most often. Just be sure to run a batch of rice through there first, before you grind up the rice that you’re actually going to eat. That way you can wipe it clean and be sure that no coffee grounds remain. Tip: This is also a great way to clean your coffee grinder.
Regardless of how you prepare it, don’t skip the rice powder. I guarantee it’s worth the extra little bit of effort, and just adds that perfect finishing touch for the best Thai Beef Salad.
How to Make It
- Mince the garlic and one of the jalapeno halves and place in a small bowl. Slice the remaining jalapeno half into thin rings and add it to the bowl, along with the lime juice, fish sauce, lemongrass, brown sugar, and red chili flakes. Taste and adjust seasonings with additional lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, if needed.
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Sear the steak until it is well browned on one side, 5 to 6 min. Flip and cook until medium rare, another 5-6 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice the steak thinly and then cut into bite-size pieces.
- In a medium bowl, combine the beef (and any accumulated juices), shallots, mint, and cilantro. Stir the dressing and pour it on top. Toss gently. Serve over lettuce with cherry tomatoes.
5-6 minutes on each side is all you should need for the beef cooked to medium-rare. Feel free to adjust to your desired doneness.
Cutting the steak against the grain makes it more tender and easy to chew.
Yes! I like to store the dressing, steak, and salad ingredients separately and then toss them together when ready to serve.
- Meat: Chicken, shrimp, pork, or even ground beef work in this recipe. Try my Thai Chicken Salad or Thai Shrimp Salad.
- Vegetarian: For a vegetarian version, you can swap in tofu for the steak, or try my Thai Mushroom Salad, which is also vegan.
- Thai Beef Salad with Noodles: Add a 12-ounce package of cooked rice noodles.
- Thai Beef Salad with Crispy Noodles: Add a packet of broken up ramen noodles.
Thai Beef Salad Wine Pairings
- Riesling pairs great with spicy dishes. Mouthwatering acidity, intense fruit, and a hint of sweetness compliment this salad amazingly well.
- A Viognier or dry Rosé would also be great with this dish.
More Thai-Inspired Recipes
- Chicken Larb Gai (Thai Lettuce Wraps)
- Vietnamese Noodle Salad (Bun Bo Xao)
- Thai Cucumber Salad
- Thai Chicken Salad
- Thai Mushroom Salad
- Thai Beef Stir Fry
- Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodles)
More Salad Recipes
- Farro Salad with Basil Lemon Tahini Dressing
- Daikon Radish Salad
- Cauliflower Chickpea Salad with Quinoa
- Southwest Chicken Salad
- Israeli Couscous Tabbouleh Salad
Did you try this Easy Thai Beef Salad?
If you loved this beef Thai salad I would appreciate it so much if you would give this recipe a star review! Also, be sure to snap a picture of your finished dish and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #platingsandpairings and tagging me @platingsandpairings.
Thai Beef Salad Recipe
- 1/2 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 1-inch thick New York strip steak (9 to 10 oz.)
- 2 Tablespoons uncooked rice
- Mince the garlic and one of the jalapeno halves and place in a small bowl. Slice the remaining jalapeno half into thin rings and add it to the bowl, along with the lime juice, fish sauce, lemongrass, brown sugar, and red chile flakes. Taste and adjust seasonings with additional lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, if needed. Stir well and set aside.
- Put rice in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the grains are toasted and golden, about 10 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes and then grind into a coarse powder in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Sear the steak until it is well browned on one side, 5 to 6 min. Flip and cook until the second side is dark brown and the meat is medium rare, another 5 to 6 min. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 min. Slice the steak thinly and then cut into bite-size pieces.
- In a medium bowl, combine the beef (and any accumulated juices), shallots, mint, and cilantro. Stir the dressing and pour it on top. Toss gently. Add the ground toasted rice, and toss. Serve over lettuce with cherry tomatoes.
This post was originally published in 2015. It was updated in 2017, and again in 2023 to update the pictures and content. The Thai Beef Salad recipe remains the same.