Our Thai beef salad celebrates the flavors and freshness of the Thai cuisine. Loaded with fresh herbs, cucumber, tender slices of steak, and a simple yet powerful vinaigrette, this entree salad is crave-able and totally satisfying. 

About the Recipe

Our take on Yum Nua, or Thai Beef Salad is just that, our take. This is not an authentic recipe for Yum Nua, but it is inspired by it and celebrates the fresh flavors we love of Southeast Asian cuisine.

The authentic Thai Salad known as Yum Nua actually features tomato (ours does not). If you’re looking for something more authentic, check out this recipe.

raw steak set on a white plate with a cucumber, olive oil, serrano, fresh herbs, peanuts, lime, rice and shallot set around it on a counter

When serving cucumbers raw, we like to give them the smash-and-salt treatment. This method, which we use in our Chinese-Inspired Cucumber Salad, season the cucumbers perfectly while also slightly tenderizing them, giving the chunks a delicious texture. 



Though not a traditional ingredient for a Thai-inspired salad, we find the addition of toasted peanuts add a lovely flavor and crunch.

To cut down on prep time, skip toasting unsalted peanuts and purchased toasted and salted peanuts. Then just give them a rough chop and carry on. 

Long Grain Rice, optional

Toasted rice powder (made from long grain rice) is a common ingredient in Thai and Lao dishes. It’s easy to make and adds a nutty flavor to dishes like Larb, and is also used to thicken sauces and dips, such as Jaew.

To keep this dish weeknight-friendly, I toast the rice fairly quickly, but for a deeper flavor and more authentic, true-to-form toasted rice powder, follow this recipe

English Cucumber


This allium adds the perfect oniony/garlicky flavor to the salad. To lessen its potency we soak the slices in cold water while preparing the other components of the salad.

This short stint in water washes away its sharpness without altering the flavor. To soften the flavor even more, stir in a splash of vinegar and a dash of salt. 

Top Sirloin 

We love cooking with top sirloin. For starters, most top sirloin steaks are 1 pound, which we find makes this cut even more versatile.

Serve it over a salad like we are here and you can easily serve 4 people. Or serve it on it’s own with a side of steamed veg and you’ve got a great date night meal. 

Aside from its size, the top sirloin also has fabulous marbling which makes this cut super flavorful and forgiving. A variety of different cuts of steak will work for this recipe, so use what you like!


The vinaigrette for this salad is simple yet powerful and made with fresh lime juice, fish sauce, honey and minced serrano. For a more authentic vinaigrette, seek out a Birds Eye Chile or red thai chile.

We think they’re hard to find, so we rely on a serrano (plus they have a super consistent heat). 

For another dose of savoriness, the steak—and its juices—gets tossed in the vinaigrette before being piled over the salad. 


The base of this salad is simple—bibb lettuce, cilantro and mint. The Thai cuisine relies heavily on fresh herbs and we wanted to stay true to that. We find cilantro to be essential, but feel free to play around with other herbs like basil or chives. 

Test Kitchen Tips

  • If you can’t find Top Sirloin steak, there are a few cuts you can use including flatiron steak, top blade steak, top round, or flank steak. 
  • If you want the dressing to be a little thicker, whisk some of the rice powder into the vinaigrette. 
  • Feel free to swap the honey out for palm sugar (more authentic) or even brown sugar.
  • For a less-spicy vinaigrette, de-seed and de-rib the serrano before mincing.
lettuce greens and herbs, topped with slices of steak, thin slices of shallot, and chopped peanuts

How to Make Thai Beef Salad

Step 1: Toast the nuts and rice

Toasted rice powder is a traditional Thai ingredient that adds nuttiness and depth of flavor. You can skip this step if you want!

  1. Toast the rice in a cast-iron skillet until golden brown and fragrant. Transfer the rice to a bowl to cool. Add the peanuts to the skillet and toast until golden brown.
  2. Using a spice grinder, grind the rice into a fine powder. Then pulse the peanuts until chopped.

Step 2: Smash and salt the cucumbers

Go against your instincts and smash your cucumbers! This slightly tenderizes the cucumbers while still retaining their delicious crunch.

  1. Halve your cucumbers lengthwise then smash and cut into bite-sized pieces. Salt the cucumber pieces and set in a strainer.
  2. Add the sliced shallots to a small bowl and cover with cold water. This will help wash away some of the potency of raw shallot in the salad.

Step 3: Pan sear the top sirloin

We love pan seared top sirloin for this recipe. But feel free to use a NY strip or ribeye.

  1. Preheat the cast-iron skillet until smoking.
  2. Meanwhile, season the steak with salt and pepper.
  3. Cook the steak until charred on both sides and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 125ºF for medium-rare, about 3 minutes per side. For medium cook to an internal temperature is 135ºF, about 4 minutes per side.
  4. Transfer steak to a clean plate, tent loosely with foil or parchment paper and let rest 10 minutes.
thin slices of steak in a large white bowl with a vinaigrette

Step 4: Make the dressing

The dressing for this salad is very simple! Just 4 ingredients. It might not seem like much, but when you pair it with savory steak, loads of fresh herbs shallots and cucumbers, you don’t need it to be a lot.

  1. Whisk together lime juice, fish sauce, honey and Serrano.
  2. Slice the steak and add it to the dressing; toss to coat.

Step 5: Assemble the salad

  1. On a large platter arrange the bibb lettuce, cucumbers, herbs, and shallots. Top with sliced steak and drizzle with the remaining dressing. Sprinkle toasted rice powder and peanuts over top.

Dressing for Thai Beef Salad

The dressing we use for this Thai beef salad is as simple as can be—just 4 ingredients. Fresh lime juice, fish sauce, honey (or sugar—palm sugar is more traditional) and minced serrano for spice.

If you want to use this dressing for a different salad or recipe altogether, we recommend adding a couple tablespoons of olive oil or toasted sesame oil.

large white platter filled with lettuce greens and herbs, topped with slices of steak, thin slices of shallot, and chopped peanuts

What to Serve with Thai Beef Salad

This is an all-in-one meal, but if you’re feeding a hungry crowd here are some of our favorite dishes and drinks to pair with this salad.

  • Our Lemongrass Margarita is a fan-favorite and such a refreshing pairing with this spicy salad.
  • For some added spice and carbs, make our Gochujang Noodles. Completely different cuisine, but how delicious!
  • Our Healthy Cornbread is also a completely different cuisine, but it works. So delicious!

Storage & Make Ahead FAQs

Can I make this ahead of time?

We don’t recommend making and assembling this salad ahead of time. But there are options for making components ahead of time! You can make the dressing up to 3 days ahead of time. Mix it up and store it in a glass jar in the refrigerator.
The rice and peanuts can be toasted up to a week in advance.
We don’t recommend cooking the steak ahead of time.

If I have leftovers, how should I store them?

If you anticipate having leftovers, pull out some of the salad before dressing it all. Store all of the components separately and then assemble and enjoy as leftovers.

When is the steak done?

We always recommend cooking meat by temperature using an intstant-read thermometer and referring to our cook times as a guide. Your desired doneness will determine when the steak is done.

Cook the steak to an internal temperature of:
— 120ºF–125ºF for medium-rare (about 3 minutes per side)
— 130ºF–135ºF for medium (about 4 minutes per side)
— 140ºF–145ºF for medium-well (about 5 minutes per side)

Why slice the steak against the grain?

Slicing steak against the grain means you slice against the muscle fiber, which makes for a more tender bite of steak.

Spicy Thai Beef Salad

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Yield 4 servings


This Thai Steak Salad recipe is loaded with fresh flavor! Tender slices of steak get piled onto buttery lettuce leaves and tons of fresh herbs seasoned with a light and salty vinaigrette.


  • 2 tablespoons long grain rice optional
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted peanuts
  • 1 english cucumber
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 (1-pound) top sirloin steak
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 serrano chili, minced*
  • 4 cups Bibb lettuce leaves, torn
  • 1 ½ cups cilantro leaves
  • ¾ cup torn mint leaves


  • Preheat a cast iron-skillet over medium-low for 3 minutes.
  • Add rice (if using) and toast until deeply golden, about 10 minutes; transfer to a bowl to cool.
    toasted rice in a cast-iron skillet
  • Add peanuts to skillet and toast until fragrant and golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a second bowl and let cool.
    toasted peanuts in a cast-iron skillet
  • Grind rice into a fine powder in a spice grinder. Transfer to a bowl.
    rice powder in a spice grinder and chopped peanuts in a small white bowl
  • Pulse nuts in spice grinder until roughly chopped.
  • Halve cucumber lengthwise, placed halves, cut side down on cutting board, and smash with back of hand until cracked and lightly smashed. Cut smashed cucumbers into chunks.
    english cucumber cut in half and smashed on a cutting board
  • Toss cucumber chunks with ½ teaspoon salt in a colander set over a bow; set aside until ready to serve.
    chunks of cucumber in a colander with salt sprinkled over top
  • Add sliced shallot to a small bowl; cover with cold water and set aside.
  • Preheat cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.
  • Season steak with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.
  • Place steak in skillet and cook until charred and beads of moisture begin to form around edges of steak, about 3 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 125ºF for medium-rare, about 3 more minutes. For medium cook to an internal temperature is 135ºF, about 4 minutes per side.
  • Transfer steak to a clean plate, tent loosely with foil or parchment paper and let rest 10 minutes.
    cooked steak on a white plate
  • Meanwhile, whisk together lime juice, fish sauce, honey, and chili in a medium bowl.
  • Thinly slice steak (¼ inch thick) across the grain, add to bowl with dressing and toss to coat.
    thin slices of steak in a large white bowl with a vinaigrette
  • When ready to serve, toss bibb lettuce and herbs together on a large platter. Top with salted and drained cucumbers. Drain shallots then add to platter.
  • Arrange steak slices over top then drizzle dressing over salad.
  • Sprinkle with toasted rice powder and peanuts; serve.


For a less-spicy vinaigrette, de-seed and de-rib the serrano before mincing.


Serving: 1/4 recipeCalories: 300kcalCarbohydrates: 15gProtein: 38gFat: 9.5gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 101mgSodium: 1064mgFiber: 2gSugar: 5g
Like this? Leave a comment below!I love hearing from you and I want to hear how it went with this recipe! Leave a comment and rating below, then share on social media @zestfulkitchen and #zestfulkitchen!
thin slices of steak on a bed of lettuce with herbs, sliced shallots and cucumber chunks.

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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