I spy, with my little eye, some food beginning with T. Did you say ‘Thai’? Good, Thai food is some of the tastiest in the world of Asian cuisine. It’s full of amazing aromas, herbs, and tastes. It is also quick to make with a few staple ingredients. Today we are going to look at 17 Thai side dishes. They are perfect alongside a main meal or great as a light snack on their own. Enjoy!
Thai side dishes range from fresh salads and flavorful sauces to rich curries and stir-fries. Whether it’s the tangy Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad), the fiery Nam Prik (Chili Sauce), or the creamy Massaman Curry, each dish adds an extra layer of complexity to the Thai culinary landscape.
1. Thai Cucumber Salad with Peanuts
You’ll no doubt know that it gets seriously hot in Thailand. What better way to cool down than with a light and refreshing salad?
This one is an absolute breeze to prepare and is full of fresh and zesty flavors that will leave your palate feeling refreshed. The peanuts add a little crunchy texture, but the real secret lies in the dressing. We mix the traditional Thai elements of fish sauce with fresh lime juice and garlic to produce a dressing that is savory, tangy, and sweet all at the same time.
The acid in the lime juice also helps to soften the cucumber and red onions slightly, making them super sweet.
2. Thai Coconut Rice
We couldn’t write a list of Thai side dishes without including rice. You’ll often find that the Thais eat rice with everything, including breakfast and dessert. This is a Thai side dish that is so easy to make.
It’s authentically made without any seasoning, but we find with the odd pinch of turmeric here and a dash of red pepper and ginger, it really makes your tastebuds sing. The coconut taste comes from coconut milk. If you want a more easy-to-store version, use a hard block of coconut cream mixed with water instead.
3. Chopped Thai Salad
Full of vibrant colors, tastes, and smells. This is literally Thailand in a dish. You’ll find an array of color and flavor, with crunchy kale, crisp carrots, and edamame beans are thrown into the mix. We add cashews too for an extra crunchy element. Again the key lies in the dressing.
This one is more sour and sweet and lacks fish sauce, meaning that it isn’t quite as strong as some of the others on our list. We use lemongrass in this recipe, but if you haven’t got any, give ginger a go instead!
4. Thai Papaya Salad
Thai papaya salad relies on a few things. First, your knife skills have got to be on point. The finer that you can shred the papaya, cabbage, cucumber, and red peppers, the tastier it is. Second, don’t skimp on the fish sauce or the fresh chili in the dressing.
This is what makes it uniquely Thai, and you’ll want it so strong that it makes your toes curl. IF you can’t find papaya, here’s a great alternative. Use swede instead. It’s got a very similar taste profile, and once you’ve added the dressing, there is, in fact, little difference.
5. Thai Peanut Sauce
While you may have seen satay feature in your local Chinese takeout, it is a Thai dish. The Thais have peanuts in almost anything (so be careful if you have allergies). This is a great accompaniment to all sorts of Thai dishes, from grilled meats and chicken skewers to a topping for salad. Peanuts are really high in energy, so look away now if you are looking for a more waistline-friendly sauce.
Good, this is really easy to make and lasts for a good five days in the fridge, perfect to be whipped out whenever you need it.
6. Thai Wonton Cups
Here is another imposter. Wontons are actually a Chinese dish, so we suspect that this has been a westernized amalgamation of different cultures.
We cheat a little by buying wonton wrappers ready-made, but if you can’t find them, squares of filo pastry work just as well. We stuff them with peanut butter, shredded green cabbage, carrots, onions, and even more crunchy peanuts. These are great dinner party food and go well on a buffet lunch Thai style.
7. Thai Corn Fritters
While Thai is not the most vegan-friendly country, these corn fritters will allow you to get all of that delicious Thai taste with absolutely no meat whatsoever. Fresh corn kernels are sweet, juicy, and utterly delicious. We combine them with aromatic elements like kaffir lime leaves and white pepper. We use soaked flax seeds as a binding agent and a good helping of curry paste before frying these fritters until they are golden brown and crispy.
Make sure you don’t forget the sweet Thai chili dipping sauce, as this really makes the dish!
8. Tod Mun Pla
Want to know how to say it in Thai? Its pronounced ‘tord-moon-plar’… never heard of it? We bet you have. This is the Thai name for Thai fishcakes. We’ve saved the best until last with this dish as we could literally eat these all day.
We sometimes cook them just because we love the smells that waft around our kitchen. Namely, toasted lime leaves and the fragrant aroma of red Thai curry paste.
The Thais traditionally make this with catfish, but we won’t blame you if you don’t fancy that (or can’t find it). So here Is a great alternative, use a mixture of raw shrimp finely chopped alongside a good helping of firm white fish, like cod. The taste and texture are identical. As always, be sure to serve this with some crushed peanuts and a spicy and sweet dipping sauce.
This dish is also really nice to eat cold, so make it the day before and take one with you for a handheld snack while you are at work.
9. Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Thai food can actually be really healthy if you choose the right meals and ingredients. Case in point? Our Thai chicken wraps.
Consider this a sort of healthy spring roll. In place of pastry, we use lettuce. We fill these lettuce wraps stuffed with garlic, onions, fresh chicken breast, and green cabbage. We also accompany it with a special sauce with elements of peanuts, chili, soy sauce, and cilantro. Feel free to add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes if you want a true taste of Thai heat!
10. Thai Style Peanuts
We guarantee you that regardless of how big a batch you make of this savory treat, it won’t last until the end of the week! They are so unbelievably moreish! The best thing is you’ll only need six ingredients. These are not diet-friendly as when we say ‘fried’ what we actually meant was ‘deep fried’.
We make a paste out of chili, lime leaves, and garlic. Once the peanuts have turned slightly dark, we add them to the paste and give them a good stir with a little seasoning. That’s pretty much it! Because these are hot and slightly spicy, they go really well with a nice cool glass of beer!
11. Spring Rolls
Thai spring rolls are a much more delicate affair than what you tend to get in your local Chinese takeaway. The wrappers have to be treated with such care as they are gossamer thin. You won’t have to imagine what’s inside, as you can actually see it through the wrapper. Ah, ok then, we’ll tell you.
We fill ours with strips of cucumber, mint, carrots, Thai basil, sweet mango, and purple cabbage. Oh, and don’t forget the juicy and slightly sweet shrimp (cooked, of course). These can also be made ahead of time and wrapped. Perfect for a midweek lunchbox treat!
12. Thai Green Beans
We’ll be honest. Green beans aren’t always the star of the show. They can be a little bit bland. They aren’t easy to cook either. Underdo them, and you end up with a crunchy stick that tastes well, meh. If you overdo them, they are a tasteless mushy mess.
Here’s the answer!
The secret lies, not so much in the beans but in the sauce instead. Within, you’ll find the umami flavor of sesame oil, the savory taste of peanuts alongside other super strong flavors like rice wine vinegar, zingy ginger, and spicy red pepper flakes. In all honesty, if this can’t elevate the humble green bean to taste interesting for you, then we are afraid that nothing will!
For the best visual effect, be sure to give your green beans a scattering of toasted sesame seeds just before serving, and add some chopped green onions too! Oh, and to make it truly Thai, be sure to add a few shards of roasted and crushed peanuts for a little extra crunch!
13. Thai Mango Salad
If you’ve ever visited Thailand, you’ll have noticed that mangoes are featured in so many dishes. From desserts like sticky rice with coconut milk to spicy massaman curry, the Thais love a mango! And we do too! We like to mix the savory and the sweet, so we combine shards of sweet and sticky mango with a slaty peanut dressing along with cilantro, onions, and peppers. The dressing is easy to make, although its Thai can actually be made from ingredients you’ll find in your store cupboard.
Here’s a top tip…
If you can’t get hold of tamarind paste or pulp, use lime juice and rind instead, it tastes almost identical.
14. Thai Slaw
While a traditional coleslaw can be nice, it can often be a little bit cloying with all of that creamy mayonnaise. If you are looking for something a little fresher and lighter than this is a great alternative. The salad itself is super simple. We mix white cabbage, cucumber, red peppers, and finely sliced green onions with a little Thai basil (or normal basil, it’s pretty similar).
We then mix this bowl of leafy goodness with a dressing made up of vinegar, garlic, spicy chili flakes, vegetable oil, and sesame oil. Oh, and don’t forget the power combo of soy sauce and honey, sweet and salty with every bite. Delicious!
15. Stir-Fried Spinach
While our list hasn’t been devoid of vegetables, sometimes you might want your vegetables hot instead of cold and crunchy. Fear not. We’ve got the answer. Traditionally this is made with water spinach, but you can also use normal store bought spinach for a similar taste. This is a really simple dish to make. Add more spinach than you think you’ll need.
As it begins to wilt, it shrinks significantly in the pan. We fry it with a simple blend of oyster sauce, chili, garlic, and soy sauce before serving alongside a grilled slab of ‘weeping tiger’ (Thai steak).
16. Thai Tomato Salad
So you’ve tried hot and decided that salads do rule the day when it comes to cooking the best Thai side dishes? Thai tomato salad is a taste to behold. We aren’t sure whether it is the lime juice or the fish sauce, or maybe both, but they really bring out the sweetness and acidity of the tomatoes.
To make this recipe extra special, we sometimes blanch our tomatoes, plunging them briefly into a pot of boiling water. Once the skins come away, you can peel and deseed them so you don’t get any bitter pips or skin. We find that if you let this rest for an hour or so in the fridge, the taste seems to amplify and get stronger. We even leave it overnight sometimes for maximum flavor!
17. Sweet and Sour Eggs
Try these sweet and sour eggs from Thailand. They’re deep-fried boiled eggs with a sweet and sour tamarind sauce on top.
What can we say? We absolutely love Thai food. It’s some of the most flavorful (and healthy) around. You might have noticed a few common elements running through our list of 17 Thai side dishes.
Things like crunchy toasted peanuts, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and garlic are present in practically every Thai dish, but that is the beauty of it.
Provided you stock up on a few of these staples, you should find that you can make most of the dishes on this list without having to make a special trip to the supermarket!