Composed Thai Steak Salad

Happy summer, Friends!

When things heat up, we’re suckers for garden-driven recipes. Bonus points for those that don’t require cooking.

This gorgeous little number is refreshingly vibrant, with flavor notes pulled from the Thai cuisine playbook: sour lime, spicy chillies and ginger, salty fish sauce, and a hint of sweet maple. I just love how light, lovely and low-key it is — literally whisk, slice, plate, and voila.

Beef summer salad

I’ll forever continue my praise of reducing waste and repurposing leftovers, and leftover steak — flank, strip, sirloin, rib-eye, even sliced brisket (shown above) — is excellent a day or two later. Here it plays a supporting role that maximizes the rich meaty flavor for less fat and fewer calories, and turns a plate of colorful seasonal produce into a satisfying no-cook meal.

What’s in it for me?

A 3-ounce portion (the serving size in this salad) of cooked lean beef contains only about 150 calories and 3 grams saturated fat (6 grams total fat), but also 24 grams high-quality lean protein. In addition, lean beef is an excellent source of zincB vitamins, especially B12, antioxidant selenium, and iron. 

Arugulacucumber, and tomatoes rank among the most hydrating produce, each containing more than 90% water by volume, with cucumbers taking the cake at 97% — the most of any solid food. Arugula also delivers the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin to help protect your eyes, and folic acid important for women of child-bearing age.

Tomatoes are a rich source of the phytochemical pigment lycopene that aids in protection of the heart and skin, and has been shown to potentially reduce risk of prostate cancer. Anthocyanins are responsible for the color of fiber– and vitamin C-rich red cabbage — antioxidants associated with decreased inflammation, improved brain function, and further cancer protection. Scallions (green onions) provide a mild, almost sweet onion-y flavor, as well as the mineral sulfur required to synthesize the inflammation-reducing and immuno-protective antioxidant glutathione.

Basilcilantro, and mint contain a variety of nutrients and volatile oils that offer antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. One ounce of fresh basil and fresh cilantro each provide at least 30% of the adult vitamin A DV, plus more than 100% that of vitamin K* — for only about 6 calories. Menthol in mint helps relax smooth muscle, which can calm an upset stomach, and may relieve some symptoms of IBS, like gas and bloating.

Though fish sauce is generally high in sodium (1 tsp accounts for 17% of the recommended daily max of 2,300 mg), a little salt is necessary for proper body function. It becomes especially important when we are active, and more so in the heat, as sodium — along with potassium, chloride + several other electrolytes — are lost through sweat. The small amount of fish sauce, together with the hydrating veg and protein-packed beef, make this an excellent recovery meal after a hot day sweating it out in the yard or on the trails.

Think beyond the usual with this uncomplicated and super satisfying hot weather meal. Leftover steak keeps prep to a minimum, but you can grill it fresh or swap in other meats or vegetarian proteins with tips in the recipe notes. Packed up for a picnic, or artfully presented as a surprising spread for guests, this composed Thai salad is perfect for summer!

Cheers, Heather

Tell me… Do you have a favorite way to use leftover steak?

Composed Thai Steak Salad
Prep Time
Cook Time
Total Time
You will likely have leftover dressing from this recipe. Refrigerate leftovers in a tightly sealing jar or container up to 1 week, and serve with salads, cooked veg, or grains.
Recipe Type: Salad, beef, entree, Thai
Makes: 4 servings
  • 1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice + 2 tsp fresh lime zest
  • 2 Tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • 4 tsp finely minced or grated fresh ginger
  • 2 to 3 tsp chilli paste (we prefer Huy Fong Sambal Oelek)
  • 1 to 2 tsp pure maple syrup (or honey)
  • 12 ounces leftover cooked steak or other portion of beef, cut into thin slices (see HGN Notes)
  • 2 cups tender greens, such as arugula, spinach, mizuna, mache, or a mixture
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
  • 2/3 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • 2/3 cup loosely packed mint leaves
  • 2/3 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  • 1 large or 2 small tomatoes, cored and sliced into thin wedges
  • 1 regular or hothouse (seedless) cucumber, ends trimmed, thinly sliced lengthwise into long thin ribbons with a mandoline, handheld slicer, or potato peeler
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 1-inch portions
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice and zest, fish sauce, ginger, chilli paste, and maple syrup until well combined. Taste, and balance with more fish sauce (salt), lime juice (sour), chilli paste (heat), syrup (sweet -- to cut excess heat), if needed.
  2. Put the steak slices into a shallow dish, and toss with 1 Tbsp of the dressing. Reserve the extra dressing. Set the dish with the steak aside to marinate while you prepare the veg. (If you aren't into cold meat, the leftover steak can be briefly pan-seared or warmed on a piece of foil under the broiler.)
  3. On a large serving platter, mound the steak in the center. Arrange the greens, cabbage, herbs, tomatoes, cucumber ribbons, scallions in separate mounds around the edges. Serve with individual plates and the remaining dressing alongside, allowing diners to build their own salad.
  4. To make ahead with cold steak, the platter can be entirely arranged and refrigerated, covered, 30 to 60 minutes ahead of time. To make ahead with warm steak, follow the same instructions as above, but omit the steak. Quickly pan-sear or broil to warm the meat, then add it to the platter at the table.
HGN Notes
To make this recipe with fresh meat: Season 1 lb (16 oz) uncooked, trimmed flank steak (or similar cut) very lightly with salt and pepper. Brush lightly with oil, then grill over high heat on a gas or charcoal grill, or an indoor grill pan, to desired doneness (3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare; internal temperature of 135° F). Transfer cooked steak to a cutting board, rest 5 minutes loosely tented with foil, then cut diagonally across the grain into thin slices. Proceed with the recipe from here.

+ Add more or try different seasonal produce, such as sugar snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini or shredded green papaya!
+ Try cooked shrimp, salmon, tuna, grilled chicken or lamb in place of the beef, or an alternative cut if you don't have steak (we used leftover brisket here).
+ Make it vegetarian with grilled cubes of tofu or tempeh, cooked chickpeas, falafel, edamame, or crumbled feta.
+ Craving a starchy component? Serve with cellophane (glass - rice) noodles, soba noodles, Basmati or Jasmine rice, black or brown rice, quinoa or millet, if desired.
Nutrition Info
Serving Size: Serves 4 Calories: 190 Fat: 6 Saturated fat: 2 Unsaturated fat: 4 Trans fat: 0 Carbohydrates: 9 Sugar: 5 Sodium: 712 Fiber: 2 Protein: 27 Cholesterol: 65

Recipe adapted from Rebecca Katz.

*The recommendations for those on blood-thinners, such as Coumadin (or generic warfarin), is to be consistent with the amount of vitamin K eaten from day to day, as the two interact with one another. If you take any of these types of medications, be aware of the high vitamin K content found in peas, parsley, spinach and other leafy greens.

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