Thai Spicy Duck Salad Recipe

A salad of delicious contrasts: smoky, rich duck is paired with spicy lime dressing, sweet pineapple, and toasted cashews.

A plate of Thai spicy duck salad

Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Why It Works

  • Pineapple, in combination with a citrusy dressing, balances the richness of the duck.
  • Toasting cashews intensifies their flavor.
  • Scoring the duck breast's skin encourages more fat to render as it cooks on the grill.
  • Grilling the duck breast directly over the coals and then finishing with indirect heat ensures a browned exterior, perfectly cooked meat, and minimal flare-ups.

My insatiable appetite for all things spicy finds me digging into pepper-infused Thai cuisine on a regular basis. Unfortunately, save for a handful of restaurants, most don't deliver on the true heat I'm seeking, forcing me to settle on dishes that merely tingle the tongue, not set it aflame. I have found one dish though that seems to have more consistency in intense heat that has become my go-to at most places I dine—crispy duck salad.

Beyond the spice, there's so much to love about this—a salty lime dressing, fresh cilantro, sharp red onions, toasted cashews, sweet pineapple, and the always amazing crispy duck. This is a salad of the highest order.

I took to the flames to make a facsimile at home and hit all the notes decently. My only issue was the grill couldn't deliver the "crispy" part of the duck as well as pan frying, but the lightly smoky, medium-rare duck breasts with a soft layer of tasty fat were delicious nevertheless, and I was one content eater, lost in the intoxicating juxtaposition of flavors with the bonus of an extra kick of heat I was able to tailor to my own taste.

June 2013

Recipe Facts

Active: 45 mins
Total: 45 mins
Serves: 4 servings

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons fresh juice from about 2 limes

  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

  • 1 teaspoon palm sugar or light brown sugar

  • 1 to 2 small Thai chiles, finely chopped

  • 1/2 cup raw unsalted cashews

  • 1 small red onion, finely sliced

  • 3/4 cup diced pineapple

  • 1/2 cup packed roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves

  • 1 large duck breast, about 1 pound

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. To Make the Dressing: Whisk together lime juice, fish sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and chile in a small bowl. Set aside.

    The dressing is whisked together in a prep bowl.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

  2. Place cashews in a small cast iron skillet over medium heat. Toast until fragrant and lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add onion, pineapple, and cilantro; toss to combine. Set aside.

    Onion, pineapple, and cilantro are combined in a prep bowl.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

  3. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange coals on one side of charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Score duck skin diagonally every 1/2-inch. Season breast liberally all over with salt and pepper. Place duck breast on hot side of grill, skin side down, and cook until skin has browned and crisped, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip and brown on other side, about 4 minutes. Move duck to cool side of grill, cover, and continue to cook until an instant-read thermometer registers 130°F (54°C) when inserted into middle of breast. Remove duck from grill and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

    The scored duck breast is browned on a grill.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

  4. Thinly slice duck, halving any long strips into bite-size pieces. Add duck into bowl with pineapple mixture. Pour on dressing and toss to combine. Transfer to plates and serve immediately.

    The finished salad is served on a square white plate.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Special Equipment

Charcoal grill, chimney starter, instant-read thermometer

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
311 Calories
18g Fat
15g Carbs
24g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 311
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 18g 23%
Saturated Fat 4g 21%
Cholesterol 116mg 39%
Sodium 534mg 23%
Total Carbohydrate 15g 5%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 24g
Vitamin C 26mg 132%
Calcium 31mg 2%
Iron 4mg 23%
Potassium 216mg 5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)