Crispy Rice Salad with Cucumbers and Herbs Recipe - Pinch of Yum
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Crispy Rice Salad with Cucumbers and Herbs

26 reviews / 4.9 average

Paper-thin veggies, a shower of herbs, a pile of fried crispy red curry rice, and a limey garlicky vinaigrette all over top. This crispy rice salad is all I want to eat right now!

I Don’t Think I’ve Ever Loved a Salad As Much As I Love This Crispy Rice Salad.

Let’s discuss.

First of all, there’s papery thin vegetables (cucumber! shallot!) and a whole lot of herbs (mint! cilantro! add more, more, more!).

And secondly, there’s a beautiful pile of clumpy fried golden red curry jasmine rice – it’s crisped and golden on the outside, but soft and carby enough on the insides to still absorb some of the limey, garlicky, salty vinaigrette with all the flavor.

OOF I am drooling just thinking about it.

Crispy rice salad in a bowl.

I can throw some crushed peanuts at this thing and be fully and absolutely happy without any other protein. But if you are the kind of person who wants to get some bonus protein up in the mix (you know what I’m going to say!) I’d recommend the air fryer chicken or the air fryer salmon here. We’ve done both; they’re both great.

This salad is a riff on Nam Khao which is a Laotian appetizer-style salad where the rice is fried into balls with fermented sausage, broken apart, and then eaten on a platter with lettuce cups. I tried a version of this at Hai Hai about a year ago and honestly have been thinking about trying to make it ever since. It was SO good. Then (it was fate!) Molly Yeh recently posted a video about making crispy rice in the air fryer! Genius. And this is how we ended up here, with a brand new salad obsession just in time for Summer 2024.

Welcome To My Home! Let’s Make Crispy Rice Salad.

1

Prep Your Dressing and Herbs.

Blitz up the dressing, and chop up the salad stuff. I like to use a mandoline for the cucumbers and shallots.

Chopped herbs, peanuts, shallots, and cucumber on a cutting board with a jar of dressing.

2

Mix The Rice with Curry Paste.

Mix the rice with a bit of oil and red curry paste. For the air fryer, I like to have the texture being sticky / wet enough that you can kind of squeeze it into loose chunks. If the rice is dried out / several days leftover, I will add a tablespoon or two of water and maybe even a bit of cornstarch to the mix to help it revive a bit.

Red curry rice in a bowl.

3

Clump Your Rice Into the Air Fryer.

Yes, clump it. Just place sticky handfuls of the rice in the air fryer in a single layer. They don’t have to be balls, but you also don’t want each individual grain of rice to be separated. Just kinda clump it in there.

Clumping rice into an air fryer.

4

Air Fry the Rice!

I do it at 420 for about 8 minutes till it’s nice and golden brown and crispy around the edges! (If you don’t have an air fryer, there are other options in the notes.) See how it kind of makes clusters? When it’s done, scoop chunks of the rice onto your salad bowl! It’ll look like this:

Hand holding a bowl of rice salad before mixing.

(In this photo I’m making a salad for just me for lunch, which is why there’s still rice left in the air fryer! Serving size: 1.)

5

Toss It Up!

Toss the veggies and rice with the dressing.

Pouring dressing out of a jar onto a salad.

6

You’re done! YUM!

Seriously. This might be my favorite salad I’ve ever made.

Mixed salad in a bowl with spoons.

Watch How To Make This Crispy Rice Salad

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A picture of Crispy Rice Salad with Cucumbers and Herbs

Crispy Rice Salad with Cucumbers and Herbs


  • Author: Lindsay
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 2 generous salad servings (but extra dressing to make it again) 1x

Description

Paper-thin veggies, a shower of herbs, a pile of fried crispy red curry rice, and a limey garlicky vinaigrette all over top. This crispy rice salad is all I want to eat right now!


Ingredients

Units Scale

The Very Excellent Dressing:

  • a 1/2-inch knob of fresh ginger, or a spoonful of ginger paste (note 1)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons avocado oil, or another neutral oil
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (3-4 small limes)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili crisp (more for spicier)

Crispy Rice Salad:

  • 2 cups cooked jasmine rice (note 2)
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 2 teaspoons red curry paste
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch (optional)
  • half an English cucumber, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced or minced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 bunch mint, roughly chopped or torn (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
  • chili crisp to taste

Instructions

  1. Dressing: Blitz everything up in a blender or food processor to make this SUPER yummy, punchy sauce.
  2. Crispy Rice: Toss the rice in a bowl with the oil and curry paste. If it’s not sticking together when you squeeze it, add the cornstarch and get your hands wet to mix it again (this happens if the rice is pre-cooked or several days old). Squeeze it into loose, squishy chunks and transfer to the air fryer in a single layer. Air fry at 400 for 7-9 minutes, until golden and crisped. (See Note 3 for alternative methods – I find the air fryer to be fastest and most convenient!)
  3. You’re Done! Yum! Break the crispy rice apart into little golden, delightful chunks. Toss with about half of the dressing and however many veggies you want. Garnish it with some peanuts and chili crisp if you want. I mean, honestly. Wow. This is so good.

Notes

Note 1 on Ginger: I don’t grate it or mince it because I just toss it in the the bldner with the rest of the sauce ingredients. I’ve also used lemongrass paste here and it’s delicious! 

Note 2 on Cooking the Rice: Most crispy rice recipes call for day-old cooked rice. Maybe I’m just lazy, but honestly, I have not found this to be necessary. I cook the rice in the Instant Pot with this method – for this I do 2 cups of rinsed jasmine rice to 2 1/2 cups water, cooked for 3 minutes at high pressure and rested for a 15 minute natural pressure release. I often just make this, fry up a batch for the same-day salad, and then keep the rest in the fridge for another salad later in the week.

Note 3a on Oven Method: If you don’t have an air fryer, I would recommend “frying” the rice in the oven. Bake it at 425 degrees for about 8-10 minutes near the top of the oven (closer to the heating element). It’ll get crispy on the outside, but stay chewy on the inside.

Note 3b on Skillet Frying: You can fry this rice in oil in a skillet, but it’s not my favorite because a) it’s messy, and b) it requires your rice to be much drier to begin with in order to get it crisped up. You’ll want to use day-old rice, and then fry it in about 1/4 cup of neutral oil until it’s golden and crispy. Some recipes even recommend drying the rice out in the oven to ensure that the rice is dry enough to fry well, which, for me, is a dealbreaker. Too many steps. LOL. Another consideration: your finished rice will likely be more oily than the other two methods so you may find that you don’t need as much of the dressing.

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Air Fryer
  • Cuisine: Laoatian-Inspired

Keywords: rice salad, crispy rice salad, crispy rice, salad recipe

Frequently Asked Questions For This Crispy Rice Salad!

Can I make crispy rice in the oven?

Yes. Coat the rice with the curry paste and oil, layer it in clumps on a baking sheet, and bake at 425 for 15 minutes on a rack towards the top of the oven. It’ll get a dried, crisped exterior but the inside of the clumps will be chewy and soft. Delicious.

Can you use brown rice instead of jasmine rice?

I tested this with brown rice and yes, it worked well! It just needed a bit of the cornstarch (noted in the instructions of the recipe card) to help it to stick together nicely.

Can you use basmati rice instead of jasmine rice?

Yes – but in our testing, it definitely didn’t clump as much and it came out more as individual crispy grains vs. those crispy sticky clumps I love so much.

Do you feed this to your kids?

Not really. This is one that they’re not crazy about so they get all the parts of the salad deconstructed! Peanuts, cucumbers, some mint leaves for sampling, and – their favorite – plain jasmine rice. 🙂

Can you make this ahead of time?

It’s best to store everything separately and crisp up the rice just before serving. That said, I’ve kept it this way for some make-ahead lunches and the rice texture gets a bit more chewy in the fridge but I didn’t hate it. In fact, I still very much loved it.

Is crispy rice salad spicy?

The traditional Lao salad (nam khao tod) is a bit spicy as it often has both roasted and fresh chiles. But this version of a crispy rice salad is pretty mild – and if you want it to be more spicy, you can add more chili crisp or throw some chiles in the mix. My 5-year old-eats this and enjoys it!

What proteins go well with crispy rice salad?

Crispy rice salad is delicious with shrimp, salmon, or chicken. Pulled chunks of rotisserie chicken is an easy go-to in our house. We also rely heavily on the air fryer chicken and air fryer salmon for a moment like this! We have an air fryer tofu recipe that is SO good, but I’m not sure it’s the right fit for this recipe just because it has more of a “fried” texture that feels like it would compete with the rice. I don’t know. If you’re veg, you can try it and let me know. 🙂

How can you make crispy rice salad vegetarian?

The only thing in the salad that is not vegetarian is the fish sauce and (sometimes) the curry paste. I use Thai Kitchen red curry paste which is naturally vegan. For a fish sauce sub, you could try making your own fish sauce. Soy sauce or coconut aminos would also be a possible sub – it wouldn’t have the same flavor but would work in a similar way as the salty part of the dressing. You may need to dilute the dressing a bit if it’s too strong, depending on your specific soy sauce.

Is crispy rice salad gluten-free?

Yes, this recipe is gluten-free. You may want to confirm that your jasmine rice is certified gluten-free as there can be cross-contact contamination, and you may want to also check the label on the fish sauce and the curry paste just to confirm that these are gluten-free as it can vary from brand to bran. But all the other ingredients in the salad are naturally gluten-free.

Three More Perfect Grain Salads

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79 Comments

  1. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I accidentally almost burned some rice (creating a crispy situation) for your Crunch Roll Bowl recipe earlier this week. I didn’t want it to go to waste, so I ate the crispy bits, giving my family the “good stuff”. I’m pumped there is an easy technique to create the same (delicious) situation not on accident! Excited to try it!

  2. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I haven’t visited your site for a while because life happened, but this recipe caught my eye and here I am! I am not able to see the video. There is nothing that I can click that will make it appear. I can make this without the video but it just seemed like it would be fun to watch, so can you tell me what I’m doing wrong? I’m still subscribed from (oops) several years ago.

    It looks delicious.

  3. Pinch of Yum Logo

    My air fryer has a wire mesh bottom, do you think using a paper liner (made for the air fryer) would work or would it be better to use a pan? If using a pan is the time and temp the same? Also my air fryer’s max temp is 400 should I increase the time?

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo

      This was one of the most delicious things I’ve made in a long time! I love outside of the box salads that aren’t lettuce based. I made a couple slight changes to use what I had – sriracha instead of chili crisp, added some fresh sprouts because I love them. Wonderful!

        1. Pinch of Yum Logo

          If you scroll down a little further in the item description on the Target website it will show you the ingredients

  4. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Hello Lindsay!
    I’m not a fan of curry but I LOVE your recipes. What can I replace it with in the Crispy Rice Salad? Thanks so much!
    Cynthia

  5. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Hypothetically- what would you use if there wasn’t such a thing as cucumber?
    lol! Long Covid has left me with an aversion to smell and taste of the Cuke I used to love my whole life.
    Any suggestions? Thx

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo

      Melinda,

      I had that issue in the past also with losing smell. Best thing to do is start juicing vegetables and also look into mixing a gallon of water with 2-3 capfuls of Colloidal Trace Minerals. It worked for me. 🙂

  6. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I just can’t with fish sauce. 🤢 Can I just omit it, or should I replace it with something else.

  7. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This sounds wonderful as a summer salad with grilled chicken or pork. We live in the Twin Cities, too and love Hai Hai. But, I haven’t had the Laotian balls you mentioned. We have to get back there soon.

  8. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Hi Lindsay

    I love your recipes and have made several that have become favorites. You talk about using chili crisp in many of them, but I don’t know what that is. I have Trader Joe’s Crunchy Chili Onion—would that work?

    Thanks!

  9. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This sounds delicious but the picture looks like a sliced regular onion is an ingredient. If the white slices are not onion what is it?

  10. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Wow, Lindsay! The combination of crispy red curry rice with the freshness of cucumber, mint, and cilantro is genius. I think anyone who prepares this dish will by far love the punchy lime-garlic dressing which added such a vibrant zing to the dish.. Thanks for sharing such a creative and flavorful recipe. It’s refreshing to find a salad that’s both hearty and refreshing, perfect for those warm days. Can’t wait to see what you come up with next. 🙂

  11. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I say this kindly but I hope you’ll move away from air fryer content soon. I know you offer oven modifications for this one, but they don’t sound as appealing. Plus, it seems air fryer chicken/tofu/salmon don’t have decent oven modifications. I miss straightforward, nourishing POY recipes.

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo

      I totally disagree! Love the airfryer recipes and such a healthier, easier and quicker way to cook! 🙂

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo

      Michaela I used a combination of left over wild rice and left over quinoa, it was absolutely delicious so I feel anything you use will be good in this salad.

  12. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This was insanely delicious. Full of flavor, texture, color. The crunchy cool cucumbers complement the red curry spice perfectly. Hubs and I LOVE rice already, so had to try this dish and it was a hit!

  13. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This Crispy Rice Salad is delicious and will be made again and again! It’s easy, it’s do-ahead-able and so tasty!!
    I find so many times that Pinch of Yum has just what I need to make for dinner, thanks from my family and me!

  14. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I’m vegan and replaced the fish sauce with coconut aminos. I thought soy sauce would be too salty. The coconut aminos worked perfectly. The salad was amazing. I can’t wait to have it again for lunch today! Thanks for another delicious recipe.

  15. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Whoa. This is a stellar, hearty salad that I’m now putting in my rotation. I made my bowl with brown rice and it didn’t “clump” as well I’m sure jasmine rice would have but it was still delicious and crispy. I had a fennel bulb which I sliced thin and roasted in gochujang butter and added it to the salad along with crispy baby lettuce. The dressing is absolutely bananas. Fish sauce in abundance can put me off so I made mine with just one Tbs. It was perfect for me. Thanks for a creative and delicious salad!

  16. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I made this recipe with brown rice and added sliced radishes and pan-seared tofu. Delicious!

  17. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Amazing. I was worried about the heat, but made it exactly, and loved it. First time making jasmine rice, and it was so fragrant. Thanks for a delicious recipe!! PS. I doubled the rice so we would have a hearty meal for two.