Crack Salad – The “Go To” Dish You Will Crave

Crack Salad aka Spicy Beef Salad

There are recipes you like and then there are recipes that become “go-tos”. This is one of my all-time favorites. It’s so incredible, my hubby and I call it “Crack Salad”. The reality is once you start eating this dish, it’s almost impossible to stop. You’ll be making caveman grunting noises while you snarf this sucker down.

What’s this addictive dish? It’s Milk Street’s Spicy Beef Salad. It’s a Thai meal called Larb Neua. The Milk Street recipe is based on a northern Thailand version. I am not sure it should be called a salad, but it has a lot of greens. And you can adjust it to be vegetarian or vegan.

The first time my husband made this Spicy Beef Salad we inhaled it. We just couldn’t stop eating. There were no leftovers. And it’s not a small meal. 

We’ve made a few personal adjustments to the recipe since that first time. Make it as is or give one of our swaps a try. It’s all so damned good.

Making beef salad magic

Here’s what we’ve found works well:

  • Swap the beef for ground turkey or chicken. Yes, it will have less fat, but it’s just as delicious, despite the recipe calling for 85/15 ground beef. 
  • The Milk Street recipe includes making toasted rice powder (khao kuaw), which isn’t hard, but I like a smattering of chopped nuts. Peanuts or cashews work well. It’s quicker and I personally prefer the texture.
  • Use whatever salad greens you have available – romaine, iceberg, butter lettuce, or even spinach. In general, the crunchier the better. But feel free to use what you have one hand.
  • Don’t use a slotted spoon to serve. The more sauce the better. Don’t. Lose. A. Drop.
  • Pair it with steamed jasmine rice to round out the meal. 
  • Easily double or triple this recipe for a crowd.
  • Going low carb? Heap spoonfuls in a large leaf of lettuce – a protein-style wrap.
  • It’s excellent warm, cold, or at room temp… thus making bite-sized lettuce wraps an ideal appetizer.
  • Want to make this dish vegetarian or vegan? Substitute browned mushrooms or a meat substitute like Beyond Beef and use a vegan fish sauce like this one from Feasting At Home.

This recipe alone may be worth giving a Milk Street subscription a trial run. No lie… we eat this dish once a week. It’s a flavor bomb.


Remember to breathe and slow down when eating Spicy Beef Salad (aka “Crack Salad”). You’ll need your wits about you to pry yourself away from this dish. If you’re successful, leftovers the next day are fabulous.

Give this “Crack Salad” a try sooner than later. Milk Street’s Spicy Beef Salad is Nancy Approved.

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