Some people may stray from salads when planning their weekly menus. Perhaps they think salads are ho-hum when there's other dishes out there. Maybe they're stumped on ingredients outside of the greens and croutons. And then of course there's the folks who call it "rabbit food" and claim they need more sustenance. Well, this is a collection of recipes that is here to prove salads can be stars of the dinner table!
A salad bowl is like a blank canvas waiting to be filled with all your favorite colors, flavors and textures — and once you learn how to paint (that is, make a salad), the possibilities are endless. One recipe can be followed precisely for a lunch, dinner or side dish that will wow everyone's taste buds, but can also be adjusted a bit based on what's in season. Salads can be fresh and cool or warm and comforting. They can be bright and tangy, sweet, salty and even spicy. A salad has the potential to be so hearty you may feel super full after, or just nourishing enough to make you feel light on your toes.
There are so many ways to approach salad-making and as you grow, dear salad maker, you'll find yours. But for now, here are some of our favorite salad recipes with helpful tips from some of the greatest salad aficionados in the biz.
"In my American South, fresh shelled lady peas, crowders, cream peas — delicate and pearl-shaped — show up at the neighborhood market as a welcome sign of summer," says Nicole A. Taylor. This salad showcases these Southern peas in all their glory.
The ideal side dish for a vibrant picnic spread, bread salad is a mixture of fresh vegetables and/or fruit with fresh, homemade croutons that soak up all the good flavors. This one can be made into a main event by topping it over a bed of fresh arugula and adding some nice goat cheese. The blackberries, juicy cucumber, sweet peach and summer herbs like basil and mint are a heavenly combination that shines in the warm months.
We love any salad, but this one is special because it is a spectacular entrée that makes a big statement! It makes a fancy cut of meat go really far, making it budget-friendly.
This salad that hits all the taste buds! It's sweet from the watermelon, salty from the cheese, spicy from the chile, tart from the lime and tomatillos and refreshing from the mint. You just have to give it a try.
This salad makes us feel like we're eating chicken wings, but it's vegetarian and technically a salad so you can call it healthy!
The key to this salad is the fish-saucy dressing. In addition to using it in this salad, we like to use the dressing as a base for stir-fries, a marinade for meats bound for the grill, or sneak it into a savory caramel and serve with vegetables, fish, chicken or pork.
This is a lighter spin on classic potato salad. The potatoes are swapped with cauliflower, resulting in a delicious and satisfying dish … you won't even miss the potatoes!
Combine all your favorite veggies into one salad tossed with fresh, vibrant herbs (hello, basil, mint and cilantro!), buttery avocados and a zesty vinaigrette.
"I'm not the biggest fan of summer, but I do what I can to make it more bearable, like taking advantage of all the top-of-its-peak summer produce," says Anthony Contrino. "This pasta salad packs a flavorful punch, and the light pepperoncini and pecorino vinaigrette is the perfect pairing on a hot day."
"I love this recipe because it's simple, fresh and reminds me of summer," says Marcus Samuelsson. "It's an easy combination of flavors and takes no time to cook, which makes it a great base recipe that you can add seasonal ingredients to."
This will be your go-to on warm nights when it's almost too hot to cook, but you're craving a seasonal, veggie-forward, cold noodle salad. The pork slices, borrowed from the Japanese hot pot, shabu shabu, is named after the swish-swash of the meat as it cooks in boiled water for mere seconds. Optional — but highly recommended — is the tender pork, the perfect complement to the seasonal salad mix of chrysanthemum greens, radishes and other spring-into-summer faves. Sesame seeds, seaweed flakes, radishes and other nourishing ingredients make their way into this warm-weather favorite.
"I've had many requests for this dressing recipe, especially from friends who have trouble getting their kids to eat salad," says Giada De Laurentiis. "A full cup of raspberries blended into the dressing makes it bright pink and a bit tangy-sweet, so just about anything you put it on is instantly appealing. In the summer when raspberries are in season, I make it in big batches to keep in the fridge, then serve it on fish or chicken, or with veggies as a dip. It will keep for about a week."
Brussels sprouts have overcome their former not-so-great reputation and this salad shows why. The raw sprouts, when shaved, provide a beautiful canvas for toasty walnuts and sharp cheeses, all tossed in a simple lemony dressing.
No need to boil water to prep this no-cook couscous salad! Couscous, which is a type of very tiny semolina pasta, really just needs to be rehydrated before serving. For this salad, you'll combine the couscous with a few staple pantry ingredients, then let it soak in the dressing for a couple hours (or even overnight if you'd like to prep it in advance). Serve it chilled or room temperature — no heat required!
Don't let the name intimidate you. This salad has everything but the kitchen sink in it — and that's what makes it so delicious. Every bite has a different combination of flavors that keeps you coming back for more.
If you're hankering for some steaks on the grill but don't want all the heavy sides that usually accompany them, this Southwestern-inspired salad invites the garden to the party for a light yet meaty dish.
Something magical happens when you combine a little heat from fresh chiles with the mild, crunchy celery. It wakes up your senses. Serve this healthful salad alongside your typical barbecue fare to liven things up.
"I often have leftover baked potatoes and sometime make a few extra with this salad in mind. It tastes great made fresh and equally good refrigerated and served a day or two later. It's a great barbecue dish to bring to someone's house, too," says Alex Guarnaschelli.
"This is my go-to lunch these days," says Gaby Dalkin. "I always meal prep on Sundays so having some pulled chicken and cooked quinoa on hand makes lunch very easy. Just add some cheese, avocados and maybe an extra squeeze of barbecue sauce and you're in business!"
In this recipe, Will Coleman uses a blend of lettuce and radicchio to create a balanced salad with a slight bite, topping it with seared steak, pears and cucumbers. To bring it all together, the salad is tossed in a creamy, sharp, garlicky blue cheese dressing.
"I like to add a bunch of textural elements to my kale salads because the sturdiness of kale can hold up to all kinds of toppings," says Samah Dada. "Here, I layer on the crunch factor with homemade croutons and sunflower seeds. For creaminess, I add in buttery avocados and white beans."
This non-traditional dish borrows ideas from three different countries. The Caesar salad was invented in Mexico, the migas (toasted seasoned bread) hails from Spain and the dressing has a dollop of Japanese miso in it.
This easy, protein-packed, healthy salad is fast and flavorful. It's gorgeous for an outdoor picnic spread and perfect when made ahead and put in a container for lunch.
No one said salad had to be raw. Ree Drummond transforms the usually chilled dish into a hearty, warm meal that can truly satiate a crowd. It has roasted squash, cauliflower, shallots, chickpeas and more tasty veggies that all get thrown on a sheet pan and tossed in a creamy, tahini dressing.
Millet serves as a gluten-free alternative to bulgur wheat; it makes for a lighter, more refreshing tabbouleh. Giada also adds strawberries, which, though quite nontraditional, provide a bit of sweetness and a pretty pop of color. To make it an even more substantial entrée salad, add bits of chicken or salmon.
Smashing cucumbers is a traditional Chinese technique of quickly preparing cucumbers to absorb as much flavor as possible while enhancing the natural fresh, lively sweetness of the cucumber itself. Paired with a vinaigrette made with hot oil, the result is an enticing side dish to any meal.
The bright and tangy flavors of Mexican-style “street corn” add a fun twist to this summer party-ready elbow macaroni salad. Serve this as a fun side dish or add shredded chicken or black beans to make it a heartier main course. Prep it just before serving, or make it the night before and chill in the fridge for an easy and ready-to-go potluck recipe that will be an instant crowd pleaser at all your summer bashes.
If you don't get your elbows dirty, you aren't making potato salad right. You have to mix it with your hands to make sure all the flavors are mixing in. It should taste good every step of the way.
Summer is the ideal time to throw all these seasonal vegetables together to make a delicious salad. Add a little Middle Eastern flair to the salad by adding grilled halloumi. Halloumi is the only cheese you can grill, and once you grill it, it changes its texture and flavors completely, which goes so well with the rest of the salad.
Velvety strips of roasted bell peppers add a hearty texture with robust white beans and zesty arugula in this dinner-worthy salad. We like to use small white beans, such as great Northern or navy, in this recipe. Pair the salad with crusty bread for a light meal.
This salad is a great family favorite. It's easy to make, kids love it and it is healthy while also very filling. You can enjoy it on its own, as a side dish or with some nice bread to scoop up all the tasty leftover bits.
This noodle salad has bright citrus flavors, smoky and spicy notes from the chiles and loads of freshness from an assortment of vegetables. The best part about this recipe, other than the fact that its flavor improves as it sits in the fridge, is that you can customize it, adding whatever vegetables or pasta you have on hand. Want more leafy greens? Throw in a big handful of spinach!
We think of this citrus salad as the winter version of a platter of summer tomatoes. It's got the same sweet juiciness and a similar vibrant flavor. And, just like that bowl of multi-hued heirlooms, this is also one of the prettiest and easiest salads you can whip up.
This salad is so colorful, has a variety of textures and is incredibly satiating. The creaminess of the avocado combined with the crunchiness of the sesame sticks and cool mint really rounds this salad out.
"I think the perfect salad should have at least three of the following components: a green, grain, fruit, nut and herb," says Tila. "Also, greens, pomegranates, pears, lentils and tangerines are all considered to be lucky foods in various cultures around the world, making this one super lucky salad."
This version of Caesar salad brings all the smoky charred flavors of a cookout to a crisp and refreshing salad. The easy dressing adds the right balance of creaminess and tang that you'll enjoy making all year.
This is Valerie Bertinelli's go-to recipe for warm-weather entertaining. It's no-cook, full of flavor, only requires a few ingredients and so refreshing. All the elements pair so well together and make for an easy and impressive starter.
This salad has some serious crunch! The toasty walnuts and crisp cabbage give it great texture, while the juicy grapes and ripe pears add a subtle sweetness.
"I love this recipe because I believe that cooking a bunch of vegetables is one of the most luxurious things you can do for someone," says Samin Nosrat. "And I love showing people that simple, humble ingredients can be extraordinarily delicious."
This recipe uses a hot, whole-grain mustard here to add another dimension of flavor to the salad. The vinegar builds on the tartness of the citrus fruits but also brings in a little sweetness.