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36 summer salads that'll brighten up your cookout spread

Make salad the star of the show this summer.
/ Source: TODAY

It's officially June, if you can believe it, and that means it's time to start thinking about recipes for summer salads.

When you're dining outside on the porch or having a picnic, a big salad filled with ripe juicy fruits and vegetables will always hit the spot. While we love salad as an ideal accompaniment to juicy burgers or shell-on seafood from the grill, many of these are exceptional on their own. Honestly, when the weather is hot and the air is steamy, cooking a large spread can be the last thing anyone feels like doing. When hunger strikes, turn to this guide for bright, flavorful salads.

Some require no cooking at all with light fruits, fresh veggies or some chilled grains, beans, pasta or potatoes. Others have heartier proteins tossed on top, like perfectly seared steak or spicy Cajun shrimp. Whichever side of the light-to-hearty spectrum they fall, each of these salads have an array of textures and tastes that have been carefully thought out by some of the best chefs and salad experts.

To celebrate the season and coming summer bounty, we've rounded up a big list of our best salad recipes. So grab a big bowl (or three) and get ready to toss these savory, sweet and refreshing salads to treat yourself to for lunch or to make as part of a summery spread for family and friends.

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 is my kind of salad. It has a little of everything — greens, grains, veggies and cheese!" says Anthony Contrino. "All of the components can be made in advance, making this my go-to meal prep lunch."

Summer Salad

Elizabeth Heiskell

Combine all your favorite summer veggies into one salad tossed with fresh, vibrant herbs (hello, basil, mint and cilantro!), buttery avocados and a zesty vinaigrette.

Cool as a cucumber, this herby salad features bright and refreshing flavors that will woo your taste buds. You're the boss of your toss — throw in parsley, mint, dill, basil or cilantro — most fresh garden herbs will work. This is best enjoyed the same day since the cukes are the crunchiest, but it will last up to three days in the fridge.

Kevin Curry's version of "fried" chicken keeps it light: It's baked instead of fried, calls for light coconut milk instead of cream, and also uses heart healthy almond flour instead of white flour, which supplies additional protein and healthy fats.

Thai Niçoise Salad

Daphne Oz's Thai-inspired niçoise salad harmoniously merges two cuisines, French and Thai, into one salad containing nearly every color of the rainbow. Tangy ginger and lime and nutty peanuts replace the typical tuna and olive combo for a hearty array of versatile veggies.

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.

Burrata Caprese Salad

Burrata Caprese Salad

Valerie Bertinelli

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.

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.

Chile-Lime Fruit Salad

Chile-Lime Fruit Salad

Valerie Bertinelli

Taking inspiration from Mexican fruit cups topped with Tajín, the sweet, tropical fruits get a spicy, zesty kick from chile powder and bright lime juice.

Celery Salad with Cilantro and Sesame

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.

There's something so refreshing about the combination of juicy watermelon and salty feta. When you add sweet blueberries, you have the perfect, patriotic summer salad.

Fennel, Artichoke and Grapefruit Salad

Creamy avocado and juicy citrus form a perfect marriage in this lively summer salad recipe. There's no lettuce involved but plenty of flavor from fennel, artichoke and ricotta salata. Once tossed in a spicy mustard vinaigrette, this dish will make your taste buds pop!

Roasted Tomatoes with Strawberries

Roasted tomatoes and … strawberries?! This unexpected duo is a match made in sweet, vibrant heaven. You can roast the tomatoes in advance and assemble the dish just before serving. You can use strawberries that are slightly underripe for this so the "green" flavor complements the sweetness of the tomatoes.

Barbecue Chicken Quinoa Salad

"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!"

Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad

"Pasta salad is one of my favorite summer side dishes," says Matt Abdoo. "When I was growing up, my mom would make a huge batch to keep it in the refrigerator and pull it out for as many dinners or lunches as possible. It gets even better as it sits in the fridge."

Watermelon, Farro and Arugula Salad

Watermelon is not often served in savory dishes, but this salad really works and is perfect on a hot summer day.

This summer, salad is getting dressed up and upgraded from starter to main course. 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.

This refreshing salad tastes like summer on a plate. The bright citrus, sweet watermelon and grilled shrimp really showcase the light and fresh flavors of the season.

"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 dish reminds Laura Vitale of some of her best summer days on the Amalfi coast. It's so light, bright and flavorful — not to mention quick to prepare!

Grilled Vegetable Salad

This recipe is an easy way to get delicious vegetables into your repertoire. Grilling is the fastest and tastiest way to cook vegetables, according to Jet Tila.

Perfect Potato Salad

The key to a perfect potato salad — as with all cooking — is having the best ingredients. When you stumble upon the most precious baby potatoes, it's time to make potato salad. Then, instead of making a heavy, mayonnaise-y salad, toss just-tender potatoes with olive oil, shallot vinaigrette and whatever fresh, green herbs you can get your hands on.

Grilled Corn Salad with Basil

This is a summer grilling greatest hit. There is no way everyone won't devour this simple side. Alex Guarnaschelli likes to make it and eat it freshly assembled and still warm, but it also tastes great chilled.

Giada's Millet Tabbouleh Salad

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.

Smashed Cucumber Salad

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.

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.

Cooking shrimp takes minimal effort and time since it's a lean protein. You can customize the salad with your favorite leafy greens and other veggies you enjoy. Using Greek yogurt for a dressing is also a way to ensure all yogurt you purchase at the top of the week doesn't go to waste.

Peanut Chicken Salad

Peanut Chicken Salad

Carolina Santos-Neves

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 recipe is as seasonal as it gets with tomatoes and sweet, juicy corn. Edouard Massih adds 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.

"I love this recipe because the steak is smoky and savory while the salad is bright and fresh," says Michael Symon. "It's exactly how I like to eat in the summer!"

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 summer long.

Like we always say, the more bruschetta, the betta. Of course, the standard version — a mouthwatering combo of fresh tomatoes, onion, basil, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and scrumptious seasonings on top of crispy, toasted garlic bread — is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. But the tasty tomato topper is also a great way to infuse flavor and add pizzazz to pasta.