These best salad recipes make eating colorful, nutrient-dense foods easy and delicious. The days of boring salads are over!
It’s salad time! The days of the boring salad are over. Salads can be some of the best ways to eat colorful, nutrient-dense foods. But it can be hard to find the right salad recipes that are easy and delicious enough to justify the effort. Here are 25 of our very favorite salad recipes that are guaranteed to be full of flavor and favorites for years to come. A note on seasonality: we’ve included salads for a variety of seasons, but most of the salad recipes below will work regardless of the season. We’ve noted when you’ll need to make sure you can get seasonal foods like ripe tomatoes and peaches.
First up in our best salad recipes: are you ready for the BEST way to eat kale? Get ready to be amazed! Now, you might be wary of eating raw kale, which can sometimes have a bitter taste. But with this flavor popping Italian-style dressing of lemon, Parmesan cheese, and garlic, the bitter taste of the kale is mellowed and melds beautifully with the other flavors.
Plus, the sturdy texture of the kale holds up well in a salad, and provides an extra crunch when eating. When Alex and I make this kale salad, we can’t stop eating it!
Why is this salad our favorite? This chopped salad will amaze everyone around the table! Last weekend we served this salad at a dinner party. Wow! What’s in this salad? was murmured around the table. That’s when you know a salad recipe is a keeper!
It looks unassuming, but it’s one of our favorites to date. There’s our homemade Italian dressing, tangy, savory, herby and balanced. Add to that shallots, tomatoes, cucumber, and a zing from pepperoncini. And then Parmesan. Yes, this chopped salad wants to be part of your kitchen repertoire.
This spinach apple salad is one of our top best salad recipes because it's classic and simple! It pairs tangy apple and thin sliced pear with spinach and a zingy balsamic dressing. Add to that shiny glazed walnuts or pecans, which add a signature crunch. Dress it up with a fancy cheese like Manchego if you like, or keep it simple and plant-based.
Introducing: the simplest arugula salad. It’s quite possibly the easiest salad recipe you’ll make! You don’t even have to make a salad dressing. In under 10 minutes, you’ve got an elegant salad that goes with literally everything. Dress baby arugula simply with olive oil and lemon juice, then add Parmesan shavings and thinly sliced shallots. Done! Simple, understated, and oh so good. It pairs especially well with soups, pasta and pizza!
Next up in our best salad recipes: wedge salad with a twist! Our version of this classic version uses smoky ranch dressing and yes, potato chips. The ranch is made with our classic and creamy Homemade Ranch Dressing, mixed with a bit of smoked paprika.
Drizzle the dressing over a crisp wedge of iceberg lettuce, then top it with sundried tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles, chives, and a few crumbled potato chips. It’s an easy side dish recipe that takes no time to put together, but seems elegant and classy.
Though it looks a little like rice, orzo is actually a small pasta in the shape of rice! It’s often used in Mediterranean-style recipes like Italian and Greek cuisine. Here, we’ve harnessed all the flavors of Greece for this orzo salad: salty feta cheese, Kalamata olives, and of course, powerhouse herbs like mint and dill! It’s one of our crowd favorite salad recipes perfect for summer.
Ready for the best vegan potato salad you’ve had? And we’re not just saying that. This classic American style potato salad is the result of years of research into what makes a perfect classic potato salad. You know, that potato salad your Grandma makes, or you get at the veggie deli counter? Except this one is made of plant based whole foods, and tastes even better than the mayo-laden glop that sometimes graces summer pitch-ins.
This strawberry salad is one of our most popular salad recipes, pairing sweet strawberries with an insanely good strawberry vinaigrette salad dressing! Paired with crunchy red onions, toasted almonds, feta cheese crumbles, and those delicious sweet berries, this green salad is the perfect way to enjoy seasonal berries. You could substitute blackberries or raspberries for an equally delicious take. Or if you prefer, try our equally delicious Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette.
This classic French main dish salad should be part of every list of best salad recipes. The word salad doesn’t even really come close to describing the taste treat that is Nicoise salad.
Eggs, green beans, Kalamata olives, tomatoes, tuna, and tangy potatoes sit on crunchy lettuce with a zesty lemon vinaigrette that makes you want to keep eating it for days. It’s filling enough to be a main dish, and it’s got the best summery vibe (just add frose).
This fennel orange salad features vibrant juicy oranges and a famous pairing: sliced raw fennel, which adds a subtle licorice essence. Throw it over greens with pistachios and shallots, and top with a zingy homemade citrus vinaigrette. Wow! There’s so much going on flavor and texture-wise, it's a salad everyone will be talking about.
Here’s a top-notch lentil salad recipe to add to your arsenal, and man is it tasty. This fresh and healthy lentil salad is Mediterranean-style, mixed with fresh veggies, feta cheese and pistachios. It’s a delicious way to add protein to a vegetarian meal as a side dish, or bring to work as a lunch throughout the week. You won't be able to stop eating it!
Next up in our best salad recipes: black bean salad! It’s tangy and delicious, perfectly seasoned with cumin, garlic, and vinegar, and mixed with colored bell peppers, green onions and rice. It’s kid friendly and a great healthy lunch idea or dinner time side. And, it’s perfect as an easy potluck recipe to take to a gathering. It’s totally plant based, vegan and gluten free, so it works for a variety of diets!
Another feature of this black bean salad: it can sit in the refrigerator for up to 3 days without losing flavor, so it’s great for making ahead and eating off of all week.
Here’s a refreshingly simple salad recipe that’s just begging to jump on your table: citrus salad! It stars all the beautiful, vibrant citrus: tangy grapefruit, navel oranges, and sweet blood oranges. They’re drizzled with a zingy dressing, then topped crushed pistachios and fresh mint.
This beet salad has all the right elements: roasted beets, baby greens, creamy goat cheese and a tangy balsamic beet dressing. Basically, salad perfection! The sweet, earthy flavor of beets pairs perfectly with the tang of a balsamic dressing. Here, we’ve used our favorite Best Balsamic Dressing: which takes just 5 minutes and 5 ingredients. Amp it up a notch: by stirring in roasted beets, which turns the dressing a vibrant shade of pink and adds a sweet flavor undertone!
This watermelon salad recipe is truly easy: it’s just matter of chopping a few ingredients and throwing them together on a platter! Juicy watermelon, salty feta, and cool cucumber come together along with basil and lemon zest into something that’s out-of-this-world good! It’s a fantastic accessory for summer cookouts and potlucks. (PS it’s easy to grow your own basil at home.)
This balsamic tomato salad might sound simple, but it's utterly divine. It’s all about simplicity: just tomatoes and herbs, marinaded in balsamic and olive oil for 30 minutes. And once you taste it: it’s truly one of the best fresh tomato recipes you’ll find. It almost brought tears to our eyes. And that’s just the kind of fresh tomato recipe you need.
Alex and I used to think it was easy to just “throw together” a good salad. But the more experienced we’ve gotten in the kitchen, the more I’ve realized that a good salad is not just a throw together type of thing! A good salad has got to have contrasts in texture, flavor, and colors. It’s got to make sense with the season and the occasion.
Squash salad is a perfect fall or winter side dish! This salad recipe features roasted delicata squash, a variety of squash that's quick to cook and extraordinarily sweet. You can use other squash varieties if you like, like roasted butternut squash or acorn squash. Serve it over greens with pomegranate seeds and a tangy vinaigrette.
Another favorite in our side salad recipes, this radish chopped salad is full of flavor! The creamy blue cheese dressing perfectly complements the crunchy radishes, and the flavors all meld together perfectly. The body of the salad is both green cabbage and romaine lettuce, which makes for contrasting flavors and textures, and it’s topped with blue cheese crumbles. This one is a fabulous compliment to any type main dish.
Did you grow up eating a salad like this one? This cucumber salad with vinegar is everything summer! It’s perfect for potlucks to patio barbecues to picnics, and it’s one of those salad recipes that accessorizes seamlessly with everything from salmon to a grilled burger.
The thinly sliced cucumbers and onions are salty, tangy, and lightly sweet all at once, and totally addicting. This cucumber salad is vegan, plant-based, and gluten-free, so it works for lots of diets too.
This Italian pasta salad is full of zesty flavor, featuring lots of veggies, kalamata olives, capers, and crisp romaine. It’s like eating pasta and salad all at once! Not only is it delicious, but the romaine and veggies helps you feel satisfied eating less pasta overall. Instead of relying on cheese for flavor, this one is tangy and salty without the dairy! It’s one of our tried and true easy vegan salad recipes.
This bean salad is truly easy and has is a unique spin on the standard bean salad recipes! The secret to the flavor is the salad dressing: it’s made with a bit of tomato paste and ketchup, so it has an unexpected earthy undertone. Adding feta cheese brings in a savory flair! And the combination of green onions and chives adds just the right amount of complexity. We’ve optimized this bean salad to get the best flavors with the least amount of prep time and fuss.
This main dish salad recipe was a reader request to recreate a Panera quinoa salad that she loved! A hearty tomato onion garlic sofrito blend is mixed into this quinoa salad, which adds an almost meaty flavor and texture to the quinoa. Some people complain about a bitter taste from quinoa, but the sofrito makes it taste tangy and almost sweet!
The quinoa is served over greens and topped with cucumber, Kalamata olives, feta, and a tasty vinaigrette made with olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon, and oregano.
This French potato salad is incredibly tasty: the sum of its parts equal something much greater than the whole! The red potatoes are salty, tangy, and moist, mixed with just the right amount of salty capers and savory minced shallot. It’s one of those salad recipes where you can’t help but sneak bites while you’re making it: it’s just that good! This one is an adaptation of Julia Child’s classic French potato salad recipe.
Classic Greek salad is a big pile of tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and Kalamata olives (no lettuce) with a big block of feta on top. Sometimes you’ll find green pepper in the mix. It’s typically then drizzled with olive oil and just a little red wine vinegar, then sprinkled with some dried oregano! This one is our classic take after visiting Santorini, Greece a few years ago. It’s one of those salad recipes that tastes just like summer! Ripe, in season tomatoes work best here.
This delicious farro salad features farro, a healthy whole grain, along with apple, arugula, and tart cherries. Sprinkle a bit of feta cheese for a savory saltiness, and then cover the entire salad in a tart cherry vinaigrette. With the red and the green, it’s visually stunning, and it tastes incredible: tangy, tart, sweet, and savory all at once. Though it features lots of fresh ingredients: apples, arugula and cherries, it’s one of those salad recipes that can be eaten year round since many of these ingredients are available throughout the year.
This is one of the most stunning, simple salad recipes! The elements in this peach & burrata caprese salad recipe all work together to make magic. First, juicy, succulent ripe peaches and vibrant red, yellow and violet tomatoes that taste literally like summer. Then, burrata: fresh mozzarella cheese filled with shreds of mozzarella soaked in cream. It’s one of the best taste treats on the planet. Add some peppery garden basil and some crunchy, salty peanuts, and it’s one of those first bite Whoa moments. Save this one for when you can access super juicy ripe tomatoes and peaches.
This kale Caesar salad looks quite impressive, but it’s secretly super easy to make. The homemade Caesar dressing uses everyday ingredients like olive oil, mayo, and Worcestershire sauce and is ready in under 5 minutes thanks to the help of a trusty blender. It’s topped with crispy cornbread croutons: crispy cornbread drizzled with olive oil and baked for 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown.
This apple manchego salad is made simply of apples and manchego cheese cut into matchsticks, with a bit of olive oil and some sliced chives. Nothing pretentious — just pure ingredients combined in a simple way to make each shine.
Manchego cheese has a unique flavor that can’t be substituted, so try to find it for this recipe! The way the apples and cheese are cut makes it hard to distinguish between the two – making it all the more fun to guess what will be part of each bite!
This lentil salad features French lentils, brown rice, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil, covered in a tangy smoky dressing of smoked paprika, sherry vinegar, and mustard. It’s incredibly taste, filling, and provides lots of plant-based protein. Many vegetable-based salads can be delicious but low on the filling factor. Combining this salad with a few other summer salads for a summer potluck can make for a filling summer meal; it’s also perfect alongside a vegetarian entree to fill in more protein.
Salad recipes like this shaved Brussels sprout salad are what healthy eating and adventurous cooking should be about. It’s a study in texture contrasts: the feathery shaved Brussels, the pop of the Pomegranate seeds, and the bright crunch of the apple. It’s vibrant and colorful, covered in a lightly sweet vinaigrette. And the flavor: it’s like eating a bowl of confetti, but the healthy kind! After noshing on it, you’ll truly feel a vibrant glow: and that’s not just fad diet BS.
We made up the name California salad, since it’s loosely based on a salad we had in LA while on book tour in California! While our salad ended up pretty different from the original one, it’s incredibly delicious and a perfect way to show off the flavor of the avocado oil and vinegar dressing. This salad recipe features greens, chickpeas, fresh dill, and a tasty avocado oil vinaigrette. If you can’t find ricotta salata cheese, feta crumbles work as well.
Looking for salad dressings?
Salad dressing is always better homemade. In addition to these incredible salad recipes, here are some of our favorite homemade salad dressings:
Wash and dry the kale. Then destem and roughly chop the kale leaves.
Peel and mince the garlic clove. Sprinkle it with the kosher salt, then holding the blunt edge of the knife, scrape the sharp edge of the blade over the minced garlic, holding the knife at an angle and mashing the garlic into a paste.
Place the paste in a medium bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and fresh ground black pepper, and whisk to combine. Add the Parmesan cheese and stir to combine.
Toss the dressing with the kale leaves. Serve topped with lemon zest (and additional Parmesan cheese, if desired). If desired, serve with homemade croutons.
*1 bunch of kale makes a moderate serving size of 4: consider doubling the recipe if feeding hungry eaters.
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.