Call them bowl meals, power bowls, or whatever you like! These main dish salads for dinner are healthy, delicious, and filling enough for a meal.
Maybe you call them bowl meals. Meals in a bowl? Power bowls? There are lots of names for eating salad for dinner: and it’s a lot more delicious than it’s ever been. Growing up, salad for dinner meant…well, taco salad. But today, there are all sorts of ways to make healthy, delicious and filling salads that turn into dinner.
You may have seen them on Instagram, because this way of eating is quite the rage these days. But for good reason! Bowl meals make it easy to eat a wide variety of healthy whole grains and vegetables.
Salads for dinner: the anatomy of a bowl
To be able to eat a salad for dinner as a main dish, it’s got to be filling! As you’ll see in the recipes below, dinner salads are loaded with filling ingredients to make sure you stay full for hours afterwards. Here the components of a great dinner salad:
This chickpea bowls recipe is one of our fan favorite salads for dinner Why? In just 25 minutes, you have a fresh bowl of delicious vegetables that’s smothered in a tangy lemon tahini sauce. If you’re just starting to eat plant based recipes or have been eating them for years, this one is a truly tasty way to eat your veggies.
Pro tip: we used couscous in this bowl because it’s so quick to cook: bring it to a boil and then turn off the heat for 5 minutes! If you prefer, substitute a whole grain like quinoa or brown rice.
Here’s an easy dinner recipe that seems to please just about everyone: taco salad! This Tex-Mex salad has been impressing for decades, and it gives us all the 1990’s nostalgic vibes. Here’s why we love it: it’s customizable for any eater and easy to scale up for a crowd. Use the traditional beef or this incredibly delicious Vegan Walnut Taco Meat. Top it with genius creamy Taco Salad Dressing.
Ahh, the most classic of salads for dinner! This French main dish salad should be part of every list of dinner salads. The word salad doesn’t even really come close to describing the taste treat that is Nicoise salad. Boiled 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 veggie burrito bowl will have you immediately coming back for seconds! This one is almost all vegetables, Whole 30 vegetarian friendly, and customizable for just about any diet. There’s cauliflower rice, a fun veggie substitute for rice, fajita-style bell peppers and onions, and crispy roasted shredded sweet potato. But what people have gone crazy over is the chorizo eggs! They mimic meat in flavor, texture, and appearance, and come together in just 5 minutes with a few simple spices. The overall effect is a bowl of colors, flavors and textures that’s incredibly satisfying.
This Thai salad is a fresh and delicious way to eat salad for dinner. Crunchy colorful vegetables and crisp-sauteed tofu are smothered in a creamy peanut sauce dressing. Then it's all topped with peanuts, cilantro, and lime. If you’re not a tofu fan, try substituting shrimp or edamame for the protein. As it stands, this Thai salad is gluten free, vegan, and dairy free, so it works for a variety of diets. There’s a lot going on in this bowl, since the more varied and interesting the flavors and textures of a salad, the more satisfying it is.
This "Buddha bowl" is a refreshing salad for dinner that features a raw version of falafel. Raw falafel? Falafel are a popular Mediterranean chickpea fritter that are typically served in a pita. Here, the falafel is deconstructed into raw vegan energy balls full of Mediterranean spices. It might sound strange, but the concept is seriously satisfying. Drizzle with Lemon Tahini Sauce and you have a dinner salad bursting with nutrients and flavor.
Healthy salads for dinner are not only delicious, they’re beautiful and simple to make: the triple threat of weeknight cooking, right? This tropical mango quinoa bowl recipe is one of the most delicious ways we’ve tried yet. The bowl features fluffy quinoa, mango, red pepper, red cabbage, avocado, fresh greens, cilantro and cashews. Top it off with our citrus drizzle, a vegan cashew sauce made of soaked cashews, orange and lime juice, and fresh ginger. Yum!
Fattoush is a Lebanese salad that’s a mix of herbs, cucumber, tomatoes, and crispy pita pieces. It’s brightened with the flavor of ground sumac, a traditional Lebanese spice. Here the concept is made into a salad for dinner, adding spiced chickpeas to make it more filling. It's drizzled with a vinaigrette spiced with cinnamon and allspice, and garnished with mint.
These turmeric yellow rice bowls are healthy and delicious, filled with bright yellow rice and colorful veggies like carrots, brocolli, chickpeas, and kale. To top it off, drizzle over our fan favorite creamy and tangy lemon tahini sauce.
Here's a way to get your nutrients for the week in a salad for dinner! These grain bowls are surprisingly filling and satisfying: full of quinoa and green vegetables like brocolli, kale, and fresh leafy greens. If you can find it, broccolini is a fun addition with its elegant, long stems. But it’s not required for the bowl—you can use any green vegetables you’d like. Then smother it in our delicious lemon yogurt sauce. It’s savory and creamy, perfect for roasted vegetables, salads, and grain bowls. (For a vegan, use this Tahini Sauce.)
This salad for dinner is all about falafel: a baked version, this time! Falafel are a popular Mediterranean chickpea fritter that are typically served in a pita. Here we've made a patty version of falafel, which is easier to bake in the oven. The herby patties are then layered in a bowl with crunchy colorful veggies and drizzled with a cilantro yogurt sauce. This one always gets rave reviews!
This vegan Buddha bowl is a hearty and filling salad for dinner! It’s full of roasted and fresh veggies for texture and color contrasts: roasted sweet potatoes and cauliflower, fresh beets and cabbage, and cooked chickpeas. Place them over a bed of greens and black rice, drizzle with lemon tahini sauce, and you’ve got a super satisfying dinner salad the whole family will enjoy.
Here's a vegetarian version of that classic in American salads for dinner, the Cobb! This vegetarian Cobb salad uses coconut bacon: it’s smoky, crispy and rich, and tastes reminiscent of its meaty counterpart! It’s perfect against the bite of the blue cheese crumbles and the juicy tomatoes. Then add hard boiled eggs for a hearty, protein packed bowl meal. It hardly tastes like a salad; the flavors are so bold and bright!
This main dish salad for dinner is incredibly flavorful and the perfect way to get your veggies and grains. This Green Goddess salad is all about using up leftover grains and veggies from the week or weekend. You can literally make it with any grain: some of our favorites around here are brown rice, quinoa, millet, or farro. Then use any veggies you have around: this recipe shows you how to grill eggplant, red onion , and zucchini. It's stunning!
This salad for dinner is a copycat of a delicious Panera quinoa salad we made for a reader request! Our Mediterranean Quinoa Salad features greens, feta cheese, kalamata olives and a quinoa tomato sofrito blend. Sofrito is a type of sauce used as a base in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Latin American cooking. Typically in Spanish cuisine, it’s garlic, onion, paprika, and tomatoes cooked in olive oil. The sofrito is mixed with cooked quinoa to become the quinoa tomato sofrito blend, which adds an almost meaty texture. It's a hearty and filling dinner salad!
And last but not least in our salads for dinner: this roasted vegetable bowl! This roasted vegetable grain bowl stars our absolute favorite roasted veg: cauliflower, sweet potato, and red onion, mixed with Moroccan spices.
For the grain, we’ve chosen a unique one: freekeh! It’s a whole grain similar to bulgur wheat that has a quick cooking time and a distinct, nutty flavor. You could use any other whole grain you’d like: quinoa, brown rice, farro, etc. A simple lemon Greek yogurt sauce makes for a fresh, bright counterpoint to the caramel, roasted flavor of the veggies!
More main dish salads
Looking for more dinner salads? Here are some more ideas:
Drain and rinse the chickpeas. In a medium bowl, stir them together with the olive oil, cumin, and kosher salt.
In a medium pot, bring 1 1/4 cups water to a boil. Add the couscous and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes. When done, stir in the olive oil, another 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and the parsley.
In a large shallow bowl, place the greens, then top with couscous, chickpeas, cucumber, and tomatoes. Drizzle with tahini dressing (about 2 tablespoons per bowl). Serve immediately. Leftovers stay in the refrigerator for a few days: keep all components separate for maximum freshness.
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.