Easy Salad Bar Ideas

These DIY salad bar ideas are easy to prep! A plate loaded with salad toppings is perfect for weeknight dinners or feeding a crowd.

Salad bar ideas

Not everyone loves vegetables, but most people can get behind a good salad bar. We love the concept of salad bar for a quick dinner idea—something about calling it “salad bar” makes it more glamorous! There are certain salad toppings that scream salad bar and make it even more special, like peas, hard-boiled eggs, or cottage cheese (or bacon bits, really!). Below, we’re sharing our favorite salad bar ideas so that you can recreate this simple weeknight dinner yourself.

Related: 10 Homemade Salad Dressing Recipes | The Best Tossed Salad

Our favorite salad bar ideas

The key to making a salad bar at home? Allow some prep time for all the vegetables; it does take a bit of time for cleaning and chopping. But once you’ve completed the prep, you’re done! We like preparing extra veggies to use for lunches or dinners for days later. If you’re a hard-boiled egg fan like we are, make them in advance or leave enough time for easy prep (about 30 minutes total).

If you’re making a vegetarian or vegan salad bar, use lots of plant based proteins to make sure that your salad bar ideas are filling. Here are salad toppings full of protein to make your salad satisfying and keep you full (or go right to the recipe):

  • Hard boiled eggs: With 6 grams of protein a pop, eggs are also one of the most nutrient-filled vegetarian protein sources around.
  • Dairy: Cheese & plain yogurt are filling vegetarian proteins. (Avoid low-fat, fat-free and flavored yogurts.)
  • Legumes: Try green peas, lentils (red, green, brown, French), split peas, black-eyed peas, and beans (black, garbanzo / chickpeas, lima, navy, pinto, white, and kidney)
  • Whole grainsTry quinoa, barley, bulgur wheat, millet, and brown and wild rice
  • Nuts and seeds: Try almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds

And don’t forget about raw veggies for salad toppings, like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, red onion, cherry tomatoes, and bell peppers. Top it all off with crunchy homemade croutons and your salad bar will be a hit.

Best salad dressings

Another key to salad bar dinner is a good dressing! We have a whole collection of delicious homemade salad dressings that are perfect for salad bar ideas. Here are some of our favorite homemade salad dressing recipes to use on salad bar night:

Salad bar ideas

Looking for more easy dinner recipes?

Outside of these salad bar ideas, here are a few of our favorite easy dinner recipes:

Salad bar ideas

This recipe is…

This salad bar ideas are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and plant-based, depending on which ideas you use for your salad!

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Salad bar ideas

Salad Bar Ideas

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (7 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Varies


These DIY salad bar ideas are easy to prep! A plate loaded with salad toppings is perfect for weeknight dinners or feeding a crowd.




  1. Make the hard boiled eggs, according to the Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs or Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs methods.
  2. Wash and chop the vegetables; place them in serving bowls.
  3. Drain and rinse the chickpeas or beans, if using.
  4. Make the salad dressing. Serve!


These salad bar ideas are a meal concept, not a recipe: get creative and customize your toppings based on your preferences and what you have on hand! Add cooked meat for a non-vegetarian option. For a vegetarian option, be sure to include enough protein-filled items to satisfy, like eggs, chickpeas, cheese, and nuts.

  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Raw
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: salad bar ideas, easy salad recipe

Last updated: February 2020

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

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

Cookbook Author and photographer

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.


  • Reply
    Belinda @themoonblushbaker
    August 14, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    This is such a fun take on lunch especially when it is so hot in summer. Fresh ingredients alway makes people happy; I am feeling good just look at this photo!

    I find this idea works great at kids parties. I did this once for my niece and her garden theme party. So creative!

  • Reply
    August 15, 2013 at 12:17 am

    This looks amazing! So fresh and healthy. I love all the options!

  • Reply
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    August 15, 2013 at 8:50 am

    I need to get on this! Love all the colours!

  • Reply
    August 15, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Ooh, a home salad bar is a perfect idea for a sumer party! Everyone always loves the salad bar, and it’s definitely a great way to beat the heat. :)

  • Reply
    August 15, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    what a great idea. we usually eat our meal in pieces like this any way so making it an official salad bar experience would not be a stretch… just would need more goodies to add to the mix.

  • Reply
    Chelsea @ BigBitesLittleBudget
    August 16, 2013 at 11:12 am

    What a fun idea! I am such a fan of salad bars. I love getting to add just enough of all my favorites and end up with a bowl loaded with tons of veggies and a few surprises.

  • Reply
    Heidi @ Food Doodles
    August 17, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Fun idea! I don’t know why I haven’t done anything like this with my kids. They’re usually so good about eating the salads I make but I can just imagine they’d have so much fun doing this! And really, who doesn’t love having so many delicious options? :D

  • Reply
    Jodi Alexander
    October 17, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    We do this for almost every family get-together and holiday meal. Everyone enjoys creating their own salad. Now people bring their favorite topping to share with others and we get to try new things.

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