Pasta salads, chicken salads, lettuce salads, fruit salads, and more. It's salad o'clock! We've got the best salad recipes, salad dressings, and crunchy toppers to enjoy year-round.
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Assortment of salads (recipes can be found in the article below); photograph by Ashley Strickland Freeman
Time out for a little theater geekery: We have Cleopatra to thank for the phrase “salad days.” Or, rather, Shakespeare, who put those words in her mouth as a decisive barb aimed at her lady-in-waiting, Charmian. Cleo is pining hard for Mark Antony. Charmian, who’s heard it all before, teases the queen’s tendency to get dramatically swoony over her lovers (“O that brave Caesar!”). Queen Cleo shuts it down with this: “My salad days, when I was green in judgment: cold in blood, To say as I said then!” (Partial) translation: “Shut up, Charmian. I was young. I made iffy (but cleverly tactical) choices. And my thing with Julius Caesar was NOTHING like my burning passion for Antony.”
The drama has fallen away from “salad days” over the centuries. Ask what it means, and folks assume it’s got something to do with summer (when cold, green salads are on the menu), or — if they’re savvy to the phrase’s “youthful inexperience” gloss — the stuff you toss together when you don’t really know how to cook.
But we love salad — all kinds of salads, all year round — and we’re not afraid to declare our devotion to them. Whether you’re fiercely loyal to one favorite salad recipe, or you’re not above flirting with anything and everything produce-centered, we’ve got a match (or several) for you.
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Picnic classics/sandwich fillings >>
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Dress salads just before serving, unless the recipe specifies otherwise, especially if you’re using delicate greens or lettuces you want to keep cool and crisp, like romaine.
Keep in mind that greens will wilt if you toss them with hot or warm ingredients (like freshly-cooked pasta or roasted veggies). It’s totally okay if that’s the effect you’re going for, especially with sturdier greens you might ordinarily cook, like kale or collards. But if you want tender baby greens to keep their shape and texture, cool the hot ingredients first.
Give yourself a food safety refresher before toting salads to potlucks, picnics, or barbecues. Mayo-dressed and protein-based salads in particular need to stay chilled and shouldn’t stay out for more than an hour. Consider using an insulated container or nesting the serving bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice. And no matter when or where you’re serving, ALWAYS wash your produce (even packaged “ready-to-eat” salad deserves a rinse) before using it.
Want to keep your salads vegetarian? Experiment with meat substitutes, roasted tofu or chickpeas, or beans, cheese, eggs, or nuts if you use them. Or, skip the meat altogether — many salad recipes are robust enough even without it.
Experiment when the seasons change (or the mood strikes). Love that summer tomato salad? Try the dressing over a wintery kale salad. Want a change from your usual coleslaw? Swap out the cabbage and make a Brussels sprout salad. Tired of boiled potato salad? How about roasted sweet potato salad?
Pasta salads are a boon when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen, but do want a salad that satisfies like a meal. The beauty is that the recipes invite improvisation — so many ingredients play nice with pasta, so feel free to add extra veggies, beans, fish, or whatever sounds good.
Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
Parmesan cheese, Worcestershire sauce, and anchovy punch up the umami factor in this hybrid romaine lettuce+pasta salad’s egg-free homemade Caesar salad dressing. The recipe comes together in about 35 minutes, thanks to rotisserie or other pre-cooked chicken. To steal a line from Shakespeare, “The valiant Caesar!”
BLT Pasta Salad
Craving BLT flavors, but want something more substantial than a sandwich? Try this pasta salad. Don’t eat pork? Use lamb or turkey bacon, or go with a vegetarian faux bacon. The homemade buttermilk ranch dressing is worth a look for other salads, too.
Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad
This salad is loaded with late-summer veggies like zucchini, corn, and cherry tomatoes, and the recipe makes plenty for entertaining or leftovers. Try swapping fresh mozzarella or goat cheese for the feta cheese if you’d like. Need a vegan salad? Skip the cheese and anchovy paste — you’ll still get abundant flavor from the herbs, capers, and lemon.
Chicken is a crowd pleaser, and in the case of these salads, you don’t even need to cook it yourself — just pick up a rotisserie chicken, shred it, and add it to these recipes. Of course, you can substitute homecooked chicken if you’d prefer (leftovers are perfect for salads).
Quick and Healthy Avocado Chicken Salad
Light, easy to make, and pretty on the plate, this composed salad looks like something you’d find at a beachside café. Slice the avocado just before serving to keep it looking fresh. Need an avocado-cutting assist? Check out this video!
Southwestern Chicken Salad with Creamy BBQ Dressing
Start with a rotisserie chicken, add some clever shortcuts (canned beans, canned or frozen corn kernels) and watch it all add up to a hearty entrée salad that’s easy to throw together on a busy weeknight. With its semi-homemade BBQ dressing, the pulled chicken would also make a cool change from standard chicken salad in a wrap or on a sandwich.
Chicken Salad with Grapes and Almonds
Grapes add a refreshing burst of sweetness to this versatile chicken salad. Try it over greens or in a sandwich. If you need a nut-free version, feel free to omit the toasted almonds and sub in sunflower seeds or pine nuts. (Or, skip the nuts and seeds altogether — the celery in the recipe adds nice crunch, too!)
Picnic classics/sandwich fillings
Prefer your salads between bread? These lunchtime classics are simple, easy, and delicious.
Egg Salad with Fresh Herbs
Dill and chives add bright, fresh flavor to this classic egg salad, while finely chopped celery adds just the right amount of crunch. The recipe features tips for making perfect, easy-to-peel hard boiled eggs.
Classic Tuna Salad
This lunchtime staple can be made ahead; stored in an airtight container, it’ll keep for a couple of days in the fridge. If you’re a big-time tuna fan, opt for skipjack or light tuna — those varieties are lower in mercury than albacore.
Buffalo Chickpea Salad
Looking for a vegan alternative to egg or tuna salad? Smashed chickpeas make a great protein- and fiber-rich base for this deliciously savory salad.
Side salads needn’t be an afterthought, as these recipes prove. Whether you’re looking for a potluck-friendly potato salad or a make-ahead side dish that’ll work for family meals or packed lunches, we’ve got lots of options.
Potato Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
Dressed in a piquant mustard vinaigrette, this mayo-free potato salad is great with grilled fare. Fresh arugula adds color and a welcome peppery bite. If you don’t have whole grain mustard, Dijon works well, too.
Classic Potato Salad
The creamy, parsley-flecked dressing in this old-fashioned potato salad can be customized with your favorite herbs or other mix-ins.
Craving a DIY version of a deli classic? This macaroni salad features a few tasty tweaks, including a squeeze of lemon and a little sour cream for brighter, tangier flavor than the standard mayo-only dressing.
Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad
Quinoa stands in for the bulgur wheat in this gluten-free take on a Mediterranean favorite. Enhanced with lots of fresh herbs, plus tomatoes and cucumbers, this delicious take on tabbouleh works as a side salad or the base of a grain bowl.
Broccoli Salad with Bacon
You’ll find lots of suggestions in the recipe notes for customizing this crowd-pleasing broccoli salad. The key is to keep a mix of textures and flavors — think sweet, smoky, salty, chewy, and crunchy — so play with different dried fruits, nuts, or seeds. You can even swap the bacon for chickpeas roasted with smoked paprika and a little sea salt.
Asian-Style Peanut Coleslaw
Packaged coleslaw minimizes the prep time for this peanut sauce-tossed slaw accented with cilantro. If you’re allergic to peanuts but can eat sunflower seeds, try SunButter and seeds in place of the peanut butter and peanuts.
Three Bean Salad
If you find fresh green beans and cherry tomatoes at the farmer’s market, snap them up for this summery salad — tossed with canned beans, it’s an easy salad that’s quick to make and even better the next day.
Forget any notions of boring rabbit food — these delicious salads rely on refreshing greens as a base, but they feature enticing flavor and texture combinations that’ll have you seeking seconds.
Spinach Salad with Toasted Pecans and Cranberries
This easy, adaptable salad is a great way to add fresh greens to fall and winter menus. Can’t eat nuts? Add crisp apple or pear slices, or try one of the crunchy toppers below.
Taco Salad with Chipotle Ranch Dressing
This main-dish salad comes together fast thanks to premade taco-seasoning, ranch dressing, frozen corn kernels, and canned beans. Tortilla chips add crunch and a fun, permission-to-eat-with-your-hands vibe.
Green Salad with Beets, Oranges, and Avocado
Though it’s delicious any time of year, the citrus makes this a great choice for a winter salad. Creamy goat cheese or feta pairs beautifully with the avocado, beets, and oranges.
Whether you crave dessert-worthy fruit salads or savory salads accented with fruit, a juicy burst of sweetness can make all sorts of salads extraordinary.
Ginger-Lime Fruit Salad
Juicy orange segments, melon, and grapes mingle with crystallized ginger and lime for a simple, refreshing fruit salad that works as a side dish or dessert.
Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Salad
Mediterranean food lovers, think of this salad as the salty-sweet cousin of Greek salad. Though the recipe includes chicken, you can skip the meat altogether and still have a fabulous side salad. Try it alongside grilled fish or a veggie burger.
Mango Cucumber Chile Salad
Chile powder’s heat is an amazing complement to tropical ripe mango; cool cucumber, aromatic herbs, and lime turn the classic Mexican snack combo into a simple salad with big flavor.
Supermarket salad dressings are no match for homemade, and they’re so easy to whip up that you may find yourself eating more salad just to have an excuse to make these delicious dressings.
You’ll get a lot of mileage out of this basic balsamic vinaigrette. Dijon mustard and honey add depth and keep the balsamic vinegar and olive oil mix emulsified. You’ll find tips, too, for customizing the recipe.
Homemade Ranch Dressing
Buttermilk and fresh herbs star in this creamy ranch dressing that’s a cinch to make.
Fresh Basil Vinaigrette
Basil lovers and green goddess aficionados will appreciate this vibrant green vinaigrette. Drizzle it over tomatoes and mozzarella for a fresh take on Italian Caprese salad.
Tahini Caper Salad Dressing
This ultra-savory sesame paste-based dressing adds Middle Eastern vibes to simple salads, and turns them into something special.
Crunchy salad toppers
Salads are more interesting when there are lots of different textures at play. If you love a little crunch, these toppings are especially fun.
Making homemade croutons is easy, and a fabulous way to use up stale bread. While this recipe calls for sourdough, other varieties — especially crusty loaves or flavorful breads like pumpernickel and rye — work beautifully too, so feel free to play with the recipe. No Parmesan? The croutons will still be great!
For some protein- and fiber-rich crunch, nothing beats crispy roasted chickpeas. Not only are they easy to make, but you can customize them with your favorite spice blends.
Sichuan-Spiced Pumpkin Seeds
The next time you prep a pumpkin or winter squash, scoop out the seeds and roast them. This spicy-sweet snack also makes a supreme salad topper.
More salad inspo
The salad possibilities are endless! Check out these additional articles for more salad inspiration.