Hearty Salads and Vibrant Slaws to Brighten Any Seasonal Meal
‘Tis the season of traditional holiday meals, and these recipes for delicious salads are your chance to mix it up and add crunch and color to your spread.
A good veggie side can make a meal. As we cozy up into fall and winter, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and a whole array of greens make their way onto the table. Whether it’s a holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas or just a weeknight dinner, a hearty seasonal salad or vibrant slaw can transform even the simplest menu into something fresh and memorable.
While the recipes we’ve gathered here are scene-stealing side dishes, with a few adjustments, they’re just as happy to be in the limelight and take on the role of main course. Whatever your culinary needs, we’ve got a healthy salad to answer them, so grab a large bowl and start tossing!
Jump ahead to:
Hearty salad recipes
No matter how much we love a good green salad, we don't really expect it to fill us up. If we’re just eating leaves and dressing, that’s definitely the case, but when it comes to hearty salads, satisfaction is a key benefit. So, what makes a salad satisfying? The addition of nutrient-dense ingredients — those full of complex carbohydrates, lots of fiber, protein, and good-for-you fats. In this group of recipes, all starring the flavors and ingredients of autumn, squash, orchard fruit, toasted nuts, whole grains, and an abundance of greens lend that effect.
At its root, Italian panzanella is simply a bread salad, so you know it’s going to be hearty. Cornbread creates the base in this autumn-focused dish, teaming up with roasted sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts to deliver the seasonal flavors we crave. There’s a bit of blue cheese, a maple-mustard vinaigrette, and a good set of cooking instructions to help ensure all these bold flavors come together with ease. Want to add some more protein to make this a meal? Enjoy it with a cup of lentil soup for plant-powered nourishment or a piece of seared salmon. Or create a chicken salad by adding leftover grilled chicken or rotisserie chicken.
This simple recipe coaxes maximum flavor out of all the ingredients. The salad’s heft comes from the headlining combo of apples and lentils — both fiber-packed foods that keep you full. Add in pepitas, fresh herbs, crunchy celery, and an apple-sage dressing, and you’ve got a salad that can play well at a holiday meal next to mashed potatoes and stuffing. On the other hand, maybe this is what you want to make in the days after a big meal when you’re looking for a healthy change of pace!
If your salad style is big and bright, this might be your new go-to. Pears lend sweetness and crunch and go well with other crispy elements like cucumbers, pine nuts, and hearty chickpeas. A very elegant white wine vinegar keeps this tasting fresh and clean, so if you want something to break up a rich meal, put this salad on the menu. Weekday lunches love this salad, especially when paired with half a sandwich or a cup of soup.
Greek salad is always a good idea, especially when you want big flavor from the veggies on your plate. Cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, and kalamata olives are the customary ingredients, but this dish combines them with fall-friendly spaghetti squash, so the salad can easily feel like a meal. A simple addition of cooked shrimp or chicken is enough to make it dinner.
This salad is a powerhouse of flavor and nutrition, thanks to the mix of veggies, grains, seeds, and fruit. While the squash, quinoa, and cranberries feel like seasonal regulars, the updated apple cider vinegar dressing makes this special. It’s made with nutritional yeast, a vegan ingredient chefs often use to lend a cheesy, savory element to a dish. In this dressing, it adds a big punch of umami richness and a satiny texture.
Green beans tend to show up quite a bit this time of year, especially in that beloved casserole. But here, they show off their fresh side, teaming up with small white potatoes and a Dijon mustard vinaigrette to take on the role of salad and veggie side. Dress the green beans and potatoes while they're still warm to ensure they soak up the flavors of the vinaigrette. You’ve got a lot of flexibility when serving this dish — it’s equally delicious warm or chilled.
Vibrant slaw recipes
Perhaps the single best thing about slaws is the option to make them in advance. Because they often start off with a sturdy base of vegetables — think green cabbage, Brussels sprouts, or broccoli — you can dress them ahead of time and still enjoy their crunchy texture a few hours later. For the holiday season and beyond, consider adding a slaw to your spread. Here are our best coleslaws for fall and winter. They take us well beyond the classic recipes with celery seed dressing we think of as sides for summer BBQs!
Make this homemade coleslaw once, and it’ll become a staple. The base of the slaw is a blend of shredded cabbage (buy pre-cut coleslaw mix to minimize prep time) and parsley, with toasted almond slices (or pecans!) and cranberries bringing in a sweet-and-sour punch. The dressing is delicious and unfussy — maple and mustard with a tangy splash of apple cider vinegar. Soak the red onions in the salad dressing to tame their sharpness and add some essential freshly ground black pepper. But what really makes the salad a keeper is how well it stores in the fridge even after you’ve dressed it. Next-day turkey sandwiches, here we come!
"Light and loaded with flavor" sums up this colorful slaw. The recipe veers on the sweeter side with brown sugar and dried cranberries at play, but salty sunflower seeds and red wine vinegar balance it out. A mix of red cabbage and broccoli slaw keeps this salad feeling perfect for fall and winter and right at home next to holiday main dishes.
This is a veggie lover’s slaw. Start with a bag of coleslaw and add more carrots, bell peppers, edamame, and lots of cilantro to create the colorful base for the crispy salad. The dressing strays from some of the flavors we usually see on holiday tables, calling for peanut butter, ginger, and sesame, but that’s precisely why you should include this dish in your spread. All those ingredients pair beautifully with the warm spices and savory flavors — the hallmarks of the meals. Besides, everyone loves a wildcard to change things up!
If you’re a fan of creamy-crunchy slaws, this broccoli number has your name on it. There’s nothing complicated about this recipe, but it’s helpful to pay attention to the details like cutting up the broccoli into fairly small pieces (a food processor helps!) and giving it ample time to soak up the tangy buttermilk dressing. Toasted almonds, red onion, and dried cranberries add a warm, tangy, sweet element to every bite. Like any good slaw, this one keeps in the fridge for up to a week.
Sometimes, the best recipes are the simplest, and this is one of them. The sweet and licorice-y flavor of fennel takes center stage here with the aid of a lemony vinaigrette and a sprinkling of cooling mint. It’s fresh, easy to make, and always welcome on a table full of heartier dishes. Plus, the recipe is low-carb and low-cholesterol. Total time: about 10 minutes.
Want to inject some heat into the holiday meal? This dish throws a little serrano or jalapeño chili into the mix. But the cabbage-based slaw is not all fire. Instead of your standard creamy coleslaw dressing based on mayo, a creamy yogurt-based dressing and fresh herbs keep it balanced and delicious. Let the slaw sit overnight or make it right before serving — it’s a winner either way.
More healthy recipes for your salad bowl
Feel like making a kale salad, pasta salad, Caesar salad, Cobb salad, farro salad, or Mediterranean salad for a healthy dinner? These articles offer enough ideas to sink your teeth into.