Need interesting and tasty salad ideas

We’re moving to a much more plant-based diet. And I’ve come to like salad. But we always have roughly the same thing: mixed baby greens, tomatoes, maybe some shaved carrot, red onion, or cucumber, plus a sprinkling of dried cranberries and/or some cheese. Maybe some pumpkin seeds or nuts.

Help me branch out a bit. One caveat is I don’t want anything too heavy on fat or cheese. I sure lerves me some insalate caprese, but big slabs of whole milk mozzarella are out of bounds for our daily menus. Healthier fats like nuts and avocado in moderation are fine though.

I’m looking forward to seeing what you guys come up with!

Romaine, cucumber, avocado, Italian dressing, a sprinkle of Gorgonzola. If it’s your whole dinner, you can add some grilled chicken.

Pear, caramelized onion, walnuts, avocado, just a tiny bit of blue cheese with a balsamic vinegarette on your choice of lettuce is one of my favorites.

My mother-in-law makes a great salad with romaine, mustard-poppy seed dressing, pears, apples, golden raisins, cashews, and swiss cheese.

Start with a clove of garlic, some olive oil, and sliced hazel nuts. Heat it all up in a pan until the nuts are just toasted. Drain the oil and garlic, but hold on to it. Mix an equal amount of red wine vinegar with the remaining oil and garlic (that’s your dressing. Sprinkle the nuts and a little bleu cheese on some arugula. Pour on dressing (lightly). FIrst time I had this, I didn’t even want the main course.

My favorites to add:

thawed green peas
chick peas
apple slices
mandarin oranges
pear slices
dried cranberries
dried blueberries
almonds, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds – any toasted seed or nut
hearts of palm
chopped up hard boiled egg
crumbled fake bacon (Morningstar Farms)

I have Salad Rules, which are very simple:

  1. Choose from any variety of greens that isn’t iceberg. I’m a big fan of spinach or baby greens, but I recommend switching it up every few days or you get really tired of the same salad.

  2. A good salad must include carrots. This is a hard and fast rule with me, as I love carrots. If a restaurant salad does not include carrots, I will call it “a crap salad.” Loudly. Within earshot of the waiter.

  3. Some toasted seed or nut, as I mentioned above. Just one. I’m a big fan of pumpkin seeds (pepitas).

  4. Some form of cheese. Go for low fat or fat free and stinky cheeses like bleu cheese taste better in the low fat/fat free varieties than, say, cheddar. Fat free cheddar tastes like nothing to me.

My favorite salad:
Spinach, toasted walnuts, carrots, dried cranberries, a bit of bleu cheese and Marie Callander’s bleu cheese vinaigrette. Mmmm…

Pear, Gorgonzola, and walnuts added to a salad is nice. Heart of palm also.

Steamed, boiled or baked butternut squash chunks, with pomegranate arils, lots of arugala, cherry tomatoes, green onions, snowpea sprouts or tendrils, and a balsamic vinaigrette. Mmm.

I made a good one recently.

Arugula with a basic vinaigrette dressing, crumbled goat cheese, and sliced avocado.

I also like dark greens (romaine or mesclun) with vinaigrette, blue cheese, and walnuts.

I prefer my carrots roasted. I’m not a fan of raw carrots, but I love cooked ones. Go figure.

I’ll have to try that sometime. It sounds good.

My favorites to add:
sweet peas
sugar snap peas
mandarin oranges
strawberries (other berries too)
nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, you name it)

I’ve just gotten to the point of figuring what I have on hand, throwing it all in a bowl and going to town. I generally keep a range of dressings on hand (from vinaigrette to blue cheese) so I just pick the dressing I am in the mood for.

I take a salad to work almost every day for lunch. I usually make them in batches on Sunday night (cheaper to make them in batches of 5). I store them in tupperware and haven’t had many issues with freshness. I add salad dressing/nuts/any crunchy topping, right before eating.

**Mediterranean Salad **(I make four of these at a time because the package of veggie burgers and the dressing have 4 servings)

  • Very crisp romaine lettuce
  • Roma tomato - diced
  • Sliced pepperocini
  • Red onion
  • A few sliced kalamata olives
  • Shredded purple cabbage
  • I split a container of Trader Joe’s tzatziki into 4 servings for dressing
  • Dr. Praeger’s tex mex veggie burger (heated and crumbled) on top

BBQ Chicken Salad

  • some kind of green, not picky
  • red onion
  • A little of Trader Joe’s roasted corn (I keep it in the freezer and just nuke the amount I want to put on my salad)
  • A few black beans (if I have some handy, if not, I skip them)
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Shredded carrot
  • Sliced avocado (if I have the calories for the day, if not, I skip it)
  • Trader Joe’s Just Chicken slices (I drizzle them with BBQ sauce and then broil them until they get hot)
  • A little bit of fat free ranch dressing
  • A few crunchy tortilla strips for the top

Asian Salad

  • Green/red leaf lettuce
  • Edamame (about a handful per salad)
  • small can of mandarin oranges (split between the 5 salads)
  • small can of sliced water chestnuts (split between the 5 salads)
  • Bag of broccoli slaw (split between the 5 salads)
  • sprinkle of cashew bits and pieces (measured, definitely under a serving per salad)
  • sliced frozen chicken breast from Trader Joe’s (I take it separately and nuke it at the last minute, looove hot chicken on salad)
  • Spicy asian peanut dressing from Trader Joe’s
  • A few crispy wontons added at the last minute for crunch

Ham Salad

  • crisp romaine
  • carrot shreddies
  • purple cabbage
  • a little red onion
  • diced ham
  • grape tomato
  • Lite honey mustard dressing
  • spicy crunchy wonton strips

Frab Salad (made with that imitation crab stuff - fake + crab)

  • green leaf lettuce
  • sliced green beans
  • carrot shreddies
  • Imitation crab
  • Some type of sweet dressing, like poppyseed

Fruity Nutty Salad

  • green leaf lettuce
  • Package of pomegranate seeds (split among 5 salads)
  • chopped pecans
  • a little red onion
  • Carrots
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Trader Joe’s fat free Balsalmic Vinaigrette

One of my favorites is baby spinach with tangerine sections, pecans and vinaigrette. A light sprinkle of grated asiago goes well on top.

I also like (in strawberry season) a mix of romaine and mescaline with sliced fresh strawberries, slivered almonds, red onion and strawberry vinaigrette.

One from my childhood is sliced cucumbers and onions, optional chunked sweet peppers and tomatoes in a solution of 1c. cider vinegar to 1c. water and 2 Tbsp. sugar and left overnight in the fridge.

For a quick meal now, I like mixed greens with baby portabella mushrooms, red onion, black olives, sunflower seeds, golden raisins and a sprinkle of gorgonzola or roquefort. Any vinaigrette dressing goes well with this.

Keep in mind that salad does not have to be based on greens. One of our favorites in the summer is a greek salad that includes no lettuce at all, just chopped up tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, red onions, some kalamata olives, feta cheese, a sprinkling of oregano and red wine vinegar & oil for dressing.

I make chef’s salads about once a week, and the big wonderful ingredient on them are pickled beets. If you are at all a fan of beets, I highly recommend putting them on a salad. They REALLY jazz it up.

Also, making your own vinaigrette is incredibly simple and incredibly good. Basic recipe is 2 teaspoons mustard, 2 tablespoons vinegar, whisk together, add about 1/3 cup of oil sloooowly while whisking so it emulsifies. Or you can put it all in a jar and shake until it emulsifies. Add salt & pepper to taste. This makes enough for two big salads, you can double or triple it and it keeps in the fridge pretty good.

But that’s just the basic recipe. You can vary it by changing the type of oil & vinegar, using flavored vinegars, using flavored mustards, adding herbs and spices, adding stuff like orange juice or lemon juice or maple syrup or whatever. The possibilities are endless and it tastes better than just about any store-bought dressing.

Smashed chickpea salad. Add red peppers (roasted or pickled) and it’s even better. Goes nicely with poached salmon.

Korean carrot salad..


I had this at some restaurant or other, and have been making it successfully at home ever since.

Toss in a bit of olive oil and then grill asparagus spears and thick slices of white onion on a grill pan. When they’re tender-crisp and marked with black grill marks, remove them. When they’re cool, toss with fresh watercress, balsamic vinegar and olive oil, plus plenty of fresh cracked pepper and salt to taste.

The peppery watercress contrasted with the sweetness of the onion and balsamic vinegar is mind-blowing.

This is one of my favorite salad recipes, but instead of making the multi-ingredient salad dressing, I buy bottled Caesar dressing (light/low-fat is fine) and whomp it in the food processor with a generous handful of cilantro, a fresh jalapeno (or part of one – adjust to your preferred level of heat) and some fresh lime juice. I take this to potlucks a lot and there’s rarely a scrap left.

I totally agree - beets are excellent in salads - try roasted beets with spinach, walnuts and goat or feta cheese. Really nice with a balsamic dressing.

A very simple salad of fresh and tendercrisp endive frisee’, washed and spun dry, tossed with a classic vinaigrette to proportion of cherry vinegar, grey poupon, and walnut oil, a teaspoon of shallots, salt and pepper. Mince some fresh cherries and sweet pickled walnuts together and sprinkle over the salad with some lightly garlicked classic croutons of leftover bread. Top the entire salad with a slice of deep sauteed and seared foie gras with thick Hickory Bacon Lardons. Prepare the Lardons first and sear the Foie Gras in the remaining bacon fat.

Well…don’t know if this counts, but my mom used to make this kickass peas and onion salad.
I didn’t like peas, but…

Can of peas
Chopped up white onion
Italian dressing
It’s incredibly edible, even though at the time I didn’t care about any of those flavors on their own. Think it was the only way I ever ate peas, to be honest. (Besides raw…I LOVE LOVE LOVE picking peas and eating them raw. Shelled, of course. Nothing beats fresh raw peas.)

I also worked as a cook in a sports bar for a while, and used to make up salads for myself that would have the customers wanting some.

But we’re talking some pretty greasy fare, here.

-Cook some bacon
-Stir-fry some chopped steak or chicken in it, with a little garlic
-Throw it all, grease included, into a bowl of greens
-Add cashews, avocado, green onions, tomatoes

Sooooooooooooooo good.
Sooooooooooooooo heart-stopping.

From a healthful and homeopathic standpoint, as you seem to insist upon, Unauthorized Cinnamon. I could call this salad the Poison and Antidote as someone who suffers from arthritis. You see, I have gout, and though the livernoid is a bit unhealthy for me, the antidote is in the antioxidant and curative powers of the cherries and walnuts. Cherry juyce is a well known and proven effective natural curative for arthritic ailments.