Innovative Salad Recipes (That Aren’t Boring)

Let it be known: This is not a Caesar salad-bashing article (it’s simple, but it’s a classic)! But if you haven’t yet branched out from the traditional salad recipes, consider this your sign to do so!

Strawberry Salad

We know that a salad is a traditionally savory dish, but have you ever tried a deliberately sweet salad? It’s nothing short of life-changing. Loaded with a slew of fresh berries and a dash of candied pecans and topped with a lemon poppyseed dressing, this strawberry salad recipe from Shugary Sweets (courtesy of Panera) is the perfect treat for when you want something light and refreshing.

Ingredients:

For the salad

  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 12 oz romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 8 oz fresh strawberries, halved
  • 4 oz fresh blueberries
  • 2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup red onion, sliced (cut into small pieces)
  • 15 oz canned mandarin oranges, drained
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced

For the dressing

  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ⅔ cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp poppy seeds

Instructions:

  1. In a small skillet over medium heat, sauté pecans with sugar. This will take several minutes for the sugar to dissolve as you stir the pecans. Set aside and cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine romaine, berries, oranges, cheese, and onion. Add diced chicken. Toss gently.
  3. In a small mason jar, combine dressing ingredients; shake with lid on.
  4. Add candied pecans and drizzle with dressing. Enjoy!

Farro Salad

If you’ve been in the health food craze as of late, you’ve probably heard of the magical properties of farro, a whole-wheat grain used since ancient times. The chewy texture and nutty flavor are a favorite among salad-eaters, which is why we had to add this farro salad from A Couple Cooks to our list! This salad makes for a great dinnertime side or main course. It’s super-filling (thanks to the inclusion of farro), and ingredients like arugula, Dijon mustard, and manchego cheese give it a tang that makes every bite a treat.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry farro (pearled or semi-pearled)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 4 oz button or cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup fresh herbs (like fresh chives, mint, or basil), chopped
  • 2 cups baby arugula (or other baby greens)
  • ½ cup manchego cheese, sliced into chunks (or Parmesan shavings or fontina cheese; omit for vegan)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Cook Farro:Rinse farro under cold water in a fine mesh strainer. In a large saucepan, place the farro, 3 cups water, and ½ tsp salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cover, and cook until grains are tender, about 15-20 minutes for pearled farro and 25-30 minutes for semi-pearled farro. Drain any excess water. Stir in an additional ¼ tsp salt. Place on a baking sheet in a single layer and place in the freezer for 3 minutes until room temperature. (This step can be completed up to 2 days in advance; refrigerate farro until making the salad.)
  2. Veggies:Place chopped shallot, garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms, carrot, and fresh herbs into a large bowl; add baby arugula, cheese, and farro.
  3. Dressing:In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, Dijon mustard, oregano, and ¼ tsp salt. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, 1 Tbsp at a time, until creamy.
  4. Serve:Add dressing to the bowl with farro and vegetables and toss. Taste and add another pinch or two of salt, if desired. (Stores up to four days refrigerated; you may need to add a pinch or two more salt after refrigeration since it can dull the flavors.)

Vegan Protein Salad

For those dedicated to a meat-free lifestyle, this vegan protein salad from Wallflower Kitchen should definitely make your meal rotation! With the number of different vegetables and flavors in this dish, we have no doubts that you’ll be left with a ton of energy. The salad is the prettiest on our list, thanks to all those different vegetable colors. And because it has no meat, it’s easy to prep and assemble and can last an entire week in the fridge!

Ingredients:

For the salad

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • Pinch of salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 oz cooked quinoa
  • 8 oz cooked puy lentils
  • 5 oz kale, chopped with stalks removed
  • 1 medium radicchio (or ½ small red cabbage), chopped

For the dressing

  • 4 Tbsp tahini
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp boiled water
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1 tsp miso paste (optional)

Instructions:

For the salad

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F; add olive oil to a large roasting tray.
  2. Add squash or sweet potato and toss in oil. Roast for 10 minutes. Add cauliflower with the spices, salt, and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, add cooked quinoa and lentils to a large bowl; mix in kale and radicchio leaves.
  4. Once vegetables are cooked and cooled slightly, mix into salad with the leaves, quinoa, and lentils.

For the dressing

  1. Mix everything together until smooth. Taste and add a pinch of salt and pepper, if needed. If it’s too thick, stir in some more hot water.
  2. Pour over salad and use your hands to rub it into the leaves and mix in well.
  3. Top with a mixture of seeds (such as sunflower, chia, and pumpkin seeds) for added crunch and protein. (optional)
  4. Serve and enjoy! It can be kept in a container in the fridge for up to three days.

Avocado Salmon Salad

For a Mediterranean spin on a classic recipe, try out this avocado salmon salad from Café Delites, which is unlikely to be like anything you’ve ever had! With the complex flavors, you can trick anyone into believing you spent hours prepping this dish (even though it takes just a couple of minutes to assemble!). With the addition of fish, you can stray from chicken as your protein, and the inclusion of avocado ensures you’re getting your serving of healthy fats for the day!

Ingredients:

For the dressing/marinade

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice, fresh squeezed
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Cracked pepper to taste
  • 1 pound skinless salmon fillets

For the salad

  • 4 cups romaine lettuce, washed and dried
  • 1 large cucumber, diced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • ⅓ cup pitted kalamata olives (or black olives), sliced (optional)
  • Lemon wedges to serve

Instructions:

  1. Whisk together all of the marinade/dressing ingredients in a large jug. Pour out half of the marinade into a large shallow dish. Refrigerate remaining marinade to use as dressing later.
  2. Coat salmon with marinade. Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat. Sear salmon on both sides until crispy and cooked to your liking.
  3. While salmon cooks, prepare all of the salad ingredients and mix in a large bowl.
  4. Slice salmon and arrange over salad. Drizzle with the remaining dressing. Serve with lemon wedges.

What’s your favorite salad recipe? Share with us in the comment section below!

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