Tips for making enticing salads?

kdbulger Posts: 396 Member
So I'm a big fan of a really good salad. I order them at restaurants frequently. I always get dressing on the side and just add a small amount because I hate too much dressing.

I just seem to suck at making an interesting, tasty salad at home. Any tips for me? Elements that I should include but am missing? I just end up with greens plus some veggies down at the bottom and it's super boring/not tasty.


  • managematics
    managematics Posts: 27 Member
    You might not like what others do, so I would start with the things you enjoy at restaurants and try to replicate it at home. It's not too hard. Just be aware that there are things other than dressings which can make restaurant salads pretty unhealthy: Nuts candied in a whole bunch of sugar, fried crunchy stuff, etc...

    On Sunday I did the following: Kale, shredded brussels sprouts (shredded them myself but sometimes I'll buy them pre-shredded at the market), Broccoli slaw mix (pre-shredded broccoli and carrots), red bell pepper, pear, grilled chicken breast, and just a bit of blue cheese. I used a fat-free carrot ginger dressing.

    For me, it works because there is plenty of crunch and variety of texture. The sweetness of the pears plays off the blue cheese. The main trick for me seems to be finding that contrast of flavors and textures to keep it interesting.
  • Lounmoun
    Lounmoun Posts: 8,426 Member
    Lots of stuff you can add to a salad- nav&referringId=96&referringContentType=recipe hub&linkName=hub nav daughter&clickId=hub nav 2

    I had a tasty restaurant salad the other day and I wrote down everything I thought was in it. I'm going to try to make it at home soon.
    Mixed greens- spinach, romaine, etc
    White beans
    Garbanzo beans
    Grilled chicken
    Yellow pepper
    Red pepper
    Sundried tomato
    Red pepper hummus
    Balsamic vinaigrette dressing
  • rosiepri900
    rosiepri900 Posts: 14 Member
    Black olives
    Boiled eggs
    Lemon juice
    Feta cheese

    Normally use quite a few of these in making salads! Chop everything small, mix together and add bit if olive oil or lemon juice and mix..YUM
  • DX2JX2
    DX2JX2 Posts: 1,921 Member
    Pickled products brighten the whole thing up and can take the place of dressing. Really low in calories, too.

    My favorites are pickled onions (really easy to make at home), Peppadews (pickled sweet peppers), or pickled hot banana peppers.

    Most home cooks underutilize acid as a seasoning but the right amount can really wake any dish up. The pros consider acid just as important as salt in making food taste great.
  • xvolution
    xvolution Posts: 721 Member
    Mix together 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp red wine vinegar and 1 tbsp ms dash seasoning of your choice. Marinate chicken breast in the mix for an hour, then grill until the chicken isn't pink (about 10 minutes). Let it rest for 5 minutes before cutting into chunks. Makes for a good low sodium protein source.
  • ritzvin
    ritzvin Posts: 2,858 Member
    kdbulger wrote: »
    So I'm a big fan of a really good salad. I order them at restaurants frequently. I always get dressing on the side and just add a small amount because I hate too much dressing.

    I just seem to suck at making an interesting, tasty salad at home. Any tips for me? Elements that I should include but am missing? I just end up with greens plus some veggies down at the bottom and it's super boring/not tasty.

    • They are better tossed with a lower amount of seasonings than just throwing stuff on top of the lettuce (a bit of extra work, but usually worth it).
    • My usual 'seasonings': balsamic vinegar (in spray bottle), olive oil spray, (lots of) pepper, dash of salt, a lot of minced garlic (bottled in water), grated parmesan/romano (the stuff in the canister - note: you'll want to weigh this - it adds quite a bit of calories but also some protein), balsamic glaze; topped most often with 2 oz of rotisserie chicken pieces or crumbled ground turkey/beef, and often with a small side of seasoned beans with pico de gallo.
  • ritzvin
    ritzvin Posts: 2,858 Member
    also dried minced onion, and sometimes crumbled hard boiled egg.
  • ritzvin
    ritzvin Posts: 2,858 Member
    I rarely bother, but also love alfalfa sprouts in salad. Smaller quantities of non-leaf-type greens (that you can chop and just throw in the salad spinner with the leafy greens, also add some nice variety without too much extra work.
  • melissaulmen
    melissaulmen Posts: 123 Member
    Nuts!! Not the sugar coated ones.
    Walnuts - Spinach, Strawberries, Feta
    Sunflower Seeds (ok, seed not nut) - I add these to regular salads
    Slivered Almonds - Cabbage - Chicken - Green Onions - Toasted Almonds - Asian Dressing
    Pecans - Beats - Greens - Blue Cheese

    Look up on restaurant sites the salads they have. If it looks good recreate it. Panera, Twigs, etc.
  • kms234
    kms234 Posts: 132 Member
    I LOVE steak in salad! When we grill steak, I always double it so I have leftovers for salads. Add in a little blue cheese or feta and some onions..heaven.

    I would also suggest searching Pinterest for copycat recipes from your favorite restaurants.
  • whitpauly
    whitpauly Posts: 1,483 Member
    My "sexy salad" I call it,romaine topped with a few bacon bits,black olives,red onion,a bit of shredded cheese,a few croutons and a bit of ranch,I shake it in an oversized bowl cuz I don't like a lot of dressing either,sometimes I'll add grilled chicken and its dinner or I'll have it on the side
  • Cbean08
    Cbean08 Posts: 1,092 Member
    I like adding some roasted or cooked veggies to my salads. I make sure to season the veggies really well so that the flavor spreads to the other toppings. I also hate most salad dressings, so seasoning is a must. And, my salads all have a salty element. My recent fave -

    roasted cauliflower and mushrooms in marinara sauce
    kalamata olive
  • Sp1tfire
    Sp1tfire Posts: 1,120 Member
    Here's my lunch salad I eat every day:

    Total calories: approx 290 (overestimating)
    2 sticks of Surimi Crab meat (100 calories)
    2 tablespoons reduced fat mayo (90 calories)
    3 cups spinach (21 calories)
    3 cups shredded lettuce (15 calories)
    1/2 cucumber (23 calories)
    A few strips of red onion (10 calories)

    Chop up the surimi crab and onion. Mix with mayo. Chop spinach if desired. Mix with shredded lettuce.

    I make it at work (subway) by doing 2 scoops of their 'seafood sensation' which is surimi crab mixed with mayo. This is my 'at home' recipe. Also good with green peppers mixed in!
  • RedSierra
    RedSierra Posts: 253 Member
    edited August 2017
    I love salads. I eat a lot of spinach salads (baby spinach leaves) with shredded carrots, a little red cabbage, chickpeas, black olives, cherry tomatoes, green peppers, and cucumbers.
  • Pepsab
    Pepsab Posts: 168 Member
    I want to start mixing it up more also. Love some of these ideas.

    My go to salad is greens (spinach, lettuce etc) cucumber, red onion, yellow capsicum, carrot, cherry tomatoes. I then i add a sprinkle of my own homemade salad sprinkle. It has sliced almonds, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds. It just gives it that something extra. Then i add a different light dressing each time.
  • SDR1970
    SDR1970 Posts: 9 Member
    Chopped Palm Hearts and Artichoke hearts are a staple in my lunch salads. Thrown in with chopped cherry tomatoes, olives, cucumber, or some roasted beetroot and baby potatoes, they're flavorsome and meaty enough that dressing stays in the fridge.
  • a_candler
    a_candler Posts: 209 Member
    I love fruits in my salads, grapes strawberries, raisins, cranberries are all really good. a handful of seeds/nuts is good for crunch. tuna or salmon is good. spicy things too, banana peppers
  • rheddmobile
    rheddmobile Posts: 6,840 Member
    I love rainbow salads. I usually start with purple cabbage and add things of several different colors. Sometimes I go for a flavor based on a particular culture, such as a Japanese salad with soy ginger dressing or a Greek salad. Today it was a Mexican-inspired salad with yellow cherry tomatoes, orange peppers, red tomatoes, several colors of green (green onions, tomatillo, avocado, cilantro). Topped with black beans and a little turkey taco meat, dressing was lime juice and sesame oil with cumin.

    Thinking about what foods are different colors will help keep you inspired, as well as lead you to include nutritious foods, since most highly colored vegetables are also coincidentally nutritious. Orange might be carrots, or roasted sweet potatoes, or bell peppers. Red could be peppers or tomatoes or beets. Purple could be onions or kale or cabbage.

    Add a few ounces of lean protein - chicken, salmon, sirloin steak, pork tenderloin, tofu, lower fat cottage cheese - some legumes - black beans, edamame, white beans, pinto beans - and about 100 calories of fat - nuts, oils, fatty cheeses, or eggs - and top with a citrus or vinegar based dressing, and you have a very satisfying meal.

  • kokonani
    kokonani Posts: 507 Member
    I add nuts, beans and berries to my salads. The berries give it sweetness. Different textures always makes it interesting. Hard-boiled eggs, avocados..
  • KellieTru
    KellieTru Posts: 285 Member
    I find adding liberal amounts of chopped herbs to a salad takes it from so-so to delicious! A good dressing is also key...make your own. There's plenty of recipes out there and just be sure to measure it out. I also read in an article that restaurant chefs tend to season the salad with salt and pepper before it gets served and that it helps bring out the good flavours in a salad.