How To Make A Salad You Actually Want To Eat

Danielle Richardson October 03, 2022

Step 1, DON’T — No one likes salad! Just kidding 

Salads are a healthy living staple but can become boring over time. This post will break down the anatomy of a salad (in my opinion) and how to make them delish.

1. Dressing is Everything

The foundation of creating a salad you actually want to eat lies in starting with the dressing. What are you in the mood for? Something light — try a Vinegarette or Olive Oil + Lemon. Something hearty — perhaps a Creamy Avocado or Ceaser. Indecisive — can’t go wrong with Italian or a Green Goddess. At fast-casual salad restaurants, the dressing is usually last but should be the first thing you consider in the real world.  The way the dressing pairs with ingredients is a key thing people overlook! I’ve been really into Primal Kitchen’s dressing recently because they’re Whole30 friendly.

  • Popular Dressing Options: Vinegarette, Olive Oil + Lemon, Lemon or Lime Juice, Green Goddess, Tahini, Italian, Avocado, Ceaser, Blue Cheese, Ranch, Ginger + Miso, Sesame Oil + Lime
  • Watch Out For: Added sugar, preservatives, kooky ingredients — Dressing should be simple!

2. Pick Your Base

The base of the salad is important because all “lettuce” is not the same. Romaine can have a “blah” taste while arugula is bitter and bibb lettuce is sweet. Kale, while all the rage, may be too tough for your preference and you may opt for spinach or watercress. A spring mix or a baby greens mix may be perfect if you’re on the go and short on time. No matter your preference, just remember to SWITCH IT UP. It’s easy to get tired of salad when you’re eating the same old thing.

  • Popular Salad Greens: Romaine, Arugula, Bibb/Butter, Kale, Spinach, Watercress, Iceberg, Endive/Escarole, Radicchio, Beet Greens, Mesclun, Spring Mix
  • Pro-Tip: Massage your dressing of choice into the greens before layering in your other toppings. It creates depth and helps soften tougher lettuces like kale.

3. Taste The Rainbow

A guiding philosophy for creating salads is to think about the colors you are eating — the more colorful, the better! I typically like to have at least 3-4 colors per salad to keep it balanced and interesting.

  • Red/Orange/Pink: Pomegranate Arils, Watermelon, Tomatoes, Cherries + Cranberries, Peppers, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Grapefruit, Papaya, Peaches, Tangerines
  • Yellow/Green: Mangos, Melons, Cucumbers, Pineapples, Corn, Broccoli, Avocado, Green Onions, Jalapeno, Asparagus, Brussel Sprouts, Sprouts, Cabbage, Celery, Zucchini + Squash
  • Blue/Purple: Berries, Beets, Purple Cabbage, Purple Potatoes, Grapes, Eggplant
  • Black/White/Neutral: Cauliflower, Jicama, Coconut, Mushrooms, Black Beans, Olives, Artichoke hearts, Leeks, Onions, Grains — Quinoa, Rice etc

4. Pick Your Protein

A really good salad is typically a really filling salad. I’m not going to use this time to get into the meat vs non-meat protein debate but I will say — LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. You know what’s best for you and you can eat what you want, but be sure to eat the highest quality possible. If you’re eating meat, make sure it was humanely raised. With fish, make sure it’s wild caught and not farmed. If you’re eating tofu, be sure the soy is organic.

  • Non-Animal Protein Sources: Chickpeas, Black Beans, Seitan (Gluten), Tofu/Tempeh/Edamame (Soy), Lentils, Quinoa
  • Animal Protein Sources: Eggs, Red Meat, Chicken, Freshwater Fish, Shrimp, etc

5.  Finish It With Add-Ons

The true key to creating a salad you want to eat is to have those extra special add-ons or toppings on hand. The next time you have a really good salad, buy the ingredient that you loved. Think wonton crisps, salsas, gourmet cheese, etc. A way to do this without spending a ton of money is to get a small bowl of interesting additions from the Whole Foods salad bar. In the featured picture (below), there is a pickled veggie/pepper salad from WF that added variety to my salad and I didn’t have to pickle or slice veggies to make it 

  • Nuts/Seeds: Walnuts, Almonds, Hemp Seeds, Pumpkin + Sunflower Seeds
  • Fun: Crispy Wontons, Tortilla Strips, Roasted Peppers, Falafel, Beet Slaw (I’m okay with being the only one who thinks this is fun lol)
  • Spices: Basil, Cilantro, Dill, Finnel, Mint, Parsley, Nutritional Yeast, Himalayan Pink Salt, Pepper
  • Dips: Hummus, Aoili, Seasonal Salsa, Pesto
  • Cheese — you get the idea lol
  • Pro-Tip: You can get all your presliced + fun salad additions from the Whole Foods salad bar. I do this when I’m traveling and want to make different salads but don’t want to buy a ton of groceries.

These are my holy grail secrets to making the best salad ever! Comment below and let me know what are your fav salad additions!