You go out to a restaurant with some friends and the only thing on the menu that’s even close to being vegan is a salad. OK, salads are good, right? Hold the cheese, hold the ham, hold the Parmesan croutons, and hope for a vegan dressing option.
And you probably end up with a pathetic-looking bowl of iceberg lettuce. That probably came out of a bag. No wonder people think all vegans and vegetarians eat is “rabbit food!” Totally devoid of flavor and nutrition, this isn’t a meal, it’s a bowl of water.
Cue the super salad! If you’re tired of wimpy, anemic salads, this guide’s for you. Use the table below to create dozens of satisfying meat-free and non-dairy salad combinations – in just 5 easy steps.
|Step 1: Pick a green
Lettuce makes a great base for a traditional salad. Try romaine, red or green leaf, or the soft bibb, boston, and butter varieties. Kale, spinach and arugula are also wonderful options, each with their own distinct flavor and nutritional benefits. Garnish with endive, escarole, frisee, mesclun, or watercress for additional texture, flavor and nutrition.
|Step 2: Add some veggies
Tons of options here – throw in as many as you like! Try raw broccoli, bell peppers, red onion, radishes, carrots, beets, tomatoes, snow peas, mushrooms, jicama, celery, cucumber, and cauliflower.
|Step 3: Add a protein
Add one or more protein sources for a more filling, satisfying salad. Tofu, tempeh, shelled edamame, chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans are great options. Try topping your greens with an eggless salad, tempeh tuna salad, or mock chicken salad made with tofu or tempeh for a real treat!
|Step 4: Add a healthy fat
Adding a little fat in your salad goes a long way. It adds flavor, helps you feel satisfied, and even helps you absorb the nutrients from all those greens and veggies. Avocado slices, vegan cheese shreds, nuts, seeds, and olives are great add-ins.
|Step 5: Whip up a dressing
There are tons of amazing vegan dressing options! Balsamic vinaigrette and Italian are often the only safe restaurant choices, but the sky’s the limit at home! Use avocado or tahini for a creamy dressing base, and add Braggs, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, lemon, and/or garlic for extra flavor. Or try an oil-based dressing using olive, canola, grapeseed or safflower oil mixed with vinegar and spices. Salsa is awesome on taco salad, and hummus or vegan tzatziki sauce make a killer greek salad!
Salads are so versatile! Throw in some raisins, dried cranberries, baked tortilla or pita chips, rice noodles, pine nuts, or whatever else you like for a new flavor combination each time.
Super Salad Tips:
- Dressing Recipe: Make your own (amazing!) balsamic vinaigrette using 2 parts balsamic vinegar, 2 parts Dijon mustard, 2 parts olive oil, and 1 part agave nectar. Simply shake or whisk together and serve.
- Healthy Lunches: Salads are an awesome, healthy lunch option. Invest in a few sturdy containers, hit the grocery store on Sunday night, prepare your ingredients, and you can easily have lunch ready for the week. A prepared salad will stay fresh until lunch as long as you keep the dressing separate. Chopped ingredients will stay good for several days when stored separately.
- Buying Organic: It’s great to buy organic whenever possible, but if your food budget is limited, prioritize organic purchases for the dirty dozen (i.e. the most pesticide-ridden produce).
Here are 15 super salad recipes to get you started:
- Smoky Chickpea and Watercress Salad with Mango and Avocado
- Mesquite-Avocado Kale Salad (VIDEO)
- Kale Waldorf Salad
- Mock Chicken Salad
- Spicy Lentil Salad
- Mizuna, Fennel, and Mulberry Salad
- New Caesar Salad
- Yam and Walnut Salad
- Gingery Maple Glazed Tempeh on Baby Greens Salad
- Kale and Grilled Tomato Salad
- Freekeh Salad with Beets, Cilantro and Lime
- Minced Tempeh Salad with Lemongrass, Sesame, and Cashews
- Russian “Meat” Pierog and Beet Salad
- Spicy Sweet Potato Salad
- Arugula Fennel Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing
Image Credit: Satoro Kikuchi/Flickr