Leafy greens are some of the healthiest vegetables we can eat. As much as I love cooking greens in so many delicious ways, I also love to eat them raw. Sitting down to a big bowl filled with raw, leafy greens is a sure way to have a satisfying and healthy meal. That doesn’t mean, however, that I have to graze on flavorless, dry leaves. There are many ways to flavor leafy greens and not lose any of their vitamins and minerals. Dressings are not just for lettuce. I enjoy eating raw kale, collards, Swiss chard, mustard greens, dandelion greens, and so many more. Once you learn how to whip up a variety of incredible, flavor-packed dressings, you will be more likely to pass up cooking your greens and eat them raw. Here are some amazing ways to flavor raw, leafy greens.
1. Thai Caesar Dressing
Thai Caesar dressing sounds exotic but it’s really the same as Italian Caesar dressing plus the fish sauce that makes Thai food so distinct. Vegan Caesar dressing already tastes kind of “fishy” from the kelp flakes. Using lime juice instead of lemon and an extra shot of tamari gives this dressing a similar unique Thai flavor. Because really, who wants liquid fish in their salad? Not me.
Combine 2 Tbs. vegan mayo, 1 tsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp. tamari, the zest and juice of one lime, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tsp. onion powder, 1 tsp. kelp flakes, ½ tsp. Dijon mustard and ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil in a blender or food processor. Taste for seasoning adjustments. Toss the dressing with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and garnish with chopped roasted peanuts. Here is another recipe for a Caesar Dressing that is not only vegan, it’s raw too.
2. Balsamic Berry Vinaigrette
For a bright and fruity flavor, the combination of balsamic vinegar and berries is a match made in heaven. Combine 2 Tbs. fresh orange juice, 1/3 cup berries, 2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar, 2 tsp. Dijon mustard, 2 tsp. agave nectar, 1 small shallot, minced, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. black pepper in a blender. Blend until smooth and taste for seasoning adjustments. Toss with greens of your choice, thinly sliced red onion and 1 peeled orange sliced into rounds. For another berry dressing, try this Oil- and Nut-Free Berry Miso Dressing.
3. Lemon-Tahini Dressing
I love the combination of lemon, tahini, cucumbers and chickpeas for a delicious Mediterranean flavor. Combine ½ cup tahini, ½ cup water, the zest and juice of one lemon in a bowl and whisk until well-combined. Add in 2 grated garlic cloves in a bowl, ½ tsp. dried oregano, ½ tsp. ground cumin, a pinch of cayenne pepper and salt and pepper to taste. Toss with chopped kale and greens of your choice, chopped cucumber, julienned carrots, sliced red onion, chopped celery stalks, chopped tomatoes and chickpeas. You can also try this Super Healthy Kale Salad with Creamy Ginger Tahini Dressing and find out more ways to use tahini to flavor your food with our 25 favorite sauces.
4. Apple “Honey” Vinaigrette
Rather than just making a simple tossed salad, use seasonal flavors and ingredients to turn an ordinary salad into an extraordinary one. My favorite winter-themed salad is my Apple, Cranberry, Arugula and Fennel Salad with Apple “Honey” Vinaigrette. The spicy arugula, tart cranberries and anise-flavored fennel all fall into balance with the addition of sweet apples and a slightly sweet dressing. Combine 6 cups of arugula and 1 head of fennel that has been sliced in a bowl. Core 1 large apple and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Arrange the apples on the salad along with ¼ cup dried cranberries. To make the dressing: combine 3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar, 2 tsp. vegan honey, 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil and kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Whisk until smooth and mix into the salad.
5. Pesto as a Dressing
Pesto can be used a rich, flavorful dressing that is perfect for hearty greens such as kale. Massaging the kale makes it soft and tender. It also turns a whole bowl of kale into less than half a bowl so you need more than you think. Put on some relaxing music, dim the lights and get intimate with your salad. The cranberries and almonds make this a tasty autumn or winter salad. Place 2 large bunches of stemmed and chopped kale in a large bowl. Add a pinch of salt. This helps break down the greens. Rub 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil between your hands and massage the kale for a few minutes until it is softened and bright green. Massage it the way you want to be massaged at the end of a hard day. Add 2-3 Tbs. of your favorite pesto to the bowl and massage it into the kale as well until it is thoroughly distributed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the salad with ¼ cup dried cranberries and ¼ cup slivered almonds. Check out How to Make Pesto without Cheese for tips and recipes.
6. Spicy Agave-Mustard
If you liked honey-mustard dressing, you will love this vegan version that has an added kick of spice. Simply whisk together 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard, 2 Tbs. lemon or lime juice, ½ minced garlic clove, ½ jalapeno pepper, 1-2 Tbs. agave nectar, 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil and salt Toss this dressing with sliced celery stalks, sliced fennel bulbs, orange segments and chopped toasted walnuts. Garnish with chopped fennel fronds.
7. Peanut-Ginger Dressing
I love making a salad with chopped raw bok choy stems and leaves, shredded cabbage and carrots, sliced bell peppers, scallions and red onions, golden raisins and sesame seeds. Then I top it with my Peanut-Ginger Dressing which is ¼ cup brown rice vinegar, ¼ cup vegetable broth, 1 tsp. tamari or soy sauce, 1/3 cup unsweetened peanut butter, ¼-inch piece of grated ginger, 1 garlic cloves and ½ cup unsweetened almond milk blended together until smooth. It’s not only delicious, it’s super-healthy. For more ginger experiences, try this Carrot-Ginger Dressing or this Asian Slaw Salad with Miso-Ginger Dressing.
8. Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette
The flavors of Mediterranean food: tomatoes, olives and capers are some of my favorites. Everything tastes rich, salty, savory and indulgent. In a blender or food processor, combine 4 chopped sun-dried tomatoes, 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar, 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, 1 minced garlic clove, the zest and juice of one lemon and salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth and taste for seasoning adjustments. My favorite Mediterranean salad is made with arugula, red onion, roasted red peppers, celery, Kalamata olives and chickpeas. Dress it with this incredible vinaigrette. Try this Oil-Free Tomato, Kalamata Olive and Miso Dressing that’s flavored with lemon and fresh herbs.
9. Warm “Honey” Mustard
Just because the greens are raw, that doesn’t mean the dressing has to be; you can top a salad with a warm dressing and let it wilt the greens. In a small saucepan, combine ½ cup olive oil, ¼ cup water, 1 Tbs. agave nectar or maple syrup, 2 tsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, a pinch of black pepper and garlic powder. Cook and stir over medium heat until heated through. Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste. Just before serving, drizzle warm dressing over your salad. This tastes delicious over a big bowl of fresh baby spinach with onions, mushrooms and tempeh bacon.
10. Cilantro Citrus Dressing
The combination of citrus and cilantro is sweet and tangy at the same time. Blend together 2 Tbs. orange juice, 1 Tbs. lime juice, 1 tsp. lime zest, 1 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro, 1 Tbs. chopped fresh chives, 2 tsp. red wine or apple cider vinegar, 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, a pinch of cayenne pepper and salt and pepper to taste. Toss with creamy green avocado, sweet yellow mango, spicy arugula, and red bell pepper and red onion slices for a refreshing and fun dish with color and flavor.For a creamy version, try this Creamy Lemon Herb Dressing.
These are just some of the ways you can flavor raw, leafy greens. After trying some of these recipes, there is no way you will ever see a bowl of raw, leafy greens as boring again. For more tips and recipes with greens, check out Tips for Cooking Greens so They Taste Real Delicious.
Lead Image Photo: Super-Healthy Kale Salad with Creamy Ginger Tahini Dressing