When the sun is shining and the fall air is crisp and cooling, all I want to do is stay outside the house and definitely outside the kitchen. That’s when salads become the perfect choice for lunch and dinner. If the idea of eating salads makes you start yawning, wake up! Salads don’t have to be boring and they don’t have to be just light bowls of lettuce. Don’t even get me started on bottled salad dressings either.

Salads can be exciting – filled with color, texture, and taste. Ingredients can be as simple or as exotic as you want and the salad can be light or a hearty, filling meal. There doesn’t even have to be any lettuce at all! So if your usual salads have you falling asleep, read on to find out how to make your salads exciting, satisfying, and delicious.


1. Lettuce Alone

Wedge Salad
Most people start their salads with a bed of greens and lettuce is usually the main ingredient. Lettuce is delicious and there are many kinds to choose from. Romaine is the classic choice for salads with crunch, especially Caesar salads like this Caesar Salad Nouveau. There is also escarole, frisee, radicchio, mesclun, red leaf lettuce, and Boston lettuce. Don’t count out iceberg lettuce either or you’ll miss out on this Iceberg Wedge Salad with Shiitake Bacon.

Or you can choose not to use lettuce and opt for other types of greens such as endive, spinach, watercress, arugula, kale, cabbage, chard, or dandelion greens. There are so many choices – check out Your Ultimate Guide to Leafy Greens to learn about them all. Try combining two or three types of greens or other veggies for a mix of tastes and textures. You’ll love this Wild Spinach and Asparagus Salad and Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad.

2. Fruit Rollouts

Orange Mint Jalapeno Salad
Summer is when so many fruits come into season and you can still enjoy them in early fall. The farmers’ markets are overflowing with bright and colorful choices. There are peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries, and all kinds of berries including blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries. Like with the greens, try using a combination of fruits that have different flavors and textures. You can even cook the fruit as in this Grilled Apricot and Endive Salad.

Refresh yourself with this Watermelon Salad with Fried Tofu and Basil-Lime Dressing, this Peach and Fennel Salad, and this Satsuma Orange Chickpea Salad. Of course, your whole salad can be made with fruit like this Orange Mint Jalapeno Salad.


3. Nuts!

Nourishing Raw Cauliflower Salad With a Nut and Seed Topping
Salads taste best when they have different textures running through them. You can add crunch, as well as protein, to those tender greens with nuts and seeds. Try this Peanut and Daikon Radish Noodle Salad, Nourishing Cauliflower Salad with Nuts and Seeds, and this Beet Salad with Kale and Toasted Hazelnuts. Other crunchy toppings include seeds such as sesame, chia, hemp, pumpkin, and sunflower. Try this Sesame Crunch Salad and this Herb Tofu Caesar Salad with Spicy Pepitas.

4. Oodles of Noodles

Carrot and Celeriac Noodle Salad 2
When you want a bowl of noodles but you’re not in the mood to eat a warm dish, turn to a cool and refreshing bowl of cold noodles and pasta salads. You can use any kind of noodles you like including penne, spaghetti, rice noodles, ramen, or soba noodles. Whether it’s lunch or dinner, you’ll rush to dig into this Simple Summer Macaroni Salad, Crunchy Ramen Noodle Salad, Gluten-Free Asian Noodle Salad, and this Thai Curry Pasta Salad.

Go even lighter and use spiralized veggie noodles. See how to Lighten Up Summer Meals with These 15 Vegan Spiralized Noodle Dishes. You’ll love this Carrot and Celeriac Noodle Salad, Zucchini Ramen Noodle Salad, Spicy Tomato Tahini Spiralized Salad, and this Garlic, Zucchini, and Beet Noodle Salad. You can even make noodles out of fruit like in this Spicy Raw Mango Salad.

5. Meaty Salads

Tempeh Bacon Salad 1
Salads don’t have to be all lettuce, greens, and vegetables. Make heartier main course salads with a “meaty” touch by adding tofu, tempeh, TVP, or seitan. Not only will you be boosting the protein level of the salad but you’ll add tons of flavor and chewy texture.

This Watermelon Salad with Fried Tofu and Lime-Basil Dressing will feel really indulgent as will this Summery Tofu Salad with Fresh Herbs and Sesame Dressing and this Tofu Tomato Salad. If you prefer tempeh, this Marinated Tempeh Salad is perfect for you as is this Buttery Spinach Salad with Tempeh and Crispy Shallots. Don’t forget the bacon – indulge in this Tempeh Bacon Salad With Marinated Mushrooms. For crispy toppings, top your salad with these Crispy Seitan Fingers or make this Asian Soy Curl Salad and watch them disappear!

6. Protein Boosters

Barbecue Chickpea Ranch Salad
If the suggestion of salad makes people wonder where they’ll get their protein from, show them you’ve got that covered. You can add protein to any salad with beans, legumes, veggies and the previously mentioned nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, and seitan. Lentils can be added to a salad or make up the salad by themselves. Try this Warm Lentil Apple Walnut Salad, Green Lentil Salad with Spiced Carrots, and this Spicy Lentil Salad. There are more types of beans than we can count but you can count on this Spicy Kale and Quinoa Black Bean Salad and this Cajun Corn and Kidney Bean Salad.

Extend your love of chickpeas to your salad recipes and make this Barbecue Chickpea Ranch Salad, Chickpea Salad with Cilantro Dressing, Buffalo Chickpea Salad, and Classic BLT Salad with Creamy Ranch and Chickpea Croutons. You can also have your chickpeas in hummus or falafel form like this Kale Falafel Salad Bowl.

7. More Veggies

Italian Broccoli Salad
Yes, lettuce and greens are technically veggies but don’t stop there. Add other veggies to your salads like broccoli, asparagus, beets, mushrooms, and of course, cauliflower. Your favorite vegetables can be the star ingredient or a supporting character. Veggies add protein, texture and bulk, turning a salad into a hearty meal.

Mushrooms can be marinated, grilled, sauteed, or cooked any way you like. This Super Protein Kale Caesar Salad has marinated mushrooms while the mushrooms are sauteed in this Kale and Enoki Mushroom Salad. This Italian Broccoli Salad is amazing as is this Brazilian Hearts of Palm Salad. This Roasted Corn and Tomato Salad with Tarragon Dressing will add color to any table while this Warm Root Vegetable Salad is comforting and delicious. Let’s not forget cauliflower – this Crispy Buffalo Cauliflower Salad will be at the top of everyone’s dinner wish list.

8. Go with the Grain

Brown Rice Salad With Italian Tahini
No one says a salad has to have greens. Grains make any dish more filling and add tons of nutrients including protein. We all know quinoa is a complete protein but there’s also a lot of protein in barley, buckwheat, amaranth, and freekeh to name just a few. Learn more about ancient grains in 35 Brand Spanking New Recipes Featuring Trendy Ancient Grains.

This Panzanella with Millet is a filling meal and this Quinoa Edamame Salad with Radish is also, even though it looks light. You’ll love this Avocado Quinoa Salad with Blood Orange, Mushroom and Kale Farro Salad, Herb and Rice Salad with Beet Chips, and this Brown Rice Salad with Italian Tahini Dressing.

9. Salad of the Sea

Kelp Noodle Sea Salad
Get your sea legs in the kitchen and whip up a salad filled with sea veggies. Seaweed is a superfood, filled with iodine, vitamins, and minerals. To learn even more about the health benefits of sea veggies, see Seaweed Decoded: Why It’s Essential on a Vegan Diet and Cooking With Sea Veggies Can Transform Your Meals (and Health)! Here’s How to Do it the Right Way.

Seaweed comes in many varieties and can make colorful, flavorful salads. Try this Easy Seaweed Salad with brown seaweed, Chinese Seaweed Salad with kombu kelp seaweed, or this Seaweed Salad with Toasted Sesame Dressing with all different colors of seaweed. Kelp noodles are another way to get the benefits of sea veggies in your dishes. This Kelp Noodle Sea Salad is full of fresh flavors and crunchy vegetables.

10. Say Yes to the Dress(ing)

creamy lemon herb dressing
No salad is complete without a tasty dressing to go with it. Read 10 Ways to Make Amazing Salad Dressings for new and creative ideas. Try new combinations like this Basil-Lime Dressing, Pineapple Thyme Dressing, or this Sweet and Tangy Green Chile-Chipotle-Cilantro Dressing. Creamy dressing lovers will adore this Creamy Turmeric Dressing, Creamy Lemon Herb Dressing, Vegan Caesar Dressing, Creamy Balsamic Dressing, and this Italian Tahini Dressing.

Oil-free dressings are no problem and just as delicious. Indulge in salad dressings that are as healthy as they are delicious with this Berry Miso Dressing or this Tomato, Kalamata and Miso Dressing. Take a look at these 5 Oil-Free, Dairy-Free Salad Dressings you’ll love. For even more dressing recipes, check out You Won’t Believe These 19 Salad Dressings are Vegan.

Salads don’t have to be boring. They can be hearty, healthy, exciting, and most of all, delicious. Once you start getting creative with what you put in your salad bowl, you’ll never go back to boring salads again.

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Lead image source: Crispy Buffalo Cauliflower Salad