Since I started working at Salads UP when it opened in Madison back in September, I like to think of myself as somewhat of an expert salad maker. Or a ~salad connoisseur~ if you will. After topping and chopping hundreds of salads for customers, I’ve picked up some ideas I use to build my own salad at the end of each shift.
I want to add two notes about what I just said:
- Yes, I do get a free salad every time I work! #perks
- It probably seems like eating salad all the time would get boring, right? Not exactly! And that’s why I’m writing this article.
I’m going to share with you some of the strategies I use to make every salad unique. After this, you’ll have new ideas to make every salad you build exciting and delicious! Eating the same thing all the time is boring, and no one wants to eat boring food. Salads are a great way to incorporate more veggies into your diet, so here are few tips to creating fresh, enjoyable salads every time.
If you like your food all mixed together like I do, this is the first thing you should try to give more life to your salad. Chopping all the ingredients into similar-sized pieces and mixing them together with the dressing makes each bite more flavorful and gives it the perfect lettuce-topping-dressing ratio.
This technique is what makes Salads UP unique from a lot of other salad restaurants, and we use a Mezzaluna and a huge chopping block to do it. Obviously, heading to a salad restaurant isn’t always an option, so luckily there are a few cheap tools you can buy to chop a salad in the comfort of your own home/apartment. Invest in a mini Mezzaluna or Chef’n Salad Shears from Amazon and your life will never be the same.
A little extra time and effort go a long way when it comes to giving your salad a little more life with roasted vegetables. Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and asparagus have even better flavor when roasted, and it can get rid of some of the bitterness they have in their raw form.
Give your lettuce base a new texture (and possibly flavor) by adding microgreens! Try beet greens for something crunchy, mustard greens if you can handle spice, or broccoli microgreens, which are more stalk-like in shape. Water chestnuts are another veggie that add a virtually flavorless crunch to any salad.
Many protein sources are great ways to add extra crunch to your salad. Nuts and seeds are also packed with fiber, heart-healthy omega-3 fats, magnesium, B vitamins, and antioxidants. Going back to the note on roasting veggies, roasted chickpeas are a delicious and crunchy addition to any salad. You can even change up the seasoning on them to complement the other flavors! Try these recipes from Fit Foodie Finds and The Healthy Maven.
Sweet, sour, salty, and spicy. We all know the combinations of these flavors can take any meal from ordinary to extraordinary in seconds – think sweet & sour chicken or sweet & salty trail mix. Try adding berries or apples to your salad for sweet, citrus fruits for sour, pickled foods or cheese for salty, and peppers for spicy. One of my favorite combos is strawberries, blueberries, and feta or goat cheese for a sweet and salty mix!
Throwing random ingredients into a salad can go one of two ways: it either turns out to be the best one you’ve ever made, or can be a total flop. I’ve definitely experienced both, so I decided following a “theme” when building my salad is usually a safe bet. These are often ones you see on the menu at a restaurant, but here are a few you can adjust to your liking at home:
Southwestern: romaine base with black beans, corn, tomatoes, red onion, sweet potatoes, jalapeños (I’ll pass, thx), avocado, chicken, brown rice, and cilantro-lime vinaigrette
All Green: kale or spinach base with celery, green peppers, scallions, brussels sprouts, broccoli, avocado, pistachios, and pesto dressing
Sweet Summer: spinach or spring mix base with strawberries, blueberries, asparagus, carrots, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, feta/goat cheese, walnuts, and poppyseed dressing
Asian Zing: romaine base with purple cabbage, carrots, red and green peppers, scallions, mandarin oranges, crunchy brown rice noodles, and teriyaki dressing
Greek (aka the Yia Yia from Salads UP): spinach base with olives, chickpeas, red onion, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, quinoa, and lemon-herb vinaigrette
Store-bought dressings are often loaded with excess salt and sugar, plus include all kinds of chemicals and preservatives our bodies don’t like very much. Try making your own dressings at home instead! Not only is it healthier and more cost-effective, but also gives you the freedom to customize your dressings however you want. A handheld dressing mixer like this one is great for homemade vinaigrettes, or you can use a blender/processor for creamier dressings like this healthy ranch.
So there you have it! No more days of “Ugh, but salads are so boring” or “I just don’t know how to make a good salad.” Try some of these tips and find what works for you – if there’s anything you really love, let me know in the comments!