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Best Salads Without Lettuce

Best Salads Without Lettuce

You may be surprised to learn that we Southerners love salads. In fact, salads tend to be a huge part of our cultural diet. We eat them at picnics and holidays, for dinner, and as sides. That’s right; the South is the unsung hero in nurturing salad eating fiends! Of course by salad I mean those of the potato, pasta, and protein—tuna and chicken—variety. Unfortunately none of these are “super foods” and they’re typically laden with mayonnaise. The only thing super about them is they tend to be super tasty. They also tend to be super rich in calories and fat. What they lack in nutrition, they make up for in inspiration. Think salads sans leafy greens. Can they be healthy?

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Leafy greens are usually the foundation of salads and with good reason. They help strengthen the immune system, lower cholesterol, improve blood circulation, and are chock full of vitamins A, C, E, and K. Nutrition gurus typically advise that greens be mixed with vegetables, fruits, or nuts, with optional, grilled proteins, and a light hand when it comes to the dressing. However, these toppings can themselves be salads. This Southern girl — in an effort to stay motivated with eating healthy — has stretched her definition of what a salad is and can be without sabotaging her diet or taste buds.

Salads need not always be a bed of greens nor dolled up with cream based dressings. There are many healthy ingredients in between those two polarizing definitions of what salads are. It isn’t a very novel idea. Simply look to other countries for inspiration that use cabbage, lentils, grains, beans, or edible roots instead of leafy greens as the base. The combinations are endless.

Here's a roundup of the best salads without lettuce!

Greek Salad

Whether you eat Greek salad as a prelude to a traditional feast or as a stand alone dish, this salad will not bore the senses with its many textures and colors. Opa!

Click here for a Classic Greek Salad Recipe.

Avocado, Mint, and Quinoa Salad

Quinoa is a healthy and hearty vegetable (yes, it's a vegetable!) that tastes good as both a hot side or a cold salad.

Click here for a recipe for Avocado, Mint, and Quinoa Salad.

Click here to explore Best Salads Without Lettuce


16 Salad Ideas With No Lettuce At All

Because, let's be honest, lettuce just gets in the way and slows you down from eating the stuff you actually want to eat. So here are 16 delicious salads made without greens:

1. Chicken Cucumber Avocado Salad

Taking advantage of rotisserie chicken makes this salad completely no-cook. Get the recipe.

2. Watermelon and Cucumber Salad

Nothing screams summer quite like a watermelon salad served in an actual watermelon. Get the recipe.

3. Mediterranean Farro Salad With Spiced Chickpeas

Farro can be found in the grain section of most grocery stores, but feel free to use quinoa or couscous if you can't find it. Get the recipe.

4. Crunchy Thai Peanut and Quinoa Salad

Peanuts, cabbage, peas, and carrots give this colorful salad a ton of crunchy texture. Get the recipe.

5. Cucumber, Tomato, and Avocado Salad

Another delicious avocado salad — this time completely vegetarian and made in a matter of minutes. Get the recipe.

6. Citrus, Fennel, and Avocado Salad

Don't like oranges? Swap them out for grapefruit, kumquats, or any other citrus you can find. Get the recipe.

7. Cantaloupe and Mozzarella Caprese Salad

Using a melon baller to cut the cantaloupe makes this salad look extra fancy, but simple chunks will be just as delicious. Get the recipe.

8. Citrus, Avocado, Quinoa, and Blackened Salmon Salad

Blackened salmon makes this vibrant salad feel super hearty, but feel free to leave it out or swap a plant-based protein in to make it veg. Get the recipe.

9. Greek Panzanella Salad With Garlic Lemon Vinaigrette

Make sure to use a nice crusty bread (such as ciabatta) to make sure this salad doesn't get too soggy. Get the recipe.

10. Mediterranean Three-Bean and Quinoa Salad

White beans, chickpeas, and quinoa give this salad a ton of protein that'll keep you energized all day. Get the recipe.

11. Roasted Sweet Potato Rainbow Salad With Lime Crema

A bright lime crema makes this colorful veggie salad feel decadent without being heavy. Get the recipe.

12. Vegan Pasta Salad With Chickpeas

This pasta salad is tossed in a vibrant green pesto so you can get your greens in without having to actually eat them. Get the recipe.

13. Mexican Street Corn Salad With Avocado

Feel free to add a can of black beans to give this bright summer salad a pop of protein. Get the recipe.

14. Three Bean Salad

After chopping some onions, cucumber, and parsley, all you have to do is toss everything together and this simple salad is done. Get the recipe.

15. Chipotle Sweet Potato Noodle Salad With Roasted Corn

Sweet potato noodles keep this salad low(er)-carb, but feel free to use actual pasta. Get the recipe.

16. Couscous Salad With Basil Vinaigrette

A homemade basil vinaigrette gives this salad a bright summery flavor and beautiful green color. Get the recipe.

Looking for some more quick and easy salad recipes? Check out these posts:


27 Lettuce-Free Salads (Because the Mix-Ins Are the Best Part)

If the thought of salad for dinner is basically your version of a culinary wet blanket, we’ve got news for you. Your salad can be great again. Ditch the lettuce and transform what you think is just a skimpy starter to a dinner-worthy main course. Get funky with grains, experiment with proteins, and play with sweet and savory combinations. Your next salad is about to become so much more than a pile of mixed greens—plus we love that we can still fill up on nutrients without spending hours in the kitchen. Who’s with us?

1. Peach, Heirloom Tomato, and Burrata Salad

Make your dinner look like a page out of a Martha Stewart cookbook (in just five minutes) with this beauty of a salad. If you’ve never tried peaches with burrata before, you’re in for one sweet (and savory) surprise.

2. Roasted Beet, Orange, Feta and Pistachio Salad With Olives

What’s better than sweet roasted beets with zesty oranges? Maybe chocolate and peanut butter, but this is a close second. There are so many tastes and textures going on here between the nuts, the cheese, and the produce, you might not even want to bother with a dressing.

3. Grilled Corn and Zucchini Salad With Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette

A blend of sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice, and basil adds a peppy contrast to the simple grilled vegetables in this surprisingly filling meal. Thankfully, the dressing recipe yields more than you need for this salad—you’re going to want to drizzle the leftover stuff on pretty much everything.

4. Southwest Roasted Potato Salad

Cumin and chili pepper give this salad its Southwestern flair, which is basically the dream when combined with the sweet corn and mild potatoes. Enjoy it warm for a salad that hits the spot when you want something cozy and comforting. Serving it with a margarita is optional but highly recommended.

5. Antipasto Salad

This salad gives you the entire first page of an Italian restaurant menu in one bowl. There’s plenty of raw produce (spiralized to look extra appetizing!), cubed cuts of meat, and fresh mozzarella, doused in a tangy olive oil dressing to bring it all together.

6. Smoky Eggplant and Tomato Salad

Charring the eggplant over a grill or gas stove makes the prep for this salad much faster than if you were to roast it in the oven. And don’t worry, the rest of it comes together in a flash too: All it takes is a bit of chopping and tossing.

7. 4-Ingredient Carrot Raisin Salad

This salad’s got four ingredients, but mayo ain’t one of ’em! Instead it gets its creamy factor (and some filling protein) from low-fat yogurt, which goes perfectly with the crunch of the carrots and the bursts of sweetness from the chewy raisins.

8. Mango, Quinoa, and Black Bean Salad

If you’re wondering what to do with that leftover quinoa, use it to bring this recipe together in less than 15 minutes. Pop open a can of black beans, dice up a mango, and whisk up a three-ingredient dressing. You know that burrito bowl you love ordering at your favorite Mexican restaurant? It just got one-upped.

9. Savory Southwest Couscous Salad

If quinoa is giving your taste buds a serious case of the yawns, wake them up by using whole-grain couscous for a change. Not only is it fun to say, it’s also a tasty way to bring a bunch of raw veggies and black beans to life in this super simple salad.

10. Caprese Orzo Salad

Just when you thought the classic mozzarella and tomato combination couldn’t get any better, this recipe adds orzo to the mix. That’s your cue to shout, “YAAAS.” It also helps to turn this classic recipe into a full meal. But really, it’s a reason to eat pasta, and that’s rarely a bad thing.

11. Whole-Wheat Pasta Salad With Honey Basil Vinaigrette

We probably had you at honey basil vinaigrette, but if you still need convincing, here you go: You’re friends are going to be blown away by this sophisticated and nutritious take on pasta salad at your next picnic. It’s a panful of whole-wheat pasta, veggies, and nuts. Plus a sweet and tangy vinaigrette replaces the mayo, and slices of roasted chicken add extra protein.

12. Rainbow Farro Salad

If that saying “you eat with your eyes first,” is true, your eyeballs are in for a special treat. This salad is a visual feast of veggies, protein, and grains that come in purple, red, green, brown, and orange. There couldn’t be a more perfect word than “rainbow” to describe it.

13. Grilled Vegetable Panzanella Salad

Panzanella usually isn’t more than bread and tomatoes, but this version ups its veggie game by adding in bell peppers and summer squash for extra vitamin A. Grilling all the ingredients makes them taste even better—it’s like a deconstructed panini.

14. Summer Goodness Salad

Millet doesn’t get nearly enough love as it should for being the protein-rich, glucose-regulating grain that it is. Whether this salad is your first or 50th meal with millet, the unique mix of ingredients, such as avocado and figs, alongside the carb will definitely make it one to drool over.


Two sweet-salty finishings let guests craft their own signature sandwiches, but if you’re a purist, leave them off and let the (excellent) bacon speak for itself.

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This winter salad with peak season bitter greens, salami, and crispy chickpeas is hearty enough on its own, but not so over-the-top that you can’t also pair it with pasta for dinner.

This salad puts all the best textures on a spoon: crisp, raw broccoli chewy, sticky dates and crunchy toasted pistachios. The ras-el-hanout, a Moroccan spice blend featuring aromatic and warm spices, adds a smoky depth to the bright citrusy dressing, which soaks into the broccoli as it sits. Don’t have ras-el-hanout? Garam masala, baharat, or curry powder will also work. And if you’re a meal prepper, this is a great make-ahead salad—it only gets better with a little time.


10 No Lettuce Salads for Summer

Crowd Pleasing Salads

A salad packed full of flavor without any iceberg to get in the way? Yes please! Chicken, peanuts, cabbage, carrots and more make up this cold meal, with an easy peanut sauce for dressing.

Caprese salad is so pretty I kind of just want to look at it. But then the urge to eat it completely overpowers its beauty. This easy salad recipe can be thrown together in minutes.

What’s better than a salad that doubles as a dip? Scoop this salad up with tortilla chips for a mouthful of flavor. I want to bring this to my next potluck!

Deli Inspired Salads

This classic potato salad recipe is a tried and true deli salad favorite. Potato salad is simple and so good you’ll want to eat it as a meal.

This Asian-inspired salad is one that will surely impress your friends with its taste and presentation. Broccoli and pasta is tossed together with a peanut citrus sauce in this Campbell’s Kitchen recipe.

This one looks like it couldn’t be easier. All it takes is a few cans of beans and ingredients for the dressing. Yum!

Sweet Salads

This dessert changes the definition of salad, but no complaints here. You probably can’t get much better than a salad made of apples, Snickers and Cool Whip.

Go ahead and get used to having salad for dessert. This pretzel salad has layers of pretzels, a cream cheese center, and strawberry Jello on top.

This sweet and simple salad is another great summer treat. A unique take on summer fruit salad might be just what your picnic table is missing.

This Jello recipe also counts toward your summer salad intake. Jello, Cool Whip, mandarin oranges and pudding make up the picnic-friendly dish.


Salad Rules

In addition to balancing all the flavors and textures outlined below, pay attention to a few other aspects of your salad:

1. Everything in Proportion

Ratios matter, not just so you get a balanced bite, but so you don’t crush your delicate greens (if you’re using them). Just add elements judiciously, since it’s always easier to add more than to take away. This is especially true for dressing no one wants soggy salad (and if they do, they’re welcome to really pour it on their own plate). And it also applies to the size of your ingredients sometimes you want to serve intact romaine hearts because it looks impressive, but then you have to break out the knife and fork. Most of the time, you should aim to keep all the pieces of your salad closer to bite-size, and flavorful additions like cheese should be in even smaller pieces so they don’t overwhelm any single bite. See an example of what not to do below:

2. Wash Your Greens, and Dry Them Really Well

Watery salad greens are a sure route to a sucky salad. Invest in a salad spinner or break out your paper towels—or try the nifty trick below!—and get as much moisture off of the leaves as you can before tossing them with other ingredients. Ignore this rule only if you’re making a salad without lettuce (which is a perfectly good call).


Southwest Tofu Salad

This Southwest salad with tofu and chipotle ranch dressing is super filling and is packed with delicious ingredients like crispy seasoned tofu, black beans, corn, avocado, tomatoes, for a healthy but hearty meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 package super firm tofu
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ packet taco seasoning
  • 1 lb spring mix
  • 10 oz cherry tomatoes (sliced in half)
  • 4 scallions (chopped)
  • 2 ears corn (kernels shaved off)
  • 1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 avocado (sliced)
  • ½ cup cilantro (chopped)
  • ½ cup chipotle ranch dressing (or more to taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice tofu into ½ inch cubes. Add to a bowl and gently toss with olive oil, taco seasoning, and corn starch.
  2. Spread tofu out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 40 minutes (or until golden brown) flipping halfway through.
  3. Assemble your southwest salad with tofu. In a large bowl add the greens, tomatoes, scallions, avocado, black beans, corn, and cilantro.
  4. Top with spiced tofu nuggets and dress with chipotle ranch dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Here are 11 Best Vegetarian Salad Recipes You Must Try:

1. Carrot Salad with Black Grape Dressing

Carrots, almonds, raisins and spring onions work together to create a gorgeous desserts that's not only light on the stomach but also really refreshing. This healthy recipe has it all that takes to fight those extra pounds.

Vegetarian salad recipes: Carrot Salad with Black Grape Dressing

2. Barley Salad

Toss up some red and yellow bell pepper, sun-kissed corn, cooked barley, garlic, parsley and a handful of other herbs for a salad so bright and healthy, it'll make you want more. Barley is a good source of soluble and insoluble fibre, vitamins, essential minerals (calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, zinc and copper), anti-oxidants and phytochemicals which are believed to lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes

Vegetarian salad recipes:Barley Salad

3. Green Bean Salad

A simple and quick salad that'll only take you only 15 minutes and 5 ingredients. Garlic, green beans, pepper, salt and olive oil. Green beans are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, they are a good source of folic acid and heart protective calcium and fiber. You Can leave out the eggs from the recipe.

Vegetarian salad recipes: Green Bean Salad is a simple and quick salad that'll only take you only 15 minutes

4. Green Apple Salad

A Thai-inspired salad that's made with everything green, olive oil, salt and pepper. Healthy, refreshing and ever-so delightful, this recipe should be up on every fitness enthusiast's diet chart.

Green Apple Salad is a Thai inspired salad made with everything green and healthy.

5. Leafy Salad with Walnuts

A salad with different textures, nuts, vinegar, cherry tomatoes, crunchy lettuce and Chinese cabbage.Leafy greens are a good source of fibre and essential antioxidants. Fibre makes you feel full and keep cravings at bay.

(Also Read: 10 Best Pasta Salad Recipes​)
Vegetarian salad recipes: Leafy Salad with Vegetables

6. Pickled Beetroot with Feta

A really creative salad made with a reduction of wine, vinegar and sugar. The only other things you need are beetroot, feta cheese, pepper, green olives, cilantro and just a pinch of salt.

(Also Read: 11 Most Cooked Beetroot Recipes | Popular Beetroot Recipes)
Vegetarian salad recipes: Pickled Beetroot with Feta

7. Chipotle And Toasted Walnut Wheat Berry Salad

Carrots, thyme, walnuts, wine vinegar, raisins and a few more ingredients give you a salad that's slightly sweet, crunchy and a winner of a dish.

Vegetarian salad recipes: Chipotle and Walnut Wheat Berry Salad

8. Crunchy Ribbon Salad

A whole lot of green, carrots and cucumber shredded real fine, cherry tomatoes and a mix of black and green olives.

Vegetarian salad recipes: Crunchy ribbon salad is made with whole lot of greens and veggies

A refreshing salad that needs only around 20 minutes. Watermelon cubes, cucumbers, onions, pomegranate juice, mustard paste and a few more basic ingredients you'll find stocked somewhere in your kitchen cabinets.

Vegetarian salad recipes: Mediterranean Watermelon Salad

10. Quinoa Lentil Salad

Made with the goodness of Quinoa, asparagus, lentils, pomegranate, some tangy mustard dressing and mosambi juice. This one's a real power-booster. Quinoa is rich in protein, is cholesterol-free, gluten-free and a low GI food. It is an excellent source of various important phytochemicals and Vitamin E. It is rich in healthy fats too.

Vegetarian salad recipes: Quinoa Lentil Salad

11. Mixed Bean Salad

Rich with weight loss-friendly protein and fibres, this fresh spin on salad is sure to impress. This salad is made with the goodness of dried beans, capsicum and tomatoes dressed in sweet and sour flavours, and is perfect for days you want keep it light.

Vegetarian salad recipes: mixed bean salad

Salads are a great option for those looking to switch to healthy eating. According to Wayne Campbell, Professor of Nutrition Science at Purdue University in the United States, "Eating a salad with a variety of colorful vegetables provides several unique types of carotenoids, including beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene." So go and try all these salads at home and switch to healthy eating in an instant.


3 Delicious Salads WITHOUT Lettuce

Plum Caprese Salad
Plums are a slightly sweeter stand-in for tomatoes, and research shows they have compounds that may help fight metabolic syndrome, a condition related to obesity, and chronic inflammation in the body.

2 cups balsamic vinegar
4 Tbsp honey
8 plums, pitted and sliced into 8 pieces each
1/2 cup fresh basil
8 oz fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

1. Combine balsamic vinegar and honey in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until the vinegar thickens into a syrup.

2. Layer plum slices, basil, and mozzarella in a circle on a plate. Drizzle with vinegar-honey glaze and serve.

MAKES 4 SERVINGS
Per serving: 340 cal, 9 g fat (6 g sat), 46 g carbs, 390 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 16 g protein

Shaved Beet Salad
Thinly sliced root veggies conjure up a light, summery feel. And studies show that beet juice may help improve athletic endurance and lower blood pressure.

4 beets (2 golden, 2 red), sliced with a mandolin
4 radishes, sliced with a mandolin
4 carrots, sliced with a mandolin
2 Tbsp hazelnuts
1/4 cup parsley
4 oz goat cheese

MAPLE SYRUP VINAIGRETTE
3 Tbsp maple syrup
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1. Whisk together dressing ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Combine sliced vegetables in a bowl. Top with hazelnuts, parsley, and goat cheese, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with dressing.

MAKES 4 SERVINGS
Per serving: 330 cal, 21 g fat (8 g sat), 27 g carbs, 260 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 9 g protein

Asian Edamame Salad
White miso, a traditional Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans, adds protein and earthy flavor to this Asian-style dressing.

1 head purple cabbage, shredded
1 cup steamed, shelled edamame
4 carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup cilantro

GINGER-MISO DRESSING
1 piece ginger (2 inches), minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp white miso
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1 Tbsp agave

1. Whisk together all dressing ingredients.

2. Combine all salad ingredients and toss with dressing to coat.

MAKES 4 SERVINGS
Per serving: 220 cal, 9 g fat (1 g sat), 29 g carbs: 410 mg sodium, 9 g fiber, 8 g protein

Grilled Greek Salad
Grilling intensifies the flavor of the veggies in this spin on a classic.

3 zucchini, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
1 tsp olive oil
2 tomatoes, sliced
2 cucumbers, sliced
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/2 cup feta

DRESSING
3 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried oregano

1. Whisk together all dressing ingredients.

2. Light a gas or charcoal grill. Toss zucchini and onion with olive oil to coat, and season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Place in a vegetable basket and grill for 3 to 5 minutes, rotating for even cooking.

3. Toss grilled vegetables with tomato, cucumber, olives, and feta. Drizzle with dressing.

MAKES 4 SERVINGS
Per serving: 270 cal 20 g fat (5 g sat), 16 g carbs, 550 mg sodium, 4 g fiber 7 g protein

TOP IT OFF
To liven up your salad and make it more of a meal, try any of these tasty, nutritious add-ons.

HEMP HEARTS
Shelled hemp seeds are one of the densest sources of plant protein and an excellent source of iron, magnesium, and both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

FENNEL
Thinly sliced fennel bulb provides a refreshing crunch and can also aid digestion.

SAUERKRAUT (OR KIMCHI)
Fermented foods filled with probiotic goodness, sauerkraut and kimchi are low in calories and lend tanginess and spice.

QUINOA
Bulk up your salad with this high-protein favorite--it cooks in just 15 minutes on the stove.

BLUEBERRIES
Packed with antioxidants, blueberries are bursting with flavor and have only 40 calories in a half cup.