But poor salads still get a crappy reputation for being boring and bland and leaving your stomach growling for some “actual food”—when they’re really an awesome way to cram a butt-ton of super-healthy veggies into one big meal! Salads DON’T have to be the grodie piles of unfilling leaves you might be used to, y’all.
Give salads a second chance, and follow our handy tips for amping up those greens:
We’ll start with the basics. Without veggies, what’s a salad?
Be open-minded with your greens! Iceberg lettuce is cool and all, but dark, leafy greens like kale, arugula, spinach, and even romaine are powerhouses of nutrients, so experiment with different types.
(Helpful hint: Don’t forget to massage your kale! Literally—before you add anything else, rub the raw leaves between your fingers until they start getting less and less stiff. It’ll make them way tastier and easier to chew!)
Experiment. Try all sorts of veggies (raw, pickled, or cooked!) to figure out what you like. Sprouts, beets, snap peas, red onion, peppers, jicama, artichoke hearts, olives, cucumbers—the possibilities are endless. And try eating veggies in different forms—maybe you prefer shredded carrots to chopped carrots or cherry tomatoes to diced tomatoes. You won’t know until you try!
Leftovers, anyone? If you’ve roasted or steamed some veggies for dinner, save the leftovers to toss (cold) into a salad the next day—you won’t regret it! Cooked veggies are an awesome addition to any salad.
One word: avocado. This baby gets a category all to itself. Whether you chop it up, turn it into a dressing, or just make it into guacamole to dump on top of your greens, avocado will take your salad to a new level of deliciousness and nutritiousness.
Fruits have feelings, too! Not really, but they can definitely add some pizzazz to your salad! Dried fruits like raisins and currants will add sweetness and texture to your salad. Fresh fruits are really great, too. Try chopping up some strawberries, pears, oranges, or apples and adding them to a raw veggie salad. Yum!
In my humble opinion, a good salad dressing is the backbone of any good salad ’cause it can make even the blandest of veggies totally edible. There are SO MANY different vegan salad dressing options that you can find at virtually ANY grocery store! Here are a few faves:
Trader Joe’s Goddess Dressing
Follow Your Heart Vegan Ranch Dressing
Newman’s Own Lite Balsamic Dressing
Whole Foods Market Vegan Caesar Dressing
Organicville Non-Dairy Thousand Island Organic Dressing
This is just the tip of the iceberg (lettuce!) as far as vegan dressings go. It’s fairly easy to find vegan versions of vinaigrettes, Italian and French dressings, and tahini- or miso-based dressings at the grocery store—so if you see a salad dressing that looks tasty, read that label, because there’s a chance that it could be vegan!
Grains, grains, grains. Grains are awesome for bulking up a salad that otherwise might not fill you up. Quinoa is my favorite, but you could also try bulgur wheat, brown rice, farro, couscous, or rice noodles. Just toss some cooked grain of your choice into your salad and mix!
Don’t forget the protein! Literally any vegan protein can be turned into a super-delicious salad topper! Chop up some vegan chicken strips, a veggie burger patty, or some leftover baked tofu and mix it into your salad.
And as you know, beans are the bomb. Open up a can of kidney, black, or garbanzo beans, and voilà!
Go nuts. Like, really, go nuts with nuts! Slivered almonds, peanut chunks, or candied walnuts add an awesome crunch to any salad. And get seedy—roasted pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are KILLER salad additions.
The Final Touches
Does your salad still need an extra flavor kick? Sprinkle some of these goodies on top!
Nutritional yeast. This stuff is chock-full of vitamin B12, tastes like cheese, and is basically a perfect food.
Vegan Parmesan: Just sprinkle some on. You can thank me later. 🙂
Betty Crocker Bac-Os Bits: Yeah, these are vegan. And yeah, they make every salad better.
Herbs ‘n’ spices: Salt, pepper, oregano, basil, chili pepper, or any other spice or fresh herb of your choice can totally change the vibe of a salad! Experiment with different combinations, and enjoy the tasty results.
See, salads aren’t so bad. 🙂 Want even MORE delicious vegan meal ideas? Sign up for FREE recipes from peta2!