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Add zest to your salad: 6 unique salad recipes you can throw together easily

Not only are salads a great way to get in your daily quota of veggies, but they offer some of the most creative ways to eat healthier while you explore interesting flavor combinations, preparation techniques, and ingredients. And if you’re looking to make healthy eating a priority this year, salads can get you there faster. In-season veggies and fruits provide an almost limitless bounty of ingredients, from vine-ripened tomatoes in the summer to root veggies and hearty greens in the fall and winter.

These fresh salad recipe suggestions are tasty main or side-dish ideas that can be on the table in less than 30 minutes. Full of nutritious vegetables and protein, they offer delicious medleys of flavor that are high in fiber, rich in nutrients, and low in calories to help you achieve your healthy-eating goals. 

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Salad doesn’t have to be boring when you try these healthy (and delicious) salad recipes.

Healthy salad recipes for weight loss

Quinoa Chickpea Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Hummus Dressing

In the search for healthy vegetarian salad recipes, this one is a clear-cut winner. A vegan delight that’s loaded with plant-based power ingredients, including chickpeas, hummus, and quinoa, it also includes sunflower seeds for crunch and roasted peppers for an unexpected smoky flavor.

Chicken and Kale Taco Salad with Jalapeño-Avocado Ranch

Swap out romaine lettuce with kale and gain 10 times the amount of vitamin C with this super fast and healthy salad recipe. Wake up store-bought jarred ranch dressing with pickled jalapeños for a creamy, spicy, tangy dressing that’s so good you’ll want to drizzle it on absolutely everything — from raw veggies to poached chicken. With almost 30 grams of protein and just 429 calories per serving, this salad will fill you up and keep you on target for your healthy-weight goals.

Orange-Sesame Shrimp Salad

A mix of two types of greens — romaine lettuce and red cabbage — pairs perfectly with avocado and shrimp in this healthy Asian-inspired salad recipe. The dressing, a bright combination of orange juice, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and oil, can be made ahead of time and then stored for use on other salads or as a sauce over baked fish or chicken. This salad is diet-friendly, too, at just 283 calories per serving, and has 21.6 grams of protein.

Healthy salad recipes for lunch or dinner

Easy Pasta Salad

This fresh and easy pasta salad can be pulled together in under 30 minutes. Tossed in a zippy lemon vinaigrette and chock full of crunchy veggies, it’s a healthy salad recipe for dinner that the whole family is going to love. Along with the pasta, toss in cherry tomatoes, tangy feta cheese, peppery arugula, protein-rich chickpeas, pine nuts, and copious amounts of fresh basil and parsley. 

The easy-to-make dressing features a zesty mix of olive oil, lemon, garlic, Dijon mustard, herbs, and seasonings.

Rainbow Orzo Salad

The perfect vegetarian salad for lunch, or a great side dish with your dinner, this orzo salad can be made ahead of time and then drizzled with a bit of olive oil just before serving. The addition of diced mango adds surprising sweetness to the colorful mix of orzo, chickpeas, red onions, bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, and fresh herbs, with a zingy Greek dressing that ties everything together beautifully. 

A few tips:

  • When making a pasta salad, always cook your pasta slightly past al dente to ensure the pasta stays tender after it’s cooled.
  • Allow pasta to cool before adding the veggies; otherwise, the heat from the pasta will cause the veggies to wilt. Drain the cooked orzo, add a drizzle of olive oil to prevent sticking, and then spread it in an even layer on a baking sheet to cool. Proceed with the recipe only after the orzo reaches room temperature.
  • If you decide to make your orzo ahead of time (up to one day in advance), save the herbs to add at the last minute. Allowing them to sit in the dressing for too long will cause them to wilt.

Smoked Chicken and Fig Salad

This gourmet chicken salad puts a new spin on a classic favorite. A sensational combo of the three S’s (smoky, sweet, and salty), it’s a healthy salad recipe that’s perfect for dinner. You can even make a little extra and take it with you for lunch the next day.

The dressing is a tasty combination of pomegranate molasses, oil, and lemon juice. If you’re not familiar with pomegranate molasses, it’s a thick reduction syrup made with pomegranate juice and sugar. It’s a common ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine, prized for its distinct tart/sweet flavor notes. Don’t have pomegranate molasses on hand? Feel free to substitute with:

  • Fresh pomegranate seeds
  • Pomegranate juice and sugar
  • Lemon or lime juice
  • Lemon juice and honey

Salads have come a long way from those sad bowls of iceberg lettuce topped with bottled dressing. Use our salad recipe suggestions as a starting point and then let your culinary imagination run wild! Explore different flavor profiles, ingredients, and preparation techniques to create an endless bounty of tasty, nutritious, and diet-friendly salads.

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Kim Renta
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kim has written for Bloomingdales, Movado, and various e-commerce wine sites. When she's not writing about wine and…
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