5 light summer salads that will be an instant hit at your next event

One of the best parts of summer is all of the light summer salads you’ll get to enjoy. Taking advantage of farm-fresh produce, warmer temperatures, and outdoor entertaining, makes summer salads one of the culinary highlights of the season. But why stick to the same recipes you’ve used year after year when there are so many light summer salad recipes just waiting to be tried? It’s time to bust out of your salad recipe rut and give some new recipes a try! 

Whether you’re hosting a backyard gathering or going as a guest, these are some of our favorite summer salad ideas that are sure to be crowd-pleasers every time! We love them; we think you’ll love them, too!

Vegan or meat-free summer salad ideas

Avocado Tomato Salad

If you like guacamole (and who doesn’t?), you’re going to be all in on this delicious take on a classic avocado and tomato salad. One of the best parts is how easy it is to make. Plus, you can swap out any veggies you’d like to customize to fit your tastes—or to fit the current contents of your vegetable bin. Toss in some grilled asparagus, replace the spicy jalapeño with milder bell peppers, swap out veggies or spices you don’t like for ones that you do. And, don’t forget to add some tortilla chips on the side, because everyone loves tortilla chips.

Ingredients:

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Salad

  • 3 avocados, cubed
  • 1 pt. cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced into half-moons
  • 1/3 cup corn
  • 1 jalapeño, minced (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. chopped cilantro

Directions:

  • Whisk together the oil, lime juice, and cumin in a small bowl. Season the dressing with salt and pepper and set aside.
  • Combine the cut-up avocados, tomatoes, cucumber, corn, jalapeño, and cilantro in a large serving bowl. Toss gently with dressing and serve immediately, with a heading side of crisp tortilla chips.

Greek Orzo Salad

We love salads with pasta as a base (yes, orzo is pasta, not rice). It’s a bit heartier than salads that are just vegetables and can be made ahead of time (to free you up for other things if you’re entertaining). You’ll love the bright Mediterranean flavors of this yummy Greek-inspired salad, right down to the incredible homemade lemon-and-dill dressing—way better than any dressing from a bottle.

Even better? You can make this salad now, and it will keep in the fridge for up to four days—that’s if it doesn’t get devoured right away!

Ingredients:

Dressing

  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. freshly chopped dill, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Salad

  • 8 oz. orzo
  • 3 Persian cucumbers, sliced into thin half-moons
  • 2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 (15.5-oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 1/4 lb.)

Directions:

  • Cook orzo in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente (slightly firm). Drain and set aside.
  • While orzo is cooking, whisk together lemon juice and mustard in a large bowl. Slowly add oil, while whisking, until fully combined, then stir in the dill and minced red onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Add orzo, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, and olives to bowl with the dressing and toss to coat. Finish by folding in the feta cheese and garnish with more dill on top.

Spinach Salad

We love this simple spinach salad recipe. The sharp mustard vinaigrette paired with creamy feta cheese and toasted almonds really takes it up a notch or two. Of course, as with all of our recipes, you’re free to swap out the cheese, skip the nuts (allergy alert), or replace any of the ingredients with those you already have on hand. It’s all about customizing things to your individual tastes, and for this recipe, making the most of the unique taste combination of fresh spinach leaves and crisp apples. 

As with any salad incorporating spinach, you’ll want to serve the salad right away to prevent the delicate leaves from getting soggy once the dressing goes on. 

Ingredients:

Dressing

  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic or 1/2 shallot, minced
  • 2 tsp. dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Salad

  • 5 oz. fresh spinach
  • 1 apple, such as Honeycrisp, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Directions:

  • Whisk the dressing ingredients in a medium bowl until well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Combine your salad ingredients in a large bowl. Add dressing, toss to combine, and serve immediately.

Light summer salads with added protein

Tuscan Tortellini Salad

Looking for a new take on a pasta salad? This is definitely it! So easy to make and SO DELICIOUS—the homemade vinaigrette takes it over the top!  As with most salads, feel free to swap out ingredients you don’t have on hand or don’t like. Don’t have sun-dried tomatoes? Fresh cherry tomatoes will work. Don’t like salami? Crunchy bacon can take its place. Half the fun of summer salads is making them your own! If assembling your salad ahead of time (overnight in your fridge is fine), don’t add the spinach until you’re ready to serve.

Vinaigrette tip: Add all of the ingredients into a mason jar, and shake until combined. You can even make extra dressing to keep on hand in the refrigerator for another day.

Ingredients:

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp. honey
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Salad

  • 1 lb. fresh cheese tortellini
  • 3/4 cup chopped salami or prosciutto
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions:

  • To make the dressing: Whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  • Cook tortellini, according to package directions, in a large pot of salted boiling water. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.
  • To bowl, add salami or prosciutto, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes in a large bowl. Pour in dressing and toss until well combined. Garnish with a bit of parmesan cheese.

Chicken Pasta Salad

Pasta, seasoned chicken, crumbled bacon… we could probably stop right there, but this ultimate pasta salad recipe has lots more going for it. The homemade dressing is so flavorful—Dijon mustard and extra-virgin olive oil for the win—plus, when you add the feta cheese to the salad mixture, it gives everything a salty, cheesy coating that’s oh-so-delicious. 

The trick with adding pasta to salads is to make sure it’s not overcooked—there’s nothing worse than mushy noodles. Follow box directions for al dente pasta to make certain it’s perfectly cooked. 

Ingredients:

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Salad

  • 1 lb. fusilli pasta
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 2 cup spinach, packed
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp. freshly chopped dill

Directions:

  • Cook fusilli in a large pot of boiling water, according to package directions, until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
  • While the pasta is cooking, make your dressing: Whisk together oil, vinegar, Italian seasoning, garlic, and mustard in a medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Season the chicken breasts with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and cook until golden and cooked through, about 8 minutes per side. Allow chicken to cool for about 10 minutes, then cut into 1″ pieces.
  • Add the remaining ingredients into the pasta bowl and toss to combine. Pour dressing over salad, toss until coated, and serve.

You’ll make the most of every summer meal or backyard gathering when you include a fresh and light summer salad on the menu. We’ve given you five of our favorites, but the options are virtually unlimited. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and shop your own produce drawer for ingredients, to create masterful salads that your family will devour. 

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