Summer- reminiscent of eating al fresco, lazing by the pool, attending and hosting barbeques and warm evenings. When you think about these activities in relation to food and eating and what to cook for dinner, the most obvious answer to your cravings is these healthy, easy, and quick-to-prepare salads.
Summer also means it is time for beautiful fresh produce that is in season. A few examples of fruit (yes, fruit) and vegetables that are perfect for summer salads are detailed below:
There is more to a salad than a plate of iceberg lettuce with a watered-down dressing. The word salad is derived from the Latin word salata which means salted greens. Salt is associated with salad because back then, the vegetables were brined to keep them fresher for longer.
In more recent years, “salad” refers to a combination of (usually raw) vegetables and sometimes lettuce and other greens are included (but not always) and the salad is usually dressed with a salad dressing or vinaigrette of sorts.
For a salad to be a good salad, it should have a combination of all the 5 basic tastes (salt, sour, bitter, sweet, and umami) and should have different textural elements.
Salads can be served any time of day (excepting breakfast maybe) but can also be enjoyed as a main or side dish for any occasion. These salad recipes are specifically designed to showcase the fresh produce that is in season and that is appropriate for special occasions such as the 4th of July, Memorial Day, Birthday, graduation, and pool parties but can really be eaten any day or night of the summer months.
This list of salads includes an assortment of types of salads to suit your tastes and the occasion to serve them for. Enjoy!
Summer Salads With Fruit
Spinach, Avocado & Strawberry Salad
You may look at this collection of ingredients and think…Yuck! However, the combination of sweet strawberries, creamy avocado, and crunchy vegan bacon bits and pecan nuts on a base of baby or young spinach is to die for. Especially when covered in the creamy balsamic dressing that adds a rich, full-bodied tanginess to the salad. You can of course substitute the bacon bits for any other plant-based protein and the nuts for seeds such as pumpkin seeds.
If you are making this dish and cannot get a hold of fresh strawberries, you can use dried cranberries instead. The dressing and bacon bits can be prepped ahead of time but it is best to make this salad fresh to really enhance the flavors. Don’t knock it until you try it!
Grilled Peach and Fennel Salad With Maple Balsamic Glaze
Next on our fruity salad list makes use of beautiful juicy peaches paired with aniseed flavors of fennel and peppery arugula and topped off with the slightly smokey maple balsamic glaze. The peaches are grilled to enhance their sweetness but this step is not strictly necessary as fresh peaches during summertime are great without processing them further.
The maple syrup and balsamic vinegar are simmered for 20 minutes on low heat to create a sticky reduction that clings to the other elements of the salad but if you don’t have time, mixing together the maple syrup with the balsamic vinegar alone, will also be just as nice. This salad can be made vegetarian with the addition of goat cheese or slices of parmesan cheese.
Zesty Heirloom Tomato & Nectarine Salad
Think along the lines of combining Asian flavors with the famous Mexican dish, pico de gallo (a tomato-based salsa), paired with sweet nectarines. It is the perfect example of utilizing seasonal ingredients to showcase the beautiful fresh flavors of summertime.
Heirloom tomatoes are available just about everywhere these days and the different kinds of tomatoes bring a bounty of color and flavor. The nectarines bring a sweetness, the avocado a creaminess, and the ginger, lime, and sesame oil the zesty kick! Great eaten alone or served on the size of some teriyaki salmon or chicken.
Mango Cucumber Salad
A summer staple, this mango and cucumber salad is a refreshing salad for any occasion. It is reminiscent of salsa as it is super easy to make and is covered in chili, lime juice, and rice vinegar, maple syrup dressing. This salad can be shortcutted by using pre-cut mango to save time and effort as we all know cutting a mango perfectly can be tricky.
This is great served on top of tacos, on its own with sticky rice, or as a dip with tortilla chips. You can make this dish ahead of time but it is recommended to consume it within 3 days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Classic BBQ Side Salads
Vegan Broccoli Salad
This broccoli salad is a healthier, vegan twist to the potluck classic. It has no mayonnaise and includes vegan bacon bits a creamy cashew nut and apples cider vinegar dressing. All the right elements are there, the crunchy smokiness of the vegan bacon, the sweet tanginess of the dried cranberries, and the creamy and sharp dressing makes for a perfect salad.
The broccoli is best kept raw for its health benefits but can be blanched or cooked quickly to maintain the texture if desired. You can swap out the cashews for sunflower seeds or use silken tofu instead to achieve the same creamy dressing. What makes this salad even greater is that it can be made way ahead of time.
Oven Roasted Southwest Corn Salad
Inspired by the southwest, this corn salad made with roasted corn a spicy dressing is packed full of flavor and it draws on some Tex-Mex ingredients such as cilantro and chipotle powder. It is quick and easy to make- including the roasting time of the corn, which only takes about 30 minutes to prepare. This corn salad recipe is flexible and can be served as a side to just about any dinner, with burgers on a sandwich or alone for lunch.
Vegan Waldorf Salad
All the goodness without the guilt- that is a perfect summary of this Vegan Waldorf Salad. Made with apples, grapes, and garbanzo beans it is a salad that is ready for any social gathering and sure to be a hit! The original salad named after the grand Waldorf Hotel in New York City, originally contained celery, apples, and mayonnaise.
This version of course uses similar ingredients but contains mayonnaise that is made out of tofu and any unsweetened plant milk. It is crunchy, sweet, zesty, and creamy- everything you want out of a good Waldorf salad.
Oil-Free Creamy Vegan Potato Salad
Who doesn’t love a potato salad; or potato anything for that matter? Perfect as a picnic food or a side at a cookout; the silken tofu mayonnaise is so creamy, people eating it would never guess that it is vegan and oil-free! It can be made ahead of time and this actually benefits the flavor of the salad as the potatoes just soak up all the seasoning.
It is best to use potatoes that are suitable for boiling. At a stretch, it can be made with waxy potatoes but these do tend to fall apart when boiled.
Creamy Vegan Coleslaw
Ah, coleslaw. A perfect addition to sloppy joes, tacos, sandwiches, you name it! This vegan version is bright and colorful with a creamy and crunchy texture. To save time, instead of laboring over thinly shredding cabbages and carrots, you can use a pre-shredded mix that is available at most supermarkets. If you choose to do it this way, then creating the coleslaw becomes super quick and easy. This is an American barbeque staple and is a must-make to be shared with friends and family.
Summer Pasta Salads
Mediterranean Quinoa Pasta
Swapping out some of the pasta for the superfood grain, quinoa, this summer pasta salad is the treat that you have been waiting for. Loaded with ingredients from the Mediterranean like garbanzo beans, artichokes, basil, olives, and heirloom tomatoes, this fresh take on a pasta salad is definitely something to bring to your next cookout.
This dish can be made ahead and kept in the fridge but before serving, it is best to take the salad out of the fridge for a few minutes so that the pasta noodles are less cold and firm.
Vegan Pesto Pasta With Roasted Veggies
Pair a creamy vegan pesto with roasted tomatoes, zucchini, and onions with a fusilli pasta you get a nutritious, tasty result. It is a great side dish to have at a barbeque but can be served as a lunch dish as well. It can be served warm or cold and you can prepare a large batch ahead of time- it is also a handy dish for any meal preppers out there for ordinary weekdays.
Herbed Couscous & Tofu Salad
This herb-loaded couscous and tofu salad is protein-rich and vibrant. Although couscous looks like a grain, it is actually a small pasta that takes minutes to cook and you do not have to cook it on the stove, you can just place it in a bowl and add hot water and cover it with saran wrap until all the water is absorbed.
The tofu is crusted by frying an oiled pan over medium-high heat. Because the salad is so versatile and flexible, the rest of the vegetable and herb additions are up to you and what is available to you at the moment.
Strawberry Avocado Pasta Salad
A similar take as to one of the Summer Salads with Fruit, this sweet and tangy strawberry and avocado pasta salad is paired with green onions, basil, and mint to give it a lift. This salad is suitable for any occasion and is a good way to use up any leftover fruit or pasta before they go bad. You can add some diced feta cheese to the salad if you aren’t vegan to give the salad an extra layer of flavor.
Bowtie Pasta Salad With Chickpeas & Artichokes
Garbanzo beans and artichoke hearts are the stars of the show of this pasta salad. This vinaigrette-dressed farfalle pasta salad is inspired by the ingredients of the Mediterranean and is a great meal for any lunchtime. It is dead-easy to make and can be stored for up to 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
Vegan Country Salad With Tofu Nuggets & “Honey” Mustard Dressing
Over and above the usual suspects of country salad, this one features Chick-fil-A style tofu nuggets, almonds, crunchy vegetables, and tomatoes topped with a vegan honey and mustard dressing. Although the nuggets themselves take a little bit of effort to make, they make for a satiating addition to this salad. It can be made ahead of time and is an extremely tasty salad, your guests won’t be able to tell that it is vegan.
Vegan Cobb Salad
A Veganized version of this classic salad uses eggy tofu- which is basically a type of textured tofu- and uses garbanzos and vegan bacon as substitutes for chicken and bacon respectively. The vegan ranch dressing is made up of tahini, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, and some dill. In terms of preparation, all that needs to be done is cook the tofu and vegan bacon and chop up some vegetables- easy as pie.
High Protein Hummus Salad
Fancy a health-kick of a meal? Look no further. Not only is this salad an amalgamation of color and flavor but it is nutrient-dense and full of protein and lots of good fats and oils in the form of pepitas and hemp hearts. It features delightful sun-dried tomatoes and watermelon radish as well as lots of finely julienned carrot and cucumber but also a huge amount of hummus and greens. It is also super easy to make and you can easily swap out some of the vegetables for other kinds.
Southwestern Salad With Chili-Lime Tofu
This Tex-Mex inspired salad is made sinfully delicious by the hot and zingy chili-lime tofu nuggets. The nuggets are backed and added to a bowl of corn, tomatoes, and beans and accompanied by a vibrant green cilantro-lime avocado dressing (which is a versatile dressing in itself). This salad can go into burritos or become part of a burrito bowl or be served as a main course. Out of all the salads on the list, this definitely is near the top!
Bean & Grain Salads
Chickpea Edamame Salad
The first entrant to this part of the list is a fusion of garbanzo and edamame beans is a protein-packed lunch favorite. Edamame are usually in the frozen section of the store either in the pod or shelled; shelled is quicker to prepare and there is no quality or taste difference and they can be cooked easily in the microwave.
The more color on the plate, the better the dish is for you, and this rainbow of red and yellow bell peppers, orange carrot, blueberries, and green edamame, delivers the goods. You can, of course, swap out any of the ingredients to what is in season or tickles your fancy but the base salad is a winner nonetheless.
The classic and well-known three-bean salad featuring cannellini, kidney, and garbanzo beans. This is a great summer salad for picnics and it’s fast to make as most of the ingredients come in tins. It can be made ahead of time, even up to a day before the eating, which in fact is recommended as the flavor of the salad gets better overnight. With some spices and seasoning along with flavor enhancers like parsley and celery, this is bound to be a family favorite!
With the addition of pinto, wax, and green beans to the three-been salad and with heartier ingredients and dressing, this salad pulls out all the stops and is again, dead easy to make. You can use any bean combination but the starchier the bean, the more of the dressing they will take on.
Again, it is best to let the bean salad sit overnight to marinate in the dressing of red wine vinegar, maple syrup, dijon mustard, garlic, and dill. The vegetables added can be variable and this is a great option for any time of the year too!
Herby Quinoa Salad
Flavored with punchy herbs that are basil, cilantro, and mint, this herby quinoa salad with garbanzos and avocado is a salad not to be missed during the summer… although we wouldn’t say no to it in winter either! Quinoa is a great staple to keep around as it has a neutral yet slightly nutty flavor and so can be paired with just about any other ingredients and seasonings.
The herbs are whizzed together with olive oil and lemon juice in a blender (or minced by hand) and mixed in with the quinoa and other ingredients. It could not get simpler than this.
Fiesta Mango Quinoa Salad
Bright, vibrant, and colorful, just some of the words to describe this celebration on a plate- the Fiesta Mango Quinoa Salad. This salad makes use of ingredients featured in the south such as black beans, charred corn, and mango- all thrown together with some cooked quinoa and a cumin-spiced chili-lime dressing that is an explosion of flavor.
Quinoa and black beans satiate the palate by providing a ton of protein to the dish. Although this dish is vegan (if you substitute the honey for another liquid sweetener), gluten- and nut-free; it is a perfect partner to chicken, fish, or burgers and can be served hot or cold.
Thai Salad With Sesame-Crusted Tofu
Thai cuisine offers up many delightful ingredients to experiment with, in the kitchen, and this salad creation is no exception. A bed of mixed greens and shredded cabbage (red and white) and carrots are topped with mandarin orange segments, Thai basil, raw cashew nuts, and the marinated sesame-crusted tofu blocks.
It is enjoyed with a creamy cashew nut Asian ginger dressing and will be a crowd favorite- you will not have to worry about leftovers on this one! You can use mango cubes or other citrus fruits in this salad if you cannot get a hold of mandarin and you can replace cashews with peanuts both in the salad and the dressing.
Cauliflower Rice Tabbouleh
A healthier alternative to the classic bulgur or cracked wheat tabbouleh, this cauliflower rice tabbouleh is well worth the effort. Cauliflower rice can be made by pulsing the raw cauliflower in a food processor until a grainy consistency has been achieved.
Alternatively, you could just buy the ready-made version from the store and add that to the salad. With the cauliflower rice, classic Middle Eastern additions are included, namely, tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, herbs like parsley and mint, and toasted pine nuts. This low-carb alternative is really a game-changer!
Vegan Ramen Noodle Salad
Ready in just 10 minutes, this vegan ramen noodle salad is the answer to all midweek summer dinner woes. Zesty and fresh cabbage, carrots, green onions, and slivered almonds are paired with a satay-style dressing containing tamari which is a gluten-free soy sauce.
You can of course add other veggies in season, such as green beans and bell peppers and you can add some herbs like mint and cilantro if you have them at hand. Vegan or not, everyone that eats this salad will love it and it is definitely more interesting than rame in a packet.
Vegan Curry Chickpea Salad
A take on the classic chicken salad, this plant-based version does the job well. Instead of chicken, garbanzo beans are used and so is vegan mayo or unsweetened vegan yogurt. It is quick and easy to prepare and can be eaten as a side or on top of a sandwich or toastie and will be done in under 10 minutes. You can also use this as part of weekly meal prep and can be stored for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.