Garden Salad

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 Everyone needs a quick go-to Garden Salad that will pair with just about anything — and this is that recipe! Toss Romaine lettuce and fresh veggies with a simple vinaigrette that takes mere minutes to whip together.

This post shares how you can customize this salad based on personal preferences or what you’re serving it alongside.

Overhead image of the Garden Salad in a bowl

A Garden Salad Recipe Should Be Simple!

A  salad is typically my go-to as a side dish for just about anything — from grilled chicken to ground beef stroganoff to a flat iron steak — a big bowl of greens and veggies with a light vinaigrette rounds things out nicely. And it especially rounds out heartier meat-heavy dishes well.

Since a Garden Salad often accompanies the main course or larger meal, we believe that salad should be simple and quick to whip together. This recipe is just that — it’s fast and easy to make with minimal prep time. This light and subtle vinaigrette dressing doesn’t overpower ingredients and pairs well with whatever is being served as the main course.

What’s in Garden Salad?

When throwing together a quick Garden Salad, the list below has my usual go-to options. Of course, you don’t need all of these ingredients and alternatively, you can always add more. The idea of this salad is to be quick and easy so if you’re only throwing in a couple of veggies, that’s great too!

  • Tomatoes: Nothing beats garden-fresh, but any tomato will work here! If tomatoes aren’t in season, try using cherry tomatoes, which grow well in greenhouses even in the depths of cold weather! Because of their size, they have less water so you’ll have a more concentrated tomato flavor.
  • Cucumbers: Nothing beats the crispness and flavor of English or Persian (sometimes called “salad cucumbers”) cucumbers.
  • Carrot: We like to quickly grate a big carrot on the large holes of a cheese grater. Alternatively, you could thinly slice (using a sharp chef’s knife or mandolin) or peel into ribbons using a vegetable peeler. And you can pick up pre-shredded carrots at most grocery stores, as well.
  • Avocado: A perfectly ripe avocado adds an amazing creaminess to the salad! 
  • Red onion: If you’re sensitive to the flavor of raw red onion, soak the diced onions in salted ice water for 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly before adding to the salad.
  • Croutons: If you love some crunch, croutons are the way to go! And if you’re feeling super ambitious, try making your own ahead of time — few things beat homemade croutons in my book!

Process shots-- images of the dressing being made and the salad being assembled

VARIATIONS

Garden Salad Variations

There are practically endless ways to make a Garden Salad; here are ideas for ways to customize your salad:

Add raw veggies: Add fresh, sweet corn cut off the cob, thinly sliced baby Bella mushrooms, sugar snap peas, diced bell peppers, thinly sliced radishes, snow peas, edamame, fully thawed frozen sweet peas.

Or add roasted vegetables: We love adding leftover or freshly roasted (and cooled) veggies to Garden Salads too (it might sound strange, but it’s delicious!) — cubed roasted beets, cubed roasted butternut squash, roasted green beans (give ‘em a coarse chop first), roasted broccoli (again, coarse chop here), roasted sweet potatoes, and roasted carrots.

Add fresh herbs: Adding a handful of fresh herbs adds such a nice dimension of flavor to a simple Garden Salad. Here are some of our favorites: thinly sliced green onions or chives, ribboned basil, fresh mint, fresh dill. A handful of microgreens are also nice for added flavor and texture.

Add protein: Hard-boiled eggs, diced ham, leftover grilled chicken or rotisserie chicken, thinly sliced cooked steak, prosciutto, cooked fish, shrimp can turn a salad into an entree.

Switch up the dressing: This vinaigrette is a very simple, all-purpose, mild dressing. If you want some more pizzazz or are looking for a different option, try one of these recipes: balsamic vinaigrette, citrus vinaigrette, lemon vinaigrette, poppy seed dressing, or honey mustard salad dressing.

Cheese is a nice finishing touch: Small cubes or grated sharp Cheddar, feta cheese, goat cheese, freshly grated Parmesan cheese — whatever you like best with veggies and greens!

 

Overhead image of the dressed and ready-to-be-eaten Garden Salad

Garden Salad FAQs

1What is a Garden Salad?

A Garden Salad is a salad served as a side dish. It is typically a type of tossed green salad made with lettuce. As the name would indicate, there are also fresh veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and carrots.

Garden Salads also may include croutons and/or cheese.

2What are the types of salads?

There are so many different types of salad recipes. Most of these salads can be categorized into three subgroups: tossed, composed, and bound.

Tossed salads are made by tossing ingredients and dressing until everything ends up evenly mixed. These types of salads include Caesar Salad, Greek Salad, or Nicoise salad. Garden Salad is a tossed salad.

Composed salads are typically carefully assembled with a certain structure in mind. Think a Cobb salad or a Wedge salad with the ingredients nicely arranged.

Bound salads are held together with an agent like a thick dressing or mayo — they’re salads you’d find at a picnic or potluck like chicken salad, Watergate salad, or Ambrosia Salad

3Is a garden Salad Healthy?

Yes! Salad greens contain vitamins and minerals, plus they are a great choice in a healthful diet because they are naturally low in calories and sodium. The only catch is the optional ingredients. You can really rack up calories and carbs with some of the add-ins if you’re not careful.

4How do you spice up a Garden Salad?

You can add all sorts of interesting tastes and textures to a Garden Salad.

  • Add something crunchy: Think croutons, toasted nuts or seeds, or tortilla strips.
  • Play with texture: Combine creamy ingredients (like avocado) with crisp ingredients (like bell peppers).
  • Add in cooked and cooled grains like quinoa, farro, wild rice, etc.

5What are the three keys to a quality salad?

Keep these qualities in mind for  a top-notch salad:

  1. Use fresh ingredients — Good quality, fresh salad components make all the difference in a salad!
  2. Choose ingredients that mesh together nicely — We want different textures and flavors that complement and blend together well — tang from an onion, creaminess from the avocado, crispness from cucumber, juiciness from tomato, and sweetness from carrots. All these ingredients interplay to make a harmonious-tasting salad.
  3. Give it some eye appeal — We eat with our eyes first! Make sure the salad looks appealing with bright, fresh, and vibrant ingredients.

Up-close overhead image of the Garden Salad

STORAGE

Garden Salad Storage

As with most salads, Garden Salads don’t sit or store well after being dressed. The salad should be eaten soon after being assembled; otherwise, the dressing wilts the greens, and the ingredients soften. You can easily halve this recipe so you don’t have any leftovers. 

To make ahead: Prepare everything, but store ingredients separately in the fridge. You can make the dressing up to a week in advance. Simply store in a glass jar and thoroughly whisk (or shake) to recombine before adding to the salad. Assemble and toss everything together right before eating.

Don’t be alarmed if the dressing separates or forms clumps. It’s just the olive oil solidifying, which it does at cold temps. Take the vinaigrette out of the fridge about 20-30 minutes or so before you need it and let it return to temperature. Then shake it up to remix.

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Garden Salad

5 from 1 vote
Everyone needs a quick go-to Garden Salad that pairs with just about anything -- and this is that recipe! Toss romaine lettuce and fresh veggies with a simple vinaigrette that takes mere minutes to whip together.
Print Recipe

Garden Salad

5 from 1 vote
Everyone needs a quick go-to Garden Salad that pairs with just about anything -- and this is that recipe! Toss romaine lettuce and fresh veggies with a simple vinaigrette that takes mere minutes to whip together.
Course Appetizer, Salad, Side Dish, Vegetarian
Cuisine American, Healthy, Vegetarian
Keyword Garden Salad
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 -6 as a side
Calories 168kcal
Cost $5.62

Ingredients

Salad

  • 7 cups chopped Romaine lettuce Note 1
  • 1 cup cucumbers, cut in half moons Note 2
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion optional
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot Note 3
  • Optional: 1 large ripe avocado, 1 cup croutons, Cheese to taste (like feta, goat, sharp Cheddar, or Parmesan)

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or use apple cider vinegar)
  • 2-1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (~1 clove)
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced shallot, optional
  • Fine sea salt and cracked pepper

Instructions

  • DRESSING: Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small jar with a lid. Add salt and pepper to taste. (I add 1/4 teaspoon each.) Cover and shake the jar until ingredients are well combined. Use a spoon if needed to stir up settling honey.
  • SALAD ASSEMBLY: Add completely dried chopped lettuce to a large bowl (Note 1). Top with cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, red onion, and grated carrot. If enjoying immediately (Read instruction #3 first) also add in the avocado, croutons, and cheese (if using). Drizzle dressing over salad. (We like it all, but you may want less depending on how dressed you like your salads.) Toss, season salad to taste with salt and pepper if needed, and enjoy immediately!
  • STORAGE: This salad doesn’t sit very well with the dressing, croutons, and avocado mixed into it. If you aren’t planning to eat the entire salad at one sitting, toss and add dressing, avocado, and croutons only to the lettuce you’ll be eating right now. The salad dressing can be made in advance and will stay fresh for 3-6 days in an airtight container in the fridge. Be sure to thoroughly mix/shake the dressing again before using. If the dressing separates or forms clumps, it’s just the olive oil solidifying, which it does at cold temps. Take the vinaigrette out of the fridge about 20-30 minutes or so before you need it and bring it back up to temperature. Then shake it up to remix.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Lettuce: Chop, wash, and thoroughly dry the Romaine lettuce before tossing it with the dressing. (We love using a salad spinner!) If the lettuce is at all wet from being washed, it will water down the dressing and the salad won't be as pleasant. If time permits, chill the washed (and dried) lettuce and salad dressing and keep refrigerated until you're ready to assemble.
Note 2: Cucumber: We love using crisp and flavorful cucumbers like English cucumber or Persian (sometimes labeled salad cucumbers) cucumbers.
Note 3: Carrot: This is about 1 large carrot. We like to grate it on the large holes of a cheese grater.
Nutrition information doesn't include optional toppings. 

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 168kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Sodium: 31mg | Potassium: 415mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 10044IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 47mg | Iron: 1mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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