Making a salad at home never feels quite as enticing as enjoying one in a restaurant. From "make your own" salad spots to your favorite plant-forward cafés, restaurants always seem to have more interesting options than whatever's languishing in your crisper drawer.
That said, it's easy enough to emulate the variety of restaurant salads at home: hearty enough for a meal and filled with a panoply of colors, flavors, textures, and nutrients. All it takes is a bit of planning!
1. Stock Up
The secret to enjoying your very own salad bar at home is to stock up on tons of fixings. The problem? Keeping the variety of produce and toppings you'll find in at your Whole Foods salad bar in your home can lead to spoilage and food waste.
Luckily, some salad fixings keep better than others. Here are elements that we always have on-hand, organized based on how long they last.
These delicious salad fixings are items you should pick up at the last minute whenever possible.
- Fresh berries
- Tender lettuces (mâche, baby spinach)
- Fish and seafood
- Fresh herbs
These are the staples of our at-home salad bars: items that you can easily grab on a once-weekly shopping trip and enjoy all week long.
- Red cabbage
- Hardier veggies like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower
- Citrus fruits
- Chicken or grass-fed steak
These are items we always have on-hand. They will keep for several weeks or up to several months.
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Vinegars (red wine, cider, balsamic)
- Spices (turmeric, chili, cumin, Italian seasoning)
- Jarred artichokes, hearts of palm
- Sundried tomatoes
- Dried fruit
Prepping all of your ingredients in advance is the difference between having meal salads on the table in minutes or getting overwhelmed and opting for Seamless... again. Of course, there is one problem: prepping some things too far in advance will lead to spoilage and, ultimately, waste.
To combat this problem, consider first and foremost how many servings of salad you'll need for the next two to three days. Are you eating a meal salad for lunch and dinner, or just for dinner? Are you the only one in your household partaking, or are you sharing with another adult or with children? Prep enough produce for the next two to three days only, and label each item. Then, devote a shelf of your fridge to ingredients that are particularly delicate or are on their last legs, so you know to reach for them first.
Here are just a few ways that we prep our produce to make salads even easier to throw together. Each of these items will last for at least two to three days prepped (and some a bit longer), so there's no need to worry about using them up right away.
- Grate/finely slice onion, cabbage, and carrot
- Make a batch of your favorite vinaigrette or tahini dressing and keep in a jar in the fridge
- Supreme oranges or grapefruit sections
- Hard-boil some eggs
- Wash and chop cucumber or raw bell peppers
- Roast broccoli/cauliflower florets with olive oil and spices
- Cook and slice chicken or steak
Once you've got all of your elements ready to go, it's time to start assembling your salad.
Depending on your family, you may want to make one big salad for everyone or lay out bowls of individual components so that each person can choose what he or she would like, like a traditional salad bar. Just make sure not to dress more salad than you think you can eat; prepped and mixed veggies can keep for a day or two in the fridge as long as they are still naked, but once they're dressed, the clock starts ticking!
We love salads with tons of different colors and textures, not to mention a good amount of heart-healthy omega fats. While you can certainly mix and match according to your tastes, here are just a few of our favorite combos hearty enough for a meal to get those creative gears churning:
- Spicy Rainbow Salad: thinly sliced red bell pepper, grated carrot, thinly sliced kale, thinly sliced red cabbage, avocado, supremed orange, lime juice, tahini dressing, red pepper flakes
- Quick Niçoise Salad: arugula, sliced tomato, hard-boiled egg, jarred olives, sustainable tinned tuna, sustainable tinned anchovies, fresh basil, vinaigrette
- Omega Salad: baby spinach, arugula, seared wild-caught salmon, avocado, crushed hazelnuts, vinaigrette
- Thai-ish Salad: shredded red cabbage, shredded carrots, thinly sliced green onion, cooked chicken breast, Thai coconut dressing, chopped cilantro
- Veggie Bonanza Salad: thinly sliced red, orange, and yellow red bell peppers; grated carrot; thinly sliced kale; thinly sliced red cabbage; avocado; chopped cucumber; thinly sliced red onion; olive oil; red wine vinegar; dried Italian seasoning
- Sweet and Savory Salad: baby spinach, baby arugula, roasted beets, sliced green apple, crumbled blue cheese, crushed walnuts
- Hearty Harvest Salad: roasted sweet potato, roasted cauliflower, roasted broccoli, cumin, cooked wild rice, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, walnut oil, balsamic vinegar
Now it's time to get creative with your own home salad bar! Share your favorite pairings with us on Facebook.