Salad Slam | Perfect Salads in 4 Simple Steps
Food,  Meals & Planning,  Recipes

Salad Slam! 4 Simple Steps to Perfect Salads

Hi there, this is an updated post for this summer, and I’ve added a FREE salad-making guide that you can grab using the form below. 🙂

If you’re from a certain generation and geography, the word “salad” may conjure up images of limp iceberg lettuce with a few carrot shreds and bottled ranch dressing. Perhaps you’ve seen “Jello salad”, which combine sweet gelatin with any manner of canned fruits, marshmallows, pudding, and even sometimes vegetables. Don’t believe me? Here you go – it’s real.

For the purposes of this post, the term salad will always include leafy greens and vegetables. It will not include jello, pasta, canned fruit, or marshmallows.

If you don’t typically eat salads or aren’t fond of them, I invite you to experiment with a few of the variations below and see if any of them appeal to you. There definitely was a time when I thought of salads as boring but important way to add vegetables to my meals. The difference now is that I see them as one of the most exciting, delicious, and customizable parts of eating. 

Salads can be as simple or complicated as you make them, so let’s start with simple, and you can embellish as much as you like. Here are four steps to making a salad in just a few minutes, with foods you likely already have on hand. 

1. Greens

Perhap obvious, but start with a bowl of greens, any kind that you want to eat.

  • Guidelines: Must be green and leafy.
  • Examples: Spinach, arugula, cabbage, romaine, kale, any lettuce

2. Rainbow-Colored Vegetables

Add two more types of vegetables, chopped. 

  • Guidelines: These two vegetables are not the same color and one is not green.
  • Tomatoes, avocadoes, red/yellow peppers, broccoli, red onions, red/purple cabbage, cucumber, cauliflower (ok, not really a color), roasted sweet potatoes, corn, the options are endless.
  • Example combos: Red (tomato, red pepper) and purple (red onions, red cabbage).

3. Interesting Bits

Pick ingredients from at least two of the three categories below:

  • Guidelines: Unless you find yourself with dried fruit and nut trail mix, which hits all three categories (score), pick one from at least two of the three categories below:
    1. Sweet – fresh fruit, dried fruit.
    2. Salty – olives, salted nuts or seeds, pickled vegetables, roasted vegetables, cheese, bacon, anchovies 
    3. Crunchy – nuts or seeds, crunchy snacks (eg, wasabi peas)
  • Example combinations: raisins and almonds, Olives and watermelon, strawberries and blue cheese, bacon and apple, so many!

4. Dressing 

Check out my post on how to make the easiest vinaigrette ever here!

The most simple salad dressings are just fat (eg, olive oil) and acid (eg, balsamic vinegar). Add salt to taste and something interesting (examples below), and you’ve made a gourmet dressing – ta-da! 

  • Guidelines: All you really need is a liquid fat, an acid, and seasoning (ie, at least salt):
    1. Fat: Oil of your choice, mayonnaise, nut or seed butter (mix with water to decrease viscosity)
    2. Acid: Vinegar of your choice, lemon or lime juice. My favorites are balsamic and apple cider vinegar (Some specialty vinegars will have added sugar, so read labels if you’re trying to avoid sugar).
    3. Flavor and/or something interesting: Salt, Dijon mustard, honey, garlic, herbs and spices, fruit juice, options are endless
  • Examples: Six suggestions here.
    1. Easy: If you have a blender and a little time, I highly recommend Magic Sauce. It’s tahini, olive oil, and lemon-based goddess-like dressing that I make regularly.
    2. Easier: 1/4 cup peanut butter mixed with 1/4 cup water + rice vinegar + garlic and ginger + soy sauce, tamari, or coconut aminos to taste.
    3. Easiest: parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar + a few tablespoons of dijon mustard and salt to taste.

That’s it! Greens as a base, colorful veggies for substance, interesting bits that pack flavor or texture, and a dressing you like. The salad is DONE.

If you make any of these salads or linked recipes, please leave a comment below letting me know how it turns out – maybe even share a picture. Your feedback is so helpful for me!


  • Ashley

    Making my own salad usually makes me go uggghhh, but I feel inspired now. Thanks for breaking it down and making it feel less daunting.