How To Make The Best Plant-Based Salad

It’s summer. And it’s the time when you do not want to cook and stand over a hot stove.  It acts against A/C. You get uncomfortably sweaty. And eating hot foods like soup or pasta might not be as comforting as they were on a snowy winter Sunday night.

That’s where salads come in.

They are refreshing.

They use up your fresh produce.

They add variety and color to your diet.

While most of the times I just throw together whatever is in the fridge, and top it with a salad dressing, I still have a basic formula to follow to get the perfect salad.

garden kale for plant-based salad
I like kale so much, I decided to plant it in my garden for fresh summer salads!

Greens

I’ve learned that sometimes the toppings are better than the basic base of the a salad, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t start with the leafy greens.

My go-to is spinach, as I can eat it cold in a salad, put it in a smoothie, or cook it in a recipe. However, some other greens include kale (massage it first to get a more tender texture), romaine lettuce, and cabbage.

avocado, tomato, mushroom, red onion and apricot for plant-based salad
Grab the imperfect stuff. Salads are great because you mix everything together, so using imperfect product helps lead to less food waste, while still being delicious.

Vegetables and Fruits

The bulk of my salads are the vegetables. It’s honestly usually whatever is in my produce drawer. Some of my staples that can be tomatoes, carrots, peppers, red onions, and mushrooms.

However, you can add olives  with a Greek-style.

Or corn for a Mexican-style salad.

Or bok choy and edamame for Asian.

But don’t just limit yourself to vegetables. If you want a super refreshing summer salad, try adding farmer’s market strawberries or blueberries. Mandarin oranges and pears also add tangy bites to the salad recipe.

protein for plant--based salads
Some of my favorite proteins included beans and this easy falafel mix from Trader Joe’s!

Protein

Being vegan, I specifically try to sneak my protein in whenever I can. Things like quinoa, falafel, beans, and chickpeas are the perfect way to add a good amount of protein to round out the water-y vegetables present in the salad.

Grains and Carbs

While proteins like beans and quinoa offer a substantial amount of carbs, sometimes, when proteins aren’t available, it’s still good to add some grains and carbs.

I look towards specifically cous cous and rice. Cous cous is my personal favorite, as it’s easy to make, and ads a lot of substance, while still staying light. Plus, it keeps me a little more full than just eating the fruits and vegetables on a bed of lettuce.

toppings for plant-based salads
Things like pepitas, nuts, and nutritional yeast add great textures and flavors to vegetable salads.

Crunchies and Toppings

Arguably the best part of salads. Homemade croutons. Pepitas. Tortilla chips.  Rice noodles. Almonds.  While the crunch of the spinach or lettuce is satisfying, all are great options when adding “oomph” to your salad.

And more toppings the better. Nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor. Craisins for an added texture. Fresh lemon for some zing. Take a look in your cupboard and see what snacks can be an unexpected new favorite.

dressings for plant-based salads
Random condiments in your fridge? Try mixing them with olive oil and vinegar to make homemade salad dressings.

Dressing

The cherry on top of the salad (metaphorically).  I love simple things like oil and balsamic vinegar, but if I want to spice things up, I like to keep tahini, mustard, Vegenaise, and apple cider vinegar on hand to add some more flavors and thicknesses.

Making my own dressings is so great because it stops me from going through so many plastic bottles of dressing, but also I love dairy-free products from Primal Kitchen or local companies (in glass bottles, of course!). And, if i’m getting low on a salad dressing I love, I opt for adding in some extra olive oil and vinegar to make it last a little longer.

 

What’s your go-to salad?

Your full-time plant eater and full-time salad lover,

 

AJ

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