Welcome to the Beginner’s Guide series where we’ll give you tips and tricks to navigate cooking on your own, even if you have zero experience. From meal prep, to grocery lists, or buying organic produce, we’ve got you covered with the basic tools to get you feeling confident in the kitchen. Check back every Monday for more helpful tips!
Boring salads are so 2008. These days it’s easy to get creative with so many options in grocery stores. Carrot ribbons? Crispy Chickpeas? Pickled red onions? A great salad today is a mix of fresh ingredients paired with delicious toppings to give it a whole new texture. Follow these basic rules when building your own salad.
Step 1: Pick your base - greens or grains.
There are so many nutritious greens you can use as the base of your salad, like some of the following:
- dandelion greens
- mixed greens
Try blending two different greens for a more unique taste and texture. If you're looking for a more filling option, try a mix of greens and your favorite grain. Quinoa is a light gluten-free grain that pairs well with any style of salad. Farro, barley, brown rice and wild rice are heartier options. Bonus: If you meal prep grains ahead of time, you can easily throw together a salad using your favorite greens and grains in no time.
Step 2: Spice things up by adding in some fresh herbs or microgreens.
Herbs are an excellent source of antioxidants and provide a unique flavor in addition to the greens and lettuces. Add parsley, dill, basil, chives or mint to amplify the flavor. Microgreens have a higher concentration of vitamins than most of their counterparts, so adding these in with give you more nutrients.
Step 3: Load up on veggies.
Vegetables are low in calories, but high in nutrients, meaning the more you add to your salad, the more nutritious it will be. If you are looking to impress your friends, try making carrot ribbons using a carrot peeler for a beautiful and delicious addition to your salads. Try some of these, too. The possibilities are endless!
- shredded cabbage
- hearts of palm
- artichoke hearts
- snap peas
- red onion
Step 4: Add fruit to your salad for a pop of flavor.
For an extra refreshing antioxidant and flavor boost, throw in some blueberries, or mandarin oranges. Apples are filling and pair well with goat cheese or sweet potatoes. Pomegranate seeds have a tart taste and pair well with arugula, spinach or mixed greens.
Step 5: Add more protein (or not)
Not all salads need protein in order to be super filling. If you are looking for a more protein-packed salad, try:
- hard-boiled eggs
Step 6: Add a crunchy topping and healthy fats
The best way to give your salad a little extra spunk is with some crunchy toppings or some healthy fats. Nuts and seeds like slivered almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans and pumpkin seeds will elevate your salad and give you a nutrient boost. Toasted pine nuts provide a really nutty and rich flavor, while shredded tortilla strips will satisfy your salty cravings. Crispy chickpeas are a great source of protein and avocados are an excellent source of healthy fats. If you eat dairy, try adding feta or goat cheese, which are easier to digest than other cheeses.
Step 7: Dress it up DIY!
No salad is complete without a dressing. Most pre-made salad dressings are packed with sugar and other additives, so it’s best to make your own. Building your own dressing might sound intimidating, but it’s easy once you remember this basic trick: 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil. For an Asian-style dressing, try using sesame oil and rice vinegar with a splash of soy sauce. For a simple vinaigrette try using red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and olive oil. Add in a squeeze of lemon juice for some acidity or tahini for a thicker texture.
PAIR THESE SNACKS WITH YOUR SALAD
Read More Beginner's Guides: