7 Ways to Make a Better Salad for Lunch
Salad for lunch, it's just a smart move. All those healthy proteins and fresh vegetables, they keep your body feeling light and your brain focused and alert -- so you'll never nod-off during important afternoon meetings. Of course, there's no point in packing a healthy salad if it's so boring that you end up skipping it in favor of fried chicken from the corner store.
With that in mind, we've gathered seven simple tricks and techniques that chefs use to build better, more satisfying salads. Slip in a little extra protein here, add some flavor bonuses there, and you'll be creating killer salads that excite your tastebuds, energize your afternoons, and hold off hunger long past happy hour.
1. Keep It Fresh
The worst thing that can happen to a salad is when it loses its snap by lunchtime. To keep everything fresh, pack each component separately or divide ingredients with cupcake liners or parchment paper to make sure nothing leaks. Alternatively, a properly assembled Mason jar salad does this by making sure certain ingredients don't touch each other. For example, use a big slice of salami or cheese to keep your lettuce from touching the tomatoes. With this Asian Chicken Salad, you layer mostly dry ingredients into a jar and then jazz things up at lunchtime with a tangy dressing you pull from a separate container.
2. Lose The Lettuce
With time, greens get wilty. So if you're leery of limp lettuce, there are plenty of salads that go without the greens and get right to the exciting parts. This Antipasto Salad is a quick, easy favorite—no greens in sight. Make it for your own lunch, pack it in a kid's lunch box, or do as Allrecipe's user KristyT did and take it to share with co-workers. She says, "this was easy to make and so good! I made it for a luncheon at work and it was a hit."
3. Get Dressed
This is probably not the first time you've heard about the importance of homemade salad dressing: It's just better, especially with dressings like Green Goddess, where freshness matters. Homemade salad dressings use technique to marry fresh ingredients together, while store-bought ones tend to rely on additives to hold them together. The best thing about making dressing is that you don't need to worry about properly emulsifying it so it stays together—just put the ingredients in a screw-top jar, give it a hard shake, then quickly dress the salad. Here are 10 essential salad dressings to get you started.
4. Crunch Away
No salad should go without crunch! The satisfying noise, the textural fun, the exciting hidden nibbles in a salad: crunching is, perhaps, the best part of a salad. Whether you're using croutons, bluetons, or cornbread crumbles; pepitas, almonds, or snap pea crisps, any kind of crunch does the trick. For extra fun and flavor, you can even put slices of salami or other deli meat in a hot pan to crisp up, then crumble them over the top of the salad.
5. Compose Yourself
Since we know you eat with your eyes first, the key to an appealing salad is making it beautiful. Enter the composed salad. Or, to be fancy and French about it, the salade composée. Basically, it means that you arrange the salad by ingredient, in little piles, colorful stripes, or whatever design your heart desires. You can use any type of salad for this, but it works best with many colorful ingredients, as in a Cobb salad, or something with lots of sliced up deli meats or cheeses in nice rows. RALLWATER is a fan of the Cobb salad for lunch, saying, "Delicious salad!! I usually don't like vegetables or salad, but I ate this salad every day for lunch until it was gone. Will definitely make again." See how to make a Cobb salad:
6. Cook Ahead
Summer salads are often light, bright arrangements of lettuce and raw vegetables. But winter salads can marry dark roasted vegetables and savory boiled beans. Salads like this Greek Pasta Salad with Roasted Vegetables show how much extra flavor can come from cooking the ingredients before putting them together. Roasting or grilling vegetables also lengthens their lifespans, so you can make and store them ahead of time for those time-crunched weekdays.
7. Use Your Hands to Toss a Salad
The best tool for tossing is your hands! Weird, yes, but also way better than using any tool -- you'll get more flavor from less dressing. To toss by hand, pour in a little bit of dressing, add the greens, then use one hand to swoop them around in it. With your clean hand, add any additional ingredients and keep swishing. Keep the second hand clean until you're sure that the salad has enough dressing, then use both hands to gently but completely toss the salad.
Check out our complete collection of Salad Recipes.