This is one of our base recipes. When it comes to grain salads, the options are endless! We’ve developed a guide on some good ratios for grains to vegetables to dressing so that you can make a delicious and easy grain salad personalized to your taste!
Are Grain Salads Healthy?
This grain salad features whole grains, fruits and/or vegetables, beans, and vinaigrette dressing – all healthy ingredients!
Whole grains, such as brown rice, farro, and barley are a good source of fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. Fiber is important for digestion, satiety, stable blood sugar, good cholesterol, and healthy gut bacteria. Phytochemicals work as antioxidants to help fight off diseases and keep us well.
Fruits and Vegetables
Just like whole grains, fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. The phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables are different from the ones found in whole grains and beans, so it’s important to eat foods from all of these food groups!
Beans of all varieties are a great source of plant-based protein. They are also high in complex carbohydrates and fiber.
A healthy vinaigrette dressing made from extra virgin olive oil and vinegar or citrus adds flavor and nutrition to a grain salad. The fats and oils in vinaigrette help your body absorb certain nutrients in the salad, so avoid fat-free varieties. For optimal nutrition, make the vinaigrette yourself using pantry staple ingredients.
Culinary Tips for a Healthy Grain Salad
Is choosing your own ingredients overwhelming? To make these choices easier, think about a specific theme or cuisine to select ingredients, such as Mexican, Italian, or Greek.
A variety of textures is important for overall satisfaction, so try to include crunchy, chewy, creamy, and soft ingredients.
Use leftover cooked grains to make the recipe come together faster.
If adding nuts, toast them first for best flavor.
Be sure to drain and rinse the beans well.
Chop fruits and vegetables into bite-sized pieces that will be easy to eat as part of a spoonful.
If you want your grain salad to hold well all week, choose heartier vegetables or fruits that won’t get mushy or spoil quickly.
- Grains: any whole grain will work, but we recommend against using oats. Choose intact whole grains that keep their shape like brown rice, farro, quinoa, barley, and spelt. Refined grains like white rice can also be used, but the salad won’t be as nutritious.
- Beans: any variety will work. If using canned beans, look for low-sodium options. Sodium-free options can also work, but from the culinary perspective, beans taste better when salt is added during the cooking process as opposed to afterwards.
- Vegetables: fresh, frozen, or canned can all work. Thaw frozen vegetables overnight. Drain and rinse canned vegetables to remove excess sodium.
- Fruit: use fresh or dried. Don’t use frozen fruit; it gets mushy when thawed and won’t provide the right texture.
- Dressing: any type of dressing will work. We prefer vinaigrettes to creamy dressings for nutrition reasons, but we realize that creamy types can be delicious too! If purchasing a creamy dressing, look for ingredients that you can recognize and pronounce. Pesto is another tasty option too.
Remember that this is a base recipe, so the goal is for you to customize it to your taste! Use our formula as a guide, but don’t be afraid to change the ratios or add extra ingredients, including spices.
Need some recipe inspiration?
Try some of these delicious whole grain salad variations and then experiment with your favorite vegetables and add-ins to make it your own!
Served cold or warm, a grain salad can be a light meal on its own, or a side to another dish, like our pesto crusted salmon.
How to Store a Grain Salad
Want grain salads for lunch all week? They can last that long, depending on the ingredients you choose! Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Remember that heartier vegetables, like celery, carrots, and beans, will hold up longer than tomatoes, berries, or avocados. Add perishable ingredients like these on the day you plan to eat the salad.
Want some more healthy salad recipes?
Check out these easy, healthy recipe ideas!
This is one of our base recipes, teaching you how to build your own grain salad. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, & a vinaigrette are really all it takes!
- 3 cups cooked whole grain (~1 cup dry grain)
- 2-3 cups diced vegetables*, diced fresh fruit, &/or drained & rinsed beans
- ¼-¾ cup add-ins (cheese, chopped nuts, &/or dried fruit)
- ¼ cup chopped, fresh herbs
- ¼ cup homemade or store-bought vinaigrette
- Salt & pepper to taste
Cook grain according to directions. Once cooked, place in a large bowl to cool.
Place vegetables, fresh fruit, beans, add-ins, herbs, and vinaigrette in the bowl with the slightly cooled grain. Using a spatula, fold until well-combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!
*Vegetables can be fresh, frozen & thawed, or cooked!
Not sure what whole grain to select? There are so many options! Quinoa, brown rice, farro, barley, bulgur, kamut, etc. all work great!