Recipes > Lunch/Dinner > Simple Green Salad Base Recipe

Simple Green Salad Base Recipe

The key to building a healthy simple salad recipe is to include lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, fiber-rich ingredients, and healthy fats.
green salad base recipe with all ingredients prepared in separate bowls - spring mix, chopped carrots, diced apple, pine nuts, chickpeas, quinoa, parmesan, and vinaigrette

This is one of the base recipes featured in our Whole Life Meal Plan. Just say NO to sad salads! The key to building a flavorful, satisfying salad is all about ratios. We created this simple green salad base recipe to teach you the correct ratios of ingredients so that you end up with a delicious and nourishing salad every time!

Learn How to Make the Base Recipe

Three Must Know Cooking Skills

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Culinary Tips for the Best Green Salad Recipe

If you’re trying to eat more salads throughout the week, prep ingredients ahead of time for easy day-of preparation. Diced fresh vegetables and fruits, roasted vegetables, drained and rinsed beanstoasted nuts and seeds, chopped herbs, and pre-made vinaigrettes can make tossing together a flavorful side salad a breeze! Learn more about plant-based meal prep in this article.

Drying the greens after washing ensures a crisp salad. Consider purchasing a salad spinner to complete this task if you don’t already have one.

There are lots of types of salad greens you can use. For better texture, lightly chop or shred the leafy greens first. No one likes choking on spinach stems! You can chop the greens before adding to the salad bowl, or simply shred them with a fork and knife after you’ve added everything else. Dicing or slicing all of your ingredients into bite-sized pieces makes for easier eating.

Consider blanching stronger flavored greens like curly kale and Brussels sprouts to soften the flavor, add a hint of sweetness, and provide a pop of color.

Toast nuts and seeds for the best flavor.

Create a composed salad (all of the ingredients spaced out separately), or toss it all together.

Simple Green Ingredients Substitutions

  • Leafy Greens: use any leafy green, or a combination of several. Arugula, butterhead, baby kale, lacinato kale, red or green leaf lettuce, romaine, spinach, and watercress are all great options. While iceberg lettuce technically works, it’s not as nutrient-rich or flavorful as other options. Brussels sprouts, curly kale, and cabbage are heartier and have stronger flavors, so they often do better when blanched and/or allowed time to sit in the dressing before eating. Curly kale also softens when massaged. Consider the final texture and flavor you are trying to achieve. 
  • Protein: choose animal proteins, plant proteins, or a combination! Hard cooked eggs, canned or cooked fish, diced or shredded chicken, or cooked turkey meatballs or burgers are all great animal protein options. Drained and rinsed beans, hummus, cooked or fresh tofu, tempeh, or shelled edamame are all great plant-based options.
  • Vegetables: use fresh, thawed from frozen, canned, pickled, or cooked vegetables. Choose just one or use a combination. Aim for a variety of colors and textures. Bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, onion, red cabbage, sweet potato, tomatoes (yes, technically a fruit…), and zucchini are just some options.
  • Fruit: use fresh apples, avocado, berries, figs, oranges, peaches, pears, pomegranate, or others. If using dried fruit, use just 2 Tablespoons. Dried apricots, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, dates, figs, and raisins are all delicious. Chop larger fruits into bite-sized pieces for easier eating.
  • Toasted Nuts or Seeds: use sliced, slivered, or chopped almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pistachios, or walnuts. If using seeds, choose pumpkin, sunflower, or hemp seeds. If raw, toast before adding for best flavor. We don’t recommend using flax seeds or chia seeds on a green salad, as they can be hard to eat.
  • Dressing/Vinaigrette: use a store bought variety with ingredients that you recognize, or make your own! Keep in mind the flavor profile you are trying to achieve. Apple cider, balsamic, strawberry, and red wine vinaigrettes are some of our favorites.

Base Recipe Variations

Remember that this is a base recipe, so the goal is for you to customize it to your taste! Keep it simple or spruce it up!

Use these additional ingredients for even more flavor and texture.

  • Whole Grain: use cooked brown rice, barley, bulgur, farro, millet, or quinoa. If using starchy vegetables, like potatoes or corn, feel free to leave the whole grain out.
  • Cheese: we recommend strongly flavored cheeses because just a little bit goes a long way. Asiago, blue, feta, goat, gorgonzola, and parmesan are some of our favorites. If making a vegan green salad, you may choose to substitute nutritional yeast for a similar cheesy flavor.
  • Fresh Herbs: basil, cilantro, dill, fennel, mint, oregano, parsley, and thyme are all delicious in salads. When choosing herbs, keep in mind the flavor profile you are trying to achieve. We don’t recommend fresh rosemary, as it is hard and best used in cooking. While dried herbs can offer some nutritional benefits, they taste best after cooking, so we don’t recommend using them in a green salad. If you do want to use them, add a sprinkle – not the full 2 Tablespoons – to the dressing.

When selecting ingredients, it can be helpful to think of a cuisine or flavor profile you are trying to achieve. Italian, Mediterranean, Greek, Thai, Chinese, Indian, Mexican, and Latin are just some cuisines to consider. Use your creativity and imagination! 

Want to turn into a side salad? Check out our simple side salad base recipe!

Want some salad flavor inspiration?

Use this recipe variation for inspiration, then have fun exploring other flavors, ingredients, and textures!

Equipment Recommendations for this Basic Salad Recipe

Use these kitchen tools for recipe success:

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Is this a Healthy Salad Recipe?

Believe it or not, not all salads are healthy. Marshmallow salad anyone? Even “healthy” looking salad ingredients can have way too much fat, sugar, and salt (as is the case in most fast food salads). The key to building a healthy simple salad recipe is to include lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, fiber-rich ingredients, and healthy fats.

Leafy Greens

Leafy green veggies are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that promote health and help fight diseases. 

Lean Protein

Healthy salad recipes with protein can help you feel satisfied. No matter which protein option you choose, all provide health benefits!

Chicken and turkey are both lean protein sources. They are rich in B vitamins and minerals, such as iron. White meat is considered moderately protective or neutral on cancer risk. We recommend purchasing organic if it is within your budget.

Fish is a quality source of protein that is rich in vitamins and minerals. Fatty fish, like salmon, is high in EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, which is good for heart and brain health.

Eggs provide high quality protein and can contribute omega-3 fatty acids to the diet if fortified or pasture raised. Although eggs contain dietary cholesterol, the effects of this intake may or may not significantly increase your blood cholesterol.

Beans & Legumes

Beans are packed with high quality nutrients. All of the world’s longest lived populations consume beans daily. Beans contain plant-based protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients promote gut health, decrease risk of developing heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and promote a healthy weight.

Fruits, Vegetables, & Herbs

Fruits, vegetables, and herbs provide fiber, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. The phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables are different from the ones found in animal protein, whole grains, and beans, so it’s important to eat a variety of foods from all of these food groups!

Whole Grains

Whole grains, such as brown rice, farro, quinoa, and barley are good sources of fiber, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Fiber is important for digestion, satiety, stable blood sugar, good cholesterol, and healthy gut bacteria. Phytonutrients work as antioxidants to help fight off diseases and keep us well. 

Nuts & Seeds

Nuts and seeds of all varieties contain plant-based protein, fiber, and healthy fats. These nutrients help you feel satisfied between meals and can promote heart and brain health. 

Vinaigrette

A healthy vinaigrette dressing made from extra virgin olive oil and vinegar or citrus adds flavor and nutrition to salads. 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.

Learn more about health benefits of different foods and ingredients in our book, To Your Taste!

Salad Serving Suggestions

If you use all or most of the toppings, this salad is a filling plant-forward meal on its own! You can also split the salad between 2-3 people for a nourishing side to another main course, such as whole grain pasta or homemade pizza.

Salad Storage Tips

If preparing in advance, leave the dressing off until ready to serve. Green salad dressing will wilt tender greens, making the stored salad quite unappetizing. However, if using heartier leafy greens, such as kale, cabbage, or Brussels sprouts, you are fine to leave the dressing on for 3-4 days. 

If you want to prepare the salad ahead of time but don’t want the greens to wilt, consider purchasing a salad container that has a separate dressing container.

Want more salad recipes?

Try out these favorites!

Simple Side Salad Base Recipe

Shredded Brussels Sprouts Base Recipe

Grain Salad Base Recipe

Black Bean Corn Salad

Mediterranean Lentil Salad

green salad base recipe with all ingredients prepared in separate bowls - spring mix, chopped carrots, diced apple, pine nuts, chickpeas, quinoa, parmesan, and vinaigrette

Simple Green Salad Base Recipe

This is one of the base recipes featured in our Whole Life Meal Plan. We created our simple green salad base recipe to teach you the correct ratios of ingredients so that you end up with a delicious and nourishing salad every time!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Main Course, Salad
Servings 1 entree salad

Ingredients
  

Base Recipe

  • 3 cups loosely packed leafy greens
  • 2-3 ounces protein
  • ½-1 cup vegetables (fresh, cooked, and/or pickled)
  • ½ cup diced fresh fruit (or 2 Tablespoons dried)
  • 2 Tablespoons dressing or vinaigrette
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Additions to YOUR taste

  • ¼ cup cooked whole grain
  • 2 Tablespoons crumbled or shredded cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons toasted nuts or seeds
  • 1-2 Tablespoons chopped fresh herbs

Instructions
 

  • Place all ingredients in a medium bowl. Have fun composing artistically or toss to combine. Enjoy!

Notes

For better texture, lightly chop or shred the leafy greens first. No one likes choking on spinach stems! In fact, dice or slice all of your ingredients into bite size pieces for easier eating.
 
See the ingredient substitutions section of the article for more greens, protein, vegetable, fruit, and flavor ideas.
 
Check out this recipe for flavor inspiration!
Chickpea Green Salad
Keyword Simple Green Salad

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