Recipes > Salad > Simple Side Salad Base Recipe

Simple Side Salad Base Recipe

The key to building a healthy side salad recipe is to include lots of colorful fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, as seen in this recipe!
simple side salad base recipe with strawberries, almonds, and feta cheese

This is one of the base recipes as seen in our Whole Life Meal Plan. The key to building flavorful, satisfying side salads is all about ratios. We created this simple side salad base recipe to teach you the correct ratios of ingredients so that you end up with delicious and nourishing salads every time!

Must Know Cooking Skills

For recipe success, learn how to:

Culinary Tips for the Best Simple Side 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 beans, toasted nuts and seeds, chopped herbs, and pre-made vinaigrettes can make tossing together a flavorful side salad a breeze! Keep reading for more about the best green salad ingredients.

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! In fact, dice or slice all of your ingredients into bite size pieces 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.

If prepping the day before and using a lighter leafy green (i.e. baby spinach, arugula, romaine), do not add the dressing to the salad or it will get soggy. If using a heartier green, like curly kale, skip the blanching step and allow it to sit overnight in the dressing to soften.

Toast nuts and seeds for the best flavor.

If preparing the side salad for more than one person, multiply the ingredients by your desired yield, toss all the ingredients together, then portion onto separate plates for easier serving. 

If you have picky eaters, allow individuals to add toppings to their taste.

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. 
  • Vegetables: use fresh, thawed from frozen, canned, pickled, sauteed, or roasted 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, and zucchini are just some options.
  • Fruit: use fresh diced apples, avocado, berries, figs, oranges, peaches, pears, pomegranate, or others. If using dried fruit, use just 1 Tablespoon. 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 favorite simple salad dressings.

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.

  • 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. 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 small sprinkle 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 this side salad into a full meal? Check out our simple green 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 Easy Salad Recipe

Use these kitchen tools for recipe success:

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 side salad recipe is to include lots of colorful fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, as seen in this recipe!

Colorful Fruits, Vegetables, & Herbs

Fruits, leafy green veggies, herbs, and other vegetables are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that promote health and help fight diseases. It’s important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, as each color provides different benefits!

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. 


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 or in our book, To Your Taste!

Side Salad Serving Suggestions

Make a full meal by serving this simple side salad with roasted sweet potatoes and simple turkey meatballs, with a filling salmon burger, or alongside Moroccan baked fish and roasted potatoes and carrots.

Salad Storage Tips

If preparing in advance, leave the dressing off until ready to serve. 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 Green Salad Base Recipe

Shredded Brussels Sprouts Base Recipe

Grain Salad Base Recipe

Black Bean Corn Salad

Mediterranean Lentil Salad

simple side salad base recipe with strawberries, almonds, and feta cheese

Simple Side Salad Base Recipe

This is one of the base recipes featured in our Whole Life Meal Plan. This simple side salad base recipe teaches you ratios of ingredients so you can create delicious and nourishing salads any time!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Salad, Side
Servings 1 side salad


Base Recipe

  • 2 cups loosely packed leafy greens
  • ¼ cup vegetables (fresh, cooked, and/or pickled)
  • 2 Tablespoons diced fresh fruit (or 1 Tablespoon dried)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons dressing or vinaigrette
  • 1 Tablespoon toasted nuts or seeds
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Additions to YOUR taste

  • 1 Tablespoon crumbled or shredded cheese
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh herbs


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


For better texture, lightly chop or shred the leafy greens first.
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.
Check out this recipe for flavor inspiration!
Strawberry Feta Salad
Keyword Simple Side Salad

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