Simple Salads Everyone Needs To Know How To Make

Let's be honest, salads are typically not the most exciting items we see on a menu. It's easy to connote these dishes as bland and, dare we say, boring. That's most likely why salads are relegated to side dish status or eaten as a first course before the real food gets to the table. And if we do opt for a salad as a meal, it's often for lights meals or in adherence to a healthier lifestyle. But why does it have to be one or the other? Why can't we have hearty, nutritious salads that also pack a flavor punch?  

These salad recipes are just that. And the cherry (tomato) on top is that they are all very easy to make at home. From the traditional staples like Caesar and Greek salads to more unique dishes like tomato cucumber, vegetable pasta, and taco salad, these are simple salads even the most amateur chef can whip up at home.

Caprese salad

You might not find an easier upgraded salad recipe than one for caprese salad. There's no cook time so all you have to do is slice the ingredients and assemble them on the plate, and our recipe has just six ingredients: fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. 

The beauty of the caprese salad is that it truly highlights the fresh produce. When making such a simple dish consisting of very few ingredients, there's nowhere for poor quality items to hide. "Whenever dealing with so few ingredients in a fresh preparation, the better the ingredients, the better the final dish will be," says chef and recipe developer Nathaniel Lee.

To put everything together, slice the tomato and mozzarella, and alternate laying the two ingredients and fresh basil across the plate. Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a dash of salt and pepper to taste.

Antipasto salad

Who says a great salad has to be based on green leafy vegetables? Not us, that's for sure. Enter the ever-popular antipasto salad. No proper Italian feast can go without it, but this salad can be served alongside just about anything (barbecue anyone?)

The great thing about an antipasto is that there really are no rules, you can add whatever you think will work. Want more heat? Throw in some spicy jalapeños. Hankering for a bit of protein? Chop up some grilled chicken.

We will keep things basic for this recipe so that you have a solid base to work with, but know that many ingredients can be substituted. To get started, cook a short, thick pasta (like rotini or penne). When it's done, combine it with the vegetables and mix with a sauce of olive oil, red wine vinegar, mustard, oregano, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add some vegetables, and you're good to go!

Taco salad

The next best thing to eating a taco with your hands is eating a taco with a fork – same great taste, less messy fingers. What makes this taco salad recipe even better is that it is easy to put together, adaptable, and likely healthier than what you'll find at your local taco takeout spot.

Once the sauce is made by combining mayonnaise, sour cream, apple cider vinegar, dried dill, Kosher salt, and taco seasoning, and the meat has cooked, you're essentially ready to start serving. You can plate everyone's salad for them, but since most people like different toppings, we suggest putting the meat in a large serving dish and setting up your own version of a taco bar. Surround the meat with small bowls of toppings — tortilla strips, shredded lettuce, sliced black olives, sliced pickled jalapeños, sliced green onions, shredded Mexican cheese, chopped tomatoes, chopped avocado, pico de gallo or other salsa — and whatever your heart desires!

Caesar salad

The Caesar salad is a staple on restaurant menus across the country, and although its dressing is deceptively intricate, this simple Caesar salad recipe is certainly one you can make at home from scratch.

What separates a Caesar from other salads is most notably its aforementioned unique dressing, so this is where you should spend most of your time. The dressing requires garlic, salt, anchovy paste, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and a lot of vigorous whisking. Once you're Caesar salad dressing is complete, you're essentially done. Place lettuce, croutons, and Parmesan cheese in a bowl and toss with the dressing. If you're feeling fancy, throw in some raspberries or cherry tomatoes for an extra kick.

Cobb salad

Chef, nutrition expert, food writer, and recipe developer Maren Epstein says this Cobb salad recipe "has everything in it, chicken, cheese, eggs, veggies." Translation: feel free to eat this salad for any meal of the day. The recipe may look more difficult than it is, in part because you can do all the prep work ahead of time. When it's time to eat, just assemble and serve.

Cobb salads, which were founded amid Hollywood history, are known for their distinctive ingredients, including bacon, chicken, and a hard boiled egg. Cooking these will take up most of the recipe time. Once they are ready, you're going to chop your vegetables and prepare your other ingredients. Then, simply place the lettuce in a salad bowl and top with red onion, eggs, tomatoes, blue cheese, avocado, chicken breast, and bacon. Drizzle with an olive oil based dressing and you're ready to eat!

Grilled Summer Vegetable Pasta Salad

Just when you thought salads require nothing but cutting and mixing greens, we bring you our vegetable pasta salad recipe. For this recipe, we're going to grill all of our vegetables, including asparagus, bell pepper, summer squash, zucchini, onion, and cherry tomatoes. These veggies will need to cook for roughly 20 minutes for optimal taste. While this is happening, cook the pasta (we recommend penne), and when both the pasta and vegetables are done, combine the two, drizzle some olive oil and stir in some Parmesan cheese. Just like that, and you have the perfect side dish.

Waldorf salad

The name Waldorf may sound fancy, but truth be told our Waldorf salad recipe is a walk in the park. What's unique about this recipe is that registered dietitian and recipe developer Kristen Carli substitutes Greek yogurt for mayonnaise. "Greek yogurt is a healthier alternative to mayo because it is high in protein," Carli says. "Protein helps make this recipe more balanced."

Whichever dairy option you choose, the recipe remains incredibly simple. Brown the walnuts and add the seasoned yogurt to the chopped apples, celery, walnuts, and grapes. Then, serve everything on a bed of lettuce. We recommend upping the ante on your Waldorf salad with some raisins, dried cranberries, diced pears, or diced peaches for some fruity flair.

Cucumber tomato salad

The recipe for a cucumber tomato salad is a simple as it sounds. Aside from the namesake ingredients, you'll just be working with oils and spices. To be specific, you'll need red onion, fresh basil, chopped fresh parsley, dried oregano, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and black pepper

When you're ready to get started, all you need to do is combine the produce items and in a separate bowl, make the dressing, which is an emulsification of red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. When that's done, combine the salad and the dressing, mixing well, and you're all ready to serve.

Greek salad

Greek salads have several defining features (feta cheese, olives) but maybe none more so that its delicious salad dressing. So that's where we're going to start for this Greek salad recipe. Making the dressing might seem complicated, but it's more about the ingredients than the method: Combine garlic, olive oil, Dijon mustard, white balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, sour cream, dried oregano, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper in a jar. Shake the jar. You're done. If you're not serving it right away you can store the dressing in the fridge and shake again before using.

The rest of the recipe is simply washing and prepping your vegetables. When it comes to assembling your Greek salad, we recommend doing so in layers. This will ensure the toppings and dressing and distributed throughout the salad. Place a handful or two of lettuce at the bottom of the bowl, top with tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, onion, and feta cheese, and then pour about one-quarter of the dressing. Repeat the process until you have yourself a bowlful of delectable, hearty Greek salad.