Don’t underestimate the charm of an easy Garden Salad, made with lots of leafy greens and crunchy, colorful vegetables. No matter the season, you can toss up a simple green salad in minutes with a handful of fresh ingredients and the homemade salad dressing of your choice.
What’s a garden salad made of?
- At its most basic, it consists of lettuce with assorted raw vegetables and dressing. Things can go way beyond that garden salad description, though.
- Lettuces: Iceberg, baby greens, spinach, chicory, endive, arugula, Romaine, Bibb, butter leaf
- Vegetables: Tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, celery, tender beets, green beans, peas, onions, edamame
- Proteins: Bacon bits, hard-boiled egg, tofu
- Cheese: Crumbled feta, blue cheese, grated Parmesan, shredded cheddar, goat cheese
- Extras: Croutons, nuts, seeds, sprouted seeds, olives, dried fruit
- Dressing: That’s almost worth a topic all by itself. You can dress your salad up with the dressing you like the best, store-bought or homemade. If everyone at the table has a different opinion, you can simply toss the salad without dressing and let them choose their own.
Creamy dressing or vinaigrette? That’s all up to you. These days, I’m especially passionate about Homemade Ranch, made with buttermilk, mayo, and lots of herbs.
How to make a Garden Salad:
You’ll need a big bowl and some tongs or a salad serving set, maybe even the kind with individual salad bowls, so dig them out!
- Before you begin, rinse and pat dry all the vegetables and lettuce. Tear the lettuce leaves into bite-sized pieces. Then chop any raw vegetables into uniform, bite-sized pieces, too.
- Once everything is prepped, add it to the bowl. When you’re ready to serve, drizzle the dressing of your choice over the salad and toss to combine.
Tips for making the best garden salad ever:
- Chill your ingredients. If you bought cold produce, keep it cold. Lettuce stays crisp, onions stay firm, etc.
- Toss at the last minute. When you’re planning on making a large tossed salad for a crowd, wait until the last minute to pour on the dressing. The acidity in the dressing can wilt the greens.
- Don’t be afraid to season. Sometimes I add a pinch or two of salt to the salad as I’m tossing it in the dressing. It clings to the leaves and adds a little extra flavor to every bite.
- Onions. Onions and other alliums really boost the flavor of a basic green salad. Don’t go overboard and make everyone have onion breath for a week, but definitely don’t skimp on them either.
- Improvise. Don’t be afraid to substitute an ingredient for another one. It will taste great!
- Put the extras on last. Once you’re done, sprinkle on the croutons, bacon bits, seeds, or extra crumbles. Save them for the top so they don’t sink to the bottom and get lost.
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Easy Garden Salad Recipe
For the ranch dressing (or substitute store-bought):
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 6 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 tablespoon red onion minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley minced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Pinch of sugar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
- 8 cups lettuce leaves such as romaine green leaf, or iceberg, torn into bite-sized pieces
- 1 endive bulb cored and chopped
- 1 pint grape tomatoes halved lengthwise
- 4 radishes ends trimmed, halved lengthwise and sliced
- 2 carrots peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced
- 2 Persian cucumbers or 1 hot house cucumber halved lengthwise and chopped
To make the ranch dressing (or substitute store-bought):
- In a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, sour cream, red onion, dill, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste (I like ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper). Refrigerate at least 10 minutes to blend flavors. Whisk to recombine before serving.
To make the salad:
- In a large bowl, combine lettuce, endive, tomatoes, radishes, carrots, and cucumbers. Drizzle with salad dressing and toss until evenly coated.