Making a hearty and healthy Big Batch Salad is something my family has done for ages! Consider it a homemade salad bar. Here are all my tips and ingredients to try it for yourself!
We eat a lot of salad. I mean, we eat salad pretty much every day. We LOVE salad! But just like most other humans, we don’t love making it. So let’s take a second to be honest… making salad is a bit of a pain in the derrière, yes? All that chopping and peeling and washing and then, oh for crying out loud, finding that salad spinner and then thinking “great, one more thing to wash.” And let’s not get started on the dressing.
Homemade Salad Bar
It all boils down to one thing: PREP AHEAD! I know, so annoying right? I too wish that there was a magic meal-prep fairy that would do all the work (and laundry, while we’re dreaming). But I promise you that a little bit of elbow grease at the beginning of the week will save you all kinds of headaches. You can almost think of this as a homemade salad bar. The great thing is that, no matter if you are cooking for 1 or 100, the fundamentals are the same. You don’t need fancy tools for this or most recipes to be honest, but it’s 100% worth it to invest in a quality knife and some good resealable containers that all fit together and stack nicely with lids that don’t make you want to swear every time you try to fit them on (can that fairy organize my Tupperware drawer too lol?).
How Long to Keep a Salad
Salads taste best when dressed just before serving: there are few exceptions. The base salad will keep in the refrigerated, covered in a sealed container, for up to 4 days. Add any additional toppings just before serving.
How To Make a Healthy Salad
Here are our tried and true salad secrets to help you get greens on the table for your family without breaking a sweat:
- Choose a hearty green. Kale (not baby kale…the kale I’m referring to is the curly kale but other hearty varieties work) is our green of choice. My dad told me that they used to buy it to line the salad bar as decoration when he owned his fast food restaurant (yes, you read that right, my family used to own a fast food restaurant). He really scratched his head when we started making salads out of it asking “so you can eat that stuff?” I don’t need to tell you this, but kale is FULL of goodness and it’s really hearty so won’t wilt. This is what you’re looking for. Spinach works great too.
- Build a base with your favourite ingredients that will keep when cut up. You’ll see in my suggestions below that I recommend mixing it up every day with ‘extras’, but you’ll want to build a salad base of ingredients that you’re cool with eating for a few days. You don’t have to include everything we do below, make it to fit your preferences. We try to hit the local farmer’s market in the summer at least once a week to stock up on the good stuff.
- Make your own dressing… or don’t! I mean, I try to Martha Stewart-it-up as much as I can but even a dietitian has busy days or days when I simply don’t feel like making my own dressing. This is reality. I think that we get caught up in such an ‘all or nothing’ mentality that if we don’t do it 100% we just don’t do it at all. No way. Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction my friends (my fav quote for the record). We use a lot of the Little Creek salad dressing (sooo addictive, it’s made locally out of simple organic ingredients) but companies like Maison Orphée make some killer ones too. Not all salad dressings are created equal. Look for simple ingredients that you would find in your kitchen on the ingredient list, or classic oil and vinegar works too.
- Switch it up. We build a base that we love and then throw on all sorts of goodies that we prep ahead on Sunday and place in glass re-sealable containers in the fridge and pantry to make them easy to pull out and serve (ie: grated beets, peeled hard boiled eggs etc)! I’ve given a ton of suggestions below, but use your own imagination. We will often take a look in the pantry and fridge and just create whatever we can find. It’s a great way to use up extra food like that last carrot that is kicking around in the crisper or the last few almonds in the bag that need a home. In fact, you can place a number of ingredients out for the family and create a homemade salad bar so everyone can customize their own. Giving kids a choice in the food that lands on their plates is an amazing way to encourage them to eat new fruits and veggies! Speaking of kids, I know that a lot of kids don’t like salad. But many of them will grow into it especially if they see mom and dad eating it regularly. Monkey see monkey do… eventually. I suggest not pressuring them but encouraging them to try, and re-try, new foods including salads… one day they will dig them!
Healthy Salad Base Ideas
You can design your own of course! This is roughly what we usually put in ours.
- 2 heads of kale, stems removed and torn into bite sized pieces
- 1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
- 4 green onions, finely chopped
- 2 English cucumbers, diced into 1/2″ pieces
- 1 can (540 mL) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 can (540 mL) black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1-2 red peppers, seeded and diced into 1″ pieces
- 1-2 orange or yellow peppers, seeded and diced into 1″ pieces
- 4 tomatoes, diced into 1/2″ pieces
- 4 ribs celery, diced
Salad Topping Ideas
- Dried cranberries
- Chopped dates
- Dried apricots, chopped
- Diced oranges
- Diced mango
- Sliced pear
- Diced fresh apple or orange
- Sliced strawberries
- Chopped apple (Ambrosia is best as it resists browning)
- Sliced fresh peaches
- Fresh Cherries
- Sliced firm plums
- Snap peas or sugar peas
- Shredded carrots
- Shredded beets
- Diced celery
- Broccoli (I like to blanch it first)
- Cubed roasted squash
- Homemade beet chips (or other veggie chip)
- Torn radicchio
- Chopped endive
- Shredded red cabbage
- Fresh or roasted cauliflower
- Shaved fennel
- Blanched asparagus
- Thinly sliced candy cane beets
Nuts & Seeds:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Chopped walnuts
- Chopped pecans
- Chopped almonds
- Hemp Hearts
- Fried tempeh
- Drained canned beans or lentils
- Grilled or pan seared tofu (try smoked tofu!)
- Cottage cheese
- Grilled free-range chicken
- Seared filet of wild salmon
- Canned drained tuna or salmon
- Sautéed prawns
- Hard boiled free range eggs
- Fried halloumi
- Feta cheese or vegan feta or goat cheese
- Other cubed or shredded cheese (cheddar etc)
- Crushed tortilla chips
- Croutons (try making your own!)
- Diced marinated artichokes
- Extra fresh herbs (basil, mint etc)
- Added greens (the more fragile ones like spinach and arugula)
Homemade Salad Dressings
I use this Classic Vinaigrette for almost everything! Make a big batch for the week and store in a jar in the fridge. It goes with tons of flavour combinations. If you are making a greek salad, I have a vinaigrette in this recipe here that is pretty delicious. If making something Mexican-inspired or something with fruit, this Honey Lime Vinaigrette is a winner.
The Best Salad Combinations
- Antioxidant Power Salad: Blueberries, sweet peppers, almonds, hard boiled eggs, sunflower seeds, walnuts (candied if desired), avocado
- Southwest Salad: Chopped pitted dates, black beans, tortilla chips, diced avocado, corn, diced tomato, diced red pepper, cilantro, feta, lime wedges
- California Salad: Strawberries, feta, pecans, cucumber, diced, avocado, bell pepper
Simple Salad Recipes
Here are some other salad recipes that I’ve posted in the past!
…. so many! click here for more!