These hearty and healthy vegan salad recipes are filled with rich sources of plant protein, and bright and flavorful seasonal produce. They are satisfying enough to make a meal, perfect for busy mid-week lunches, or a well rounded dinner. Or prepare these salads as a side dish for your dinner party.
These are not your typical boring side salad recipes with some lettuce, and a few tomato and cucumber slices, with a flavorless vinaigrette! Oh, no! These salads are full of flavor, interesting veggies, rich sources of protein, and transforming dressings. Salad will quickly become your new favorite course!
They are perfect when crafting your vegan prep meals for the week. They make excellent mid-week lunches, and easy weeknight dinners.
For some, salad has become the equivalent of boring. It’s no wonder, if you peruse the salad section of a menu at a non-vegan restaurant.
When it comes to vegan options, there’s usually only one, a small side of boring mixed greens.
Just a few months ago I went out to lunch with my family. I was starving and in the mood for a salad. We were on vacation and I wasn’t feeling like I had gotten enough veggies in the last few days. I was really looking forward to a big bowl of greens, topped with my favorite veggies.
There on the menu was a Berry Kale Salad! Perfect, I thought! The description stated it had baby kale, berries, cucumber, pickled onion, granola, goat cheese, and a strawberry vinaigrette.
I’m used to modifying things on the menu, so I asked for the salad without the goat cheese, and the dressing on the side.
I was informed by the server that they were out of kale. Ok, weird, but I’m flexible. She said they could do mixed greens instead. “Sure,” I said. “That is fine.”
When the salad came out it was on a small side dish. The greens were limp (out of kale), there were a total of four strawberry slices (which equated to maybe one strawberry quartered), a tablespoon of granola, and no pickled onions at all. It was the saddest salad I had seen in a long time!
I was super disappointed because I know making a vegan salad is not difficult! It does not have to be boring! You do not need eggs, cheese, chicken, or bacon to turn lettuce into something spectacular!
That’s why I’m here to tell you everything you need to know to create delicious vegan salad recipes at home with very little effort. Then you can peruse the 25 recipes below for more inspiration!
Maybe the restaurants will catch on soon!
What are the different types of vegan salads?
Did you know that there are 5 standard types of salads? They are green, fruit, grain and pasta, bound, and dinner salads.
- Green salads, often referred to as a garden salad is made from a variety of leafy greens such as spinach, arugula, and kale or a variety of lettuces. It is then topped with some fresh veggies. This is the typical salad you’ll see served as a side salad in a restaurant.
- A fruit salad is composed of a variety of fruits. Sometimes those salads also have some greens! You can have a fresh berry salad with blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Or you can also have a melon salad with cantaloupe, honey dew, and watermelon. A tropical fruit salad might include pineapple, kiwi, and mango.Or simply prepare a fruit salad using any fruits you have. Just mix them all together to create a mélange of fruits.
- Grain and pasta salads are served cold or warm depending on the season. Instead of lettuce or greens being the main ingredient or base of the salad, grains or pasta are the primary ingredients.
- A bound salad has a thick creamy dressing that holds it all together. Typically this is mayonnaise in non-vegan salads. A bound salad will hold its shape when scooped and placed on a plate. Think tuna salad, chicken salad, egg salad, and potato salads as your standard bound salad recipes. These are also the type of salads that are used as sandwich fillings in many cases. While it may seem difficult to have vegan versions of these bound salads, it is quite simple, and extra delicious!
- A dinner salad is a larger portioned salad that also contains a protein source and often added grains. For vegans this may include beans, lentils, peas, nuts, vegan cheeses, or a combination. They are larger servings than your typical salad.
What are the best things to put in a vegan salad?
When it comes to making your salad into a delicious meal, what you put in or on your salad is what will make it something special.
- Veggies-Load your salad with all of your favorite veggies! This can include your standard veggies such as carrots, tomato, cucumber, onion, bell peppers, and radishes. But also consider more seasonal veggies. Scroll down for my favorite seasonal veggies to add to your salad recipes.
- Fresh fruit and berries-Adding some fresh fruit such as berries adds a touch of sweetness and tartness to your salad along with antioxidants! Try blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. In the summer, consider stone fruit like peaches, nectarines or plums. Apples and pears add a nice crunch!
- Dried Fruit-Adding dried fruit is a great way to add flavor and texture to your salads all year long. When fresh seasonal fruit isn’t as easy to get your hands on, dried fruit like cherries, and cranberries add that sweet/tart flavor. Look for dried fruit with no added sugar to keep it healthy!
- Seeds and Nuts-When it comes to salads, like other dishes, texture is an important element to consider. Seeds and nuts not only add some crunch to your salad, but they also add healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, and protein too! Some of my favorite seeds include pumpkin, chia, flax, and sunflower. When it comes to nuts, try using raw if possible. This way you are getting all of the nutrients without added salts or oils. Any variety of nut is excellent to use. Some of my favorites include walnuts, almonds, cashews, pine nuts, pecans and pistachios.
- Legumes are all varieties of beans, lentils and split peas. They are an excellent source of both protein and fiber. Adding them to your salads helps to create a well rounded healthy and hearty meal.
- Whole Grains when added to a salad creates extra depth and added fiber! It can turn a salad into something hearty and filling in no time. Add quinoa, farro, brown rice, or barley to name a few.
How do you make a salad not boring?
In order to make your salad interesting, flavorful and anything but boring, you’ll not only need interesting add-ins as mentioned above, but also a simple and flavorful vegan salad dressing. Keep it healthy by making your own at home. Most vegan salad dressings take less than 5 minutes to make and use a few simple ingredients. It will really enhance the flavors of your salad.
What veggies go best in salad?
When it comes to adding veggies to your salad, think seasonal. This will give you the best flavor, and your salad will feel in keeping with the season. Refer to the seasonal produce list when crafting your salads at home.
Winter Seasonal Veggies:
When winter hits it’s time to enjoy those sturdy fruits and vegetables.
- Winter Squash (butternut, acorn)
- Brussels Sprouts
- Sweet potatoes and yams
- Swiss Chard
- Collard Greens
Spring Seasonal Veggies:
With spring comes new fresh produce. Many of the veggies are similar to what you would enjoy during the winter months, as spring is the time of planting. But a few new veggies pop up early!
- Collard Greens
- Swiss Chard
Summer Seasonal Produce:
Once summer hits you have a whole new world of veggies to enjoy!
- Bell Peppers
- Green Beans
- Lima Beans
- Summer Squash
Fall Seasonal Produce:
As fall approaches many fresh seasonal vegetables from summer are still in season since it’s harvest time! As the temperatures cool sturdy vegetables take the lead.
- Bell Peppers
- Brussels Sprouts
- Collard Greens
- Green Beans
- Sweet Potatoes and Yams
- Swiss Chard
- Winter Squash
Protein Sources to Add to Your Vegan Salad Recipes
There is a wide variety of beans you can add to your salads. Beans add both protein and fiber which really bulks up your salad and makes it a filling and hearty meal. They are excellent for heart health, and contain vitamins such as folate, and nutrients like antioxidants.
Some of my favorite beans to include on salads are chickpeas or garbanzo beans, kidney beans, black beans, and white beans.
Lentils are also legumes like beans. They too are an excellent source of both protein and fiber. Low in calories and fat, yet super flavorful, lentils are rich in vitamins and minerals such as iron, and folic acid.
Lentils come in many different varieties including green, red, yellow, brown, and black. Depending on the type of lentil you use they will have a slightly different flavor, texture, and cooking time.
Split Peas and Tofu
Split Peas and peas are also considered a legume because they grow in a pod like beans and lentils. They are yellow or green in color. They are grown specifically for drying. They look very similar to lentils. Splitting the peas allows for a faster cooking time. Like legumes and beans they are high in protein and fiber, and low in fat.
Tofu is another protein source you can add to your vegan salad recipes. When baked or making air fryer tofu, it can take on a nice firm consistency that tastes great!
Whole Grains to Add
Quinoa is actually a seed. It is an excellent source of protein, but because of its consistency and the way it is cooked it often falls into the grain category. It cooks quickly, and adds a nutty flavor and texture.
Quinoa has many important health benefits. Unlike other sources of plant-protein, quinoa is a complete protein because it contains all of the amino-acids. It has an even higher amount of fiber than many other grains. This grain is also gluten-free!
Brown Rice is more nutritious than its white counterpart. It is gluten-free and high in fiber. When added to salads it adds fiber which helps fill you help and feel satiated for a longer period of time. This is why it’s a great grain to add to vegan salad recipes.
Farro is another excellent whole grain. Unlike quinoa and brown rice it is not gluten-free. Farro is higher in protein than other grains, and also high in fiber. It has a chewy texutre when cooked, and a nutty flavor.
Barley and farro look very similar, but have a slightly different taste and texture. Barley is also a good source of fiber and other nutrients such as manganese and selenium.
Enjoying Warm Salads in Winter
Salads do not have to be cold! When the weather cools, and you’re in the mood for something warm and comforting, yet still filled with veggies, and nutrients it’s time to turn to warm salads!Warm salads are filled with roasted veggies, and cooked grains.
How to Make Hearty and Healthy Vegan Salad Recipes – Step by Step
If you’re going the traditional route with a leafy green vegan salad recipe, here are the step by step instructions for creating something spectacular using ingredients you have, and choosing your favorite additions.
STEP 1: Choose a leafy green for your base-Kale, spinach, mixed greens, mustard greens, or shredded cabbage.
STEP 2: Add colorful veggies or fruits-Use the seasonal veggie list to choose a wide variety of your favorite veggies. Try using veggies of varying colors. Sprinkle some dried or fresh fruit for added color, nutrients, and a touch of sweetness.
STEP 3: Add your protein-Decide what type of vegan protein you want to add to your salad: chickpeas, beans lentils, tofu, or edamame.
STEP 4: Add some whole grains-Add some whole grains such as quinoa, barley, or farro. A little goes a long way. I recommend ¼ cup or less per serving.
STEP 5: Add some crunch! This is when it’s time to add some chopped nuts, or seeds.
STEP 6: Choose your dressing-A little goes a long way! There are a variety of homemade dairy free dressings that you can quickly whip up in less than 5 minutes! My favorite is a vegan tahini dressing.
25 Hearty Healthy Vegan Salad Recipes Hearty Enough to Make a Meal
Now that you know all the elements to create a delicious, hearty, and healthy salad recipe that is everything but boring, here are 25 recipes to inspire you to dig into salad and make it your favorite course!
Anything but Boring Vegetable and Green Vegan Salad Recipes
Seasonal Fruit Vegan Salad Recipes
Whole Grain and Pasta Vegan Salad Recipes
Delicious Bound Vegan Salad Recipes
Hearty Vegan Salad Recipes for Dinner
I hope you found some hearty and healthy salads you can’t wait to dig into!
Check out these other hearty and healthy vegan round-ups!
- 38 Vegan Soup Recipes
- 37 Vegan Prep Meals
- Plant-Based Breakfast Ideas
- Plant-Based Dessert Recipes Everyone Will Love
- Easy Vegan Appetizers for Your Next Party
- 55 Healthy Vegan Snacks for the Kid In All of Us
- 20 Light and Fluffy Vegan Muffin Recipes
If you’ve tried this any of these vegan salad recipes, let me know how they turned out. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest for more plant-based family recipes your whole family will enjoy!