Weeknight Cooking

9 Satisfying Salads for Dinner Tonight—Even If You Just Have 5 Minutes

May 15, 2018

When I say I work at Food52, 10/10 people ask me: “What’s your go-to meal?” But I don’t have a recipe I turn to time and time again. Instead, I find comfort in a whole category of dishes: salads.

No matter my mood or the state of my fridge, I can always find a way to make a salad. From refreshing, crunchy slaws to satisfying grain bowls with crispy roasted toppers, I experiment with textures and tastes. Sometimes, it’s a dish that involves ten different steps of toasting and boiling and grinding. On long, tiring days, though, I'm after speed and ease, and enlist the help of canned beans and a squeeze of lemon.

Sure, I don’t have an exact recipe I can mindlessly turn to, but that’s because salads are down for improv. To show just how versatile they can be, I’ve gathered nine I can throw together in 5, 15, or 30 minutes.

If You Have 5 Minutes, Then You Can Make...

Sweet ripe mango gets welcome heat from a dash of chile powder—and heft from satisfying black beans. Don't have mango? Try this salad with pineapple, cantaloupe, or peaches instead.

Peppers, cucumbers, and chickpeas combine with creamy ricotta and quality balsamic vinegar to form a speedy, tasty bowl. Add leftover rotisserie chicken or an egg for extra oomph.

All you really need for this meal is a can opener and a lemon. I've made it with with black-eyed beans or white beans and added almonds instead of pine nuts for extra crunch.

If You Have 15 Minutes, Then You Can Make...

The orzo only needs 10 minutes to boil, and (if you’re like me) it’s a great dish to clean out that jar of olives... or peppers or capers or whatever else is taking up space in the fridge.

Leftover chicken stars in this Indian-inspired salad. A quick pan-fry infuses the warm flavors of garam masala into toasty naan—or any other flatbread—and chickpeas.

Not all salads need lettuce. This crunchy, creamy combo welcomes spring produce like fresh dill, scallions, and radish tops. To bulk it up to full-meal status, serve it over grains like farro, bulgur, or wheat berries.

If You Have 30 Minutes, Then You Can Make...

This gem from EmilyC freshens up the flavors of an egg roll with shredded carrots and cabbage. (Don’t worry, she still keeps the crispy wrappers.) And if you'd rather not crisp up some bacon, edamame or tofu would be welcome additions.

Resurrect your stale bread with the panzanella treatment and classic brunch-time flavors. Dress with lemony, olive oily Greek yogurt or a simple balsamic vinaigrette.

A bright, strawberry-studded salad that converted a salad-hating(!) member of our staff. Yes, it's that good. I don't always have goat cheese, so I've substituted with parmesan, feta, or (gasp!) sometimes skipped the cheese altogether.


What's your best 5-minute salad? Share ideas and inspiration in the comments below!

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Sophia V. May 20, 2018
I can't believe this wonderful site has a warning in the comment page. What????are the readers of your recipes not trustworthy?
Cindy F. May 20, 2018
My go to is lettuce and/or spinach, roasted beets, strawberries, thinly sliced radishes and toasted pumpkin seeds. Goat cheese makes it even better. Dressing is a drizzle of good basalmic vinegar, pinch of salt, and cracked pepper. Options: avocado, sub peaches for the strawberries. Grill the peaches if you have time.
Nicole S. May 20, 2018
A relatively new salad I concocted with what was lying around last fall:
Apple and celery, cut on a angle, lots of fresh parsley...if available...and toasted walnuts.
You can either make a dressing of Greek yogurt with Dijon mustard and a little honey, or vegan style dressing with olive oil, Dijon mustard, and honey. A few grinds of black pepper or chipotle powder adds some extra zest.
Very fast, crunchy, and keeps in the fridge for days.
betty M. May 20, 2018
This was an awesome post. I haven't seen anyone put such a nice collection of fast salads together quite like this. Really well done!!!
Jeri T. May 20, 2018
Although not a dinner salad, but a side salad, I needed to pull together somethi g that didn't start with the lettuce I forgot at the market. I made a celery (with leaves) and fennel salad with a lemon tarragon vinaigrette that paired nicely with my rich entree. Necessity is the Mother of invention!
Suzanne B. May 20, 2018
I made the avocado toast salad and it was wonderful. I had a friend for lunch and she loves avocado toast so this salad was right up her alley------she loved it.
anna O. May 19, 2018
my grandfather was from Northern Italy and always made a cauliflower and potato hot salad, boil the cauli and about 1/2 the amount of potatoes. Rinse, while still hot add mashed garlic 1 maybe 2 small cloves, a hefty amount of salt and olive oil. If you want you can add a light vinegar but I prefer it without.
Ttrockwood May 16, 2018
Love the mango and black beans combo!
But gotta point out that neither that radish salad or the broccoli one are what i would consider a dinner salad...maybe with some added cooked grains or noodles they could be.