12 Big, Hearty Salad Recipes That Hold Their Own As Dinner

Salads even non-salad people will love.

April 11, 2019
Photo by James Ransom

If left to my own devices (and sporadic grocery shopping habits), I'd probably make some sort of lazy, one-pot pasta for dinner every night of the week.

But I live with a Weeknight Pasta Shamer.

I was surprised as anyone to learn that such a person existed. Nate first revealed his true colors on a date only a few months into our relationship, in response to my suggestion that we split both an order of rigatoni with mozzarella and a saucy, lamb-y maltagliati number.

"But it's Sunday," he'd said, muttering something vague about next-day sprightliness, and how he thinks it relates to vegetables and the like. "I'm having the grilled squash."

To my deep chagrin, this sort of Weeknight Pasta Shaming behavior has persisted over the years, no matter how many English peas I've thrown into pots of carbonara, or plant-based noodle alternatives I've ushered into his pantry.

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Top Comment:
“Sometimes they are even lettuce-less. (cold boiled baby potatoes, goat cheese or Brie bites, cherry tomatoes, cold asparagus spears, rolls of tavern ham). And cold white wine, always lots of cold white wine. ”
— Laurence T.

Now that we share a kitchen and, for the most part, dinner schedule, we've had to find some common ground.

Enter: hearty salads. It's a category of dinner I define as largely vegetable-forward, with enough highly desirable bits (like, deeply roasted squash, cheesy breadcrumbs, bacon crisps) to make each bite like unwrapping a present.

Here are 12 top contenders:

Kale Salad with Salami, Pecorino, and Walnuts

This kale salad is basically a sandwich, minus the bread. It's full of salami, slices of crisp apple, grated cheese, and dried cranberries, and as if that weren't enough to pique your interest, it gets doused in a clever, nutty vinaigrette. Plus, it's even better the next day.

Warm Chicken Salad

Buttery Bibb lettuce, roasted chicken, and tender fingerling potatoes join forces for a warm salad that tastes like getting a high-five from your oldest, wisest friend feels.

Cheesy Brussels Sprouts Salad

When cheesy sautéed Brussels sprouts get together with artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, and briny Castelvetrano olives, very good things happen. All in 20 minutes.

Epic Cobb Salad

I dare you to find a bite you don't love in this radicchio Cobb. (Good luck—it has a crispy, seared chicken thigh, blue cheese, tomatoes, avocado, and a jammy egg. Oh, and bacon. So much bacon.)

Spring Vegetable Panzanella with Poached Eggs

Calling all of the spring veg! You're needed front and center in this comforting, egg-topped panzanella.

Endive & Bacon Salad With Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

For the record, this buttermilk ranch dressing would make even an old shoe taste delicious—but it's especially good drizzled over an endive and thick-cut bacon salad.

Avocado Toast Salad

All of avocado toast's best qualities—crusty bread, creamy avo, punchy lemon juice—now in salad form.

Spicy Pork Larb With Vegetables & Herbs

This pork larb is punchy, spicy, satisfying, and you're not going to want to share it.

Warm Eggplant & Mint Salad

This warm eggplant salad is equal parts comforting and refreshing (thanks, mint!).

Kale, Chorizo & Lentil Salad

I'd fight you over the crispy, smoky chorizo bits in this sausage-lentil salad, but fortunately for both of us, there are more than enough to go around.

Pea, Asparagus & Avocado Salad With Burrata

All in favor of dressing every future piece of lettuce with this creamy avocado-and-yogurt dressing, plus a burrata topper? Aye times one million.

Grilled Steak Salad With Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

Grilled steak gets tossed with crunchy veg, and drizzled with a vinaigrette you'll want to drink straight.

What's your go-to hearty salad? Let us know in the comments!
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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.


Jennifer D. April 12, 2019
I confess that I am also a pasta shamer.

All of these salads sound AMAZING.
Lori April 12, 2019
Now I want a salad, and I rarely ever say that.
Laurence T. April 12, 2019
Supper salads are the norm here in steamy sweltery central Florida. Sometimes they are even lettuce-less. (cold boiled baby potatoes, goat cheese or Brie bites, cherry tomatoes, cold asparagus spears, rolls of tavern ham). And cold white wine, always lots of cold white wine.
M April 11, 2019
Salad for Dinner.
One of the best cookbooks I ever bought, jam-packed with dinner-worthy salads.
Megan G. April 11, 2019
I literally just made a hearty salad for dinner last night!

Made a greek/mediterranean-inspired salad (romaine, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, feta, bell peppers) topped with marinated seared salmon fillet and avocado slices. The marinade on the salmon was the same as the dressing for the salad: olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, chopped parsley, dried oregano, splash of red wine vinegar, and salt & pepper.
sue April 12, 2019
Any leftovers you'd feel like sharing? ;-) That sounds so good!!
carolyn April 12, 2019
This was my salad, twice last week, once with salmon, once with chicken. Toss in a few kalamata and it's perfect.