23 Easy Summer Salad Recipes

by Shelley · May contain affiliate links

~ These easy summer salad recipes are absolutely perfect for sharing at cookouts, picnics and potlucks … or for light lunches and hot-weather family dinnertimes. Of course, these are all so much healthier, too – from lots of fresh produce, to nourishing whole grains, to lightened-up dressings. And you know we’ve got plenty of shortcuts and make-ahead tips to keep things easy-breezy for summer! ~

collage of 4 recipe photos - a fruit salad, a pasta salad, a layered chicken salad, and a chopped salad with the text overlay "Easy! Summer Salad Recipes"

Summertime is saladtime!

When the mercury rises, everyone craves light yet satisfying salads for lunches, and even for dinnertime on hot evenings.

And of course, all of summer’s picnics and potlucks and cookouts require plenty of salad side dishes to go along with the grilled burgers and BBQ pulled chicken you’ll be serving up (once we’re all gathering together again)!

Fortunately, it isn’t hard to make a truly delicious summer salad – summer’s bountiful, fresh produce usually needs little adornment.

fresh summer produce laying on a cutting board, waiting to be made into salad recipes - carrots, tomatoes, spinach, garlic, zucchini, onion, green pepper

And the combinations are practically endless – from pasta salad and egg salad, to chicken salad and all sorts of green salads. Coleslaw and fruit salads, too!

To be 100% honest, at any summer meal, the main attraction for me is almost never the main dish. I’d rather pile my plate with a variety of beautiful salads, sampling all the interesting textures and flavor combinations. Sometimes, I even make two or three big-batch salads to keep in the fridge all week, so I can have my own little gourmet salad bar, prepped and ready to go, whenever I’m hungry.

I truly do love salads!

But here’s the thing …

Just because a recipe has the word “salad” in its name, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s healthy. Or that it’s gonna help me feel fit and swimsuit-ready. Too many salads on any potluck buffet table are drowning in calorie-loaded dressings, or have things like white-carb pasta as their base.

For me, a truly great salad should not only taste good, it should also be good for me. Otherwise, why bother? (I might as well go grab a brownie from the end of the buffet line!)

Here are some of the ways our recipes keep things healthier (for me – and for you).

Tips for Making Healthier Salads

You’ll see different strategies from one recipe to the next, but these are a few we use frequently – and that you can adapt for making your own salad recipes, too!

#1) Swap in healthier greens like kale and spinach.

wooden inlay cutting board with a pile of finely chopped kale on one side and a whole kale leaf on the other

#2) Load in lots of different nutrient-rich fruits and veggies.

#3)  Add wholesome, fiber-rich grains like chewy freekeh or protein-packed quinoa. Grain salads can be a great alternative to pasta salads and potato salads. Or, if you’re making pasta salads, choose whole-grain pasta if you can.

#4) Maybe the most important tip of all, though? Keep the dressing healthy. That’s probably the biggest place where so many summer salads go wrong.

Lots of traditional salad recipes rely on dressings that are startlingly high in unwanted fats and calories (and often a whole host of questionable ingredients that can be lurking in store-bought, bottled dressings).

We use a variety of methods to maximize flavor without compromising nutritional value in our dressings.

That can include swapping in protein-rich, fat-free Greek yogurt for creamy dressings.

closeup of a bowl of fancy baby greens with a cruet of dressing just beginning to be poured over top

Or, it can mean reinventing the typical, old-school proportions in our vinaigrettes (you can read more about that in our recipe for Easy Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette).

Quick Prep and Easy Make-Ahead Tips!

Oh – and I’m pretty sure nobody wants to spend a glorious summer day slaving away in the kitchen. So, most all of these salad recipes can be finished in 30 minutes or less – some in just 5-10 minutes flat!

Plus, you know we adore make-ahead strategies! We’ve got lots of make-ahead tips in these recipes, and many of these salads are perfect big-batch meal-prep recipes, too.

Easy, healthy and delicious. Everything a summer salad should be!

Now, you’ve just got to pick where to start …

Easy Summer Salad Recipes

For even more summer salad recipe inspiration, be sure to take a peek at our collection of some of the very, very best healthy salad recipes from other bloggers, too! Cucumber salads, a skinny chicken Caesar salad, a southwest bean salad, and more.

Still not enough salad inspo for ya? We’ve got more salads, plus lots of other delicious sides, in our collection of Best Healthy Side Dishes for a Cookout or Summer BBQ. (That should keep your salad-loving heart busy for at least this one summer! 😀 )

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Published on
Updated on June 20, 2022