~ 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! ~
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.
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.
#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.
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
This popular salad has so many layers of flavor! It’s our twist on traditional Mexican elote – a uniquely delicious side dish that’s perfect for picnics and cookouts (especially since it can be mostly made ahead)! And after extensive testing, we’ve found a couple handy tricks for keeping it lighter, too!
Tender chicken, sweet grapes, crisp apples and crunchy pecans ... all tossed with a divine tarragon-Greek yogurt dressing! Scoop it up as a side dish, or use one of our serving suggestions to create sandwiches, wraps, plated salads ... even dainty appetizers!
Italian Pasta Salad is always a hit … but classic pasta salad recipes are typically loaded with unwanted fat and white carbs. This easy recipe has all the bold flavors you love, but a few simple tweaks make it so much healthier, too! It’s the perfect dish to share at picnics and potlucks. Or keep it stashed in the fridge for a quick side dish all week long!
This lovely salad is like delicious, happy summer sunshine in every single bite! Juicy peaches team up with fresh cherries, crunchy almonds, creamy goat cheese and a Honey Balsamic Dressing for an explosion of gorgeous flavors. It’s super easy to make, yet people go crazy over it, every time we serve it!
This quick and simple recipe has loads of options! You can grill the corn ... or use it raw, fresh right off the cob. And, while it's wonderful as a side salad, it's also great as a salsa with tortilla chips. Set it out as an appetizer while you cook the main course, then bring it to the table (if there's any left!), to serve as a salad, too. You've got options!
This is an updated riff on the beloved Bean Salad served at the iconic Nick Anthe's restaurant for more than 30 years. Uniquely delicious, and so very easy (like, 7 minutes EASY)!
Pile this pretty summer salad in a trifle bowl so everyone can admire all those layers of taco flavor ... before it disappears! It's as impressive as it is delicious. But don't worry – it's not hard to make (we're talkin' less than 30 minutes here). Plus, we’ve got shortcuts and make-ahead tips, too!
This luscious and refreshing summer salad is an updated spin on a classic potluck favorite. Our lighter dressing is so much healthier, but still just as decadent as the original!
This super EASY Tomato Salad is a signature summer recipe from one of the very best cooks I’ve ever known. Even better? It only takes 5 minutes to make!
This unique salad recipe is an inventive spin on the ever-popular Cowboy Caviar appetizer! A lip-smacking lemon-dijon soy sauce dressing highlights red pepper, corn, edamame, black beans, cilantro and quinoa. This works equally well as a potluck side, a vegetarian main-dish salad, or an appetizer dip with chips! This absolutely wins raves every time we serve it!
Love buffalo chicken dip? Then this pasta salad is a must-try! It’s hearty enough to be a main dish, as well as a potluck side dish. Plus, it’s easy to prep ahead, and you can even serve it without the chicken for a vegetarian option!
I have fond childhood memories of eating just-picked sweet corn, standing in my grandmother's carefully tended organic garden. This salad riffs on those memories, tossing uncooked corn kernels with creamy avocado, juicy tomatoes, and the lightest of dressings. So simple and ready in just 10 minutes flat ... but still deliciously satisfying with garden-fresh summer flavor!
I've been making various versions of this beautiful and wildly delicious salad since long before I even started Two Healthy Kitchens. It's truly a family favorite! Quinoa and confetti greens are highlighted with pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, feta, parmesan, and a tangy balsamic vinaigrette. So, so good!
Full of nutritious superfoods like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and kale – plus crunchy pistachios and sweet-tart dried cranberries. All tossed with a delicious Maple-Balsamic Dressing! Delicious and so healthy! And, it's ready in about 5 minutes. No kidding!
5 gorgeous options to choose from (depending on how much time you have). We've lined them up from super-duper fast, to a couple that are full-on WOW factor creations, worthy of being the centerpiece of the party! These showstoppers are must-haves for all the patriotic summer holidays!
A fantastic twist on a classic! This addictive tabouli still has all the bold, bright flavors you love, but we've made it gluten free by swapping protein-packed quinoa instead of the traditional bulgur wheat. Bonus: this salad recipe makes a big batch that keeps well for days, so it's a great potluck make-ahead or meal prep recipe for busy weeks!
Egg salad is always a summertime favorite. And so are BLTs. Now you can have both, all in one! This recipe is really versatile, too – you can skip the bread and nestle it into leafy greens, or even serve it as a unique dip with whole grain crackers (yes ... we've tried that)!
This gorgeous salad is fabulous warm or chilled, so you can serve it up as a main course right after you make it, or slip it in the fridge for later. And since quinoa is a complete protein, it can easily be adapted for vegetarians by omitting the chicken.
Loaded with Tuscan-inspired flavors and gratifying, nutritious goodness in every bite! So delicious, no one will even notice how healthy it is. Seriously! Toss on some (optional) crunchy flatbread croutons for a fun twist!
This recipe is the ideal middle ground between those creamy, deli-style coleslaws and tangy vinegar-dressed slaws. Ready in just 5 minutes, with a few simple ingredients. It’s the perfect thing to serve alongside BBQ (which was actually the whole reason we created this recipe)!
Inspired by a favorite Disney restaurant dish, this simple salad gets a 1-2 punch of citrus flavor from sweet orange juice and just a little tangy lemon juice. It packs a mighty 1-2 punch of protein, too, with both quinoa and chickpeas! A great make-ahead (if it lasts that long)!
This lightened-up main dish salad recipe is a meal-in-one! Enjoy all the flavors of a big, juicy cheeseburger (with a side of fries), in a much healthier way! Bonus: you can make this mostly ahead ... great for busy evenings!
Why not grill up your side dish, too, if the grill's already in action? Just toss on some fresh summer sweet corn and mix it with our simple dressing for a no-fuss salad that's ready in minutes!
This vibrantly delicious kale salad is jam-crammed with blueberries, dried cranberries, walnuts and feta, plus chopped bits of flavorful carrots, celery, yellow pepper and scallions. Make it with nutty freekeh, or choose gluten free quinoa. Drizzle it all with a low-fat honeyed cider vinaigrette. Yum!
So nutritious and creamy with a luscious combination of avocado and Greek yogurt – you’ll never even miss the mayo! And, with only 6 simple ingredients, this is really quick and easy. Fantastic straight from the bowl, as a dip, or on a sandwich!
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! 😀 )