Not all salads require greens. In fact, some of the most popular summer salads happen to be beige—macaroni salad, potato salad, Panzanella (an Italian bread salad). At VegNews, we celebrate all salads and believe these unsung salads deserve a bit of the spotlight. From classic tofu egg salad to tortellini salad, this list will transform any skeptic into a devout salad-lover.
1. Tuna Salad by Jenné Claiborne
So accustomed to green, leafy salads, we forget there is an entire category of white and beige salads. These mixtures are coated in mayo (or sweetened cream cheese, for dessert salads) and are best enjoyed between two slices of white bread or piled atop a buttery vegan cracker. Blogger and cookbook author Jenné Claiborne revamps the typical lunchbox tuna salad by swapping the canned fish for nutrient-dense chickpeas and adding a generous pinch of cayenne to provide pleasant but unexpected heat.
2. Easy Potato Salad by It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken
We all love a good starchy salad, and nothing offers this fantastic textural component like a quality vegan potato salad. While technically a side dish, it’s safe to assume that most people eat a portion large enough to constitute a full meal.
3. The Best Macaroni Salad by The Pretty Bee
The secret to not-soggy-salad? Don’t dress the noodles until they’re ready to serve. This vegan blogger claims to have the best vegan macaroni salad recipe, and after trying it for ourselves, we think she needs to adjust the title. It’s the best macaroni salad, no modifier needed.
4. Panzanella Salad by Well Vegan
Translation: this is bread salad. Panzanella can be prepared in countless ways and fit any season. All you need is a crusty loaf of bread that’s beginning to turn stale, a tasty dressing, and a few bits of produce or vegan meat and cheese for the sake of textural variety. This particular recipe is a bit heavy on the produce, but when you add three heaping cups of bread to a bowl of kale, this dark leafy green suddenly becomes so much more appealing.
5. Fruit Salad
We’re not talking about the canned cocktail variety, and we’re definitely not talking about ambrosia salad (there’s a reason you don’t see that on this list)—we’re talking fresh, vibrant, summer-is-calling-your-name fruit salad. In its purest form, no recipe is needed—just toss together your favorite seasonal fruits. For something a bit more presentation-worthy, try this Minimalist Baker recipe that adds a spicy element and a splash of white rum in the agave-lime dressing. It’s perfect when your fruit isn’t quite at its peak ripeness.
6. Seaweed Salad by Melly Cooks
Sea vegetables are on an entirely different level than land vegetables. Their salty, umami quality doesn’t require much embellishment by way of add-ins or dressings—the vegetable is truly the star of this Japanese salad. There are literally thousands of varieties of seaweed, but wakame is most commonly used for this dish. You can find it at your local Asian grocer and many supermarkets (such as Whole Foods).
7. Caprese Salad by Veganosity
In lieu of merely accenting a bed of greens, vegan cheese plays the starring role here. Thick-cut slices of vegan mozzarella are layered with juicy tomato and delicate basil leaves, all drizzled in a wonderfully acidic and sweet balsamic reduction. Let’s just call it what it is: this is a cheese salad.
8. Broccoli Salad by Veggies Save the Day
This buffet restaurant classic is eternally customizable—the only constants are broccoli and a creamy element. When coated with a slightly sweet and tangy mayo-based dressing and mixed with dried cranberries and nutty sunflower seeds, even the kids may reconsider their staunch aversion to these edible trees.
9. Bean Salad
There is infinite room for interpretation when it comes to bean salad. It could be a green bean salad, a three-bean salad, a black bean salad, or a spiced lentil salad; it’s the ultimate dump-and-stir with whatever’s left in the pantry and produce drawer salad. For a bit of inspiration check out this simple Three Bean Salad by Elise Bauer.
10. Quinoa Salad by Oh She Glows
There’s no need to add a protein to a salad when it’s made with quinoa. Coming in at a solid eight grams of protein per cooked cup, quinoa is an excellent source of this macronutrient and just so happens to make for a terrific salad. The fluffy grain soaks up the dressing and becomes infused with flavor. Try this fantastic cilantro, lime, and black bean version by Oh She Glows that’s tossed with a lick-the-fork-good lemon tahini dressing.
11. Mexican Street Corn Salad by Rabbit and Wolves
This fresh summer salad includes everything we love about elote in forkable form—right down to the vegan cotija cheese. For those truly craving a “salad” salad, top a bowl of chopped romaine or spinach with a generous spoonful of this corn creation and make it rain cotija!
12. 5-Minute Tofu “Egg” Salad by Vegan Richa
Egg salad can be polarizing, but this recipe won’t spark any contention. It’s mushy in that wonderful way of mayo-based salads that somehow bring us comfort and a smile when smashed between bread that inevitably sticks to your mouth. It’s a classic for a reason.
13. Tortellini Salad
This salad begs the question: why use mushy noodles when you could use tender pockets of cheese-filled pasta? Make this filling salad the same way you’d prepare your favorite pasta salad (try this recipe), but swap the rotini for cooked vegan tortellini. Master this simple dish, and you will win at every potluck and barbecue.
14. Vegan Strawberry Pretzel Salad by My Quiet Kitchen
Pretzel salad: a much-beloved Southern layered dessert comprised of a buttery pretzel base, sweet cream cheese center, and gelatin-congealed fruit topping. This regional dish is one of those “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it” foods. Perhaps a combination of childhood nostalgia and the tasty ingenuity of an odd combination that just works, those who grew up with this treat will defend it to their last day. Give it a vegan twist, and you might just discover your new favorite dessert.
15. Glazed Carrot Salad by Bryant Terry
Carrots are the unofficial, universally accepted vegetable. Even those who shirk from all-things green aren’t offended by the humble carrot stick. It’s not much of a leap to assume that this carrot salad may also be universally loved. Cookbook author Bryant Terry combined the bold peanutty flavor of the American South with the warm spices of a traditional Moroccan salad to create this beautiful mashup. It’s casual enough for a barbecue but equally at home at a nice dinner party.
16. Asian Noodle Salad with Peanut Ginger Sauce by Jessica in the Kitchen
For carb-enthusiasts, noodle salad is right up there with bread salad. Recipe developer and food blogger Jessica Hylton pairs rice noodles with a vegan-friendly Thai peanut ginger sauce and tosses in a few veggies to add color and a much-need crunch factor. It’s last on our list, but it may just be our favorite not-salad salad.
Tanya Flink is a Digital Editor at VegNews as well as a writer and runner living in Orange County, CA.
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