How Americans like their favorite dishes varies depending on who you ask. For example, hot dog, pizza, and bagel preferences all differ from Chicago to New York, to Detroit and everywhere in between. 

But this National Salad Month, greens grower BrightFarms teamed up with OnePoll to find out how Americans like their salads—the consumption of which is on the up and projected to hit 251 million bags this year. 

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“We set out to conduct this survey in honor of National Salad Month as we wanted to gain insights into Americans’ salad habits,” Jessica Soare, Senior Director of Marketing at BrightFarm, tells VegNews. “For example, what makes the perfect salad, what do consumers care most about (the greens or the toppings), what toppings take the crown, what’s the weirdest, most out-of-the-box topping consumers have tried eating with their salads, and much more,” she says. 

And it turns out, some of the responses are as wild as you’d imagine. 

What Americans like on salads

The survey asked 2,000 adults in the United States about their salad preferences. According to the survey, 78 percent of respondents eat at least two salads per week, indicating a strong preference for salads as a main dish rather than just a side. 

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Traditional tastes dominate when it comes to everyday salad choices. The survey showed that cheese was the most popular topping at 42 percent, closely followed by tomatoes at 37 percent, bacon at 30 percent, croutons at 28 percent, and cucumbers at 27 percent. 

Dressings and greens form the foundation of any great salad, and the survey responses reflected a strong preference for classic choices.

“We already knew salads were popular, but it was great to see the proof,” Soare says. “Plus, 61 percent crown greens as the ‘main character’ of a salad.” 

Ranch dressing remains a staple, preferred by 50 percent of participants, alongside Italian (30 percent) and Caesar (25 percent) dressings. 

Popular greens included romaine lettuce (46 percent), iceberg (44 percent), spinach (32 percent), spring mix (30 percent), and crunchy green lettuce (26 percent), highlighting the importance of these base ingredients in salad making.

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“Gathering these insights will help us better understand our consumers and shape product innovation at BrightFarms in the future,” Soare says. 

Unconventional salad toppings

Sometimes, the concept of a salad skews far far away from just greens with dressing and into a wholly new territory. And this survey indeed revealed a penchant for adding unconventional ingredients to salads. Among the more eyebrow-raising choices were marshmallows, meatballs, beef jerky, and hotdogs. 

“We really enjoyed learning about the strangest toppings,” Soare says. “Answers included bananas, peanut butter, peppermint, and popcorn.”

Freshness is also a critical factor in the appeal of salads, with 57 percent of respondents citing it as the most crucial element of an appetizing salad. Additionally, 73 percent of those surveyed expressed the belief that lettuce which is grown and packaged near its point of sale is fresher compared to lettuce which is grown and packaged at more distant locations.

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“This is near and dear to us at BrightFarms, as we strategically locate our greenhouses close to where consumers live so that our greens can go from harvest to store in as little as 24 hours,” Soare says. 

“This means that our greens spend more days in your fridge than they do going across the country on a truck,” she says.

America’s favorite salad, the plant-based way

The BrightGreens survey showed that Americans love to put heartier ingredients on salads, and these days, there are vegan versions of everything to fully add all plants into your salads.

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The most popular topping, cheese, is easy to find in a dairy-free format. Retail vegan cheese brands include Follow Your Heart, Good Planet Foods, Chao, Daiya Foods, and more.

Vegan cheeses are also becoming tastier every day with options such as Climax Foods’ blue cheese—which is formulated to mimic its dairy counterpart using the latest AI technologies. 

To add some salty bacon to your salad, you can reach for vegan bacon brands such as Lightlife, Upton’s Naturals, and Tofurky. This category is also getting a remake with new products, including My Forest Foods’ bacon made from mycelium—or the fast-growing root systems of mushrooms. 

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America’s favorite salad dressing, ranch, also got a plant-based makeover by Hidden Valley which released Plant-Powered Ranch in 2021. Plus, a longtime favorite, Just Ranch, just made a comeback after a four-year hiatus. 

For more help with making salad the main character for lunch or dinner, check out our guide to building the best salad

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