Nearly half of Americans believe that the “ultimate salad” recipe exists, according to research from OnePoll. For many, it must be packed with toppings, and tossed with dressing, and when it comes to lettuce, iceberg is the clear winner (at least for nearly a third of people). It’s no surprise then that the wedge salad, which combines all three of these preferences from the 2022 study, is one of the most popular salad choices in the US. You’ll find it on most steakhouse menus, where it’s usually loaded with bacon and blue cheese. But can this animal-heavy dish be made vegan? We’ve got great news. Find our tips for perfecting a vegan wedge salad below.
What is a wedge salad made of?
The beauty of a wedge salad is, arguably, its simplicity and versatility. You can customize the toppings and dressings to suit your tastes, but there are a few things all wedge salads have in common. Firstly, iceberg lettuce (cut into a wedge, of course) is always the base. It’s crispy, crunchy, and the perfect neutral base for all the tasty toppings you’re about to load on. After that, the salad is usually topped with rich blue cheese or ranch dressing, as well as crumbled blue cheese, bacon rashers, and crispy bacon bits.
It sounds decidedly not vegan, but there are animal-free versions of pretty much everything these days, including blue cheese and creamy salad dressings. And when it comes to the bacon bits, most of the products on the market are already vegan. Yep, they’re usually made with textured soy flour and food dye—no bacon in sight.
Is a wedge salad good for you?
If you’re looking for nutrition, a wedge salad is not the best choice. Iceberg lettuce is crispy and crunchy, but it’s relatively low in nutritional value in comparison to other lettuce choices (like kale and spinach, for example, which are considered superfoods). It does contain a small amount of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, however.
Wedge salads also tend to be high in saturated fat, especially if they’re loaded with blue cheese and bacon. Bacon, which is a form of processed meat, is actually classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization, and consuming it often is linked with a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes.
However, there are many ways to boost the nutritional value of a wedge salad. Instead of animal-based bacon, you can choose plant-based alternatives. And you can also add more nutritious plant-based toppings, like avocado, cherry tomatoes, and red onion.
For more tips on making a delicious, nutritious vegan wedge salad, check out our list below.
5 steps for perfecting a vegan wedge salad
As mentioned above, a wedge salad requires iceberg lettuce, which is cut into a wedge to form the base. When you’re scanning the shelves for the best one, look for lettuce with tightly packed, crisp, healthy-looking green leaves (leave any with pale, discolored, wilted leaves on the shelf!). Another good tip is to feel the weight of the lettuce, if it feels heavy, that likely means it’s hydrated and fresh.
2 Find a tasty dairy-free dressing
Ranch and blue cheese dressings are usually made with dairy, but there are plenty of vegan versions on the market. Find our guide to delicious bottled salad dressings here (and if you feel like making your own, it also features a list of tasty vegan recipes!).
3 Choose your favorite vegan bacon
Bacon is a must when it comes to perfecting a wedge salad, but it doesn’t have to be made from pig meat. Find 13 of our favorite vegan bacon brands to try here. Alternatively, if you feel like making your own, check out our guide to plant-based bacon recipes, all of which use whole-food ingredients, like tofu, eggplant, mushrooms, and tempeh.
4 Go to town on toppings
Crumbled blue cheese is a signature wedge salad topping, and you can find vegan versions from brands like Follow Your Heart, Nuts for Cheese, and Reine. For more cheese recommendations, you can also find our ultimate vegan cheese guide here. Other tasty topping ideas include vegan bacon crumbles, cherry tomatoes, chives, green onions, red onion, and avocado slices. Basically, the sky is the limit.
5 Serve cold, with a garnish
The best wedge salads are served cold, so make sure to keep all of the ingredients refrigerated until you’re ready to prep and serve. For garnish, you could add a lemon slice, a drizzle of balsamic, toasted nuts, or a sprinkle of black pepper or paprika, depending on your preference. Just remember to keep the garnishes light and balanced so they enhance rather than overpower the flavors of your wedge salad.
For more guidance on how to make the perfect vegan wedge salad, find our recipe for a Vegan Wedge Salad With Smoky Coconut Bacon and Hemp Seed Ranch Dressing here.