J. Schatzel works in healthcare administration in rural upstate NY and has a master's degree in history.
I love cooking with my kids, and salads are a great way to get everyone involved. While we might think of salad as a side dish, it can actually be a full meal on its own. After all, it's packed with veggies and protein, and some even incorporate fruit, as well.
Below are some of our favorite salad recipes, all of which have been approved by my three-year-old son! From lettuce salads to pasta salads and fruit salads, the possibilities are endless.
Especially if you find yourself with limited access to groceries—for example, during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020—salads are a great meal option because you can usually find something in your fridge, freezer, garden, or pantry quickly to turn into a tasty salad.
I've also included a recipe for our favorite homemade croutons, which you can make quickly and easily with ingredients you probably already have on hand.
I love involving my toddler in the food-prep process, as I have found that the more involved he is in helping make the food, the more willing he is to eat it (regardless of how veggie-packed it is). He loves whisking the dressing, sprinkling in the cheese or croutons, helping stir the salad, and of course, taste-testing!
15 Salad Ideas
- Pantry Pasta Salad: Sliced olives, diced tomato, chopped cucumber, crumbled feta, chickpeas, wagon wheel pasta, tomato basil or greek salad dressing
- School Lunch Pasta Salad: Chopped carrots, chopped celery, chopped zucchini, cubed cheddar cheese, diced leftover cooked ham or chicken, pigeon peas, medium shell pasta, Italian salad dressing
- Summer Garden Salad: Dandelion greens, spinach or lettuce, red clover flowers, sunflower seeds, diced apple, chopped walnuts or almonds, chopped raw broccoli, green grapes, sliced hard-boiled eggs, and poppyseed dressing
- Taco Salad: Shredded iceberg lettuce, leftover taco meat, black beans, taco cheese, diced tomato, diced bell pepper, sliced black olives, shredded taco cheese or crumbled bleu cheese, salsa
- Stuffed Pepper Salad: Shredded green cabbage, shredded carrots, cooked ground beef, diced tomatoes, chopped bell peppers, sliced green onions, Catalina dressing
- Cheeseburger Salad: shredded lettuce, cooked ground beef, sliced green onion, chopped dill pickles, shredded carrots, homemade croutons (SO easy!), diced tomatoes, burger dressing (1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons prepared mustard, 2 teaspoons ketchup, ½ teaspoon paprika)
- Reuben Salad: shredded green cabbage, thousand island dressing, cubed Swiss cheese, shredded prosciutto (we also love this with chopped leftover Thanksgiving turkey!), croutons, chopped dill pickles
- Bacon Beet Salad: roasted beets, fresh spinach, toasted walnuts, crumbled bleu cheese, crumbled cooked bacon, dressing (1 finely chopped green onion, 2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/3 cup olive oil, salt and pepper to taste)
- Shrimp Salad: cooked shrimp, chopped celery, sliced green onion, diced hard-boiled eggs, diced cucumber, a sprinkle of fresh dill, fresh baby spinach, dressing (1/2 cup mayonnaise, ½ teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning, salt and pepper to taste, 1 tablespoon lemon juice)
- Chopped Chef Salad: diced cooked ham, diced cooked chicken, diced cucumber, finely chopped celery, diced hard-boiled eggs, finely diced red onion, crumbled cooked bacon, shredded lettuce or spinach, cubed cheddar cheese, diced tomato, shredded carrot, and your salad dressing of choice (consensus at our house is tomato basil vinaigrette).
- Picnic Salad: spinach, sliced hard-boiled eggs, black olives, chickpeas, cubed Swiss cheese, sunflower seeds, slivered almonds, and lemon poppy seed dressing
- Shrimp Cobb Salad: cooked shrimp (baked with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of creole seasoning, it’s AMAZING in this recipe!), crumbled cooked bacon, lettuce or spinach, corn, diced hard-boiled eggs, diced avocado, crumbled feta cheese, and lemon vinaigrette
- Chicken Avocado Salad: Leftover grilled chicken, thinly sliced avocado, spinach, quartered cherry tomatoes, halved mozzarella pearls, balsamic vinaigrette
- Autumn Apple Salad: chopped spinach or kale, 2 chopped apples, 1 diced pear, a handful of dried cranberries, crumbled bleu cheese, toasted pecans, and honey mustard dressing
- Mom’s Salad: spinach, blueberries, toasted salted walnuts, crumbled feta cheese, lemon poppyseed dressing
Our Favorite Homemade Crouton Recipe
- 4 stale hot dog buns, or 6 slices of stale bread
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Cut bread or buns into 1-inch cubes.
- Mix spices into oil, and toss with bread cubes.
- Place on a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 16 minutes, until lightly browned.
Notes: If using for shrimp salad, I like to use Old Bay Seasoning instead of the seasonings above. If using for a taco salad, I like to use fajita seasoning in place of the seasonings above.