I love a good salad for lunch. I’m not much of a sandwich person, and leftovers are great, but we’re not that lucky every day — sometimes dinner gets gobbled right up! So when a friend of mine recently made a special request for a round-up of great salad recipes to make ahead and take for lunch, I was definitely game.
I’ve scoured the internets and my own favorite recipes and come up with a list of 10 great make-ahead salads that would make a wonderful lunch. Enjoy!
1. Tomato and mozzarella salad. This is the easiest thing to put together, especially now that beautiful, ripe tomatoes are in abundance. Just throw a bunch of cherry tomatoes (halved if they’re big) and/or chunky chopped tomatoes (freshness is essential) in a bowl with bite-sized chunks of fresh mozzarella (either tiny perlini or traditional-sized mozzarella balls cut into bite size cubes. Throw in a good glug of olive oil, a splash of nice balsamic vinegar, a little salt and pepper, and a handful of basil leaves cut into ribbons.
2. Barley salad with parsley, walnuts, and ricotta salata. This salad has all my favorite things: A nice whole grain as its base, a salty cheese and walnuts for protein , and parsley for an added nutritional punch. It’s definitely going on my list to try soon!
3. Quinoa salad. One of my all-time favorites is a nice quinoa salad, just because it’s so darn versatile. You can pretty much throw in any fresh veggies you have lying around (I’m especially fond of avocado, tomato, and scallions), season with whatever herbs you like best, dress it with olive oil and lemon, and call it a day. Or, throw in some pine nuts or walnuts for extra crunch.
4. Tortellini salad. One of my recent culinary adventures also turned out to double as a great lunch the next day. You could easily make this ahead the night before, or just do what I did and have it for lunch the next day as leftovers.
5. Arugula and lentil salad with goat cheese. Goat cheese? Lentils? Arugula? I’m in! Besides having a lovely peppery flavor, arugula has the added bonus of staying nice and crisp longer than other salad greens, so this would be a nice one to pack for lunch at the office.
6. Farro salad with roasted kale and beets. Farro is my favorite grain right now. Haven’t you heard? It’s the new quinoa. Or maybe something else is even hotter, and I haven’t heard about it yet. In any case, this salad makes excellent use of it.
7. Roasted garlic, olive, and tomato pasta salad. I made a modified version of this recipe for dinner last night (more on that later), and it was delicious. Sure, roasting garlic takes a while, but at least it’s mostly downtime. Stick it in the oven and go curl up on the couch with your significant other (or your cat, or a book) and enjoy some quality time while it roasts. Other than that, it should be super-quick to put together the night before.
8. Farro, green olive, and feta salad. Here’s another twist on farro salad. The ingredients are mostly non-season-specific, so you can easily make this whenever you want throughout the year. Of course, if you want to incorporate fresh seasonal veggies, it’s easily adaptable, but I love the briny tang of the green olives with the lemon zest and feta cheese.
9. Cilantro-lime chickpea salad. This salad looks amazing: not only tasty, but healthy and vegan to boot! I love cilantro and lime together. I think they’re just the perfect summer flavors.
10. Kale salad with ricotta salata, pine nuts, and quinoa. This is pretty much the perfect make-ahead salad, since it gets better after the flavors have a little time to meld. The dressing will even soften the crunchy kale slightly, which is a good thing, since it can be a little tough when raw.
This is tasty, hearty, and surprisingly filling for a salad. Once kale is back in season, this will be making lunch appearances around here often!