Main-Dish Summer Salads to the Rescue! 50 Recipes to Get You Through Summer

Be the boss of the long, warm days with our 50-recipe guide. From grilled chicken or steak to Asian chopped salad with tofu, we’ve got you covered.

Maybe it’s too hot to fire up the kitchen. Or maybe it’s time to make inroads into all that produce from the farmers’ market. Or just maybe the evening sky appears so vast and beautiful you want to toss together a cold meal and sit staring up at the stars. Whatever the reason, there comes a time in every summer when a big salad answers the “what’s for dinner” dilemma. Maybe even the “what-should-we-serve-to-guests” dilemma.

We’re talking crisp and refreshing yet hearty salad recipes you can make a meal out of, and there are a lot to choose from: From quick and easy to more elaborate summer salad recipes; classics, like Cobb or taco; and more surprising ones such as Vietnamese tofu and noodle salad.

Since your hardest task may be deciding what to make, start with the protein. Chicken, seafood, grains and beans, steak, or bacon: What are you in the mood for? From there you can peruse the creative styles and flavors. With so many kinds at your fingertips, salad may become the answer multiple nights a week.

Mediterranean Grilled Chicken Salad

Chicken Salads Around the World

When mild, versatile chicken is your main ingredient, you can be off to the Mediterranean, China and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and back to North America. Be prepared for some culinary mash-ups along the way, though. Caesar salad, for example, may have been invented in Tijuana, Mexico by Italian immigrant Caesar Cardini, which explains the parmesan and anchovies but these days we play it loose by adding grilled chicken and even pasta. Chinese Chicken Salad first appeared in America, and there was little about it that was authentically Chinese; same today, with crunchy and delicious add-ins like ramen noodles or fried wonton wrappers. (You can vary the concept by using a different salad dressing; try Thai peanut in the Crunchy Asian Salad, or ginger and sesame in the Asian Chicken Salad.) For another culinary leap, consider the watermelon salad below a great choice if you’re looking for fruit salad for dinner. While it includes feta cheese and pine nuts, it’s unlikely you’d find the combination in Greece. You can grill, saute, or poach your chicken, or grab some rotisserie chicken as a shortcut.

pine nuts, spring greens, grilled chicken, lime juice, minced garlic and 6 more
white pepper, ginger, sesame oil, red cabbage, garlic, rice wine vinegar and 11 more
rice vinegar, soy sauce, green onions, bean sprouts, canola oil and 19 more
rice wine vinegar, clear honey, peanuts, coriander, garlic clove and 11 more
cooked chicken breasts, carrots, red cabbage, cilantro, dressing and 8 more
sesame seed paste, olive oil, salt, hummus, mint, olive oil, paprika and 19 more
anchovy paste, small onion, basil, bone, lemon juice, parsley and 14 more
tomatoes, fresh Parmesan cheese, caesar dressing, salad, chicken cutlets and 1 more
grated Parmesan cheese, romaine lettuce, toasted pine nuts, croutons and 4 more
cilantro leaves, salsa, corn, seasoning, cilantro, chicken, vegetable oil and 10 more
Classic Shrimp Louie Salad and Dressing

Shrimp, Salmon, and Tuna Salads

Some much-loved classics land in this category. Think of a crisp Shrimp Louie salad with a tangy chili-sauce mayo dressing, or a beautifully composed French-style Niçoise with grilled or canned tuna, green beans, potatoes, and tomatoes. (In fact, Niçoise is a good way to go if you’re craving potato salad and want to make a meal out of it.) Then there are the seafood versions of many popular dishes like taco, Caesar, and chopped salads. A good olive oil, fresh lemon juice or lime juice, and some crunchy red onion will go a long way to giving even a simple salad a lot of flavor.

ranch dressing, dried oregano, black pepper, red onion, fresh cilantro and 14 more
avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, shrimp, toasted sliced almonds and 6 more
cucumber, ground cumin, skinless salmon fillets, ground black pepper and 13 more
honey, water, extra-virgin olive oil, Parmesan, anchovy fillets and 16 more
haricots vert, baby lettuces, fingerling potatoes, tuna steak and 10 more
center-cut salmon fillet, kosher salt, eggs, haricots verts, anchovy fillets and 11 more
tuna, dijon mustard, garlic, hard boiled eggs, haricots verts and 15 more
lemon, crumbled feta cheese, cannellini beans, red onion, freshly ground black pepper and 6 more
Mediterranean Three Bean Quinoa Salad

Vegetarian Grain, Bean, Tofu, and Cheese Salads

A vegetarian or vegan main-dish salad can still be plenty filling when you include whole grains like quinoa and farro, chickpeas or white beans, seared tofu, or little balls of mozzarella, in the case of the Summer Panzanella (think of it as a tossed version of a Caprese salad). Flavors here run the gamut from Greek salad (with feta cheese and kalamata olives) or Mediterranean basil and tomato salad, to Middle Eastern tahini, Southwest cumin and cilantro, and Vietnamese lime, lemongrass, and peanuts. There are plenty of good choices if you’re wanting a regular or heirloom tomato salad, cucumber salad, or avocado salad.

Roma tomatoes, cayenne, salt, tahini, garlic, smoked paprika and 12 more
mozzarella balls, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh basil leaves and 3 more
quinoa, extra virgin olive oil, cucumber, sea salt, shallot, Ras el hanout spice mix and 9 more
limes, cumin, red onion, peppers, chopped cilantro, kosher salt and 6 more
cilantro, cherry tomatoes, red onion, feta cheese, avocado, sea salt and 6 more
olive oil, chopped basil, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, bread, yellow bell pepper and 10 more
artichokes, bell peppers, red onion, peppadew peppers, red wine vinegar and 12 more
salad, green onion, coconut oil, toasted sesame oil, ume plum vinegar and 4 more
mushroom soy sauce, mushroom soy sauce, rice noodles, water, English cucumber and 18 more
soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, peanut oil, minced ginger and 13 more
Warm Fajita Steak Salad

Steak and Ground Beef Salads

Some main-dish salads are both warm and cool, and steak and ground beef salads are among the most popular. The key to success is to keep the meat nice and juicy to contrast with the crunchy greens. Thinner steak options like skirt and flank cook so quickly they stay moist. New York and ribeye steaks, being a bit thicker, take a few minutes longer, but the marbling in the meat ensures they’re juicy. Kristine’s Kitchen takes an unconventional approach to cook the ground beef in her healthy taco salad; she goes for medium to low heat, adds water (but no oil), and cooks the meat until it’s browned. As for the greens, feel free to swap in a favorite like butter lettuce, say, for mâche (in the Grecian steak and cucumber salad) if that’s what you have available.

cooking oil, salad leaves, spring onions, sesame oil, dressing and 14 more
garlic clove, seedless cucumbers, skirt steak, napa cabbage, salted peanuts and 9 more
kosher salt, lemon juice, mâche, garlic clove, pepper, sugar snap peas and 6 more
romaine lettuce, cheddar cheese, extra lean ground beef, dill pickles and 1 more
Southwestern Cobb Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Bacon, Sausage, and Ham Salads

If you’re among the people who think the mere mention of bacon, sausage, or ham in an ingredient list is a great reason to try a recipe, this category’s for you. Sure, you’ll also find chicken, shrimp, and cheese in the mix, but salty pork is key to the flavors here. Think big and filling cobb and chopped salads; broccoli salad; a summer pasta salad recipe with sausage (that’s good hot or cold); and a classic make-ahead layered spinach salad.

butter lettuce, thick-cut bacon, sweet corn, arugula, pepper and 6 more
peeled and deveined shrimp, black pepper, blue cheese, avocado and 7 more
sharp cheddar cheese, red wine vinegar, cracked black pepper and 10 more
green bell pepper, pasta, artichokes, smoked sausage, shredded Parmesan cheese and 9 more
frozen peas, mayonnaise, baby spinach, shredded Parmesan cheese and 7 more