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.

grilled chicken, spring greens, pine nuts, feta cheese, honey and 6 more
rice wine vinegar, chow mein noodles, red cabbage, edamame, romaine lettuce and 12 more
green onions, bean sprouts, fresh ginger, napa cabbage, honey and 19 more
clear honey, coriander, garlic clove, lettuce, lime juice, fresh ginger and 10 more
cooked chicken breasts, basil, cilantro, napa cabbage, hass avocados and 8 more
cherry tomatoes, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, olive oil and 23 more
pepper, greek yogurt, dill, chives, capers, romaine lettuce leaves and 14 more
cooking spray, tomatoes, chicken cutlets, fresh Parmesan cheese and 2 more
toasted pine nuts, cherry tomatoes, croutons, dry pasta, grated Parmesan cheese and 3 more
green leaf lettuce, seasoning, tortilla chips, salsa, cilantro leaves and 12 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.

cherry tomatoes, lime, oil, ranch dressing, ground cumin, salsa and 13 more
kosher salt, toasted sliced almonds, shallot, lemon, avocado and 5 more
grape tomatoes, red onion, cilantro leaves, ground cumin, fresh corn and 12 more
grated Parmesan cheese, minced garlic, sunflower seeds, black pepper and 17 more
kalamata olives, dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, tuna steak and 10 more
olive oil, freshly ground pepper, mixed salad greens, extra virgin olive oil and 12 more
pepper, grape tomatoes, greens, minced shallots, capers, salt and 14 more
crumbled feta cheese, white albacore tuna packed in water, sliced olives and 8 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.

farro, lemon juice, parsley, salt, cucumber, water, Roma tomatoes and 11 more
red onion, bread, mozzarella balls, cucumbers, grape tomatoes and 2 more
olive oil, flat leaf parsley, cucumber, wholegrain mustard, shallot and 10 more
kosher salt, black beans, quinoa, fresh corn, red onion, limes and 6 more
cherry tomatoes, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, garlic clove and 8 more
chopped basil, garlic, maple syrup, bread, purple onion, olive oil and 10 more
cracked black pepper, cannellini beans, dried Italian herbs, pimento stuffed green olives and 13 more
ginger, toasted sesame oil, green onion, coconut oil, black sesame seeds and 4 more
Maggi, sesame oil, coconut sugar, peanut oil, firm tofu, thai basil leaves and 17 more
red bell pepper, Chinese egg noodles, tahini, dry sherry, cucumber 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.

garlic, chopped coriander, red chilli, lemongrass, lime slices and 14 more
honey, vegetable oil, daikon, seedless cucumbers, serrano chiles and 9 more
mâche, sugar snap peas, feta cheese, mint leaves, lemon juice and 7 more
large tomato, extra lean ground beef, dill pickles, cheddar cheese 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.

sweet corn, olive oil, grape tomatoes, arugula, lime, thick-cut bacon and 5 more
kosher salt, black pepper, corn, avocado, garlic, blue cheese and 5 more
thick cut bacon, mayonnaise, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds and 9 more
green bell pepper, sugar, smoked sausage, olive oil, dried basil and 9 more
mayonnaise, buttermilk ranch dressing mix, baby spinach, sour cream and 7 more