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.

cracked pepper, olive oil, pine nuts, spring greens, minced garlic and 6 more
sesame oil, red cabbage, soy sauce, sugar, chow mein noodles and 12 more
bean sprouts, kosher salt, wonton wrappers, rice vinegar, red bell pepper and 19 more
lettuce, skinless boneless chicken breasts, clear honey, carrot and 12 more
English cucumber, dressing, edamame, cilantro, cooked chicken breasts and 8 more
salt, lemon, olive oil, honey, crushed red pepper flakes, adobo and 20 more
pepper, large garlic cloves, sea salt, cucumber, lemon juice and 15 more
salad, cooking spray, caesar dressing, fresh Parmesan cheese and 2 more
grated Parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts, croutons, romaine lettuce and 4 more
green leaf lettuce, vegetable oil, butter, Roma tomatoes, cilantro 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.

salsa, cherry tomatoes, salt, red onion, shrimp, chili powder and 13 more
avocado, freshly ground black pepper, lemon, toasted sliced almonds and 6 more
salt, skinless salmon fillets, lime, paprika, cilantro leaves and 12 more
grated Parmesan cheese, anchovy fillets, dijon mustard, garlic and 17 more
extra-virgin olive oil, haricots vert, baby lettuces, tuna steak and 10 more
extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, red onion, freshly ground pepper and 12 more
capers, salt, anchovies, haricots verts, hard boiled eggs, grape tomatoes and 14 more
kosher salt, white albacore tuna packed in water, cannellini beans 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.

garlic powder, parsley, smoked paprika, salt, lemon juice, cayenne and 12 more
mozzarella balls, red onion, bread, fresh basil leaves, grape tomatoes and 2 more
olive oil, quinoa, flat leaf parsley, extra virgin olive oil and 11 more
black beans, queso cheese, quinoa, chopped cilantro, cumin, peppers and 6 more
extra virgin olive oil, feta cheese, garlic clove, English cucumber and 8 more
chopped basil, olive oil, olive oil, black pepper, cherry tomatoes and 11 more
black olives, cracked black pepper, cannellini beans, bell peppers and 13 more
toasted sesame oil, ume plum vinegar, ginger, salad, extra firm tofu and 4 more
cilantro stems, carrots, rice vinegar, water, coconut sugar, rice noodles and 17 more
garlic, red bell pepper, shallot, peanut butter, rice vinegar 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.

dressing, chopped coriander, fish sauce, red chilli, garlic, red chilli and 13 more
serrano chiles, garlic clove, daikon, wide rice noodles, honey and 9 more
new york steaks, lemon juice, mint leaves, pepper, extra-virgin olive oil and 7 more
extra lean ground beef, dill pickles, cheddar cheese, romaine lettuce 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.

arugula, sweet corn, lime, grape tomatoes, olive oil, feta cheese and 5 more
peeled and deveined shrimp, blue cheese, cherry tomatoes, butter lettuce and 7 more
cracked black pepper, red wine vinegar, light sour cream, salt and 9 more
garlic, grape tomatoes, shredded Parmesan cheese, sugar, olive oil and 9 more
chopped celery, sour cream, baby spinach, frozen peas, shredded Parmesan cheese and 6 more