Tips for building a beautiful salad! Plus 5 salad recipes to make your very own

Those of you who’ve dined at my table know that I make a killer salad. I rarely follow salad recipes, preferring to follow my instincts and senses. Although I occasionally glean ideas from magazines and Pinterest, I usually end up modifying and substituting to get the exact dish I want!

tips for making beautiful saladsI do, however, follow a general set of principles that I’ve developed over years of daily salad making. Principles that are guided by texture, taste, juxtaposition and aesthetics. Call me the ‘salad whisperer’, if you will.

My salad recipe making “rules”?

  • 5 ingredients maximum; I can’t stand a kitchen-sink salad. Too many flavours and consistencies vying for my attention. Simpler is always better and takes less time to prepare! (Hubby, are you paying attention???)
  • contrasting colours are key; choose at least two very different coloured ingredients to add visual interest and pique the diner’s curiosity. I love blueberries with spinach!
  • combine tender and crisp; different textures will add flavour and depth to your salad experience. Try pecans and goat cheese.
  • pair sweet with salty; these two opposing flavours work well when combined and are often synonymous with the ‘tender and crisp’ rule above. Strawberries and feta. Or cranberries and seaweed.
  • under-dress rather than drown; I used to be a ‘dressing on the side’ girl. Too many bad experiences with salads wilting in thick, sugary sauces. When done properly, a dressing enhances the primary flavours of the salad. Subtle is best, so use a light hand.
  • salads aren’t only side dishes; at lunchtime, a salad is usually my entire meal. To get me through the afternoon, it needs protein and sometimes a bit of starch. I often use : to ‘beef up’ my midday meal. Warm or cold, leftover chicken, fish or tofu can be a tasty addition to your greens!

Be creative! You’re really only limited by your imagination (and what’s in your fridge…)!

5 salad recipes – Use them as guidelines to create your personal signature salad

1. Spinach salad with strawberries or blueberries and feta

  • Ingredients: spinach, strawberries or blueberries, sliced mushrooms, crumbled feta chess and toasted almonds
  • Dressing: EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and balsamic vinegar (3:1); whisk and drizzle over top

salad recipes


2. Raw kale salad with sun-dried tomato and pine nuts

  • Ingredients: kale, sun-dried tomato slices, toasted pine nuts, sliced avocado
  • Dressing: EVOO, lemon juice, crushed garlic, cracked pepper and parmesan cheese

salad recipes

3. Mediterranean style veggies with boccincini

  • Ingredients: cucumbers, grape tomatoes, red peppers, sliced onions, boccincini rounds
  • Dressing: Basil pesto, EVOO, crushed garlic

salad recipes

4. Quinoa salad with chicken, kale and cranberries

  • Ingredients: cooked and cooled quinoa (leftovers are great), chicken breast chunks, blanched and cooled chopped kale, dried cranberries
  • Dressing: canola oil, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, crushed garlic

This salad is so good that I never remember to take a photo before I’m all finished!

5. Field greens with green onions, shrimp and sesame-citrus vinaigrette

  • Ingredients: field greens (including romaine, arugula, spinach), green onions, cooked and cooled shrimp, julienned peppers
  • Dressing: orange juice, sesame oil, crushed garlic, grated fresh ginger, toasted sesame seeds 

salad recipes


Do you have a ‘signature’ salad recipe? Tell me!

Better yet,  make one of the above your own and share your modifications and substitutions below!


  1. I cannot wait to try that shrimp salad! Thanks for sharing your recipes!
    Kate @ Kate is eating recently posted…Friday Favorites 8.31.12My Profile

  2. Love the sweet and salty idea! I am pinning away!

  3. Beautiful looking salads! I used to be very boring with salads, thinking I didn’t like fruit or nuts in them. But just this past year I’ve branched out. All of a sudden I’m eating salads with cranberries, grapes, nuts, etc. in them. And I love it! What took me so long?…
    Carrie Rubin recently posted…A Threesome? How About An Eightsome?My Profile

    • I think I love looking (and photographing) salads as much as I love eating them! Isn’t it funny how much of our lives we spent thinking a salad had to be lettuce and veggies?

  4. Oh my gosh, salad sisters :-). I love your salad making tips. I’ve been following them without actually realizing I was following the “rules.” I do have a hard time with that number of ingredients thing though. I do try to restrain myself.

    I’m not sure which of your salads to try first. Possibly the kale because I <3 pine nuts. Or the one with the pesto (though I'll have to google boccincini :-)).

    Anyway, thanks for the tips and the recipes. Pinning!
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted…Why I Need a Go ProMy Profile

    • Hey Debbie, boccincini is also called ‘buffalo mozzarella’. It’s basically a soft, ripened mozarella type cheese. It comes in large rounds and small ‘pearls’. I like the pearls best…

      The term ‘rules’ sounds so strict, doesn’t it? I guess they’re more like personal preferences…

  5. I love keeping my salads fun, interesting and colourful! Great recipes on the blog Tamara! 🙂
    Kierston recently posted…Part II ~ 8 Weeks Out: Being The Best Me!My Profile

  6. I printed this and will totally be sharing these!!!
    Molly Ritterbeck recently posted…Playlist Thursday – Most AppearancesMy Profile

  7. I used to consider myself a person who found salads ok. But by mixing fruits and greens, nuts and cheese, etc I find I really love salads. Your tips are so delectable that I will call you the Salad Whisperer!
    KymberlyFunFit recently posted…Finding Neutral SpineMy Profile

    • I eat them 2 or 3 times a day. I even buy the big 2 kg bag of spinach at Superstore. You can call me Popeye if you want!

  8. I so agree with not using toooo many ingredients…. sometimes LESS really IS more.

    You DO make a killer salad!

    Lately I am loving greens with fresh mango slices, black beans, sliced onion, topped with a dressing made with EFOO, chopped cilantro, cumin, garlic and lemon juice.
    Elle recently posted…The Beautiful Blogger AwardMy Profile

    • Mmm, you’re making me hungry! Everything but the mango; I have a mango sensitivity that results in tingling lips when I eat it. Thanks for the recipe! (We should have dinner together sometime!)

  9. I am not a salad person – way too lazy to cut up things & all that & then clean up – 😉 I just make veggies & be done with it! 🙂 BUT you are making me rethink & I could add protein to each one! Never hear of boccincini rounds! These all look amazing Tamara!!!! Thx for sharing!
    Jody – Fit at 54 recently posted…Product Sightings – Protein Water & PB2 AlternativeMy Profile

  10. Your Mediterranean salad looks amazing! I love a salad of mixed greens, strawberries, blue cheese, walnuts and a simple vinaigrette.
    Maureen recently posted…What Has FitFluential Done For You?My Profile

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