By now everyone knows that a big part of a healthy diet includes lots of fruits and vegetables. It’s easy to pack these foods into crisp, cooling salads in the summer, but when the weather starts turning chilly, most of us start craving warming and comforting foods.
Enter warm salads. They’re salad plus comfort food. Making a warm salad couldn’t be easier either: It’s just mixing and matching warm or hot ingredients with fresh into one hearty meal.
Let’s take a look at what goes into building a warm salad.
How to Build the Perfect Warm Salad
Step 1: Build a Base
Lettuces are one of the most common greens associated with salads, but they aren’t the only ones available. While fresh green salads are perfect for summer, they’re less so when the weather starts to get chilly. To build a warm base for your salad, choose leafy greens that can be slightly cooked or steamed. Then, either add these warm greens to your favorite fresh salad greens or use them alone. Get creative, mix and match until you find your favorite blend.
Good choices include:
- Kale (any variety)
- Collard Greens
- Swiss Chard
- Dandelion Greens
Step 2: Top it Off
A salad without toppings isn’t a salad at all; it’s just a sad bowl of greens. One of the great things about warm salads is not only tailoring the flavors to suit your tastes, but also the limitless variety of toppings available. Often I’ll use whatever leftovers I need to use up in the fridge. Do you have roasted vegetables from last nights dinner? Throw them in! A batch of roasted chickpeas? Toss them in! Caramelized onions can add a lovely depth of flavor to salads.
Quick Tip: If I’m using leftovers, I like to mix in a few fresh vegetables along with them so that I have a balance of both crunchy and soft textures.
Toppings that can be warm or cold:
- Cruciferous vegetables like turnips, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, or cabbage
- Vegetables such as green onions, cucumbers, radishes, bell peppers, peas, asparagus, zucchini, squash, or tomatoes
- Fruits such as mandarin oranges, figs, or dried fruits such as cranberries, raisins, or blueberries
- Seeds like sunflower, pumpkin, or flax and nuts like walnuts, pecans, cashews, peanuts, or brazil nuts
Step 3: Choose a Complex Carbohydrate or Starch
If you’re eating a salad for a meal—warm or cold—adding a complex carbohydrate or starch to it will help keep your energy engines running at top speeds. Warm salads are the perfect vehicle for potatoes, whole grains, beans, legumes, or another type of starch.
A few healthy choices are:
- Sweet Potato
- Beans or Lentils
Step 4: Pick a Plant Protein
Try this Black Garlic Tofu from Sylvia Fountaine, perfect for warm or hot salads.
A nutritionally balanced warm salad includes a serving of protein. Luckily, there are plenty of plant options to choose from and some even pull double nutrition-duty. Some are both a protein and a complex carbohydrate, for example, quinoa or beans.
Quality protein choices include:
Step 5: Add Flair
One of my favorite not-so-secret secrets to eating healthy food is to add flair to keep meals interesting. Maybe you don’t like salads all that much, but you want to eat more vegetables. Adding a small amount of a tasty food will help keep your taste buds interested.
Try topping your salads with roasted nuts or spiced seeds- look for ones made without extra oils. Crumble toasted pita chips on top of your salad, or perhaps warmed capers or olives, or even sun-dried tomatoes. More limitless possibilities.
Step 6: Dress for Deliciousness
This Creamy Avocado Lime Dressing from A Virtual Vegan is oil-free, tangy, and a great accompaniment to a warm salad.
Another not-so-secret secret to eating healthy food is in the sauce—or, the dressing. A delicious dressing or sauce can turn a boring salad of blandness into something crave-worthy. Beyond that, dressings are an excellent way to incorporate healthy fats into the meal. Look for dressings made from whole-foods such as tahini, avocado, or cashews.
A few delicious, whole-food choices are:
- Creamy Sesame Dressing
- Ginger Miso Dressing
- Spicy Peanut Butter Dressing
- Magical Tahini Dressing
- Mango-Hemp Dressing
- Creamy Cumin Ranch Dressing
- Raspberry Vinaigrette
- Creamy Caesar Dressing
- Southwestern Black Bean Dressing
Are you ready to try making a warm, hearty salad of your own? I found a few recipes to help inspire your culinary creativity. I love hearing from you, so let me know what you think about them in the comments.
Recipes for Inspiration:
- Roasted Peppers Sundried Tomato Quinoa Salad
- Warm Kale and Arugula Salad with Tahini
- Warm Kale Avocado Salad with Tahini-Ginger Dressing
- Roasted Carrot Lentil Salad with Tahini Dressing
- Delicata Squash and Kale Salad with Citrus-Maple Vinaigrette
- Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Sriracha Lime Dressing
- Hot Skillet Salad
- Warm Veggie Quinoa Salad
- Warm Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce
- Warm Mediterranean Potato Salad
- Roasted Garlic Tomato Lentil Salad
- Grilled Corn Barley Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette
- Freekeh Roasted Carrot Salad with Dill
- Power Protein Salad with Kidney Beans, Chickpeas, Edamame, Quinoa and Almonds
- Mushroom, Lemon, and French Lentil Salad
- Warm Brown Rice and Lentil Salad with Lemon Kale
Related at Care2:
- A Surprising Ayurvedic Tip for Salads
- 10 Ways to Spice Up Your Salads
- 18 Warm Cozy Salads for Winter
Photo credit: Thinkstock or recipe authors. Used with permission.