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, watermelon and 6 more
white pepper, romaine lettuce, rice wine vinegar, garlic, soy sauce and 12 more
rice vinegar, freshly ground pepper, napa cabbage, soy sauce and 20 more
carrot, spring onions, cucumber, garlic clove, peanuts, red chilli and 10 more
dressing, roasted peanuts, dressing, napa cabbage, English cucumber and 8 more
avocado, garlic, paprika, sesame seed paste, feta cheese, persian cucumbers and 20 more
capers, anchovy paste, olive oil, salt, basil, romaine lettuce leaves and 14 more
fresh Parmesan cheese, cooking spray, chicken cutlets, caesar dressing and 2 more
toasted pine nuts, grated Parmesan cheese, croutons, cooked chicken breasts and 4 more
vegetable oil, ranch dressing, corn, chicken, salsa, seasoning and 11 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.

black beans, chili powder, red onion, ranch dressing, avocados and 14 more
shrimp, toasted sliced almonds, kosher salt, extra-virgin olive oil and 6 more
fresh corn, ancho chili powder, cilantro leaves, red onion, ground cumin and 12 more
extra-virgin olive oil, lemons, romaine hearts, sunflower seeds and 17 more
kosher salt, baby lettuces, freshly ground black pepper, grape tomatoes and 10 more
red wine vinegar, eggs, kosher salt, Niçoise olives, freshly ground pepper and 11 more
anchovies, greens, Nicoise olives, green beans, red wine vinegar and 15 more
cherry tomatoes, sliced olives, kosher salt, extra-virgin olive oil and 7 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.

lemon juice, salt, parsley, tahini, cumin, Roma tomatoes, cracked pepper and 11 more
grape tomatoes, cucumbers, bread, red onion, grape tomatoes, fresh basil leaves and 1 more
cucumber, cherry tomatoes, shallot, extra virgin olive oil, Ras el hanout spice mix and 10 more
honey, vegetable oil, fresh corn, cumin, limes, queso cheese and 6 more
cilantro, lemon juice, cherry tomatoes, red onion, avocado, extra virgin olive oil and 6 more
red wine vinegar, chopped basil, baby spinach leaves, yellow bell pepper and 12 more
black olives, artichokes, garbanzo beans, red wine vinegar, red onion and 12 more
ume plum vinegar, ginger, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, black sesame seeds and 4 more
thai basil leaves, mushroom soy sauce, lemongrass, lime wedges and 19 more
red bell pepper, minced ginger, dry sherry, rice vinegar, shallot 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.

salt, spring onions, cooking oil, medium carrot, fish sauce, lime and 13 more
daikon, honey, fresh lime juice, seedless cucumbers, garlic clove and 9 more
extra-virgin olive oil, lemons, garlic clove, lemon juice, mâche and 7 more
extra lean ground beef, romaine lettuce, cheddar cheese, large tomato 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, avocado, arugula, olive oil, butter lettuce, pepper and 5 more
avocado, corn, black pepper, olive oil, blue cheese, peeled and deveined shrimp and 5 more
fat free greek yogurt, mayonnaise, broccoli florets, thick cut bacon and 9 more
artichokes, dried basil, apple cider vinegar, smoked sausage and 10 more
buttermilk ranch dressing mix, frozen peas, hard-boiled eggs and 8 more