Best Summer Salad Recipes for Your Next Cookout
Think beyond lettuce and beat the heat with these 26 refreshing, resilient, and irresistible summer salads
Summer’s waning, but with the recent weather patterns being what they’ve been, the heat and humidity is not. We’re not the only things that droop under the inexorable temperatures and the damp air. Poor lettuce, normally so crunchy and refreshing, gets sapped, too, as it wilts sadly under these conditions. But in this season, there’s nothing you want more than a cool and reviving salad. What’s a host or hostess to do?
Make any one of these! We have the best summer salad recipes on (patio) deck to help you — and your fruits and veggies — beat the heat at your next potluck, BBQ, cookout, or dinner party. With these interesting takes on different types of lettuce-light salads, you can keep your summer as cool as the cucumbers featured.
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Summer pasta salads
Advance prep-friendly and filling, pasta salads can often be just the thing for a light outdoor meal.
This easy Caprese salad doubles as a meal and takes advantage of two of the freshest flavors from any summer garden: tomatoes and basil. Dressed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and pesto, the salad is good at room temp or straight from the fridge, and it keeps 2 to 3 days.
For zesty and refreshing, you can’t beat sunshiny lemons. This recipe combines pasta with asparagus, artichoke hearts, toasted pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and an easy lemon basil vinaigrette for a summery salad with an Italian spin.
You can’t talk about pasta salad without touching on a couple that are creamy, and this summer corn salad includes diced avocado in addition to mayo for lushness. Lime juice and fresh herbs provide balance to that richness, and so does the addition of chili powder and sriracha hot sauce for a little kick for the sweet corn. Don’t skip the salty, tangy cotija cheese! It’s an important part of elotes, which this recipes takes inspo from.
If it’s classic macaroni salad that you’re after, this one delivers with a little celery and onion for crunch, and a creamy dressing of mayonnaise seasoned with lemon juice, mustard, garlic powder, and a touch of cayenne. Given that there’s plenty of mayo, you’ll want to keep the salad cold in the fridge or ice chest until just before serving.
Who says potato salad needs to be creamy and weather-sensitive? Not these recipes! Channel international flavors to dress up your spuds.
You may have heard of German potato salad, but have you heard of the Austrian version? I had my first taste in Vienna at the famous Figlmüller, home of the original schnitzel, and as good as that was, it was actually the potato salad (with a side of Rapunzel — mâche lettuce salad) that I went back for. In this version, the mustard-based dressing leans on licoricey tarragon as a secret ingredient. The recipe suggests a neutral oil, but try to find pumpkin seed if you can. Your guests will find it as unforgettable as I did!
When it’s too hot to be roasting potatoes, this herbaceous salad can come to the flavor rescue! It uses a red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing to help spread the cilantro, oregano, shallots, garlic, and red pepper around — a perfect vegan, Argentinian-inspired alternative to our mayonnaise-y American version. And like all potato salads, it’s better the next day.
Classic potato salad is a staple. But have you tried it loaded? For those who just can’t let go of creamy potato salad for their summertime menus, this recipe can fit the bill, giving the expected a little bit of a twist with bacon and ranch flavors. You can also make it healthier by swapping out the mayo and sour cream for Greek yogurt as I often do. And if you don’t have chives, scallions will do just fine. On a hot day, just make sure to keep this salad cool and covered. Serving it in a bowl on ice should do you just fine.
Whole grains offer a lot of benefits, from health to hardiness. These clean, simple recipes are great for your cookout, and just as good as a super bowl the days after.
This light Eastern Mediterranean salad of couscous or bulgur wheat is common to the Levant, which is a region that includes Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, and much of Turkey. You can also riff with orzo instead. Any way you spin it, it’s a great accompaniment to grilled meats or as part of your grazing table, next to the hummus that has become ubiquitous at gatherings. Best of all, if you’re a gardener, it’s an easy, delicious way to use up bumper crops of cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, parsley, and mint, whose abundance is a blessing and a curse this time of year!
It takes a lot to get hardy kale to buckle under, which is what makes this green perfect for a weatherproof salad. Chewy, nutty farro and sweet dried apricots will only get more tender as they soak up the white wine vinegar dressing. Salty feta cheese adds even more complexity to this practical, beautifully balanced dish. Alternatively, ricotta salata wouldn’t be a stretch.
Fiber and protein make bean salads as good a vegetarian main as they are sides. Make these to give your guests flexible options.
Classic Greek salad is actually lettuce-less; horiatiki is commonly comprised only of tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, feta, sometimes peppers and olives depending on taste, and simply dressed. This recipe makes it vegan and amps up the protein with the addition of chickpeas. However, unless you avoid cheese, I recommend adding it back in! Lush Bulgarian feta will crumble luxuriously into your diced bites.
If you’re looking to add a bright pop of emerald to your table, this verdant, Asian-inspired side of green beans, edamame, scallions, and avocado is ready to star. Mizuna can be a tough ingredient to get a hold of, though. You can use watercress, mustard greens, dinosaur kale, baby spinach, or baby arugula.
Who doesn’t like a nice, tangy summer bean salad this time of year? This recipe gives you the foundation for your basic bean salad, which you can always add onto. For instance, I love to use lentil or chickpea pasta to bulk this salad up and get all my fiber for the day in just one great side dish. You can also use some of summer’s wealth of zucchini by dicing it up to add a juicy crunch. Just make sure to let the salad sit overnight so that the flavors get a chance to really sink in.
Think beyond the green salad with exciting spins incorporating different vegetables! These recipes will add excitement to any spread.
At their peak, sun-ripe tomatoes are sweet, succulent, and in need of no embellishment. But for a more sophisticated take, dressing them up into tomato salad takes little effort. This recipe has you coat thick slices with minced herbs and red onions for deep, permeating flavor. Punch up the wow even more by using heirloom tomatoes.
For this much-loved Italian bread salad, “no longer crisp” is a plus rather than a minus! Here’s where you can put your ripest tomatoes to perfect use. Season them with salt to pull out the juices. Then combine the works with toasted bread cubes, refreshing cucumber and basil, and a simple homemade vinaigrette.
Looking for a healthy and refreshing salad? Give broccoli the deluxe treatment with pecans, crunchy grapes, and a light, creamy dressing with a touch of balsamic and sugar.
You’re going to be needing a classic slaw to go alongside (or inside!) your grilled chicken or pulled pork sandwich, and this one delivers with the perfect balance of creamy, lightly sweet, and tangy flavors. Be sure to allow at least an hour for the flavors to meld in the fridge.
If it’s Thai, it’s welcome at any summertime table — after all, if anyone knows how to beat the heat, it’s a tropical nation known for light, refreshing cuisine! This incredibly easy recipe requires only the most basic of Asian ingredients — including rice vinegar and sesame oil — and presents cucumber spectacularly ribbon-cut.
Inexpensive, easy, and unexpected, this clean, simple salad of carrot shreds looks elegant and adds a fabulous pop of color to your BBQ spread. Streamline the prep by shredding the carrots in a food processor, if you like. Then accent their flavor with a lemon juice and Dijon vinaigrette.
This hearty, filling salad takes some preparation, but believe me, it’ll eat like a main dish. The majority of the ingredients are seasonings you likely have, plus tahini, chickpeas, and cauliflower. The extra steps you’ll take roasting the crucifer and onions and toasting the chickpeas won’t take too much effort, but it’ll sure taste like it.
Meaty, chewy, and exquisitely marinated, mushroom salads can be filling sides that stand in for vegetarian entrees as well. This recipe allows you to choose any variety of mushrooms, so switch it up with baby bellas, white buttons, and slices of beefy portabellas. And it’s so convenient for make-ahead meals. The longer these flavor sponges sit in the dressing, the better they get.
Fresh tomatoes are fantastic for summer, but canned puree has its place … as with this Israeli/Lebanese-inspired side, which is simultaneously rich from the tender eggplant and softened peppers, and is refreshing served chilled. Try it with a dollop of Greek yogurt for creamy coolness — and keep it in mind to serve on top of seasoned rice or with quinoa.
While you have the grill fired up, you may as well throw some … lettuce on it, right? But for real, this isn’t too left field. Grilled romaine is crunchy in the middle and sweeter, and you won’t have to worry about it wilting like a chilled salad would. Feel free to make it a Caesar salad by changing out the dressing (keep it cold and on the side) and substituting shaved Parmesan cheese for the ricotta salata. Top it off with traditional croutons or, as I prefer, toasted pine nuts.
Summer salad recipes with fruit
Fruit salads have come a long way, and these delicious riffs prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Sweet, savory, rich, and acidic, these are full flavors at their seasonal best.
If you’ve never had this combination, suspend your disbelief and just give it a shot. If you have, I don’t need to tell you how unexpectedly delightful watermelon with mint and feta cheese can be! This recipe gussies it up with the added richness of avocados and the acidity of lime juice. Don’t be shy about piling on the toppings — sweet, juicy watermelon can take all these flavors on without losing its summery character.
As with the Grilled Romaine Salad, wonderful things can happen when you toss unexpected ingredients on the grill. Cantaloupe is no exception. This salad helps you make use of the last of blueberry season, too, as part of the dressing and a standalone raw ingredient. Baby kale or arugula makes a handsome base for a colorful presentation. You could easily add a little shredded chicken if it's chicken salad you're after.
Who says only vegetables can be green? This elegant recipe features a gorgeous bowl of spheres, but contains only 3 ingredients. It’s perfect for summer, and couldn’t be easier to make, if you have a melon baller. A barely-there dressing, made by blitzing the melon scraps in a blender with honey and fresh mint, lets the natural flavors do the talking.
Have you ever thought to pair fruit with vegetables, particularly two such distinct and disparate types? The secret is cooking the peaches with caramelized onions and white balsamic vinegar to create a tangy-sweet combination that bridges the salad’s flavors. Set this one out and watch guests give the remarkable combo a go.
Keep exploring summer recipes
Read on for more delicious ideas for summer cooking in these next articles: