We tend to associate salads most closely with spring and summer, when fresh produce is at its peak and when we're all in the mood for lighter, fresher-tasting meals. As the temperature drops, delicate lettuces, cucumbers, and tomatoes disappear from the farmers markets; meanwhile, our tastes move away from salads and toward warming stews, hearty pastas, and roasted meats. But fall isn't without its share of wonderful produce, from seasonal brassicas—like kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts—to fruits like apples, pears, and citrus. We pair them with a variety of beans, potatoes, and/or whole grains to create filling vegetarian main dishes, like this gorgeous fall harvest salad with sunchokes and radishes, or a carrot and rye berry salad that's perfect as a make-ahead lunch. Meat eaters can try a Thai-style salad of sliced steak (okay, not exactly a showcase for produce, but it tastes great!) or a chickpea salad with bacon and Cotija cheese. Below are 22 recipes to keep you in satisfying, well-balanced salads right through the changing of the seasons.
Arugula, Sweet Potato, and Walnut Salad With Dashi "Vinaigrette"
If you've ever ordered soba at a Japanese restaurant, you've probably had shoyu-dashi, a mixture of soy sauce and the versatile broth dashi that's often used as a dip for noodles. By whisking shoyu-dashi with olive oil, we create a savory acid-free "vinaigrette"—sans vinegar—that provides smoky, salty balance for a salad of sweet potatoes, arugula, and walnuts.
Tofu and Kale Salad With Avocado, Grapefruit, and Miso-Tahini Dressing
Cooking tofu slowly in a pan lends it a nice, crackly golden-brown crust—enough to supply textural contrast in a salad of otherwise soft ingredients, like grapefruit suprèmes, avocado, and baby greens. We coat the tofu in za'atar for a bit of spice and dress the salad with a rich, flavorful mixture of miso, tahini, and honey or agave nectar.
Roasted Potato and Shallot Salad With Marinated Mushrooms and Kale
The long ingredient list for this salad may look a little daunting, but the components all come together quite easily. While the potatoes are parboiling, we roast the shallots to caramelize their sugars and bring out their sweetness, and sauté shiitake mushrooms until tender and browned. A brief roast in a hot oven crisps up the potatoes, which we toss with the shallots and mushrooms, plus a handful of baby kale, for a rustic, hearty fall dish.
Winter Greens Salad With Fennel, Citrus, and Creamy Citrus Vinaigrette
Citrus fruits are widely available all year round, but thrive in the colder months. This salad showcases peak-season sweet and tart citrus, like pomelos, tangerines, and mandarins, which we cut into suprèmes and combine with bitter winter greens—endive, radicchio, and escarole—and crunchy shaved fennel. Reserve the juice from the fruits to form a tangy base for the creamy vinaigrette.
Fall Harvest Salad With Roasted Brassicas, Fingerlings, and Radishes
Packed with an array of seasonal vegetables, this elegant-looking salad requires a bit of work, but most of the prep can be done ahead of time. Use the brassicas that look best to you at the farmers market—broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, or a mix of them all—and roast them until they're browned. Then combine them with earthy sunchokes, roasted radishes, fingerling potatoes, and sturdy cold-weather greens. The hearty vegetables used here won't wilt in the refrigerator, and can even be dressed well in advance of serving.
Warm Brussels Sprout Salad With Bacon and Hazelnut Vinaigrette
A warm salad can be nearly as comforting as a bowl of soup on a cool fall day, and Brussels sprouts, which turn sweet and nutty when cooked, are a great ingredient to start with. Here, we pair the crisply charred sprout leaves with bacon in not one, not two, but three ways—we cook the leaves in bacon fat, crumble in bits of bacon, and add more fat to a creamy, rich vinaigrette made with honey, hazelnuts, and sherry vinegar.
Roasted-Carrot Salad With Peanut-Sesame Mole
Warm spices like ancho chili powder, cumin, and paprika make the perfect complement to sweet roasted carrots. In this fully vegan salad, we use a couple of tablespoons of the spice blend to coat the carrots before roasting them, and save the rest to make an easy mole-style sauce. Toasted pumpkin seeds add crunch and a nutty flavor.
Carrot and Rye Berry Salad With Celery, Cilantro, and Marcona Almonds
This salad capitalizes on the pleasantly chewy texture of rye berries, though you can substitute wheat berries or barley if you prefer. They're tossed with tender carrots, cilantro, and crunchy celery and Marcona almonds, for a simple dish that will keep for up to three days in the fridge. Simmering the carrots whole and slicing them up afterward helps ensure they'll be cooked evenly.
Chilled Carrots With Tahini-Ginger Dressing
Want your carrots to retain a little bite after cooking? The trick is to shock them in ice water immediately after blanching, which helps them stay snappy and firm. For this salad, we dress tender-crisp blanched carrots with a vinaigrette of cilantro, ginger, and tahini. Tahini and ginger are both powerful ingredients, so you'll need only two teaspoons of the former and one of the latter.
Kale Caesar Salad
Tasty, healthy, and versatile, kale is on my table more days than not this time of year. When it's raw, though, the deep-green leaves can be unpleasantly tough, so you'll need to take an extra step to tenderize them. One way to do it is by massaging the raw leaves with olive oil, allowing them to soften slightly. Once that's done, the kale is ready to dress and combine as you like; here, we add small, extra-crispy croutons and toss it all with a classic Caesar dressing.
Marinated Kale and Chickpea Salad With Sumac Onions
Massaging your kale with olive oil may be the quickest way to tenderize it, but the laziest way is to just toss the leaves in oil and let them sit for an hour—you'll have some waiting-around time, but you won't even have to get your hands dirty. For this easy salad, simply mix the marinated kale with canned chickpeas and chopped onions seasoned with lemony sumac.
Roasted-Chickpea and Kale Salad With Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette
Chickpeas can make a fine salad addition straight from the can, but roasting canned chickpeas gives them a nutty flavor and somewhat crunchy texture that's far superior. Kale, pine nuts, and handfuls of fresh cilantro and mint join the chickpeas for a salad with great contrast, and a tangy sun-dried tomato vinaigrette unites the ingredients. Not only does this salad keep well, it's actually even better the day after you make it.
Chickpea Salad With Bacon, Cotija, and Roasted Chilies
The calendar says it's fall, but here in LA, the temperature begs to differ. This bright salad, made with smoky bacon, broiled Poblano peppers, briny Cotija, and earthy chickpeas, is just what I want on a warm fall day. Use canned chickpeas if you're pressed for time, but cooking from dried will result in better flavor and texture. Again, we make the most of the rendered bacon fat by whisking it with olive oil and lime juice for a vinaigrette
Beet and Citrus Salad With Pine Nut Vinaigrette
One of the best ways to treat your beets right is by roasting—a hot oven does an excellent job of concentrating their sweet, earthy flavor. Here, we pair the roasted beets with tangy orange and grapefruit suprèmes, and finish this pretty salad with pine nuts and arugula.
Isan-Style Thai Sliced-Steak Salad
Who says you need produce for a salad at all? In my humble opinion, one of the best aspects of Thai cuisine is its incorporation of meat-based salads. In this case, that's thinly sliced steak—flat iron, flank, skirt, and hanger are our preferred cuts—combined with fried lemongrass, fresh herbs, and halved cherry tomatoes (your best choice for tomatoes out of season). The dressing, featuring fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, Thai chilies, and more, brings together hot, sour, pungent, and spicy flavors.
Spicy Thai-Style Pomelo, Green Bean, and Zucchini Salad
Pomelo, a grapefruit-like citrus fruit with a sturdy texture and slightly bitter flavor, is another common ingredient in Thai salads. Combine it (or a bitter variety of grapefruit, if you can't find pomelo) with fresh mint, blanched green beans, and raw zucchini half moons for a simple salad that stands up well to a robust dressing of lime, fish sauce, hot peppers, and garlic.
Whole-Grain Spelt Salad With Leeks and Marinated Mushrooms
Like rye berries, chewy, nutty spelt makes a fine base on which to build a filling salad. Because its earthy flavor benefits from a little acidity, we combine it here with diced leeks and mushrooms marinated in tart cider vinegar. Finishing the salad with fruity espelette pepper powder is a nice touch, but smoked paprika works well, too.
Miso-Charred Mushrooms and Black Rice Salad
Black rice is no mere health food gimmick—its wonderfully nutty flavor and substantial texture make it worth seeking out regardless. Mixing it with edamame, cabbage, scallions, and cilantro makes a dish that's as good to eat as it is nutritious and fresh-tasting. We serve the salad with portobello mushrooms glazed with miso, in a vegetarian take on miso black cod.
Warm Whole-Grain Salad With Fennel, Arugula, Prosciutto, and Pecorino
Anise-scented fennel can be prepared in a variety of ways, but you could argue it's at its best when roasted until sweet and tender. That sweetness begs to be complemented by salty ingredients, so this salad pairs the fennel with savory prosciutto and pecorino, which also add necessary heft. Feel free to experiment with the whole grains that make up the base—rye or wheat berries, farro, and spelt all work.
Warm Couscous Salad With Salmon and Mustard-Dill Dressing
You're likely already familiar with the combination of dill, mustard, and salmon, but you probably haven't seen those ingredients in this particular format. Simply flake cooked salmon into a pot of pearled couscous, then coat with a mustard-dill dressing. Throw a handful of spinach leaves in right at the end, so they wilt slightly from the heat of the couscous; they'll add bits of color and leafy-green flavor, too.
Toasted-Bulgur Salad With Smoked Trout, Radishes, and Green Apple
Fall is the season to find crisp, sweet apples in abundance at your local markets. In this unusual dish, tart green apple adds complexity to a combination of toasted bulgur, smoked trout, and radishes. The real star, though, is the tangy lemon segments that dot the dish; they're candied in simple syrup first, which tames their harsh citrus edge without leaving them cloyingly sweet.
Cold Soba Noodles With Kale, Avocado, and Miso-Sesame Dressing
Rather than massaging or marinating kale to tenderize it, you can choose a third option: Just chop it up finely enough to give it a softer, more manageable texture. For a salad that makes a terrific lunch or light dinner, combine the chopped kale with hearty cold buckwheat noodles, wakame seaweed, bean sprouts, avocado, and a flavorful sesame-miso dressing.