Now that summer is in gear, I'm all about salads. I'm not talking side dishes—this is the season to make whole meals out of salad. A summertime dinner salad should be light and refreshing, but also filling. Greens can fit the bill if they're bulked up with ingredients like tofu and eggs, but I find myself leaning toward heartier options made with pasta or meat. From the best Niçoise salad to blistered-tomato pasta salad and tuna poke, we've rounded up 19 of our favorite summery salad recipes that are filling enough to be meals unto themselves.
Blistered-Tomato Pasta Salad With Basil
If you've read our New Rules of Pasta Salad, you know that we're not a fan of fresh produce and cold noodles. We prefer to think of pasta salads as room-temperature versions of hot dishes. That means instead of tossing raw tomatoes with pasta, we prefer to cook them into a rustic sauce with olive oil and garlic.
Spanish Pasta Salad With Chorizo, Piquillo Peppers, and Pickled Onion
This recipe goes for a slightly meatier take on pasta salad, saucing the noodles with Spanish chorizo, roasted piquillo peppers, and quick-pickled yellow onion. We cook the chorizo in a pan to crisp it up and render out its flavorful fat. Pasta salad tip: The noodles will firm up as they cool, so overcook them slightly.
Italian Seafood-Salad Pasta Salad With Vietnamese Noodles
One of our main rules for pasta salad is to skip the vinegary dressings, but that rule only applies to Western-style wheat noodles. Asian noodles, on the other hand, are totally compatible with vinaigrettes. Here we take advantage of that fact by pairing rice noodles with olive oil, lemon juice, and an Italian-style seafood salad.
Spicy Peanut Noodle Salad With Cucumbers, Red Peppers, and Basil
Sesame noodles are often just noodles, sauce, and a few cursory vegetables. For something healthier, we increase the ratio of produce to pasta significantly, loading the salad up with bell pepper, cucumber, bean sprouts, and fresh herbs. As for the sauce, we stick with a simple mix of peanut butter, soy sauce, chili sauce, lime juice, sesame seed oil, garlic, sugar or honey, and water.
Sichuan Shirataki Sesame Noodle Salad With Cucumber, Sichuan Peppercorn, Chili Oil, and Peanuts
Shirataki noodles have become popular with people who maintain a gluten-free diet, but these slippery yam-starch noodles are more than just a replacement for wheat pasta. They have a wonderfully slurp-able texture and extremely mild flavor, making them perfect for soaking up intense sauces like this one made with Sichuan peppercorns, black vinegar, peanuts, and soy sauce.
Poke restaurants are a dime a dozen these days, but as long as you have a good fishmonger you can make great poke at home. This simple version starts with high-quality raw ahi tuna, which we mix with sweet onions and hijiki seaweed and dress with a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and honey.
Salmon Poke With Macadamia Nuts and Fried Shallots
Fatty and hearty, salmon is one of our favorite fish for poke even though it's not a traditional Hawaiian ingredient—it has enough heft to stand up to assertive mix-ins like Thai-style fried shallots and crunchy macadamia nuts. Want even more poke? Check out our versions made with hamachi and octopus.
Quick and Easy Shrimp, Corn, and Tomatillo Salad
This summery salad is made with poached shrimp, blanched corn, and raw sliced tomatillos. Our secret to poached shrimp is to start them in cold water and gradually bring the temperature up to 170°F. For shrimp meant to be eaten plain we like to poach them in court bouillon, but this salad has enough other flavors that water spiked with lime juice is fine.
The Best Classic Chicken Salad
The best chicken salad starts with the best chicken, and we make ours by cooking breasts sous vide with tarragon and lemon until they are extremely tender. Once that's done the rest of the salad stays pretty classic with mayo, Dijon mustard, lemon, celery, red onion, garlic, and herbs.
Chicken Salad With Avocado, Corn, and Miso Dressing
Once you've learned about the wonders of sous vide chicken, you can use it to make all sorts of chicken salad variations. This recipe is inspired by a Japanese tuna, miso, and mirin dish called nuta. We cook the chicken with scallion and ginger, dress it with miso, mirin, dried Japanese mustard, and shichimi togarashi, and mix in creamy avocado and sweet sautéed corn.
Hot and Numbing Sichuan Chicken Salad (Bang Bang Ji Si)
Forget the "bang bang"—with sous vide, perfectly tender chicken comes with no pounding required. Our less violent version of bang bang chicken is dressed with a sauce of Sichuan chili oil and vinegar. Use the energy you save by not pounding the chicken to crush the spices and aromatics by hand with a mortar and pestle, which brings out more flavor than a food processor or spice grinder.
Mayo-Free Chicken Salad With Kimchi, Ginger, and Scallions
One of my favorite parts of roasting a chicken is having extra meat for the next meal or two. For this recipe we take shredded roast chicken and make it into a salad, using a zesty vinaigrette instead of a mayo-based dressing. We add a few ingredients you might not expect to find in chicken salad: funky kimchi and crunchy toasted pine nuts.
Grilled Chicken and Cabbage Salad With Creamy Tahini Dressing
Leftover grilled chicken breasts are harder to work with than roast chicken because they tend to dry out. Here we tenderize the chicken by massaging it with olive oil and lemon juice, then mix it with a creamy tahini-based dressing. We also add in crunchy cabbage and red onion and lots of fresh herbs.
Cold Steak Salad With Cucumber and Ponzu-Mustard Vinaigrette
Have some steak leftover from your cookout, too? It's almost impossible to reheat without drying it out, so we prefer to leave it cold instead. Inspired by Japanese tataki, this salad pairs leftover steak sliced as thinly as possible with cucumber, scallions, and a ponzu vinaigrette.
Steak and Corn Salad With Salsa Verde
Another option for leftover steak, this recipe pairs the meat with sweet corn, red onion, and a Spanish-style salsa verde made with pickles, capers, anchovies, fresh herbs, shallots, garlic, Dijon mustard, and olive oil. The dressing might look a little too oily, but the steak and corn can handle it.
Steak Carpaccio Salad
Steak carpaccio usually consists of thin slices of raw beef scattered with capers, Parmesan, onion, and arugula. This might be pretty to look at, but it makes getting a perfect bite difficult. We prefer to go with a more composed approach, tossing the vegetables with a vinaigrette to coat them thoroughly before placing the steak and Parmesan on top.
The Un-Composed (i.e., Best) Niçoise Salad
We think Niçoise salad is best served un-composed. The classic combination of green beans, potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, olive, and tuna looks good arranged artfully on a plate but tastes better mixed together. We cut all the ingredients into pieces and toss them with a vinaigrette to make a more manageable salad.
Tofu and Kale Salad With Avocado, Grapefruit, and Miso-Tahini Dressing
Textural contrast is one of the most important parts of a good salad, and this recipe delivers with crispy slow-cooked tofu, creamy avocado, and juicy grapefruit. We toss the ingredients with kale and dress it all with a mixture of tahini and miso. Don't feel like using kale? Replace it with whatever salad green you prefer.
Spring Vegetable Salad With Poached Egg and Crispy Bread Crumbs
We're past spring, but your local farmers market is probably still full of beautiful green vegetables. One of the best ways to use local produce is to blanch it. This recipe takes inspiration from Pausa in San Mateo, California, topping the vegetables with a poached egg and toasted breadcrumbs.