Spring-produce season is exciting precisely because it's so fleeting. Some fruits and vegetables appear for only a couple months—or even a few weeks, depending on where you live—which accounts for the bordering-on-cultlike veneration of precious finds like rhubarb, morels, and ramps. Asparagus, English peas, snap peas, artichokes, and fresh salad greens will be with us for a while yet, but even they only peak for so long. So, after we've toughed out a long, cold winter, the sudden abundance at the farmers market ranks right up there with "first outdoor cocktail of the year" and "first day without a jacket" on the list of things we most look forward to each spring. There's no better way to celebrate it than by putting together a salad that's a riot of these short-lived seasonal ingredients, either raw or minimally cooked, allowing their fresh green flavors to come out in full force. Below are 18 bright, refreshing salads to make the most of spring produce and chase the winter blues thoroughly away.
The onset of warmer weather means the arrival of a bounty of tender greens in farmers markets, ones that you can't find (or wouldn't be worth eating) any other time of year. That makes spring the perfect time to go simple with a mixed-green salad like this one, modeled after the salad of wild greens that Romans call misticanza. Avoid the bagged mixes from your supermarket at all costs, and instead select a variety of the freshest in-season leaves you can find; dandelion, watercress, arugula, Bibb lettuce, and mizuna are all good options. Try to create a balance of tender, peppery, herbal, and bitter greens, and dress them with nothing more than olive oil and a squeeze of lemon so their unique flavors can shine.
For a basic, super-quick version of the mixed-green salad above, try this mix of hearty, bitter radicchio; lightly spicy arugula and watercress; and sharp radishes. We created this salad to serve alongside buttery fried chicken cutlets, but it's a great complement to any dairy-rich or meaty entrée.
Want the ability to throw together a delicious spring-y salad at a moment's notice? It helps to have a supply of seasonal vegetables pre-blanched, shocked in ice water, and stored in the refrigerator for just such an occasion. This bright salad makes the most of that tactic by combining blanched asparagus, snap peas, English peas, broccolini, and favas with salted Persian cucumber, arugula, sliced red onion—we like to soak the onion in hot water for a few minutes to soften its harsh bite—fresh mozzarella, and creamy labne for richness and tang. Check out our guide to preparing green spring produce for more information on getting these vegetables salad-ready.
Many of us think of beets as a hardy winter staple, but the first beets of the year are actually harvested in the spring, and they tend to be the smallest and sweetest specimens you'll find. We especially love them roasted for deeper, more concentrated flavor. This colorful dish combines roasted beets with a crème fraîche spiked with fiery horseradish (a classic accompaniment for beets), plus a simple dressing flavored with lemon, herbs, shallot, honey, and chopped toasted pistachios.
For a straightforward salad that eats like a meal, oyster mushrooms make a great base—their robust, meaty texture and earthy flavor will lend balance to the lighter, green components of the dish. Here, we pair pan-roasted oyster mushrooms with watercress—a spring green with a peppery flavor and plump stems that are satisfyingly substantial in their own right—and a healthy helping of shaved Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese.
This salad relies on the same approach described above of blanching crisp and sweet green vegetables until they're tender—you can do the blanching in advance, if you're thinking ahead, but it takes just about 20 minutes if you're not. We finish that mix of fresh veggies with rich elements designed to balance them out: soft-yolked poached eggs and golden, buttery toasted bread crumbs. If the thought of poaching eggs makes you nervous, our recipe and handy video will take all the fear away. And, for a similar salad without the bread crumbs, try this recipe, which incorporates ramps (a.k.a. spring's most coveted allium) and a tangy lemon zest vinaigrette.
Sweet snap peas, one of spring's most iconic vegetables, can make a great salad all on their own. Though they're tasty even when completely raw, as with other produce of the season, blanching them first sets their vibrant green color and softens their texture, leaving them plenty snappy but with a more tender bite. Because fresh mint always puts us in a springy mood, we flavor the creamy yogurt-based dressing with minced mint leaves, as well as shallot and lemon juice.
This recipe isn't very different in form from the one above, but it swaps out the mild dressing for one with a lot more punch—a blend of yogurt, nutty sesame tahini, and harissa, the powerful North African condiment made from either fresh or dried chilies. Though you can easily find harissa online or in stores, we've also got a couple of recipes for making your own.
Farro is a nutty grain that turns plump and tender when cooked, perfect as a base for a hearty warm salad. We pair it with two of the most ubiquitous green vegetables of the season—asparagus and peas—plus sturdy kale, slightly wilted from the heat of the farro. A spicy Dijon-flavored dressing and sharp, briny feta round it out. Let the salad stand for a few minutes before serving to allow all the flavors to be absorbed.
Wheatberries are another favorite grain of ours for salads, due to their addictively chewy texture. Though grain salads are endlessly customizable, we find that wheatberries work especially well with pungent scallion and red onion, sharp watercress, and a Dijon-and-lemon vinaigrette enriched with bacon fat. Oh, and naturally, the bacon goes into the salad, too.
Crunchy carrots and fava beans don't need much fussing with to be delicious, so we do as little as possible with them for this salad, blanching them just until they're crisp-tender. Once that step is done, we combine them with ricotta and a basic vinaigrette of lemon juice, lemon zest, and olive oil. Because the ricotta will stand out here, make sure you choose a high-quality one with no gums or stabilizers; our favorite mass-market brand is Calabro.
Asparagus isn't typically used in Sichuan cooking, but it still works nicely in this easy side dish, a mix of blanched fresh asparagus and uncooked tofu cut into matchsticks—plain tofu is fine, though smoked or five-spice will lend the salad extra flavor. It's all brought together with a hot and sweet Sichuan-style vinaigrette, made from red chilies, tingly Sichuan peppercorns, Chinkiang vinegar, and soy sauce.
Goat cheese is a common addition to spring dishes, as the new crop of young cheeses makes its debut. It goes remarkably well with that old tried-and-true pairing of peas and carrots. We blanch the vegetables, shock them, dry them, then dress them with a simple vinaigrette before piling them onto a bed of the soft cheese. A sprinkle of toasted almonds and a drizzle of honey finish it off.
Cucumbers are at their best from about May through August, and we love kicking off spring by taking a refreshing bite out of them. Here, we contrast their coolness with the fiery flavors of mustard oil and red pepper flakes. You can serve this salad next to a number of meals, from rice to seafood and vegetables, but we find that it cuts through meat-heavy foods like steak quite well.
This vibrant salad marries blanched sugar snap peas with deeply purple radicchio. The radicchio gets charred in the oven to create a caramelized flavor that slightly offsets its bitterness, while the snap peas are tossed in a creamy dressing made up of Greek yogurt, chopped black olives, minced dill, and a touch of olive brine. Our favorite way to finish it off is with fried garlic chips for some added crunch.
Aburaage, or fried tofu, gives this clean-out-the-fridge, use-whatever-you’ve-got salad its unique character. After prepping the aburaage, we let it marinate in a warm, savory mixture made up of ingredients like Thai green chili, ginger, soy sauce, and palm sugar. 10 minutes is just enough time for it to soak up all of those flavors. From there, you can mix the aburaage and warm dressing with whatever greens, herbs, and vegetables you like. Eat it on its own or next to a bowl of sticky rice—the perfect vehicle for sopping up every last bit of the tart and spicy dressing.
You can easily experience the tart and refreshing bite of Xi’an Famous Foods’ iconic tiger salad at home. All you’ll need are some peeled celery ribs, crisp scallions, fresh cilantro, and a few slivers of hot chili pepper. Once prepped, the ingredients are tossed in a sweet-tart dressing made with soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar. Taking note from the version served at Fu Run, we like to top if off with an ample amount of tiny dried shrimp. The result is a spicy and savory salad that goes well with any meal.
Perhaps the ultimate pantry-staple dish, this salad is a light spring meal that’s packed with protein. Creamy, cooked beans and flaky chunks of tuna are mixed with vinegar leftover after marinating the red onions, in addition to bean cooking liquid, olive oil, fresh parsley, and freshly ground black pepper. Though we always recommend using cooked dried beans over canned ones in order to ensure a creamy texture and optimal flavor, you can still use canned beans in this recipe provided you make just a few tweaks. If you want to add some greens to the mix, we suggest peppery arugula or watercress.
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