How to up your salad game
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If you’re trying to get more vegetables into your diet, there’s a high chance that salads see a regular spot on your dinner table. It’s a great way to up your vegetable intake, but no matter how much we love them, we’ll be the first to admit that salads can get boring pretty quickly.
Fortunately, salads are very easy to jazz up. If you see them as blank canvases for ingredients and flavours, you’ll find that experimenting with different additions is an easy way to make salads fun again. Here are some ways to make your salads more interesting.
Adding nuts and seeds to salads is more than just about getting in more vitamins and minerals – they’re also delicious and make your salads more interesting with added texture and flavour. They’ll also add more density to the salad and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Some of the best nuts to add to salads are almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts and pecans. Just like nuts, there are a variety of seeds which are highly nutritious and tasty in salads. Hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and chia seeds are just a few of the tastiest ones to use.
Nuts and seeds can be added raw, but try dry-roasting them for an added flavour. When choosing nuts or seeds to add into your salads, make sure to choose ones with no added salt, sugar or preservatives.
Spice things up – literally – with spices and herbs. Not only do they add wonderful flavours, but spices and herbs boast all kinds of health benefits. You can either sprinkle them straight onto your salads, or add them into the salad dressing itself. Toasted cumin is fantastic for hearty salads with sweet potatoes, and rice or couscous based salads go well with za’atar and ras-el-hanout. For something a little different, add herbs like lemon myrtle or Mexican oregano to dressings. Our personal favourite? A sprinkle of sumac for a fruity, lemony flavour and pop of colour.
Have a read of our guide to salad spices for more inspiration.
The last time we checked, there was no rule that says salad dressings should always be cold. Switch things up by warming up your dressing before pouring – if you have fresh greens in your salad, the heat should gently wilt them and make it taste a lot more satisfying. It’s also a good way to get more greens in during the colder months when eating a cold salad doesn’t sound appetising enough.
A little smoky flavour can completely transform your previously plain salad. You can add anything smoked into your salad – smoked almonds, smoked salmon, or smoked cheese like mozzarella, cheddar or Gouda. You can even grill or roast vegetables like bell peppers, avocados, asparagus, courgettes or sweet corn and toss them in for a smoky taste. Try adding a pinch of smoked paprika into your salad dressing for an extra flavour boost.
This brings us to our next tip: don’t just rely on the same old raw ingredients each time. Try cooking your salad additions in a new way, whether that’s roasting, grilling or individually spicing them. Think grilled aubergines and pineapples, roasted carrots and peppers, flash-fried prawns or tofu, sauteed spinach, toasted sesame seeds and boiled chickpeas.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavours – the best salads have a mix of different flavour profiles, whether it’s sweet, sour, salty or even bitter. For something sweet, add fruit like apples, peaches or strawberries. Dried fruits like dried cranberries, raisins or apricots also work well and add a slight tartness. Although the sourness may come from dressings using vinegar, you can also add pineapple, lemons and olives for an extra sharpness. Olives are also great for hints of saltiness, alongside salty cheese like halloumi. If you enjoy bitter tastes, vegetables like brussel sprouts, kale, radishes and rocket are great options.
Just like layering different flavours together, playing with various textures can take your salads to a whole other level. When ingredients are too similar in texture, they don’t really stand out and give the salad that extra something. Combining soft, creamy and crunchy textures is both fun and delicious – try mixing together soft cheeses or butternut squash, crunchy nuts or croutons, and creamy avocado or butter beans.