9 Salad Topping Recipes That Keep Your Greens Fresh and Exciting

Chosen by dieters to get bikini ready or as an alternative to the hot and heavy foods of winter, salads abound in restaurants and at home once the weather starts warming up. Unfortunately, salads can also strike some bland notes when you’re eating them consistently. But you can easily give your greens a little love and jazz up your salads by making healthy, fun additions. To keep your salads from being a snooze, here are nine recipes for fantastic additions — and some can even be snacks, too!

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1. Light Carrot Ginger Dressing

The bright, bold color of this Food Network salad dressing is matched by its taste. Clocking in at just 17 calories and 1 gram of fat per every 2-tablespoon serving, you can drizzle away, adding some pizzaz to your plate of greens without worrying that you’re loading up on too many calories.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped peeled ginger
  • 1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (not seasoned)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • kosher salt

Directions: Put the carrot and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Reserve ½ cup cooking liquid, then drain the carrot. Puree the carrot and reserved cooking liquid in a blender until smooth. Add the ginger, brown sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, and teaspoon salt; pulse until smooth.

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2. Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing

When you make your own salad dressing, you’ll be swapping out preservatives you can’t pronounce for fresh ingredients. Plus, if you make your own ranch dressing, like MOMables did, you can swap out the mayonnaise for Greek yogurt, cutting back on fat and adding a bit of protein to your dressing.

Ingredients:

  • ⅓ cup Greek yogurt, plain, nonfat
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • ⅛ teaspoon dill, or to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions: Place Greek yogurt in a sieve and allow excess liquid to drain. In a medium bowl, stir together strained Greek yogurt, parsley, vinegar, garlic powder, garlic paste, and dill. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add buttermilk. If mixture is too thick, add more buttermilk for desired consistency. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving to allow flavors to come together.

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3. Whole-Wheat Croutons

Get a wholesome, whole-grain crunch on your salad by sprinkling whole-wheat croutons on top. You could simply toast cubes of whole wheat bread, or you could add some seasonings like 100 Days of Real Food did.

Ingredients:

  • 6 pieces of good-quality whole-wheat bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. On a large baking sheet, spread the bread cubes into one layer. Evenly sprinkle the Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and salt over top. Then, drizzle the olive oil over top, as well. Using your hands, toss to combine thoroughly and then spread back into one even layer. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until golden brown. The croutons will harden as they cool. For maximum crispiness, use right away, rather than storing for another day.

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4. Tortilla Croutons 

Sometimes, regular bread-based croutons won’t do. Let’s say you have an awesome salad with ingredients inspired by traditional Mexican or Spanish flavors but you just need one more element to really put it over the top. When that is the case, top it with croutons made from tortillas. Again, these can be whole grain, and flavored with the spices of your choosing. Use Cutting Back Kitchen‘s method as a basic guide for how to top your salads with baked tortilla strips.

Ingredients:

  • tortillas
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • spices (for example, a blend of garlic powder, chile powder, and cumin)

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Stack 2-3 tortillas on top of each other. Cut in quarters with a pizza cutter, then cut into strips. Toss strips with olive oil (just enough to lightly coat). Lay on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and assorted spices. Bake 8-11 minutes or until crisp.

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5. Sweet Chipotle Snack Mix

This Cooking Light recipe can satisfy snacking needs and add a little oomph to your salads. It will keep for two weeks when stored in an airtight container, allowing you to add it to salads whenever it strikes your fancy, or take it on the road as a portable sweet and spicy snack.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup unsalted cashews
  • 1 cup unsalted pumpkinseed kernels

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine first six ingredients in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Place egg white in a large bowl; stir with a whisk until foamy. Add the almonds, cashews, and pumpkinseeds; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with spice mixture; toss well to coat. Spread nuts in an even layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring once. Turn oven off. Remove pan from oven; stir snack mix. Immediately return pan to oven for an additional 15 minutes (leave oven off). Remove pan from oven and place on a wire rack; cool completely. Store snack mix in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

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6. Roasted Chickpeas

Another way to get a snack and salad topping all in one recipe is to roast chickpeas. Like croutons, you can prepare them so they crisp up, giving your salad another texture. We couldn’t decide between sweet and spicy, and since Oven Love provided Modern Messy Parents with ways for each, we didn’t have to. You can store them in an airtight container for four days.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or about 4 cups cooked chickpeas from dried beans
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • seasonings of your choice

Honey cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Smoky spice blend

  • ½ teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare the beans for roasting by draining and rinsing them, then letting them dry on a towel until most of the excess moisture is absorbed. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Roast the chickpeas in the oven for 45-60 minutes or until the beans are crunchy throughout (to test, sample one — if it is still mostly soft on the inside and has no crunch, keep baking). Remove from oven, and while the beans are still hot, toss with olive oil and seasonings. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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7. Blackened Chicken

Bursting with flavor, blackened chicken is great in sandwiches, wraps, pastas — and salads, of course. When you want your salad to be a satisfying meal, add slices of blackened chicken to provide the protein you need to keep you full. Make this AllRecipes.com blackened chicken to put on your salad tonight.

Ingredients:

  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat for 5 minutes until it is smoking hot. Mix together the paprika, salt, cayenne, cumin, thyme, white pepper, and onion powder. Oil the chicken breasts with cooking spray on both sides, then coat the chicken breasts evenly with the spice mixture. Place the chicken in the hot pan and cook for 1 minute. Turn and cook 1 minute on other side. Place the breasts on the prepared baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until no longer pink in the center and the juices run clear, about 5 minutes.

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8. Pan-Seared Steak

Another meaty protein choice for you salads is a bit of seared steak. Food.com has this recipe for a simple pan-seared steak, which is great to have not only for steak salads but anytime you feel like having pan-seared steak at home.

Ingredients:

  • 1-1½ tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 boneless beef steak (1½ pounds and cut 2½ inches thick, New York or rib-eye cut)
  • garlic powder (optional)
  • freshly ground cracked black pepper (use as much as desired)
  • 1-1½ tablespoon butter
  • salt (used only after cooking)

Directions: Pat the meat dry using paper towels. Season the steaks with black pepper, then allow the meat to sit at room temperature for 1-1½ hours. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat or just until the oil begins to lightly smoke.

Sear the steak in the heated skillet over medium-high heat until a dark crust has formed, about 5-6 minutes per side. Reduce the heat if the meat is browning too quickly. If you prefer a lighter outside crust, then reduce the time slightly. After 5-6 minutes cooking on each side you may lift the steak with tongs and brown the edges, also. Return the steak flat in the pan.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook until an instant-read thermometer reads to desired doneness (oven cooking time will be anywhere from 5-15 minutes depending on the desired doneness of your steak — for medium-rare, 140-145 degrees, and for medium, 155-160 degrees. Be aware that the temperature will continue to cook after removing the steak, so it is advised to pull the pan out slightly before the desired doneness.

Transfer the steak to a plate using tongs (do not use a fork or the juices will run out). Spread the top with butter, then season lightly with salt. Cover loosely with foil and allow to rest about 5-6 minutes. Slice across the grain.

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9. Roasted Shrimp

Fine Cooking roasted shrimp to make shrimp cocktail, but we don’t see a reason you can’t use the recipe for a shrimp salad, too. The shrimp cocktail recipe served the shrimp cold, leaving them in the fridge for about 2 hours. Try them hot or cold to see which you prefer.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ pounds jumbo shrimp (16-20 count), shells peeled, tails left on
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper

Directions: Heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the vein from the shrimp, if necessary. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the shrimp on a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 3 minutes, turn the shrimp over with tongs, and continue roasting until the shrimp are opaque and firm, another 2-4 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a shallow dish, cover partially, and refrigerate if not using immediately.

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