Summer is salad season, and while leafy green vegetables are always a positive addition to your diet, salads don’t have to be filled with lettuce, spinach, kale, or mixed greens — you can actually skip this produce entirely while still creating a healthy side or main salad. Instead, you’ll be taking on grains to make a salad, and reaping the benefits that whole grains have to offer. To see what you’ll gain when you ditch the greens, check out these 7 recipes.
1. Wild Rice and Edamame Salad
There is not meat in Chow’s wild rice chilled dish, but the wild rice provides the protein you want to keep you full. According to FitDay, one cup contains 6.5 grams of protein, more than what is found in wheat. Consuming wild rice will up your intake of vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B9, along with zinc and magnesium. Nutritious and flavorful, this salad is anything but boring and serves between 6 and 8 people.
- ½ cup blanched slivered almonds
- 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
- 4 cups cooked wild rice
- 3 medium scallions, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
- 2 cups shelled cooked edamame, thawed if frozen
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and small dice
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- ¼ cup rice vinegar, plus more as needed
- 2 teaspoons honey
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Directions: Place the almonds in a medium frying pan over medium heat and toast, stirring often, until golden brown (do not let the nuts burn), about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a large heatproof bowl. Add the sesame seeds to the pan and toast, stirring often, until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the almonds. Add the rice, scallions, edamame, carrots, and cranberries to the bowl with the almonds and sesame seeds and toss to combine. Whisk the olive oil, sesame oil, rice vinegar, honey, and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a medium bowl until combined. Drizzle over the rice mixture and toss to combine. Taste and season as needed with more salt, pepper, and vinegar. Cover and chill for at least one hour before serving.
2. Greek Chicken and Barley Salad
Barley is the grain getting a touch of Grecian flavors from Cooking Light. With a nutty flavor and pasta-esque consistency, World’s Healthiest Foods gives barley high marks for fiber, manganese, molybdenum, copper, magnesium, and niacin among other nutrients. There are eight servings of salad in this recipe, which also includes a homemade dressing.
- 2 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, divided
- 1 cup uncooked pearl barley
- 2 cups cubed seeded cucumber
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- ½ cup cubed yellow bell pepper
- ⅓ cup reduced-fat feta cheese
- ¼ cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
Directions: To prepare salad, sprinkle chicken with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Add 1 cup broth; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until done. Cool; shred chicken. Discard broth. Bring 3 cups broth to a boil in a large saucepan; add barley. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork. Cool. Combine chicken, barley, cucumber, and next 4 ingredients (through olives) in a large bowl. To prepare dressing, combine 3 tablespoons oil, rind, and remaining ingredients; stir well. Add to barley mixture; toss well. Cover and chill.
3. Salmon, Radicchio, and Farro Salad
O, The Oprah Magazine describes farro as tasting similar to barley. It is also a good source of magnesium, which Ashley Koff states can help muscles relax, making it a good choice when you need to release tension. Additionally, farro will give your diet vitamins B and E. Get rid of tense muscles and enjoy a salmon-grain salad with this recipe from Real Simple that makes enough for four.
- 1 cup farro
- ¾ pound skinless salmon fillet
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus ⅓ cup for dressing
- 1 small head radicchio, chopped
- ⅓ cup raisins
- ¼ cup parsley
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
Directions: Cook the farro according to the package directions. Meanwhile, season the salmon with ¼ teaspoon each kosher salt and black pepper. Cook in 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until opaque throughout, 4 to 6 minutes per side; flake. Toss with the farro, radicchio, raisins, remaining olive oil, parsley leaves, lemon juice, and ½ teaspoon each kosher salt and black pepper.
4. Eggplant, Lentil, and Bulgur Salad
It has more fiber and nutrients than rice, a nutrition point that caused Tara Parker-Pope of The New York Times to recommend you opt for bulgur instead. Bulgur comes from precooked wheat berries, and is a low glycemic food, causing fewer changes in your insulin and glucose levels than high glycemic choices. To get a taste of this grain for yourself, make the eggplant, lentil, and bulgur salad from Food & Wine; it yields four servings.
- 1 cup lentils
- 5 cups water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup bulgur
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 eggplant, peeled, quartered, and sliced thin
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
- 4 scallions, white bulbs only, sliced
- 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and diced
- 1 tomato, diced
Directions: In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils, 3 ½ cups of the water, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes. Stir in the bulgur and continue cooking, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and bulgur are just done, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit, partially covered, for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large nonstick frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the eggplant and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and the remaining 1 ½ cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is very tender and no liquid remains in the pan, about 20 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir the lentil mixture, Tabasco, scallions, and half the parsley into the eggplant. In a small bowl, combine the remaining parsley with the cucumber and tomato. Serve the lentils over the cucumber salad.
5. Feta Wheat Berry Salad
Wheat berries are whole wheat kernels. With no alterations to the grain made, Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, explained for Food Network that this means no nutrients have been taken out of this ingredient. This means you’re getting as much protein, iron, and fiber as possible. Chewy and earthy, you can make them as easily as you do rice while getting nutrients to protect your bones and muscles. For a nutrient dense salad with four to six servings, prepare Gourmet‘s recipe found on Epicurious.
- 1 cup wheat berries
- ½ cup diced feta
- ½ cup thinly sliced red onion
- ½ cup julienne strips of seedless cucumber
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup julienne strips of drained bottled roasted red pepper
- ¼ cup mixed minced fresh herbs such as parsley, mint, and dill plus herb sprigs for garnish
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon chopped pitted brine-cured black olives
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 garlic clove, minced dried hot red pepper flakes to taste
Directions: In a kettle of boiling salted water cook the wheat berries for 1 hour, or until they are tender, and drain them. In a large bowl stir together the wheat berries, feta, onion, cucumber, oil, roasted pepper, minced herbs, lemon juice, vinegar, olives, cumin, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt to taste. Garnish the salad with the herb sprigs.
6. Southwestern Quinoa Salad
No grain salad recipe collection would be complete without mentioning quinoa. By now you have heard of this popular grain which can be found at the breakfast table, eaten as a snack, or tossed into a grain salad. Writing for BBC Good Food, nutritionist Jo Lewin explained that quinoa is a complete protein, and shares many of the nutritional points of previously mentioned grains. It is also a good source of calcium and is gluten-free. Give quinoa a breath of fresh Southwestern flavors by following this recipe from AllRecipes.com; it makes eight servings.
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 cups chicken broth
- ½ cup diced green bell pepper
- ½ cup diced red onion
- 1 cup corn
- 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 1 large tomato, diced
- ½ cup fresh lime juice, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon adobo seasoning
- ½ cup feta cheese
- Salt and black pepper to taste
Directions: Rinse the quinoa thoroughly under cold water, and drain. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, and cook and stir the quinoa until the water has evaporated and the quinoa is lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Pour in the chicken broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the quinoa has absorbed all the broth, about 10 minutes. Cool quinoa in refrigerator at least 10 minutes.
Mix together green pepper, red onion, corn, black beans, cilantro, tomato, lime juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, adobo seasoning, and feta cheese in a large salad bowl. Lightly stir in the quinoa, and season with salt, pepper, and additional lime juice to taste, if desired. Chill the salad at least 30 minutes before serving; serve cold.
7. Millet Salad
The Whole Grains Council has the low-down on millet, another gluten-free grain. Although associated with bird seed in the U.S., millet has health benefits that should not be overlooked. There are four widely produced types: pearl, foxtail, proso, and finger. Each variety is high in antioxidants, and in recent years, millet has received attention from researchers as a way to control diabetes and inflammation. Minty, citrusy, and sweet, the millet salad from Fine Cooking is a summery way to add the grain to your diet.
- 1 ¾ cups millet
- Kosher salt
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
- 3 tablespoons grapefruit juice
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons honey
- freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ cup diced avocado (½-inch dice)
- ¾ cup oranges segments, cut into pieces if large
- ¾ cup grapefruit segments, cut into pieces if large
- ¾ cup diced red onion (¼-inch dice)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
Directions: Rinse the millet under cold water and drain. Bring 7 cups of water to a boil in a 4-quart pot over high heat. Add ¾ teaspoon salt. Add the millet, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally and adding more boiling water as necessary to keep the millet covered, until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and rinse the millet with cold water to stop the cooking.
Transfer the millet to a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil, and toss lightly to coat. Spread the millet on the baking sheet and cool completely at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
Put the vinegar and grapefruit juice in a small bowl and gradually whisk in the remaining ½ cup of oil. Whisk in the honey. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and additional vinegar, juice, or oil as needed. Put the cooked and cooled millet in a large serving bowl and toss to break up any clumps. Add the avocado, orange segments, grapefruit segment, red onion, mint, and ½ cup vinaigrette and toss. Taste and season as needed with more vinaigrette, salt, pepper, and serve.