I love a good salad, but I haven’t always: a forkful of greens used to give me the chills! In my youth, I discovered that if each bite of salad were paired with a bite of something with a less leafy texture, it was much easier for me not just to get my salad down but to enjoy it. That non-leafy addition? Cheese, avocado, crunchy raw vegetables, rich roasted vegetables, croutons, or even plain grilled chicken.
Even now, I prefer a salad with toppings to one that’s just greens. And these are some of my favorite salad toppers: choose one or two of the dishes below to add to an everyday side salad, or scoop on several (including some with protein) when you’re looking to make a greens-based main. See also: how to make vinaigrettes.
**The Best Salad Toppers**
1. Roasted Fennel. Fennel becomes rich and almost creamy when you bake it at a high temperature with olive oil and salt. Its layered slices also look kind of fancy when arranged in the salad bowl.
2. Roasted Potatoes and Squash. There are many brilliant parts to a traditional Salad Niçoise, but one of them is the inclusion of potatoes. Here, Parmesan cheese coats roasted taters, making for a luscious winter salad topping.
3. Guiness-Marinated Flank Steak. If you think that steak deserves to be served only with mashed potatoes and creamed spinach, you’ll find it enlightening (literally) to switch out the steakhouse sides for greens. Our Spicy Thai Beef Salad is one way to go.
4. Balsamic Roasted Cipollini Onions. Like fennel, onions get sweet and melt-in-your-mouth soft when they’re roasted. A bonus from baking these onions in balsamic vinegar is that you’ll wind up with a little extra sauce in the pan to add to your salad’s dressing.
5. Grilled Ratatouille. This ratatouille is sort of like a salad unto itself, albeit with cooked veggies instead of raw. It becomes a delightful study in contrasts when you add a scoop of it, warm if possible, to a mix of herb-laced greens.
6. Crispy Pimenton Chickpeas. Crispy like croutons, but more healthful and even gluten free, these chickpeas add amazing texture to your salad–you really don’t need much else with them!
7. Rosemary and Garlic Lamb Chops. An already delicious Greek salad–greens with olives, tomatoes, feta, and red onions–becomes a main course when you add a chop or two to the top. Served with warm pita, this is filling enough for a dinner party main.
8. Soy and Honey Tofu. Look no further for the perfect topping for a vegetarian main dish salad. I love pairing the tofu, cut into strips or cubes, with slices of mango and avocado and a ginger dressing.
10. Pizza. We used to get salad pizza from the pizzeria near our high school–it was crust, sauce, and greens tossed with an Italian dressing. I skip the bottled dressing these days, but topping a slice (or some flatbread) with a salad is an ingenious way to get your greens. It’s almost like having a crouton on the bottom!