There is no denying you will eat a lot of salads on a whole food plant-based diet. They are good for you (and are the perfect easy nutrient-rich way to round out your MamaSezz meal staples). But if you're worried you'll have to chew threw wimpy salads at every meal now that you're plant-based, think again! There are so many ways to make your salad snap, crackle, and pop and MamaSezz is here to help you build a hearty vegan salad...that even your omnivore friends will go nuts for. (And best of all? All our suggestions are for building delicious yet easy vegan salads...so you can have a hearty, healthy meal fast!)
Before We Begin: Get Oil-Free Vegan Dressing Delivered to Your Door!
Get a different vegan oil free salad dressing delivered each week when you order the MamaSezz Guaranteed Weight Loss Bundle. All MamaSezz dressings are oil free, nutrient-rich, and packed with flavor, like our MamaSezz Ranch Dressing, MamaSezz Pecan Balsamic Dressing, and MamaSezz Awesome Sauce.
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Not psyched about salad? We get it. Salads have a reputation as a “diet food” that is less desirable (and filling) than the other hearty items on the menu. But we’re here to tell you this rumor is not true. A vegan salad doesn’t have to be a plate of iceberg lettuce and underripe tomatoes. Actually, a salad should never be boring or nutrient deficient. Whether it’s on the side or as your main dish, a vegan salad can be hearty, delicious, and crave-worthy. You just have to know what to put in your salad to stay inspired.
Luckily, we're here to help you figure that out with our guide to building the ultimate vegan salad, from which greens to use to our favorite vegan salad toppings. You've got this!
1. Experiment with different greens
Building an easy vegan salad doesn't have to be boring. So move over iceberg, there are so many more greens to add to your plate. And each one brings a different flavor, texture, and color to your salad.
- Arugula or watercress gives your salad a peppery flavor.
- Add some bite with chicory or escarole.
- Choose mâche, Boston or Bibb lettuce for a more mild taste. All three varieties also have a nice delicate green color for a pretty salad -- we eat with our eyes first, after all!
- Chop up Romaine for a refreshing crisp texture.
- Want a nutrient boost? Go with the MVP of leafy greens, spinach. Great for salads (and plant-based newbies) because it’s got a mild flavor and pairs nicely with nearly every salad topping. Not to mention, dark leafy greens keep your heart healthy, your waistline slim, and your immune system strong.
- No one said salads have to be green! Add red-and-white radicchio for a colorful spin or purple cabbage and slaw.
2. Go crazy with No B.S. (Bad Stuff) Toppings
OK, you’ve chosen your greens. Time to focus on what to put in your easy vegan salad to make is hearty and satisfying...not to mention, tasty! Here are some of the best vegan salad toppings to choose from:
- Nuts and seeds add a delightful crunch AND they’re a great source of plant-based protein! Want to get creative? Turn on your oven. Roasted shelled sunflower seeds tossed in a bit of Tamari and then broiled make for delicious vegan salad toppings. Or toast up some sesame seeds (keep an eye on sesame seeds though; they burn quickly!).
- Heart-healthy beans and legumes bring your salad from a side to a main dish by adding plant-based protein and whole carbohydrates (hello fiber!) to the mix. Experiment with chickpeas, black beans, edamame (buy these shelled, frozen, and ready-to-go), kidney beans, and Great Northern beans.
- Pile on the fresh fruit: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, sliced apples and pears, watermelon, clementines, oranges, grapefruit, pomegranate seeds. In-season fruit is always best (for the environment and your taste buds).
- Sweeten it up with dried fruit. Try cranberries, raisins, apricots, or a MamaSezz favorite, chopped dates!
- As versatile as they are nutritious, raw veggies are always fair game for vegan salad toppings. You can go for classic salad vegetables like tomato, red onion, olives. Or think outside the box with fresh corn, grated heart-healthy beets, chopped artichoke hearts, spiralized carrot or zucchini, broccoli or cauliflower florets, or cucumbers soaked in vinegar.
- For an earthier take, add roasted vegetables. Roasted beets, sweet potato, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, carrots, and turnips are super delish. Here are our best tips for roasting veggies without oil (yep – it's not just possible, it's easy!)
- Surprised herbs top the list of things to put in a salad? Fresh herbs can take your salad’s flavor up a notch. Play around with mint (great with watermelon, by the way), basil, chives, dill, parsley, cilantro.
- One of our absolute favorite salad topping ideas?! Cooked whole grains, like brown rice, farro, quinoa. They add bulk to any salad! Batch cook when you have time and add them to everything throughout the week.
- When in doubt, add MamaSezz! Heat up MamaSezz Jerk Lentils, toss on MamaSezz Garlic Ginger Strips or pan sear some MamaSezz Veggie Burgers to crumble over your greens and veggies for a healthy, hearty meal.
3. Whip up an oil-free salad dressing
Everyone knows the dressing makes or breaks the salad. But if you’re new to whole food plant-based living, you may be wondering how to dress your vegan salad without store-bought versions or olive oil. Don’t worry - we’ve got you covered with some of our favorite oil-free salad dressing ideas:
- Oil-Free Garlic Tahini Dressing - Rich, nutty, and ready in 5 minutes? Yes, please!
- Oil-Free Lemon Dressing - A go-to for summer salads, this dressing is creamy, flavorful, tangy, and sweet.
- Creamy Avocado Dressing - Delicious on any and every salad, we especially love to pair this dressing with taco salads (add our veggie Mama’s Burger as your protein!). Don’t have any ripe avocados on hand? That’s OK! Underripe avocados are perfect for blender recipes.
- Jane Esselstyn’s 3-2-1 Salad Dressing - 3 parts balsamic vinegar, 2 parts dijon mustard, 1 part whole food plant-based sweetener, this oil-free dressing is a staple for the MamaSezz team.
- No time to make dressing? These no-recipe dressings will do the trick: salsa, a dash of garlic powder and a squirt of citrus, balsamic vinegar with salt and pepper, lime juice and Tamari or Bragg’s Coconut Aminos.
Need more dressing inspo? Our free ultimate guide to vegan oil-free salad dressings oughta do the trick!
In the end, the perfect vegan salad is nutritious, delicious, satisfying, and hardly boring. How? Start with these three easy vegan salad-making tenets:
- Mix up your greens so you don’t get bored.
- Load up on a healthy mix of NO B.S. (bad stuff) and hearty vegan salad toppings like veggies (raw and roasted), fruits (fresh and dried), whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
- Top it all off with a delicious oil-free salad dressing.
By Ali Brown
Ali is a nutrition and lifestyle writer and editor, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.