The only thing more trendy than ordering a salad from Sweetgreen for lunch in New York is waiting in line for said salad. And while it might seem a little ridiculous to wait in a long line for something like a salad, it should be noted that these aren't just any salads — there's something magical and inspiring about every Sweetgreen salad I've ever tried. They are hearty, satisfying, and ridiculously tasty. Some of them don't even have greens. So, what's their secret?
I asked Chef Michael Stebner of Sweetgreen to tell me his five rules for creating a better lunch salad. It turns out you don't need to live next to a Sweetgreen to get the full experience.
1. Pick one or two seasonal vegetables.
Seasonal vegetables always taste best. Right now, as we head into the colder months, I'd suggest a base of heartier ingredients like warm mushrooms, which make a buttery and filling addition to any salad, as well as cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.
2. Add interesting proteins for a filling meal.
Experimenting with different types of protein sources like avocado, grains, chickpeas, nuts, or tofu can add a new, flavorful element to your salad. These types of plant-forward proteins also help keep you full longer and make for a heartier meal.
3. Use different textures to give your salad dimension.
Mixing the crunchiness of raw beets with the smooth texture of goat cheese creates a really awesome balance in texture. Incorporating ingredients like raw cabbage, celery root, or grains like quinoa, farro, and wheat berries can amp up your salad, giving it dimension and flavor.
4. Cut all of your ingredients to about the same size.
To ensure that each bite offers an ideal mixture of flavors and textures, cut each of your ingredients to approximately the same size. This way you taste and experience the different flavors and textures with each bite.
5. Make your dressing at home.
Using a few basic ingredients and a whisk, you can easily whip up your own dressing at home — and this makes a huge difference in the flavor of a salad. One of my favorite new dressings for fall that is easy to make at home has soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, chili, and water. The dressing is the key to what type of salad you are going to end up with. Lighter dressings can complement lighter salads; heavier dressings require sturdy lettuce or even cabbage.
Read more: 6 Salad Dressings to Know by Heart