Salad 'crunch' is a non-negotiable in our house, whether it's an average bowl of greens or a seasonal pasta or grain salad. I'm always looking for an interesting ingredient to toss into our salads to give them texture and to amp up their flavor. Bacon bits or croutons are an easy and obvious choice, but there's a whole other world of nuts, seeds and crisps you can also reach for!
I'm often inspired to use different add-ins and salad ingredients when I try new restaurants; in my opinion, one sign of a great restaurant is a truly inspired salad. At home I think it's so easy to get in a bit of a salad rut, but there are a few restaurants here in Seattle that quickly snap me out of that (namely Sitka and Spruce and The Whale Wins). Hopefully you have a few in your town that do the same for you.
With many years of salad eating under my belt, below you'll find a few of my favorite way to add a little crunch. I'd love to hear about your favorites!
5 Crunchy Salad Add-Ins
- Nuts and Seeds: This is my go-to way to add crunch to salad. I love sliced almonds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. Walnuts and pecans are nice with heartier greens. Not only do they add texture, but they add a good little wallop of protein, too.
- Radishes, Fennel and Carrots: These may seem like typical salad inclusions but they're also easy ways to add crunch to any green salad or pasta salad. I add thinly-sliced radishes to pretty much anything these days and both fennel and carrots add a refreshing crunch that I particularly love in the warmer months.
- Pita or Bagel Chips: There are some nights when the salad fixings are pretty slim, and on these occasions I'll often add a handful of pita or bagel chips pieces for the extra texture, crunch, and bit of salt.
- Parmesan Crisps: An idea I discovered recently at a friend's house involved baking grated parmesan in the oven until it's fragrant and crispy — a great salad topping. To do so, grate your parmesan using a box grater and bake it in a 375 F oven for 5-6 minutes.
- Toasted Quinoa: Toasted grains are an easy way to get added crunch and whole grain nutrition. To toast quinoa: add the uncooked grain to a hot, dry pan and cook over medium heat until the grains begin popping (much like popcorn), 2-4 minutes. Shake the pan as you go to avoid sticking or burning.
(Images: Megan Gordon)