10 Protein-Packed Make-Ahead Salads

updated Apr 20, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Brett Regot/Kitchn

Salads are one of the most popular items to make ahead for lunch — and for good reason: They’re fresh, flavorful, and easy. All you have to do is pack the dressing on the side, add it when you’re ready to eat, give the salad a quick toss, and lunch is ready. The problem with most make-ahead salads is that they’re not very filling, and once three o’clock rolls around you’re hungry again.

That’s why we’ve rounded up 10 of our absolute favorite make-ahead salads that are hearty and filling. Each one of these salads is made with ingredients that don’t wilt easily and includes an added protein (from beans to chicken) that will keep you energized all day. From Mediterranean quinoa salad to a refreshing noodle salad, here are 10 make-ahead salads that pack some serious protein.

1. Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Quinoa is rich in protein and one of the best things you can prep ahead of time. You can toss everything together (including the dressing!) and not worry about anything wilting. The quinoa will absorb the flavorful dressing and still be perfectly tender by the time lunch rolls around. Make a big batch of this salad on Sunday and enjoy it all week long.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. Baja Shrimp Taco Salad

Because the base of the salad is made with shredded cabbage, you can prep it ahead of time without worrying that it’ll get soggy. Do wait to cut the avocado up right before eating.

Get the recipe: Baja Shrimp Taco Salad

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Vietnamese-Style Chicken & Noodle Salad

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts marinated in a flavorful combination of lime juice, fish sauce, and lemongrass give this salad an extra pop of protein that will have you ready to tackle your to-do list. If you’re avoiding meat, use tofu or any other meat alternative in place of the chicken. If you need some help picking, check out our handy alternative meat guide!

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

4. Black Bean Salad with Corn & Avocado

Blacks beans are cheap and packed with protein. A simple dressing made with lime juice, cilantro, and cumin gives it a bright acidic flavor that will brighten even the most mundane day.

5. Tofu and Broccoli Salad with Peanut Butter Dressing

Broccoli slaw mix can be found in the produce section of most grocery stores near the salad kits. It’s typically made with the stems of broccoli along with shredded cabbage and is the perfect thing for meal prepping. It’s super hearty, so it won’t wilt if dressed in advance. This recipe pairs it with a creamy peanut dressing that’s sweet and savory.

Credit: Andrea Bemis

6. Chickpea Waldorf Salad

Sweet grapes, crisp celery, and crunchy walnuts make for the ultimate hearty salad. Because it uses tender baby spinach as the base, keep the salad separate so the greens don’t wilt.

Get the recipe: Chickpea Waldorf Salad

Credit: Olive & Mango

7. Tuscan Tortellini Salad with Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Use your favorite brand of store-bought tortellini to make this pasta salad. While any tortellini would work well, we recommend using the frozen variety instead of the shelf-stable kinds.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

8. Trader Joe’s Mediterranean Falafel Salad

Trader Joe’s lovers, this salad is for you! It takes only three shortcut ingredients, comes together in 30 minutes, and can be prepped ahead of time. The falafel on top (combined with the feta and chickpeas) makes this salad a protein-packed meal that will keep you full until dinner.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

9. Chicken and Soba Noodle Salad with Red Curry-Almond Dressing

Soba noodles are a type of buckwheat noodle that are high in fiber and super-filling. You can find them in the international section of most grocery stores, or near the pasta. This salad pairs them with shredded chicken, shaved carrots, and shredded rotisserie chicken for the ultimate protein-packed salad that’s perfect for people who don’t like lettuce.

Credit: Shelly Westerhausen/Kitchn

10. Mediterranean-Style Chopped Salad with Oregano Vinaigrette

The fact that this salad is made without any delicate leafy greens means you can prep it way ahead of time and not have to worry about it wilting. It’s filling, flavorful, and bright.