7 Quick Toppings That Turn Salad into Dinner

updated May 2, 2019
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I like keeping a salad night my meal plan, but don’t want a dinner that will leave me hungry an hour later. There are plenty of main-dish salad recipes out there (we wrote about some of our favorites in this post), but often I want just a simple green salad — with one or two extra things to make it more hearty. Here are seven quick additions from the pantry that always do the trick.

1. Beans or Lentils

We had a very basic salad two nights ago — baby red-leaf lettuce, cherry tomatoes, chives, and some canned white beans — and the beans made all the difference. It was a side-salad-turned-filling-dinner once they were added. This main course salad with beans and basil would be good, even without the grilled sausage.

2. Leftover Rice or Grains

We’re not talking one of our grain salads that are primarily couscous, spelt, farro, and the like, with vegetables thrown in. This is a lettuce-heavy salad with some grains tossed in as an accompaniment, like in our rice and mixed greens salad with dates, cashews, and chickpeas.

3. Tuna

This pantry staple is a no-cook option that’s quick, versatile, and loaded with protein. Toss is into your next simple green salad when you want a bit more oomph.

4. A Hard- or Soft-Boiled Egg

Again, easy and versatile. We can’t imagine many basic salads that wouldn’t mesh well with an egg, and if you make a batch of hard-boiled eggs at the beginning of the week, you’ve got breakfast, snacks, and salad additions ready to go.

Get a recipe: Kale Bistro Salad

Jersey Salad (Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

5. Leftover Pasta

If you have some pasta (cheese-filled or otherwise) left over from another meal, toss it with your lettuce, vegetables, and a vinaigrette.

Try it here: Jersey Salad

6. Bread

How about a panzanella? You don’t have to get too heavy-handed with the bread, if you don’t want to. Let the lettuce be the main ingredient, but toss in a few more hunks of bread than you would, say, if you were thinking croutons. We recommend toasting them lightly and tossing them separately with some vinaigrette, so they soften up a bit but still have some crunchy edges.

7. Olives

We find that olives are incredibly filling. They’ve got good fats and add some salty punch, too. This orange, olive, and fennel salad has become one of our favorites.

Your turn! What are your favorite things to throw into salad to make it more filling?

Updated from a post originally published 2012.