7 Ways to Quickly Dress Up Your Green Salad

updated Jun 22, 2019
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You can pretty much count on there being a green salad on my dinner table every single night — I find it’s the easiest way to add something wholesome to the meal without fuss. Even when I invite friends over for dinner, that green salad stays put. What changes, however, is its construction.

A little something extra added to the simple bowl of greens can dress things up and make it a salad that feels a little more special and fit for a party. Here are seven ways to fancy up your salad.

1. Garnish it with edible flowers.

Delicate, colorful flowers make just about anything a little more fancy, and that includes salad. Nasturtium flowers are the most common edible variety and usually the easiest to find. While they’ll be hard to track down in the winter, check our your farmers market or local florist in the spring, summer, and fall. Whole Foods and other speciality grocers also often carry them.

2. Load it with fresh herbs.

When I asked my colleagues what they reach for to dress up green salads, two of them quickly called out fresh herbs. Associate Food Editor Kelli made sure to note that she doesn’t use just a little bit. “I make a salad with nearly equal measures of herbs and greens,” she says.

The result is something surprising and extra fresh — and it really lets fresh herbs have some time in the spotlight. Soft herbs like parsley, cilantro, and basil are best.

3. Toss it in a bold dressing.

I’ll be the first to admit that on most nights, my green salads are dressed with nothing but oil and vinegar. I love the simplicity, but if I am looking to fancy up those greens, the first place I’ll turn is the dressing. Amp up the flavor and every forkful will be a little more intriguing to eat. News & Culture Editor Ariel likes to reach for nutty tahini or umami-packed anchovies. Even tangy, creamy yogurt is a solid choice.

4. Finish it with crunchy nuts or seeds.

Adding a bit of texture to the situation is a fast way to jazz things up. Opt for what nuts or seeds are your favorite, whether that’s pistachios or pepitas. Toast them for added flavor and sprinkle them on just before serving. If they’re large, like hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, or almonds, just give them a rough chop first.

5. Embrace any and all cheese.

When did cheese not improve something? Really, you can’t go wrong here. If all you have is a chunk of Parm in the back of your fridge, shave it on top of your salad and you’ll be golden. I don’t need to tell you that crumbled goat cheese is a good idea, although you could up the ante and bake it in breadcrumb-coated discs instead. Salty feta and blue cheese are great, too, as are cubes of brie and cheddar.

6. Make homemade croutons.

What makes homemade croutons fancy is the homemade part. The extra few minutes it takes to DIY them instead of ripping open a bag of store-bought ones dresses up a green salad while still making it feel classic and approachable. Season them with nothing but salt and pepper or have a little fun and riff on them with everything bagel seasoning, lots of salty Pecorino cheese, or even hot sauce.

7. Sprinkle in a pinch of fun salt.

Seasoning your salad is just as important as seasoning the rest of your dinner. While plain ol’ kosher salt will do the job, Lauren likes to reach for a fun finishing salt instead to take it one step further and add a little extra flavor to the situation.

Add a pinch to a simple bowl of arugula or mesclun. If it’s something heartier, like kale, follow Lauren’s tip: “I lightly massage the greens in a BIG stainless steel bowl with olive oil and then add a big pinch of finishing salt,” she says. Her current favorites are this lemon zest salt, as well as this collection of rosemary, garlic, and basil salts.