Kitchn Love Letters

I Finally Found the Ultimate Make-Ahead Salad (It’s a Lunchtime Game-Changer)

updated Jun 22, 2021
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Credit: Shelly Westerhausen/Kitchn

There was a time when my lunchtime salad routine was strong. Like, really strong. I’m not trying to brag, but I made some pretty impressive salads. They were built with layers of crispy, crunchy, chewy, and soft ingredients, which gave every bite a surprising mix of flavors and textures. I craved them and looked forward to them week after week.

I can’t remember if that routine came to a halt when I returned to work after having my son two years ago, or during the early days of the pandemic. It’s a blur to me now. What I do know is that I spent many, many months craving a really great lunch salad and just not being able to pull it off.

And then I listened as what felt like the whole Kitchn team raved about Deputy Food Director, Grace’s, Mediterranean-style chopped salad. After weeks of hearing about it, I finally tried it for myself, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t made it sooner. This has been a total lunchtime game-changer for me — and I guarantee it will be for you, too.

Credit: Shelly Westerhausen/Kitchn

The Smartest Way to Prep Salad Ahead of Time

Yes, this salad has the ideal mix of crisp, crunchy, and chewy textures and layers of flavors that I’ve been craving. But making it also taught me something invaluable: a template for the very best way to make my lunch salads ahead of time (which is the only way salad for lunch actually happens for me anymore). The recipe instructs you to toss the chopped veggies, chickpeas, and farro with a little bit of the dressing and add them to one container, while keeping the (undressed) chopped greens in a separate container. When it’s time to eat, you simply toss the ingredients from each container into your bowl, top with more dressing, and dig in. During the week, it takes all of two minutes to make this salad my lunchtime reality.

This template for making salad ahead of time feels so easy and obvious to me now. But instead of wondering why I haven’t been doing it all along, I’m looking ahead and making it part of my new routine. Even when I don’t have time for a full meal-prep session, I can always find time to cook a pot of farro while I mix together the salad dressing and chop a bunch a veggies. What’s more, the process feels meditative and relaxing.

Credit: Shelly Westerhausen/Kitchn

I also love that most of the salad components are basic veggies I almost always have on hand: bell peppers, celery, cucumber, red onion, crunchy romaine lettuce. But the simple move of adding radicchio (which I don’t typically buy), salty feta, and tangy pickled pepperoncinis instantly takes the salad up a notch and makes it feel really fun. In fact, pepperoncinis are quite possibly the best add-on ever. I’d had them in antipasto salads plenty of times, but never thought to add them to a chopped salad or any other salad. It’s so fun and so smart. They’re tangy and briny and pack in just enough heat to make a salad interesting, without being overwhelmingly spicy.

Anything goes when it comes to a chopped salad, and it would be easy to change up the ingredients here. Maybe I will some day, but for now I’m happy to keep making this one just as it is.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.