5 Ways to Make a Salad Kit Taste Even Better

updated Apr 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

When it comes to easy, satisfying lunches, a salad kit is often your best friend. It does all the work for you by packaging up a healthy helping of greens with a bit of salad swag — dressing, crunchy bits, dried fruit.

But you don’t have to take salad kits at face value. Here are a few ways to amp up these budget-friendly lunches from their $1.99 price tag into something that tastes like a $14 salad from the fancy salad bar.

Personally, I love a good salad kit — whether it’s for lunch or as a quickie side for dinner. In fact, we tried just about every salad kit out there this winter in a quixotic project to name our very favorites — take a look at the results here.

But even the best of the best often benefit from a tiny dash of cook’s magic, which you can do in your break room at work (no pots and pans needed). Here are our favorite ways to jazz up a simple salad into something that tastes like it came from Sweetgreen.

1. Use half the dressing. The dirty little secret of most salad kits is that they give you way too much dressing. If you dump it all in you get soggy leaves. Start with half (or less) and add more as you like.

2. Add pepper, spices (and maybe some salt!). Don’t mistake dressing for seasoning. Use less, but then make sure there is enough seasoning on the salad by adding a dash of pepper, some smoked paprika, or a sprinkle of salt. (This also helps balance out dressings that are too sweet.)

3. Warm the dressing (or the mix-ins). This ingenious little tip comes from Sheela, who likes to warm the dressing for a more complex salad. Warm the dressing, mix with about half the greens to wilt and soften them, then add the rest of the greens. Alternately, you can just warm your mix-ins, like dried fruit or grains.

4. Add more cheese! Okay, is this cheating? Maybe it’s cheating. Everything is better with a little more cheese, no? But there’s never enough cheese in these salad kits for our taste! I’ve often stolen a bit of grated cheddar cheese from my kids’ stash to top a salad kit.

5. Finish it off with protein. This is the obvious way to amp a salad kit into something you can eat for lunch and feel fully satisfied. But let’s talk about some shortcuts for this. I keep leftover pulled chicken in the freezer (freeze it in little piles on a baking sheet, then dump them all into a container so you can easily pull out a serving); this is a great way to top a salad kit. Or frozen meatballs — have you tried Costco’s? Or crispy baked tofu! Warm it in the office toaster oven then pile it onto a sweet kale salad, and feel smug in your soul that you’re eating a healthy lunch that tastes like a million bucks (but hardly cost anything).

P.S.: Looking for a way to turn a salad kit into a full-on dinner for two? We’ve got you there, too: 10 Ways to Turn a Salad Kit into a Satisfying Meal for 2

What are your favorite ways to jazz up a salad kit for lunch (and beyond)?