The Ultimate Summer Salad

published Aug 27, 2020
The Ultimate Summer Salad

A bright and fresh mix of sweet summer peaches and juicy cherry tomatoes, tossed in a tangy cilantro-lime vinaigrette.

Serves4 to 6

Prep30 minutes

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Ultimate summer salad with serving utensils on side.
Credit: Shelly Westerhausen

There are a handful of recipes I consider must-makes every summer. Tomato pie is high on the list, as are Smitten Kitchen’s blueberry muffins. And this melon-citrus combo satisfies my desire to eat a full cantaloupe every day (no, it’s not just filler fruit!).

This year, I’m adding a new one to the mix: a vibrant, produce-packed salad I’ve deemed the Ultimate Summer Salad. It’s got everything I love about summer eating and then some: Tomatoes and peaches burst with sweet, juicy flavor, cucumbers lend their signature refreshing crunch, and pickled red onions and feta add tang. Did I mention there are toasty pepitas, too?

The very best part is the cilantro-lime dressing, inspired by my colleague Arie’s favorite vinaigrette. It’s herby and tart and adds an unexpected “zing!” — and it’s a refreshing departure from the vinegar-based dressings of summer. It’s what makes this salad one you won’t soon forget.

Credit: Shelly Westerhausen

Crafting Your Own Ultimate Summer Salad

The Ultimate Summer Salad looks different for everyone. It’s the one you can’t wait to make again and again, packed full of your own favorite farmers market goodies. That means that there’s plenty of room to make this your own, as long as you keep the balance of sweet, crunch, and tang. Try baby spinach instead of Bibb. Use strawberries instead of peaches. Swap in crumbly queso fresco for the feta. Avocado is always a good idea.

To make this salad into a more substantial meal, I highly recommend topping it with grilled shrimp (you can grill the peaches, too, for some additional smoky flavor). I also love adding cooked farro to transform this dish into a hearty summer grain bowl.

Whether you eat plant-based full-time or want to go meat-free once a week, Tonight We Veg will bring you the feel-good vegetarian meals you crave. Once a month, in addition to our existing lineup of great veggie recipes, we’ll share easy weeknight recipes that prove how diverse produce-forward food can be, each packed with smart tips we’ve picked up over the years. Cook along with us, and share your creations using #tonightweveg.

The Ultimate Summer Salad

A bright and fresh mix of sweet summer peaches and juicy cherry tomatoes, tossed in a tangy cilantro-lime vinaigrette.

Prep time 30 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info


  • 2

    large limes, divided

  • 1/2

    small red onion

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    granulated sugar, divided

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste

  • 1 clove


  • 1/4 cup

    packed finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus whole leaves and tender stems for serving

  • 1/4 cup

    olive oil

  • 1

    medium head butter lettuce (about 1 pound), such as Boston or BIbb

  • 2

    Persian cucumbers, or 1 medium English cucumber

  • 6 ounces

    multi-colored cherry tomatoes (about 1 cup)

  • 2

    large ripe peaches

  • 4 ounces

    feta cheese

  • 1/4 cup

    roasted, salted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Finely grate the zest of 1 large lime. Add 1 teaspoon to a small bowl and reserve the remaining for topping the salad. Juice 1 tablespoon lime juice into the bowl. Thinly slice 1/2 small red onion (1/2 cup) and add to the bowl. Add 1/4 teaspoon of the granulated sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt. Toss to coat the onions and set aside to pickle while you prep the rest of the salad, at least 15 minutes, tossing the onions once or twice to coat in the lime juice.

  2. Prep the following, adding them to a small bowl or jar as you go: Juice the remaining 1 1/2 limes until you have 1/4 cup. Finely chop 1 garlic clove. Finely chop until you have 1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves. Add 1/4 cup olive oil, the remaining 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Shake or whisk to combine.

  3. Prep the following, adding them to a large salad bowl as you go: Tear 1 head butter lettuce leaves into bite-sized pieces (about 10 packed cups). Thinly slice 2 Persian cucumbers, or halve 1 English cucumber lengthwise, then thinly slice. Halve 6 ounces cherry tomatoes (about 1 cup). Halve and pit 2 peaches, then cut into 1/2-inch thick slices. Crumble in 4 ounces feta cheese (about 1 cup).

  4. Top the salad with 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, the pickled onion (discarding any liquid), reserved lime zest, and a handful of torn cilantro leaves and tender stems. Season with kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Drizzle half the dressing over the salad and gently toss to coat. Top with the remaining dressing.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The dressing and pickled onions (in their pickling liquid) can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in the fridge. Let the dressing come to room temperature and rewhisk before serving.

Toasting pumpkin seeds: To toast raw pumpkin seeds, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds and a pinch of kosher salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 4 minutes.

Creamy dressing: If you prefer a creamier dressing, you can blitz it in the blender.