Garden salad is one of the most basic salads, yet it’s also one of the most popular. This garden salad is made with fresh garden vegetables tossed in a light, tangy vinaigrette dressing. It’s a great side that pairs well with almost anything and is one of the best healthy salad recipes. It’s vegan (dairy-free, egg-free), grain-free (gluten-free), soy-free, nut-free, and refined sugar-free.
As summer wanes, gorgeous produce burst forth from all the warm temperatures and soft rain. It’s my favorite time of the year because it’s the season when almost everything is in season!
Cucumbers are at their best with their firm skin and tender seeds. Tomatoes off the vine are fully ripe, juicy, and sweet. Red onions are fully developed and ready to be harvested… Since our summer here on the Island has not been too hot, even my herbs are doing really well this time of the year. There’s nothing better than fresh snippets of greenery to provide plenty of flavor for summertime salads.
With all the produce abundance, I thought I would share my go-to garden salad recipe that I make all the time.
Tips for Making Garden Salad
There are no rules when it comes to a garden salad. Any vegetables tied together with a classic salad dressing will do. Here are the ingredients I typically put in my garden salad:
- Lettuce: leafy greens are the foundation of a garden salad. They provide the bulk of the salad and add a fresh, crisp texture. Iceberg and Romaine are the most popular lettuces in garden salads, but other good options are green loose-leaf lettuce, bibb lettuce, butter lettuce, or even baby spinach.
- Cucumbers: I prefer English cucumbers to field cucumbers because they’re generally sweeter, have thinner skin, and have fewer seeds. Persian cucumbers are also fantastic.
- Tomatoes: cherry or grape tomatoes are the best because they’re bursting with a sweet flavor, and their petite size makes them ideal for tossing into salads, but you can use any tomatoes you like.
- Onions: red onions are the ideal choice for the pop of spicy flavor and intense purple color. However, if you find the taste of red onions too sharp, you can omit them or use green onions instead.
Garden Salad Dressing
Of course, you can keep things really simple and dress your garden salad with a drizzle of good-quality olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar or lemon juice. But I will say that this garden salad dressing takes the salad to another level. All you need is:
- Red wine vinegar: vinegar is the primary ingredient that gives the dressing a bright, tangy flavor. Opt for high-quality organic red wine vinegar if you can.
- Olive oil: oil gives the dressing body and richness. It also mellows the sharp notes of vinegar. Extra virgin olive oil is ideal for salads, but virgin olive oil is also fine.
- Dijon mustard: red wine vinegar and mustard work together to give the salad dressing a bright, tangy flavor. The mustard also helps emulsify the dressing.
- Garlic: freshly minced garlic makes any dressing zing with flavor. If you’re not a fan of raw garlic, you can swap in finely diced shallot for a milder flavor. Another option is to make garlic paste by sprinkling minced garlic with kosher salt and mashing it into a paste. Crushing and mashing garlic cloves with salt softens garlic’s sharp bite.
- Salt and pepper: other than the classic seasonings – salt and pepper – you can also add your favorite herbs, such as fresh cilantro, parsley, oregano, or anything else you find in your garden.
How to Make Garden Salad
The best part about this garden salad is that it’s incredibly easy to make. With your ingredients prepped and ready, here’s how quickly the salad comes together:
- Prepare the garden salad dressing. Start by making a paste with the garlic and salt. The salt makes the garlic break down into such a fine consistency that it almost melts into the dressing. Add the garlic paste into a medium bowl with the vinegar, mustard, and other seasonings, and whisk to combine. Then, slowly add the olive oil and whisk vigorously while pouring until the dressing is emulsified.
- Mix the vegetables. Add the lettuce(s), cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions to a large bowl and toss to combine. Make sure you use a really big bowl, so you have space to dress the salad without compressing all the air out of what should be a light, fluffy mix of greens.
- Dress the salad. When ready to serve the salad, drizzle over the dressing and toss everything gently until evenly coated. If you’re making this salad in advance, leave the dressing off until you’re ready to serve so the salad doesn’t become soggy.
Garden Salad Variations
Garden salad is made of anything that’s in your garden! So, use the ingredients that are in season.
Some vegetables you can add are baby spinach, bell peppers, carrots, endives, olives, or radishes. You can also add nuts, seeds, or sprouts.
For a more filling and satisfying meal, top the garden salad with roasted chickpeas or baked crispy tofu.
How to Store Garden Salad
- Refrigerating: fold a paper towel and put it on the bottom of an airtight container. Fill the container with the salad and refrigerate it for up to 3 days. I recommend storing the salad without dressing tossed in (if possible). Low moisture helps ingredients to stay fresh longer!
More Salad Recipes
- Apple Kale Salad: this massaged kale salad is full of fresh ingredients tossed in a simple lemon-mustard dressing. Great for lunch!
- Cucumber Zucchini Salad: featuring fresh cilantro, chili pepper, and lime juice, this cucumber zucchini salad recipe is a refreshing summer side dish.
If you try any of these recipes, please leave a comment and rate the recipe below. It always means a lot when you do.
- 1 head lettuce *
- 1 English cucumber , sliced
- 2 cups grape tomatoes , halved
- 1/2 red onion , thinly sliced
Garden Salad Dressing
- 1 garlic clove , minced
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper (optional)
- Make garlic paste (optional). Sprinkle the minced garlic with salt and use your knife to gather the garlic into a pile. Then press and scrape the sharp end of the knife against the garlic to grind the salt into the garlic. Work the garlic back into a tidy pile and repeat, pressing and scraping the knife through the pile for 2 to 3 minutes until you have a smooth paste.
- Prepare the garden salad dressing. Add the garlic paste to a medium bowl with the oil, vinegar, mustard, and black pepper, and whisk to emulsify.
- Mix the vegetables. Add the lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions to a large bowl and toss to combine.
- Dress the salad. When ready to serve the salad, pour over the dressing and toss everything gently until evenly coated.
- Store. Best when fresh, though leftovers store separately in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.