Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

Tell Me More
Stay Connected
February 06, 2008

Choose Your Own Salad Adventure

By Worker Bee
49 Comments

We here at Mark’s Daily Apple love salads. And lets face it, what’s not to love? Not only is it healthy, but there is so much opportunity to change it up. You could literally go years without repeating the same salad!

However, coming up with new salad “recipes” can be a bit of a challenge…until now. Read on to learn a list of the best salad ingredients, toppings, dressings and (gasp) even some forbidden add-ins, and learn new ways to combine them all!

Base: While this doesn’t necessarily comprise the bulk of the salad, it’s a good place to start. Depending on your hunger level, start with 1-2 cups of any of the following (or a combination of several!)

Arugula
Bok Choy
Frisse
Dandelion Greens
Endive (all varieties)
Fennel
Iceberg (just remember, a dark leafy green packs a better nutritional punch!)
Kale
Mizuna (an Asian green leaf)
Radicchio
Romaine
Savoy Cabbage
Seaweed
Spinach
Tot soi (similar to Mizuna, but with a stronger, more peppery flavor)

Add Ins:
Salads are typically better when the portion of vegetable add-ins are in quantities either equal to or exceeding the base layer. So, for a salad that uses 1 cup of “greens,” you’ll probably want to add between 1 and 2 cups of a combination of the following!

Artichoke hearts
Asparagus
Avocado
Banana Pepper
Bell Pepper (all colors served either raw or roasted)
Broccoli (fresh or pre-cooked)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Chickpeas
Chilies (hey, some like it hot!)
Cucumber
Eggplant
Green Beans
Jalapeno Peppers
Mushroom
Olives
Onion
Radish
Snow Peas
Tomatoes

Proteins: Although we love our salads, the reality is a few cups of vegetables probably isn’t going to keep you satiated until dinner time swings around. Stave off the munchies by adding about 1 serving (which, when we discuss protein, is equivalent to the size of a deck of cards) of any of the following into the mix – just steer very VERY clear of deli meats, which are loaded with sodium and other preservatives and often have hidden sugars!

Beef (grass-fed)
Chicken (organic)
Egg (Hard Boiled)
Shrimp (cooked and served chilled)
Tuna, Salmon or any other Wild Fish (either seared or canned)
Turkey
Venison

Occasional Add Ins: While these shouldn’t ever be considered a salad staple, every now and again it’s nice to add one or two in to change up the routine!

Blueberries
Cranberries
Grapes
Raspberries
Oranges
Pear
Strawberries
Apple slices
Cottage cheese/Ricotta cheese
Cheese (feta, goat, mozzarella, romano and blue are among our favorites!)
Beans (Black, red, garbanzo etc.)
Nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, walnuts)
Water chestnuts
Honey (and we’re talking really occasionally and in very small doses here!)

“Oils”: While some people would say that adding an oil to an otherwise healthy salad is counterintuitive, the oil actually adds flavor and helps keep you satiated long into the afternoon!

Avocado Oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Mayonnaise
Plain Yogurt
Roasted Pumpkin Seed Oil (an Austrian import, but adds a robust, nutty taste to salads or marinades)
Sour Cream
Truffle Oil (pricey, but totally worth it!)

Acids:
Who’d of thought there were so many options beyond the run-of-the-mill balsamic/red-wine varieties? As a general rule of thumb use 3 parts oil to 1 part acid for a balanced dressing.

Apple Vinegar/Apple Cider Vinegar
Balsamic Vinegar
Champagne Vinegar
Chingkiang Vinegar (best for Asian-inspired salads!)
Cider Vinegar
Ice Wine Vinegar (hard to find, but impressive when you do!)
Lemon Juice
Lime Juice
Red Wine Vinegar
Rice Vinegar
Sherry Vinegar (best when aged, so you’ll need to know your stuff regarding good “years”)
Tarragon Vinegar
Tomato Juice

Spices and Herbs: When it comes to salads – and salad dressings in particular – a little bit of spice can transform the entire dish!

Basil
Celery Salt
Cilantro
Dill
Dijon Mustard
Garlic
Garlic Salt
Ginger
Mint
Oregano
Paprika
Parsley
Pepper
Tarragon

With these ingredients alone there are millions of combinations. Now go forth and eat yourself a big salad!

Still seem a little daunting? Try some of these outside-of-the-box salad dressing ideas:

Caesar Vinaigrette:
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp Oregano
2/3 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (fresh is best)
Salt and pepper to taste

Stir the white wine vinegar, dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, lemon zest, honey, oregano, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Gradually whisk in the olive oil to make a thick-ish vinaigrette mixture. Stir in garlic. Add Parmesan cheese just before serving (otherwise you get sludge!)

Cucumber Dill Dressing:
3/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt
3 tbsp fresh dill (chopped)
1 tsp sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup cucumber, peeled and seeded
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and seed cucumber. Chop into small chunks and blend in a food processor until smooth. Add all other ingredients. Blend until smooth.

Lime Almond Dressing:
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp finely chopped unsalted roasted almonds
2 tbsp fish sauce (available in the Asian Specialty section of most major grocery stores)
1 tbsp fresh ginger (minced)
1 tbsp fresh cilantro (chopped)
4 garlic cloves (minced)
Add all ingredients to cruet or large mason jar. Shake until all ingredients are mixed! Doesn’t get any easier than this folks!

Garlic Vinaigrette:
3 cups olive oil
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp dried oregano
3 cloves garlic (pressed)
Salt & pepper to taste

Uhh… pour all ingredients into cruet or large mason jar and shake until blended.

Orange Citrus Vinaigrette:
2/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup orange juice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp honey

And yet another simple one! Blend the vinegar, orange juice, oil, cilantro, mustard, garlic, and honey in a bowl. Serve chilled.

We certainly haven’t covered everything in our “Choose Your Own Salad Adventure” list. What are we missing and what are your favorite salad additions?

madnzany Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Mark’s Daily Apple Recipe Ideas

Sponsor note:
This post was brought to you by the Damage Control Master Formula, independently proven as the most comprehensive high-potency antioxidant multivitamin available anywhere. With the highest antioxidant per dollar value and a complete anti-aging, stress, and cognition profile, the Master Formula is truly the only multivitamin supplement you will ever need. Toss out the drawers full of dozens of different supplements with questionable potency and efficacy and experience the proven Damage Control difference!

Subscribe to Mark’s Daily Apple feeds

Subscribe to the Newsletter

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

Leave a Reply

49 Comments on "Choose Your Own Salad Adventure"

avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Emily
Emily
8 years 7 months ago

This is a great post! I did a similar one in my Healthy Eating Blog here: Salad Making 101. The only thing I mentioned that you didn’t was toasted sesame oil; it adds a delicious, nutty flavor to salads. I also like diluting a little sesame tahini for a dressing as well.

Mike Drew
Mike Drew
8 years 7 months ago

Mmm, salad. I’m hungering for one right now.

My wife usually makes me a salad for lunch, and it often consists of romaine lettuce or spinach leaves, sun-dried tomatoes, avocado, garlic-stuffed olives, sliced almonds, red onions, tomato slices, balsemic vinaigrette, dried cranberries and tempeh (we’re vegan). Yum.

Migraineur
8 years 7 months ago
“… the oil actually adds flavor and helps keep you satiated long into the afternoon.” Since so many vitamins and antioxidants are fat-soluble, the oil also helps you absorb the nutrients in the salad. Humans seem to have stumbled on a lot of classic culinary combos (sorry for the alliteration) that combine a plant with a fat and enhance the nutrients of both: berries and cream; fruit and cheese; salads with olive oil; cooked veggies with butter; borscht with sour cream; even coffee or tea with milk or cream. Plus there are all those classic one-pot meals where veggies stew… Read more »
Jerry
Jerry
8 years 7 months ago

The entire staff of Mark’s Daily Apple did a great job on this one, thanks for posting such a tremendous article.

Heather
Heather
8 years 7 months ago
Thanks for the lists! I make practically the same salad everyday and had been pushing myself to try new things, and now I have a good reference to check when I need an idea. Might I also add Escarole & Red Leaf Lettuce to the base list? Every week I buy a package of spinach & another random leafy green to mix together in a large container, and escarole is a common choice because it seems a little sturdier than some of the others. I’m surprised you all didn’t list nuts on this post, I just love a salad with… Read more »
Aaron
8 years 7 months ago

We didn’t forget the nuts! There sort of hidden in the “Add Ins” section. Though, we didn’t mention sunflower seeds. Good call, Heather!

sarena
8 years 7 months ago

I had me some watercress tonight in a salad. Yummy, nice and flavorful!!

charlotte
8 years 7 months ago

Beets! I don’t know if these are considered too starchy but I love slicing up a raw beet in my salad. Gives it a crunch and some more color.

Thanks for list guys! I’m printing this out and sticking it in the front page of my recipe binder!! I’m so excited you put water chestnuts on there. I love them and had totally forgotten about them until you mentioned it! Can’t wait to try the Lime Almond dressing:)

carla
8 years 7 months ago

it’s that line about the greens not keeping you satiated and NEEDING protein and fat that we (the royal) always forget huh?
and then veeeeeeeeeer off path into the bad transfat choices in a fit of famishment.

C.

julie
julie
8 years 7 months ago

Excellent, Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Marc
Marc
8 years 7 months ago

You forgot Seeds in the salad, I love to put some sunflower seeds in my salad, lots of good fibre and taste.

LB
LB
8 years 7 months ago

Don’t forget Tempeh and Tofu for vegetarians!(any variety, baked, grilled, etc.) I also like to add a small dollop of hummus for extra protein.

Specialk
Specialk
8 years 7 months ago

I like putting a sprouted bean mix on my salad.

One of my favorite salads is a minted feta salad. All you need is romaine, mint, feta and the a dressing similar to the garlic vinagrette above.

Heather
Heather
8 years 7 months ago

Sorry Aaron, must have skimmed right past where you listed nuts. I didn’t really read it carefully, just skimmed & bookmarked for later use. =)

Mahea
8 years 7 months ago

Oooh, sliced baked tofu… a vegan’s dream salad.

trackback

[…] Choose Your Own Salad Adventure […]

Gunnlaugur
8 years 6 months ago

I suggest walnut oil for the oils section … delicious in a salad and very healthy. Great post, thanks.

Katie
Katie
8 years 6 months ago

Chives are pretty tasty on a salad as well, just that little extra bite.

trackback

[…] Mark’s daily staple, but he mixes it up with his veggies of choice each day. See the Choose Your Own Salad Adventure post to come up with your own creative compilations. At the heart of this delicious signature […]

trackback

[…] berries and nuts necessary to put together a great entrée, many grocery stores now offer full salad bars and hot-meal options (but, as always, use common sense when selecting […]

Terri McCann
Terri McCann
8 years 2 months ago

Hey, does anybody have a really good honey mustard recipe? Something that tastes like the kind you get at Bennigan’s or Chili’s restaurants. Thanks very much!!!

Dianne Carey
Dianne Carey
2 years 6 months ago

Lemon Honey Mustard Dressing
1 cup olive oil mayonaise
1/2 cup dijon mustard
1/2 cup honey
juice of 1 lemon
4 TB olive oil

Tastes exactly like Chili’s Honey Mustard. Enjoy.
@dianne_carey

Aaron
8 years 2 months ago

Hello, Terri!

This is a copycat recipe of Chili’s honey mustard dressing:

Ingredients:
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup prepared mustard
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Check out this post for more salad dressing recipes:

10 Delicious DIY Salad Dressings

trackback

[…] few months ago we served up the popular “Choose Your Own Salad Adventure” post, and we got comments galore. Salads, after all, are perfect PB fare: a diverse veggie […]

trackback

[…] Choose Your Own Salad Adventure […]

trackback

[…] Choose Your Own Salad Adventure […]

Candice
6 years 10 months ago

Agree with the above, what a terrific post! Fairly new to Primal eating, I had been struggling to make my calories and skimping on the vegetables. I began to over-substitute dairy where I had previously had a serving of non-gluten grains, and since I’m sensitive to dairy it’s no wonder I wasn’t feeling much better. Now I am eager to up my calories from pure veggies, and have been having mega salads with fish and oil and feeling great for hours.

I will print this and tack it in my kitchen for inspiration!

trackback

[…] with the grok squat stretch. I took a shower, enjoyed a coconut whey protein smoothie, and then a primal big ass salad with tons of veggies (no meat because I had a protein shake beforehand). I ate a little too much, […]

trackback

[…] main meal of the day should be a big ‘ol healthy salad. To give you some ideas, check out these salad recipes from Mark’s Daily Apple. Share and […]

dora smith
6 years 2 months ago

recipes are great & taste wonderful

Diann
Diann
6 years 1 month ago

I am wondering if ground flax or any form of flax seeds are considered grains or seeds.
thanks

trackback
[…] For the past 2 months I have been enjoying a big ass salad at work. We have a small table in the room where I work and so all the people I work with knows that I eat a salad on a daily basis. They always comment how incredibly it looks. I do admit that my salads are awesome which is why I have been keeping track of what I put in my salads in order to give you ideas. I have been taking pictures as well. For now, check out Marks post on his big ass primal salads.… Read more »
trackback

[…] From Mark’s Daily Apple. […]

trackback

[…] Salad : Cabbage, Olives, Spinach, Radish, Broccoli, Tomatoes. Get creative .  Wonderful salad creation ideas here. […]

trackback

[…] salad meals. No joke. I love salads and am forever grateful that Mark Sisson introduced me to a Paleo/Primal Big Ass Salad. I have had several ups and downs while going primal 11.5 months ago but I have been enjoying at […]

trackback

[…] covers lots of ground, not even counting so called “taco salads” – a bit of iceberg lettuce smothered […]

trackback
[…] focus on the veggies in the meal first After roasting a chicken and serving it for dinner, I pick the meat off the carcass, and use the carcass and organs to make a rich broth which serves as base for soups and stews, along with adds nutritional content to brown and white rice and other grains. I often make the cooked chicken into chicken salad which I will serve for dinner from time to time. For lunch I like to make a heavy salad that is light on the meat, but also includes at least one other protein. I… Read more »
Jason
Jason
4 years 7 months ago

In the cucumber dill recipe you said something about “nonfat” Greek yogurt. That kind of seems to go against everything i’ve ever read on this site. Still this is a great article!

Barbara Jo Fenton
Barbara Jo Fenton
4 years 7 months ago

I am confused. Chick peas are listed under the Add-Ins. Garbanzo beans are listed under Occasional Add-Ins. They are the same thing so what gives?

Megan
Megan
4 years 5 months ago

Why not list cooked beans in the protein section? They’re an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. 🙂

Natasha
Natasha
4 years 5 months ago

swiss chard is a tasty and nutrient-packed leaf base as well.

trackback

[…] have you sizzling in no time! Or, if you’re in the market for a salad, check this out for our ultimate guide to making a delicious […]

trackback

[…] Have a large salad for lunch. Mark Sisson provides some great ideas for building his famous daily bigass salad. […]

Lenore Gray
Lenore Gray
2 years 11 months ago

I have copied some of your dressings, and will try them right away.

However, I am looking for a dressing with honey, olive oil, dijon mustard and apple cider or rice wine vinegar. I know the ingredients but need the amounts of each.
Hope someone can help me. Thank you very much

Lenore Gray.

Trent
Trent
2 years 10 months ago

The simplest salad dressing ever:

A little bit of olive oil, a little bit of juice from a jar of peporincinis, salt and pepper. It’s unbelievably good and simple.

Ariel
Ariel
2 years 3 months ago

For the canned tuna to have with the salad, I tend to eat my tuna with mayo to make sandwiches. Can I still eat the tuna and mayo, sans bread, with my salad? Or should I just eat the tuna dry?

trackback

[…] The Big Ass Salad. I stole this term my Mark Sisson founder of Marks Daily Apple. He has a great post about salads that I have recently been referring […]

trackback

[…] love the concept of the “big ass salad”.  It took me awhile to learn that, in order to make a salad something that will satisfy, a […]

Laurel
Laurel
1 year 20 days ago

I like to take two tbsp of fruit juice(s) or vinegar(s) or a combination of the two and a tsp of oil and some spices and put them into a teensy-weensy little container and shake until emulsification occurs. Fresh dressing suited to whatever salad you make every time and probably about the same amount of calories as a Bolthouse Farms vinaigrette.

Also, where would beets be in the list above? I like beets on my salad sometimes.

wpDiscuz