Food & Drink

16 Salads Without Lettuce Worthy of Your Next Meal

Let's face it: lettuce is super lame and only really exists to be a vehicle for delicious, delicious dressings. But just because leaves are boring doesn't mean salads have to be. Summer's fresh, high-quality fruits and vegetables mean you can easily put something together that's still super satisfying. And we're not talking about salads of the pasta, tuna, or chicken variety.

Whether packing for weekly work lunches, potluck parties, or picnics, these salads leverage the season's best ingredients for hearty, healthy meals that are far from rabbit food. There's no lettuce required here -- or mayo, for that matter.

Red cabbage carrot mint salad

Mayonnaise-loaded coleslaws can be tricky for picnicking because they spoil easily. But this red cabbage and carrot slaw leverages lemon and mint for a fresher variation that travels easily and tastes lighter. Recipe here!

Key ingredients:

  • Red cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Lemon 
  • Mint 

Grilled corn zucchini salad with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette

This salad is perfect for a crowd. It's packed with summery corn, zucchini, and chickpeas, and then topped with a savory sun-dried tomato vinaigrette and herbs. It's practically a meal on its own. Get the recipe here

Key ingredients:

  • Corn 
  • Zucchini
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Maple syrup
  • Chickpeas

Beet, avocado, and fried goat cheese salad

Breaded-and-fried goat cheese is the star of this dish, so it's not exactly the healthiest salad, but colorful beets, avocado, and fiber-rich pistachios ensure that this summer meal is still pretty damn nutritious. Get the recipe here

Key ingredients:

  • Beets
  • Shallot 
  • Goat cheese
  • Avocado
  • Pistachios

Three-bean cilantro lime salad

This is a great recipe to keep on hand, and can be made in a pinch with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. Canned beans are livened up with a vibrant dressing and cilantro. Pair this with practically any protein, from meat to fish. 

Key ingredients:

  • Black beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Cannellini beans
  • Bell peppers
  • Chili powder

Summer tomato cantaloupe salad

The sweet-and-savory combination of tomatoes, cucumber, and cantaloupe makes for a seriously refreshing -- and hydrating -- summer picnic salad. Read on here.  

Key ingredients:

  • Tomato
  • Red onion
  • Limes 
  • Cantaloupe
  • Mint

Fennel radish fattoush

Crispy pita chips are tossed in a lemony vinaigrette with fennel, radish, cucumber, apple, and radicchio then doused in sumac for a crispy, crunchy summer salad. Serve alongside kebabs from the grill. Recipe here

Key ingredients:

  • Pita
  • Fennel
  • Watermelon radish
  • Apple
  • Sumac

Sun-dried tomato pesto chickpea salad

Here is another iteration of summer picnic fare that primarily looks to pantry staples for a dynamic, protein-packed side. Layered with fresh basil, sun-dried tomato pesto, and Parmesan, chickpeas have never been more impressive. Recipe here.

Key ingredients:

  • Sun-dried Tomatoes
  • Basil  
  • Parmesan
  • Chickpeas
  • Pine nuts

Cucumber, basil, and watermelon salad

The main ingredients -- cucumber, basil, and watermelon -- are tossed together, then elevated with mango, peanuts, fresh herbs, and a gingery citrus-soy dressing to deepen the flavor. Try the recipe here.

Key ingredients:

  • Watermelon
  • Cucumber
  • Mango
  • Serrano pepper
  • Peanuts

Tabbouleh salad

Tomatoes, onion, lemon, parsley, and mint are tossed with reliable bulgur wheat, and the mix is perfect for picnicking or serving alongside roast chicken. 

Key ingredients:

  • Bulgur
  • Lemon
  • Parsley
  • Mint
  • Tomatoes


Panzanella grows better and bolder in taste over time, as toasted bread -- or even day-old bread -- sits and soaks up all the moisture from the fresh veggies and Dijon vinaigrette. Make this salad in the morning and let the flavors meld together all day. Get the recipe here

Key ingredients:

  • French bread
  • Tomatoes
  • Bell pepper
  • Dijon mustard 
  • Champagne vinaigrette

Snap pea asparagus avocado salad with radish vinaigrette

Green and crisp veggies and herbs are served here with avocado and a unique radish vinaigrette for a savory standalone salad. Learn the recipe here.

Key ingredients:

  • Asparagus
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Avocado
  • Basil
  • Ricotta salata 

Dill cucumber salad 

This cucumber salad has so much dill and vinegar, it's almost like eating a pickle salad. Serve it alongside rich meats that can stand up to its bold flavor like pulled pork or fried chicken. Recipe here

Key ingredients:

  • Cucumbers
  • Red wine vinegar
  • White balsamic vinegar
  • Cider vinegar 
  • Dill

Thai shrimp salad

Because this "salad" includes a bed of vermicelli rice noodles, it's perfectly reasonable to eat it as a main meal and expect to feel full. It also makes for excellent lunch leftovers. Find the recipe here!

Key ingredients:

  • Fish sauce
  • Shrimp
  • Snap peas
  • Vermicelli noodles
  • Cherry tomatoes

Kale and cabbage coleslaw with Marcona almonds

A vinegar-based dressing holds this crunchy and healthy coleslaw together nicely, and again, is much more picnic-friendly since there's no mayo. Recipe here.

Key ingredients:

  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Carrot
  • Marcona almonds
  • Champagne vinegar
  • Caraway seed 

Crab salad with celery

This lump-crab salad can stand on its own as a main course at lunchtime, as it also includes protein-packed hard-boiled eggs for texture. Finish the whole thing off with lemon, herbs, salt, and pepper (crab really needs nothing more than that). Serve with fresh avocado slices and your favorite crackers. Recipe here

Key ingredients:

  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Jumbo lump crab
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Parsley 
  • Lemon

Thai zucchini noodle and quinoa salad 

If you're not eating zoodles yet, we're not sure what you're doing. Spiralized veggies are the perfect way to only slightly convince yourself that you're eating real noodles. But they're definitely healthy! Paired with quinoa and peanut dressing, this salad is a hearty vegetarian lunch, but you can also add grilled chicken on top if you're feelin' it. Recipe here.

Key ingredients:

  • Zucchini
  • Kale
  • Mango
  • Red bell pepper 
  • Red quinoa

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Sophie Hays is a freelance writer from New York City, where she can be found searching for the next great plate of homemade pasta or recipe testing in her tiny kitchen. Twitter & Instagram: @SophieHays_.