How to make salads a worthy main character

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It’s Healthy Eating Week and the perfect time to address a sore topic for many - salads. Many love them but for those who grimace at the thought of a dull, unfilling salad - we hear you!

If salads don't excite you, or you consider them more of a supporting role to the main meal, we hope this blog, by a self-confessed salad-as-a-main sceptic, will change your mind. Life’s too short for sad or only side dish-worthy salads, so here are some tips on making salads the main character they deserve to be! Getting on board with salads means you'll have more fresh, healthy lunch and dinner options to turn to when you want something quick, and to introduce more fresh veggies and fruit into your diet.

Vegan Trademark logo on right hand side. Vegan salad consisting of chickpeas, radish, tomatoes and various green vegetables on the right hand side.

Building a salad - advice from a Dietitian

"To make salad into a nutrient-dense, satisfying meal focus on adding foods from each of the main food groups: starchy carbohydrates, a rich source of protein and a portion of healthy fats alongside your vegetable base. Building a salad can be fun, and you can experiment with different foods in each category to find your perfect mix."

Emily McKee, BDA Registered Vegan Society Dietitian.


An easy way to incorporate vegetables is a base of leaves like mixed lettuce, spinach and pea shoots. Note: adding leafy green veggies provides a source of iron.

Starchy carbohydrates

These help make the meal filling and ensure a good source of energy. Wholegrain carbohydrates provide additional benefits of fibre and B vitamins too.


Protein also helps to make a meal filling and provides the body with amino acids to build and repair muscle tissue and support immune function.

Healthy fats

Plants provide unsaturated fats and in some cases (nuts or seeds), essential omega-3 fats. They also help us absorb and get the benefits of fat-soluble vitamins (especially A and K - found in a variety of vegetables). Healthy fats can simply be olive oil in your dressing or avocado chunks.

Draw on cultural or childhood influences

It can be hard to know where to start especially if, like me, you're used to salads as a side dish to enhance your main course, or you're uninspired by salad recipes that just don't hit the spot for you.

Draw inspiration from your favourite childhood dishes and culture to create or give new life to a salad. Familiar flavours and loved staples can be a game changer when it comes to preparing a salad you'll actually enjoy, so use these as your starting point.

Love a vegan roast? Incorporate Richmond's Meat-Free No-Chicken Chargrilled Pieces. They have a roast-flavoured seasoning added to them which is sure to bring back memories of that much-loved taste.

Did you grow up on Greek feta salads? Veganise this classic using Violife's Greek White Block Vegan Alternative.

Was a Tuna Nicoise salad your go-to before going vegan? Recreate a vegan version by swapping the tuna for Loma Linda Tuno In Spring Water and boiled eggs for smashed Caludron's Authentic Tofu and Mr Organic's creamy cannellini or butter beans. Season the tofu and beans with kala namak (black salt) for an eggy flavour.

Include a satisfaction factor

While salads are the poster girl for a healthy, veg-heavy dish, it doesn't have to exclude indulgence and that satisfaction factor. Let's take the protein element for example. Make a beautiful marinade for Tofoo's Naked Tofu, Tempeh or Seitan and make these the star of the show. For a speedier option that incorporates your favourite meat alternative, add Richmond Meat-Free Sausages (check out my salad recipe featuring them in this reel), Moving Mountains Plant-Based Meatballs or Asda OMV! No Chicken Nuggets to a simple tossed salad.

Elevate your salad with punchy flavours

Punchy flavours cutting through leafy greens and pops of sweetness can truly elevate otherwise simple salad recipes.

Don't sleep on a salad dressing

No one likes a dry salad and dressings can make an otherwise bland salad, a truly moreish one with intense and punchy flavours.

Tap into the latest food trends and experiment with using them in your dressings. Hot honey is all the rage right now. If you love a sweet and spicy kick try The Groovy Food company's vegan hot honey alternatives including their Hot Agave and Hot Chipotle Agave. These can be used in a marinade for your proteins too.

Deep, rich and spicy elements

Use deep, rich and spicy flavours from roasted garlic, mustard oil, fresh chillies or chilli paste, and punchy herbs like coriander as salad ingredients or in your dressing. The Original Black Garlic's Black Garlic Paste works beautifully in a vinaigrette.

Sharp flavours

Sharp flavours in your salad dressings are a great way to incorporate hints of intense flavour. Lemon juice with olive oil is a classic pairing, but explore other combinations featuring ingredients like pomegranate molasses, apple cider vinegar, tamarind paste, mustard (try Stokes Dijon Mustard) and even raspberry puree.

Citrus for mouthwatering goodness

Citrus is great for cutting through with strong flavours and aromas. As well as using citrus juices in your salad dressing, don't skip the zest which adds so much depth of flavour not to mention scent. Fresh or charred blood orange or grapefruit slices or segments with vegan chicken make for a great combination. Try Quorn Vegan Pieces as your chicken alternative.

A sweet surprise

Add sweetness using fruit such as pear and figs which couple nicely with walnuts and vegan cheese alternatives like Nurishh's Camembert Flavour. Pomegranate seeds also add a fresh, delicious pop of sweetness.

You could add sweetness to your salad dressing with ingredients like Maple Shack's 100% Pure Maple Syrup, Sweet Freedom's Vegan Honeee or The Groovy Food's Light or Dark Agave Nectars.

Pickles for flavour and gut health

Pickled elements add punchy flavour and texture for a vibrant salad, and fermented vegetables such as kimchi and sauerkraut provide beneficial bacteria great for your gut health. Why not try making your own pickled cucumber and adding these to a green salad, or pickled red onion? Alternatively, opt for these readymade Vegan Trademark certified options:

Add richness and variety with texture

Aside from juices, pastes and oils in your salad dressings, grains, fruit, nuts and seeds add variety and texture to your salad. As well as being a good source of protein, chickpeas roasted in spices are a great textured element too.


Nuts add wonderful texture along with flavour and healthy fats. Walnuts, pistachios, peanuts and cashews are all great additions. For added depth of flavour, top your salad with toasted almonds or toasted pine nuts.


We're of course going to suggest sunflower seeds given The Vegan Society's connection to the sunflower (it features in our charity's logo and the Vegan Trademark's!) but more importantly, they provide a plethora of health benefits.

For a great salad topper, experiment with baking sunflower and pumpkin seeds with sauces and seasonings to add richness and texture to your salads. Other seeds to incorporate are flaxseed, sesame, hemp and chia.

For the love of carbs

Add grains! If you hate salads because you think they're not satiating, focusing on grain salad recipes might be a game changer for you. Carbs are essential to a balanced diet so there's no reason to exclude them from salads. Making grains the star of the show for a winter salad and incorporating warm elements is a great shout for a filling and comforting salad.

Some whole grains to try include brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, bulgur wheat, cous cous, millet, pearl barley and pasta. Who can resist a pasta salad?

Grains can be flavoured with spices and dressings for added flavour, and get some leafy greens and herbs in by mixing them through your grains.

Other delicious carbs include homemade sourdough croutons and cooled leftover new potatoes.

Make your salad pretty

You deserve to enjoy your food with ALL your senses so make your salad look good with colour, texture, variety and in your presentation.

Make a Pinterest board or save your favourite salad recipes on Instagram or TikTok and use these as inspiration for plating up your salads and ingredient combinations. Opting for a theme, like a green salad, and experimenting with plating it beautifully will not only make you feel proud of what you've created and therefore enjoy it more, but you'll be getting lots of healthy goodness in your diet in a more enjoyable way.

Edible flowers

Sometimes, making your salad beautiful, as well as delicious, just needs a little extra flourish from mixed seeds, fruit, a sprinkle of fresh herbs, or my personal favourite - edible flowers. Chive flowers, calendula petals, violas, pansies, geraniums and nasturtium flowers (the leaves are edible too) add a pretty pop of colour and intrigue, along with flavour and health benefits too.

Use the freshest ingredients you can get your hands on

Using good quality, fresh produce can make a huge difference to flavour. Why not head to your local farmers market and pick up some seasonal fruits, vegetables and greens?

You may not even have to spend anything if you have generous friends, family or neighbours who gift you fresh veggies from their garden or allotment.

The satisfaction value is further unmatched when you incorporate your own homegrown or foraged ingredients, even if it's just some herbs or tomatoes you grew in a pot, wildflowers growing in your garden like geraniums and calendula, or some garlic mustard or dog rose petals you foraged on a walk.

Try to use plant foods in season like wild garlic (the leaves are great for dressings and the flowers are a nice punchy garnish), radishes in spring, or homegrown carrots and peas in summer.

You can even pickle your freshly picked treats like wild garlic buds or magnolia buds and petals to add greater depth and gut-friendly goodness from the pickling. It's also a great way to make these ingredients last beyond their season.

Supplement with VEG 1

Don't forget to supplement with The Vegan Society's multivitamin VEG 1 for optimum health. Best taken alongside a meal, VEG 1 is available in Orange and Blackcurrant flavours and comes packaged in sustainable, plastic-free tins.

For your little ones, opt for VEG 1 Baby & Toddler, our strawberry flavoured liquid multivitamin suitable for children aged six months to four years.

Now you're armed with some tips for making salads the main character, we'd love to see your creations so tag us on Instagram, X and TikTok!

By Vegan Society Digital Content Officer, Nishat Rahman

The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.

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