The garden salad is a crave-able and nostalgic side salad that’s a classic for a reason. Resemblant of a steakhouse side salad, this garden salad is crisp (all hail iceberg lettuce), refreshing and loaded with texture. Toss with a simple red-wine mustard vinaigrette, dip a chunk of crusty bread in olive oil, and dinner is done.
This is a garden salad, meaning it uses up a lot of garden ingredients like lettuce, herbs, tomatoes, and cucumber. But more than that, it also hits upon something that’s a target for most great recipes—nostalgia. One bite of this salad and you’ll be transported to that birthday dinner at the local steakhouse as a kid. Or you’ll be right back at the neighborhood cookout in the height of summer.
It’s a salad, but in the most delectable way possible, and in large part to the all-too-often overlooked crisp-king—iceberg lettuce.
Ingredients in Garden Salad
Lettuce: For this salad we like to do a combination of iceberg lettuce, for crunch, and spring greens for color and tender texture. Use any leafy greens you like, we usually grab a mix of something, but spinach or arugula would be delicious too.
Herbs: The combination of parsley and basil subtly elevate the salad without requiring much added work. Feel free to use a mix of whatever fresh herbs you have on hand. We also like dill, tarragon, thyme, and cilantro.
Vegetables: To say this salad is versatile is an understatement. Use whatever fresh veggies are growing in the garden or that you have on hand. Here we’re using diced fresh tomatoes and cucumber, but shredded carrot, radish, thinly sliced snap peas, and celery would all be great options too. You can always swap the large diced tomatoes for cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes.
Cheese: Some wide shreds of an aged salty cheese like Parmesan cheese or pecorino cheese does wonders in this salad. A bit of the salty cheese loaded with umami flavors counteracts the tang of the dressing beautifully.
Mustard Vinaigrette: We’re dressing the salad with one of our favorite vinaigrettes, our Red Wine Mustard Vinaigrette. It’s a riff on out Classic Vinaigrette made with whole-grain mustard and a bit of shallot. It’s tangy, savory and absolutely delicious on this salad. If you’d rather this be more steakhouse vibes, try our healthy Blue Cheese Dressing and add some thinly sliced red onion. If you’re serving with pizza, try adding a few pepperoncini and black olives on the side too.
test kitchen Tips
- The vinaigrette can be made up to 5 days ahead of time.
- Leftovers of this salad do not store well, so we recommend pairing down the ingredients if serving less than 4 people.
- Be sure to taste the salad before serving! This is how you will know if you’ve added enough vinaigrette or if you need to finish with some salt and black pepper. Remember to season a salad like you do any cooked dish!
- If you want a little added crunch, consider adding toasted sliced almonds or croutons.
- For salads, we recommend removing the seeds and membranes of the tomatoes while dicing them to ensure the dressing doesn’t get watered down.
How to Make Garden Salad
- Whisk together the vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and assemble the salad.
- Wash and spin dry the lettuce greens, then transfer to a large serving bowl or platter. Add the herbs and toss to combine.
- Pile the tomatoes, cucumbers, dried cranberries and cheese over top.
- Drizzle the salad with the vinaigrette; toss and enjoy.
Garden Salad Dressing
For this recipe we prefer a hearty vinaigrette instead of something creamy or overly light. Our Mustard Vinaigrette is bold and flavorful thanks to the combination of red wine vinegar, garlic, shallot and whole grain mustard.
If you don’t have red wine vinegar, you can use white wine vinegar. And if you don’t have whole grain mustard you can substitute with Dijon.
Variations and Add-Ins
For some added crunch, top this salad off with some homemade croutons or toasted nuts.
Instead of dried cranberries, add fresh diced apple. You could also swap in any other dried fruit like diced dried apricots, golden raisins, or tart dried cherries.
Leave the cheese off and use maple syrup in the vinaigrette to make this salad vegan.
Swap out the parsley and basil for any fresh herbs you have on hand. Chives, tarragon, cilantro, and mint are all great options.
Ways to Serve Garden Salad
Make it a salad and sandwich kind of night and pair this salad with our Rachel Sandwich (aka Turkey Reuben).
Pair it with our Tomato Florentine Soup for a delicious soup and salad pairing.
Pair it with homemade pizzed and toss some olives or pepperoncini into the salad!
Make Ahead and Storage Tips
We don’t recommend prepping this entire salad ahead of time. Instead, prep some of the components and then assemble it right before serving.
You can wash and dry the salad greens up to 3 days ahead of time. Store them in an airtight container with a layer or two of paper towels in the refrigerator. You can learn more about storing greens here.
The cucumbers can be sliced up to 2 days ahead of time. Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
The vinaigrette can be made up to 4 days in advance and should be stored in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator. Let it come to room temperature and give it a good shake before drizzling over the salad.
Wait to dice the tomatoes and assemble the salad until right before serving.
More Salad Recipes to Try
- If you’re looking for a good weeknight dinner salad, check out our Salmon Caesar. It’s always satisfying.
- We also love our Thai-Inspired Beef Salad that’s packed with fresh herbs, tender butter lettuce and a bold citrus vinaigrette.
- Our Arugula Pear Salad with Toasted Lemon Vinaigrette is a great salad for when you need to “wow” a crowd. If you like iceberg, you’ve gotta try our Simple Blue Cheese Wedge Salad!
- Another one of our favorites is this Asian Cabbage Salad that can be paired with just about any protein.
You can swap the iceberg lettuce with chopped hearts of romaine.
You can wash and spin dry the salad greens, though we don’t recommend prepping the iceberg lettuce in advance as it can deteriorate quickly once chopped. You can also shred the cheese using a vegetable peeler. Just be sure to store the cheese in an airtight container to keep it from drying out. And lastly, you can prepare the vinaigrette up to 5 days ahead of time. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use.
Garden Salad Recipe
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
- 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
- 1½ teaspoons honey
- 1 small clove garlic grated
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- 4 cups chopped iceberg lettuce
- 4 cups spring greens
- 1 cup parsley leaves
- 8 basil leaves, chiffonade
- 2 large tomatoes, diced (about 2 ⅓ cups)
- 1¼ cups English cucumber, diced
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup shaved of Parmesan or pecorino cheese*
- For the mustard vinaigrette, add all vinaigrette ingredients to a small jar with a tight fitting lid. Secure lid and shake vigorously until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside.
- In a large serving bowl, toss iceberg, spring greens, parsley and basil together. Add tomatoes, cucumber, cranberries and half of the Parmesan. Drizzle with half of the vinaigrette and toss gently to combine.
- Taste and adjust vinaigrette, salt and pepper to taste.
- Sprinkle remaining Parmesan over top and serve immediately.