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Best Ever Side Salad

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Not your average cup of greens, this Best Ever Side Salad recipe has a secret preparation method to ensure each bite has bold flavors, and big crunch. This is sure to be your new favorite side dish!

best ever side salad on napkin with fork

What is a Best Ever Side Salad?

How boring is it when you see the words “mixed green side salad” on a menu? You know its going to be, ho-hum greens topped with a mild olive oil vinaigrette dressing. Maybe, just maybe it will be topped with sliced cherry tomatoes or shredded carrots if you are lucky.

Honestly, side salads have a dull reputation.

That is why I created, Best Ever Side Salad bc it literally, is the best simple salad ever. It has crunchy red onion for a little zip, sunflower seeds for a nutty, salty crunch, and a cool, creamy finish with the shredded cheddar cheese and ranch dressing.

NO boring salads allowed here. And the best part is, it literally goes well on the side of everything!

Of course it’s great paired with juicy cheeseburgers or grilled chicken breast, but also try serving it with fun sandwiches like Air Fryer Pickle Chicken Sandwich, Shredded Chicken Sandwiches with White BBQ Sauce, or everyone’s favorite Easy Sloppy Joes.

Salad Assembly Method

Ok, so there is a secret trick to follow when making these easy side salads that will ensure each bite full of flavor and that you will never get a bite of those boring greens only.

Layers.

That’s right. We are going to build this salad in layers. Similar to how you would assemble a lasagna.

Typically, you put lettuce in the bottom of the bowl, then add veggies and toppings and drizzle it all with dressing as the last step.

The issue with that is that, is that you eat through all of the toppings first, which are drenched in dressing, and then you are left with the greens at the bottom of the bowl that that are naked.

Building this salad (or any salad) in layers, solves all of those problems.

Start with your lettuce of choice, and place half a serving in the bowl. Top with half the amount of other veggies and toppings that you like, then drizzle with half your dressing. Next, grab the the rest of your greens and layer those right on top of the dressing. Then add the rest of the veggies and toppings and finish with another drizzle of dressing on top.

Voila! You have a lasagna salad…well, sort of. You have a layered salad with flavor and toppings in the center of the lettuce mix, as well as on top, to ensure each bite will be bursting with flavor.

What ingredients do you need for Best Ever Side Salad?

  • mixed greens (I like to use a spring mix like this)
  • red onion
  • shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • sunflower seed kernels (roasted and salted like these)
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • ranch dressing (I like this one, but you can use your favorite brand)
ingredients for best ever side salad

How do you make the side salad?

Grab 4 individual bowls, and place approx 1c of Spring Mix fresh greens into each bowl.

adding mixed greens

Finely dice a red onion with a sharp knife until you have a heaping 1/2 c. Scoop approx 1T of diced onion on top of lettuce in each bowl.

diced onion

Sprinkle with 1/2 t of sunflower kernels and 1 T of shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

Drizzle each bowl with 1/2 T of ranch dressing and top with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Next, continue on with the rest of the salad by grabbing another 4c of mixed greens, and place 1c in each bowl on top of the ranch dressing layer.

Top each bowl with another 1T of red onion, another 1/2t of sunflower kernels and drizzle with another 1/2T of ranch dressing.

Finish each salad with another 1T of the shredded cheddar and a little bit more salt and pepper.

I always sprinkle another few pieces of the diced red onion and sunflower kernels over the very top of each salad for garnish and extra crunch, but that’s totally optional.

best ever side salad with fork

Serve as a first course or as a side dish to your main course.

Ingredient Variations

This is one of my favorite side salad recipes, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t change it up from time to time. Try playing around with some of these other fun ingredients and see what other delicious salads you can create.

Just don’t forget the ever important layering method!

Here are some ingredient ideas to try:

Leafy Greens

  • mixed spring greens
  • romaine
  • spinach
  • radicchio
  • arugula
  • iceberg
  • kale
  • fresh basil

Fresh Veggies

  • grape tomatoes
  • red bell pepper
  • green bell pepper
  • brussels sprouts
  • cut green beans
  • beets
  • avocado
  • carrots
  • green onions
  • cucumber

Cheeses

  • goat cheese
  • fresh mozzarella
  • pepper jack
  • parmesan cheese
  • feta

Fun Salad Toppings

  • banana peppers
  • garbanzo beans
  • sesame seeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • pine nuts
  • golden raisins
  • dried cranberries
  • tortilla strips
  • chopped bacon

Also try playing around with different salad dressing options. Try an herby Italian dressing, a greek yogurt based dressing or even just some fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Pro Tip: Build your side salads using seasonal ingredients. Use lighter, Summer vegetables in warm months to serve with BBQ’d meats. Choose heartier, root vegetables in the Fall and Winter to serve along side of hot soups and slow cooker meals.

best ever side salad

FAQ’s

Can you serve this salad as a main dish?

Sure! I just double the serving size when I serve this as a main dish, and add a protein. Try topping it with grilled chicken, steak or shrimp.

How much lettuce goes into a side salad?

1-2 cups of spring greens is a good amount for a side dish.

Can you keep uneaten salad as leftovers?

The salad won’t keep well as leftovers once the dressing has been added. You can store leftover lettuce and toppings in separate air tight containers in the fridge. Replace the lid on bottled dressing and store in refrigerator as well. 

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best ever side salad with fork

Best Ever Side Salad

Liz Olberding @ Up North Nosh
Not your average cup of greens, this Best Ever Side Salad recipe has a secret preparation method to ensure each bite has bold flavors, and big crunch.
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people
Calories 231 kcal

Equipment

  • 4 small bowls
  • 1 sharp kinfe

Ingredients
  

  • 8 cups mixed spring greens
  • 1/2 cup red onion finely diced
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese shredded
  • 4 t sunflower kernels roasted and salted variety
  • pinch salt
  • pinch black pepper
  • 4 T ranch dressing (I like this one, but you can use your favorite brand)

Instructions
 

  • Grab 4 individual bowls, and place approx 1c of Spring Mix greens into each bowl.
  • Finely dice a red onion with a sharp knife until you have a heaping 1/2 c. Scoop approx 1T of diced onion on top of lettuce in each bowl.
  • Sprinkle with 1/2 t of sunflower kernels and 1 T of shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
  • Drizzle each bowl with 1/2 T of ranch dressing and top with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Next, grab another 4c of mixed greens, and place 1c in each bowl on top of the ranch dressing layer.
  • Top with each bowl with another 1T of red onion, another 1/2t of sunflower kernels, and drizzle with another 1/2T of ranch dressing.
  • Sprinkle each salad with another 1T of the shredded cheddar and another pinch of salt and pepper.
  • I always sprinkle a few extra pieces of the diced red onion and sunflower kernels over the very top of each salad for garnish and a little extra crunch, but that's totally optional.
  • Serve as a first course or as a side dish.

Notes

The salad won’t keep well as leftovers once the dressing has been added. You can store leftover lettuce and toppings in separate air tight containers in the fridge.
replace lid on bottled dressing and store in refrigerator as well. 
Of course this salad is great paired with juicy cheeseburgers or grilled chicken breast, but also try serving it with fun sandwiches like Air Fryer Pickle Chicken Sandwich, Shredded Chicken Sandwiches with White BBQ Sauce, or everyone’s favorite Easy Sloppy Joes.
If you make this recipe, please leave me a star rating and/or review at the bottom of this blog post.
Sign up here if you’d like my recipes latest sent straight to your inbox.
Follow along on social media: InstagramFacebook and Pinterest

Nutrition

Calories: 231kcalCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 11gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 18mgSodium: 397mgPotassium: 992mgFiber: 7gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 35187IUVitamin C: 45mgCalcium: 283mgIron: 4mg
Keyword mixed greens, side salad
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