We’re all looking for easy no-cook meals to have on a hot day or to take with us camping or to the beach. A summer salad travels well, doesn’t take up a lot of space in your cooler, and will fill you up for a day of fun in the sun.
Minimal prep required
What I like most about these salads is that they don’t require too much prep. All you have to do is cook some grains or noodles ahead of time. Most of the ingredients in this salad builder don’t require chopping. Use ready-to-serve ingredients, to make these salads quick to assemble and easy to prepare.
Maximize cooler space
Since these summer salads use mostly non-perishable ingredients, you will only need to store the grains or pasta and a few vegetables in your cooler. Assembling these salads once you arrive at your destination prevents you from having to store a full container in your cooler. I like to use silicone food storage bags like these ones from Zero Waste Mvmt, to reduce waste while camping. They also store flat, don’t take up a lot of space in your cooler, and can be washed out and used for another purpose while you’re traveling. Use the discount code TBL10 to get 10% off your order.
Picky eater & allergy-friendly
One of the biggest challenges when camping or weekend meal planning with other families is accommodating everyone’s likes and dietary restrictions. By assembling your salads on-site, you can serve all the components deconstructed or buffet-style and everyone can customize their salad.
Using jarred or canned ingredients prevent you from having to use precious cooler space, especially when you will be living out of a cooler for a weekend. Homemade dressings like these ones are easy to whip up before you go and can be stored in mason jars in your cooler. Using store-bought dressings works just as well.
Summer salad ideas
Here are a few combinations you can try for inspiration:
This salad is the perfect combination of sweet, tangy, and salty. The fresh tarragon adds a subtle licorice flavor to the vinaigrette that is creamy and dairy-free.
Choosing your greens
This salad makes great use of fresh greens and herbs. I used a combination of green leaf lettuce and endive fresh from the garden for this one, but romaine, kale, and spring mix would also work well here.
The dressing is quite tangy, so you really need the sweetness of the grapes and candied walnuts to balance out the flavors. I used a tart Granny Smith apple but a sweet red apple would be delicious in this salad too.
Variations and substitutions
If tarragon isn’t your thing, fresh dill or basil would be great in this salad as well. You could also substitute the apples and grapes for mandarin oranges or peaches. Instead of the walnuts, you could use pecans or almonds.
In a pinch, you could use white vinegar, but I love the added flavor of the apple cider vinegar to complement the fruit. A white wine vinegar would also pair well with these ingredients.
If you’re adding hard-boiled eggs or chicken to the salad, you can also serve it in a wrap or a pita for a substantial lunch option.
Making salad dressing at home is quick and inexpensive. Most dressings use basic pantry ingredients that you most likely already have on hand. I love this dressing because it’s creamy without adding mayonnaise or dairy.
This dressing goes particularly well on salads that contain fruit. Here are some ideas:
peaches or nectarines
I also love adding a candied nut or seed like pecans, walnuts, almonds, or pumpkin seeds for a sweet and salty crunch. Toasting and candying nuts takes only a few minutes.