Say goodbye to mediocre salads once and for all with these creative topping ideas that’ll make your next salad better, healthier and more satisfying.

Sophie Johnson
March 22, 2021
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Salads are a staple of a healthy diet, especially if you're trying to eat more vegetables (if you're not, here's why you should be). Salads are super quick to throw together and typically don't require a recipe to make. But even for the most creative cooks, it's easy to get in a salad rut. The same-old romaine + chicken + balsamic dressing can get pretty boring pretty fast. But the good news is, just like a new vinaigrette, a new salad topping can easily get you excited about salad again. 

The next time you make yourself a salad, try adding one or two of these quick and creative toppings to mix things up. When choosing what to put on your salad, consider not just flavor, but texture and temperature, too. Adding crunchy, crispy, juicy, creamy and soft components will make your salad interesting and more substantial. And incorporating foods with different temperatures can make your salad feel like a heartier meal. Here are 8 toppings that will make your next salad something to be excited about. 

1. Fresh herbs

grilled salmon salad

Lettuce isn't the only green that deserves a spot in your salad bowl. If you have a bunch of herbs hanging around, you should definitely add them to your salad! Fresh herbs, such as basil, cilantro, parsley or mint add lots of bright flavor and can really make a bowl of greens feel—and taste—extra special.

2. Crumbled chips

Hot take: chips belong on your salad! They add a salty crunch that will truly take your salad to the next level. Try crushed up tortilla chips on your next Tex-Mex-inspired bowl or pita chips for a Mediterranean-inspired fattoush salad

3. Roasted chickpeas

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Crunchy Chickpeas

High-fiber chickpeas become irresistibly crunchy after a quick trip to the oven. We especially love them covered with Everything But The Bagel Seasoning (EBTBS) or go the spicy route with our Roasted Buffalo Chickpeas. You can also buy crispy chickpeas from the grocery store, to save time in the kitchen.

4. Nuts

A handful of nuts—try almonds, pecans, walnuts, peanuts or pine nuts—will add more than just crunch to your next salad. Nuts are full of healthy fats and because fats digest slowly, topping your salad with a handful of nuts means you won't be hungry an hour after eating. Go for roasted nuts (the roasting helps bring out their flavor) and opt for the lightly salted versions, to help keep sodium down. Or go with candied nuts for a touch of sweetness. Flavored nuts (like these savory Curried Cashews) can also be a nice vegetarian swap for meat. The next time you make a wedge salad, try tamari-flavored almonds in place of bacon.

Watermelon & Goat Cheese Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
Credit: Jason Donnelly

5. Seeds

For added substance and a nice crunch, try a sprinkle of roasted sunflower seeds or pepitas (the green pumpkin seeds). Like nuts, they contain healthy fats as well as helpful antioxidants, like vitamin E, which helps to protect your heart and support a healthy immune system. Buy them pre-roasted and stash them in your freezer to cut down on prep time. (Yes, the freezer is where you should be storing your nuts and seeds—read more here.)

6. Fruit

Cobb Salad with Herb-Rubbed Chicken

If you've never added fruit to your salad, you're missing out! A sprinkle of something sweet, like fresh fruit (try berries, pomegranates or grapes) or dried fruit (try raisins, mango or cherries), is a wonderful way to offset the savory flavors typically found in a salad. To avoid added sugars, look for dried fruit that only has the fruit listed as an ingredient. 

7. Hummus

You haven't experienced the true magic of hummus until you've turned it into a creamy salad dressing. Simply take your favorite hummus, add a few tablespoons of water or olive oil, drizzle over your next salad and enjoy! We especially love it over a Greek salad and—even though it isn't a salad—it's great drizzled over baked sweet potatoes.

8. Cheese

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

Cheese is an excellent way to make your salad feel a little more indulgent and filling. We love cheese with strong flavors, such as feta, blue, Parmesan or aged Cheddar. Too much cheese can quickly turn your healthy salad into a saturated-fat heavy meal, so use just a little bit of and mix in other toppers to help add extra excitement to your plate.