Sturdy salads that get better with time.
Matthew Kadey, MSc, RD
Salads are the cornerstone of a healthy diet, and at this time of year, our appetites once again awaken to their freshness. And, as plant-based eating grows in popularity, the humble salad is, more and more often, finding its place at the centre of the table. Trouble is, we don’t always have the time or the energy to compose a main event salad at the end of a long and busy day. Sometimes we just want to swing open the fridge door and find a ready-to-go meal. While plenty of our favourite salads are meant to be enjoyed right away, there’s a whole other genre of salads that are perfectly happy to rest up for a while. With the right ingredients, you can make these salads ahead of time when you have a few spare moments, then pop them in the fridge where the flavours can mingle, becoming even more divine the following day. Yes, a salad that can hold up in the fridge for a few days is a beautiful thing. It not only makes lunches and dinners a breeze (because you can make one big batch and dig in throughout the week) but also makes preparing for potlucks and backyard barbecues easier. Meal preppers rejoice. These hearty and filling salads packed with vibrant veggies, proteins, and whole grains can be prepped early for an easy meal to come—with nary a slimy green or slice of cucumber to be found.
Day-old salads featuring wilty lettuce and soggy cucumbers are far from appetizing. Here are the tips you need to know for make-ahead salad success.
You want to use vegetables that don’t wilt easily. As a general rule of thumb, anything described as “young” or “baby” is not going to work out in your favour. So instead of tender salad greens, opt for heartier items such as kale, carrots, and radishes.
Keep in mind that larger pieces of vegetables tend to take longer to break down, so don’t be afraid to go big.
Whole grains such as quinoa and spelt make a salad worthy of main dish status and contribute to its staying power in the fridge.
A main dish salad is going to require some protein to make it better balanced. Lentils, beans, grilled meats, and smoked fish will all work well in next-day salads. Nuts and seeds offer added plant-based protein and a nice crunch.
Salads containing cooked meats should be consumed within three days of preparation.