20 Refreshing Summer Salad Recipes

two bowls of caprese salad
two bowls of caprese salad - Miriam Hahn/Tasting Table

When summer rolls around, making dishes that require turning on the oven or stove for prolonged periods of time is the last thing we want to do. Instead, we tend to reach for light meals that we can throw together quickly — which ultimately means we can spend more time outdoors. Plus, with all the abundant fruits and veggies available during the summer, it's the optimal time to take advantage of fresh produce.

Enter the summer salad. In general, salads can sound boring, unappealing (thanks to their association with vegetables), and like they won't be enough to keep you full. But we beg to differ. The beauty of this meal is that it's incredibly versatile, and you can pump it full of as much protein, grains, or even fruits as you want. So, if you're searching for fresh dishes to make this summer, we've rounded up 20 of our favorite refreshing salad recipes. Some are hearty, while others are more focused on greens, but they're all packed with delicious flavor and will keep your time next to a hot stove to a minimum.

Read more: 23 Types Of Potatoes And When To Use Them

Everyday Salad With Herby Lemon Vinaigrette

everyday salad with wooden spoons
everyday salad with wooden spoons - Miriam Hahn/Tasting Table

While many of our favorite summer salad recipes are packed with exciting, novel ingredients, there are times when simple is best. Whether you're making this dish for lunch or as a side, it's always a good idea to have a tasty everyday salad recipe in your back pocket. This one is a step up from a basic garden salad you'd order at a cafe — it contains toasted pepitas and a vinaigrette made with mustard, maple syrup, and fresh rosemary and thyme.

Recipe: Everyday Salad with Herby Lemon Vinaigrette

Caesar Chicken Pasta Salad

Caesar chicken pasta salad
Caesar chicken pasta salad - Jennine Rye/Tasting Table

We love a good Caesar salad, but the dish on its own isn't the most exciting out there. This version is beefed up with homemade croutons, chicken roasted with oregano and garlic powder, and fusilli pasta. The homemade dressing containing anchovies, garlic powder, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, olive oil, and parmesan provides a boost of tang and savory goodness. You can eat this salad as a side or a main — and if you're vegetarian or vegan, just skip the anchovies and swap out the chicken with tofu, chickpeas, or your favorite plant-based meat.

Recipe: Caesar Chicken Pasta Salad

Spicy Korean Cucumber Salad

spicy cucumber salad
spicy cucumber salad - Miriam Hahn/Tasting Table

Cucumbers are an ultra-hydrating veggie (as anyone who's used slices to make an eye mask knows), considering they're around 96% water. So there aren't many recipes more refreshing than a Korean cucumber salad. But this one comes with a twist: a spicy kick in the form of gochugaru, aka Korean chile flakes. If you can't take the heat, just leave the gochugaru out, and you'll still reap the flavor benefits of the salt, sugar, garlic, and rice vinegar in this recipe. Since the veggies are sliced into long, winding spirals, this salad is also a beauty to look at.

Recipe: Spicy Korean Cucumber Salad

Crunchy Ramen Noodle Salad

bowl of crunchy ramen salad
bowl of crunchy ramen salad - Miriam Hahn/Tasting Table

Not only are those little ramen packets (that we buy when we're ballin' on a budget) good for making soup, but they're also a delicious way to add crunch to a salad. In a dish inspired by Asian flavors, this recipe incorporates fresh veggies like green and purple cabbage, sliced almonds, and shredded carrots for plenty of crunch. But the sweet, salty, tangy dressing (thanks to the honey, soy sauce, and rice vinegar) moistens everything up and provides a punch of flavor.

Recipe: Crunchy Ramen Noodle Salad

Jalapeño-Lime Three Bean Salad

jalapeño-lime salad in bowl
jalapeño-lime salad in bowl - Miriam Hahn/Tasting Table

Salads don't need lettuce to be filling. In fact, the lack of leaves in your dish means you get more of what you want — and in the case of this jalapeño-lime three bean salad, we don't include any filler ingredients. Crunchy diced English cucumber, jalapeño, red pepper, and green pepper are balanced out by buttery black, garbanzo, and kidney beans, plus a little avocado; all topped off with a zesty but simple lime juice-infused vinaigrette. Forget the fork and scoop it into your mouth with some chili lime tortilla chips (and potentially a refreshing frozen strawberry margarita).

Recipe: Jalapeño-Lime Three Bean Salad

Greek-Style Seven Layer Salad

Greek-style layered salad
Greek-style layered salad - Joe Dillard/Tasting Table

If you're looking for an impressive (yet still nutritious) dish to whip out at a backyard barbecue or poolside gathering, this is it. Pile the layers into a glass trifle dish, and your guests will ooh and aah before they even have a chance to dig in. You'll want to start with a lettuce layer as the base, then follow with Greek-style ingredients like chickpeas, olives, and cucumbers. A layer of crumbly, salty feta covers the whole thing, topped off with a simple vinaigrette. Of course, you can scale this recipe down if you're just making it for a family dinner (or yourself).

Recipe: Greek-Style Seven Layer Salad

Esquites (Mexican Street Corn Salad)

Mexican street corn salad
Mexican street corn salad - Miriam Hahn/Tasting Table

If you're a fan of esquites (not to be confused with elote) but want to turn that snack into a full-blown meal, look no further than this tangy salad. This dish has all the elements you love in a classic esquites, including the corn, mayo, cotija cheese, and lime juice — but it also throws in some diced red pepper, jalapeño, red onion, and sour cream to make a hefty meal. The beauty of this salad, beyond its combination of creamy, savory, and spicy flavors, is that it's also incredibly versatile. Eat it as a main, side, or appetizer, with a fork or tortilla chips.

Recipe: Esquites (Mexican Street Corn Salad)

Veggie Antipasti Italian Pasta Salad

vegetarian antipasti pasta salad
vegetarian antipasti pasta salad - Miriam Hahn/Tasting Table

As anyone who's been to an Italian pizzeria (specifically the kind with the red checkered tablecloths) knows, the antipasti salad is the second-best part of your meal there. But these recipes are typically loaded with salty meats like salami or soppressata, which means they're not the most versatile option for accommodating vegetarians or vegans. This recipe incorporates mouthwatering ingredients like pepperoncini, green olives, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, and mozzarella balls to deliver all that briny, savory flavor. Plus, you'll get enough pasta to make this into a hearty meal. You won't even miss the meat.

Recipe: Veggie Antipasti Italian Pasta Salad

Shrimp Macaroni Salad

platter of shrimp macaroni salad
platter of shrimp macaroni salad - Molly Pisula/Tasting Table

Even a creamy salad can be refreshing, and seafood lovers know that including shrimp as the main protein is a great way to lighten up this type of dish. In this recipe from Molly Madigan Pisula of Vanilla Bean Cuisine, a classic shrimp macaroni salad gets lightened up even more with the combination of mayo and Greek yogurt, instead of a strictly mayo (or sour cream) base. Fresh diced veggies like shallot, bell pepper, and celery add a welcome crunch to balance out the richness. And thanks to small shrimp and macaroni noodles, it's easy to get each texture and flavor in every bite.

Recipe: Shrimp Macaroni Salad

Crisp And Creamy Chicken Salad

chicken salad on lettuce leaves
chicken salad on lettuce leaves - Jennine Rye/Tasting Table

No list of summer salads is completely without a classic chicken version, and this one is crisp and creamy. We love chicken salad because all the various flavors and textures effortlessly come together to make a delicious dish. This one includes plenty of creamy mayo and Dijon mustard, balanced out by the crunchy (or crispy, if you will) celery and diced apple. You also get tang from the lemon juice, herby flavor from the dill, and sweetness from the fruit, but this salad is still incredibly simple to whip up. Eat it plain, in a sandwich, on toast, with crackers, or tucked into a wrap.

Recipe: Crisp and Creamy Chicken Salad

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

bowl of Hawaiian macaroni salad
bowl of Hawaiian macaroni salad - Kit Hondrum/Tasting Table

In the same vein as shrimp macaroni salad, but with a right turn in flavor, we bet this Hawaiian macaroni salad from Kit Hondrum of Kit's Kitchen will be your new backyard barbecue favorite. A plain mayo base gets an upgrade with apple cider vinegar, whole milk, sugar, salt, and pepper, which results in a tangy, slightly sweet sauce. You'll still see diced celery in this recipe, but you'll want to shred your carrots and grate your onion for more of a feathery texture. After everything has marinated together, serve this salad with your favorite Hawaiian BBQ Beyond Burger or kalua pork.

Recipe: Hawaiian Macaroni Salad 

French Potato Salad

French potato salad in bowl
French potato salad in bowl - Miriam Hahn/Tasting Table

Potato salads are staples at summer get-togethers, but this French-style version heads in a fancier direction than most. For one, it looks a little more polished than your average bowl, largely thanks to the lack of mayo or other creamy ingredients. But there's still plenty of great flavor here. Diced, boiled potatoes are mixed with chopped parsley, dill, and scallions, then coated with a champagne vinegar and Dijon mustard-laced dressing that will have you lifting your pinky as you go to take a bite.

Recipe: French Potato Salad

Creamy Dill Potato Salad

creamy potato salad in bowl
creamy potato salad in bowl - Catherine Brookes/Tasting Table

If you're in the mood for a more classic potato salad that still packs in plenty of flavor, you may want to opt for this creamy dill variety. This recipe doesn't skimp on the dill, as you'll want to incorporate 4 tablespoons of the fresh, chopped herb into your dressing. But other than that, it has everything you love in a potato salad: boiled and chopped spuds combined with a mayo-based dressing infused with onion, Dijon mustard, garlic, and lemon juice. It only takes 20 minutes to make, leaving you free to focus on other elements of your barbecue.

Recipe: Creamy Dill Potato Salad

Grilled Watermelon Salad

grilled watermelon salad on platter
grilled watermelon salad on platter - Stephanie Rapone/Tasting Table

There's no rule that says salads have to focus strictly on veggies; in fact, they may be even more refreshing when they feature fruit front and center. When it comes to hydrating summer fruits that help you beat the heat, what's more satisfying than watermelon? In this salad, the sweet, cooling flavors of watermelon are jazzed up with red onion, mint, basil, baby spinach, and cotija cheese. Plus, you can make use of your grill by cooking your fruit for just a few minutes. Then top the whole thing off with a thick, peppery balsamic reduction.

Recipe: Grilled Watermelon Salad

Grilled Summer Shrimp Salad

fresh shrimp salad with tomatoes
fresh shrimp salad with tomatoes - Sher Castellano/Tasting Table

Unlike the (still tasty) shrimp macaroni salad we discussed earlier, this version leaves most of the creaminess at the door and focuses instead on bright flavors. You'll need fresh produce like lettuce and cherry tomatoes, raw sweet corn, parsley, and ¼ cup of mayo for the dish. Then take advantage of grilling season with your shrimp. First, they'll marinate in tasty ingredients like lemon juice and garlic powder, after which you can toss them on the grill for just two minutes per side.

Recipe: Grilled Summer Shrimp Salad

Creamy Kidney Bean Salad

bowl of kidney bean salad
bowl of kidney bean salad - Kristen Carli/Tasting Table

If you're tired of all the usual macaroni and potato salads you see at summer barbecues, you'll want to check out this recipe. It's incredibly simple, boasts a short ingredient list, and takes almost no time to make — yet it's still creamy, delicious, and packed full of protein while staying away from meat. The starring ingredient is kidney beans, which turn this into a filling dish. You'll also need mayo, white wine vinegar, carrots, celery, onion, and garlic powder, which you'll simply mix together to make this tasty salad.

Recipe: Creamy Kidney Bean Salad

Southwest Pasta Salad

southwest pasta salad in bowl
southwest pasta salad in bowl - Hayley MacLean/Tasting Table

We love pasta salad in the summer, but sometimes this classic backyard dish can use a little refresh. Enter this Southwest-inspired recipe, which combines fresh, crunchy veggies with buttery avocado and a creamy, herby, spicy dressing. The latter deploys a combination of mayo and sour cream for maximum richness and tang, while incorporating chipotle peppers in adobo sauce for heat, and lime juice for acidity. And thanks to the corn, an array of bell peppers, grape tomatoes, and red onion, this salad is as pretty to look at as it is tasty.

Recipe: Southwest Pasta Salad

Chopped Caprese Salad

bowl of chopped caprese salad
bowl of chopped caprese salad - Miriam Hahn/Tasting Table

Made with thick tomato slices, slabs of mildly salty mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil, a classic caprese salad is one of the most refreshing you'll find in the summertime. But as we all know, those thick slices can be a little tricky to maneuver, and it's difficult to get every flavor into one bite. A chopped version of a caprese, however, relies on grape tomatoes, smaller mozzarella balls, and a whole cup of basil to make each bite much easier to stab with your fork. Keeping with the theme of simplicity, all you need for the dressing is olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Recipe: Chopped Caprese Salad

Tortellini Greek Salad

tortellini greek salad in bowl
tortellini greek salad in bowl - Miriam Hahn/Tasting Table

We love a good penne or rotini-filled pasta salad like the rest of them, but in this recipe you can get a little more heartiness out of your noodles with 20 ounces of tortellini. You'll also get plenty of cheesy goodness, making this a meal sturdy enough to act as a main course. Fresh veggies and briny ingredients balance out that tortellini, including Kalamata olives, red onion, feta cheese, English cucumber, and a dressing filled with red wine vinegar and lemon.

Recipe: Tortellini Greek Salad

Strawberry Arugula Salad

strawberry arugula salad with cheese
strawberry arugula salad with cheese - Molly Madigan Pisula/Tasting Table

Bright, fruity salads work best during summer, and this strawberry and arugula iteration is no exception. You may think this dish is heavy on the lettuce at first glance, and it does have a good dose of bitter arugula, but there's plenty of goodies in here too, such as a whole pound of strawberries, pumpkin seeds, goat cheese, and pitted dates to add sweetness to the fruit. All that (natural) sugar is balanced out by a sharp, tasty dressing with balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard.

Recipe: Strawberry Arugula Salad

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