16 Inventive Ways To Improve A Salad

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Salads are a fantastic way to eat healthily but if you're bored of the same old combinations, THIS is how to mix things up a little... A salad is a quick fix for lunch or a light dinner filled with veg, but do you find you're reaching for the same ingredients over and over again? We've put together some inventive ways to get out of that rut so you can enjoy healthy eating again.

Salads can be so much more than just green leaves - bulk them out with chickpeas, beans, quinoa or bulgur wheat, try a tangy new vinaigrette, or give them an Asian twist by throwing in some fruit or beansprouts.

There's so much that can be done with a salad and an endless list of combinations and possibilities. Looking for more inspiration? Have a look at our salad recipes for some fresh new ideas - you'll find plenty that will allow you to try something different every day.

Explore all the tasty possibilities a salad can offer. Our ways with salads comes with a dash of new tricks, old classics with a twist and some surprising elements: everything you need to get creative with your meal.

1. Bulk it out with chickpeas

A can of chickpeas is a really good store cupboard staple, high in protein and a good source of fibre. Better still are the ones from Spain you buy in glass jars, which are fatter and juicier.

Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas, then add chopped tomatoes, cucumber and crumbled feta cheese. Season with black pepper, drizzle over some olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. You've got an interesting salad in minutes, with plenty of texture and not a leaf in sight!

If you're looking for an extra healthy option then this quinoa and chickpea salad is rocking beetroot, which is a superfood full of antioxidants.

2. Make things nutty with young wheat

Freekeh is a wheat that's harvested while still a little green, ie, when it has some moisture in it. It's nutty and slightly smoky, high in protein and fibre. It's lovely with toasted nuts and seeds, roasted vegetables and a few spoons of mustardy French dressing. Chopped parsley, chives and tarragon work well with this combination. Try also our pilaf with beetroot, goats cheese and nuts - perfect for the cooler months!

3. Cook lentils for an easy base for cold or warm salad

Puy lentils are a perfect base for a cold or warm salad. You can buy them in pre-cooked pouches, but it's just as easy (and cheaper) to cook a whole packet and store in a lidded box in the fridge for two to three days. Add some cooked chicken, roasted red peppers, cucumber and feta cheese for a delicious and easy lunch box salad. Oil and vinegar are simple additions and the lentils will soak up their flavours really well. This lentil and mushroom salad is made with green lentils, but you can easily swap them for puy variety.

Another idea we love is to add chopped walnuts, quartered tomatoes, chopped dried apricot and a drizzle of balsamic glaze for a filling protein fix. Or if you'd like to mix in some roasted veg, give this puy lentil salad with roasted vegetables and goats' cheese a go.

4. Spice things up with roast cauliflower

Roast cauliflower is the latest beloved big thing of health food bloggers but don't fear! It's a great vehicle for spices and a good base for both main course and side salads. Toss the florets in oil, black pepper, sea salt and some ground cumin. Roast on an oiled baking tray at 160C fan, gas 4 for 30 minutes, turning every ten minutes or so and once cool toss through your favourite salad. We love ours with a garlicky tahini and yogurt dressing.

5. Don't shy away from fruit

Fruit in salad may seem a bit weird and quite rightly if you're thinking strawberries! But mango, papaya, watermelon and apricots all work with punchy, strong and salty flavours. Papaya, feta and black olives with a squeeze of lime is a delicious starter or lunchtime meal.

For something a little fruitier, add sliced fresh pineapple to cooked rice, with plenty of chopped fresh coriander and a few spoonfuls of sweet chilli sauce too. If you have any leftover cooked chicken, shred and stir through for an easy lunch to make this Asian rice salad with chicken.

6. Warm French beans for a salmon side

French beans have always been a favourite...with the French! If you dress them while still warm with mustardy vinaigrette and add toasted almonds, you have a perfect salad to go with salmon. And if you want to go all out you could add them to a classic salad nicoise with tomatoes, olives and chunks of grilled tuna - delicious.

You can also experiment with different beans! This tuna and three bean salad has a lot of room for variation.

7. Make most of oriental flavours with pearled spelt

Pearled spelt has been around forever but it's just hit the big time and is readily available. It does contain gluten - spelt is an old variety of wheat but more digestible. It's often used as an alternative rice in risotto and soup, but it's great salad base served cold with Oriental flavours - soy sauce, ginger, lime. Add soya beans, chicken, salmon or prawns, loads of coriander and spring onions.

8. Roast beetroot for a superfood-hit

Beetroot's revival as a so-called superfood is most welcome news to us. It is packed with antioxidants and needs roasting first if you prefer it soft. If you don't mind a crunch it can be thinly sliced and quick-pickled with a little red wine vinegar and salt or grated raw into salads. It's easier to peel when cooked. As it's quite sweet, it works with salty foods such as anchovies or cheese, and you can add some crunch with toasted nuts and seeds. Our beetroot, kale and feta salad combines this superfood with savoury cheese and hazelnut.

9. Flavour runner beans with lemon juice for zesty tang

Runner beans work really well if you shred them lengthways like spaghetti. They have a delicate flavour so a little lemon juice, oil and salt is all they need and they are perfect with shredded chicken and blanched asparagus as a light supper or satisfying lunch.

10. Try roasted veg and seeds with feta cheese

Butternut squash, roasted with pumpkin seeds until just tender, is very good mixed with feta or goats' cheese, olives, roasted peppers and roasted onions. This pasta salad with feta and roasted vegetables works wonderfully as a filling lunch.

2. For extra fibre, try bulgur wheat

(Image credit: charlie richards)

Bulgur wheat is a good source of fibre. Add masses of chopped flat leaf parsley, tomatoes, cucumber and drizzle over olive oil and lemon juice. Or give this fruit and nut bulgur wheat salad a go - it's ready in under 30 minutes.

11. Try a Mediterranean-inspired salad

Buy a jar of roasted peppers, drain and cut into large slices. Add a can of drained anchovies, halved cherry tomatoes and stir through fresh basil leaves. This roasted pepper and anchovies with mimosa eggs is the perfect starter, but it's just fabulous on its own.

12. Add flaked tuna for extra protein

For a quick Niçoise salad, drain a can of tuna in olive oil, add a handful of black olives, blanched green beans, hard-boiled eggs, some leftover cooked potatoes, tomatoes, Baby Gem lettuce and mustard vinaigrette.

13. Use tinned beans for a speedy meal

Make a super-bean salad just by opening a few cans! Mix together drained and rinsed cannellini beans, kidney beans and flageolet beans. Chop lots of parsley and stir in mustard vinaigrette. This mixed bean salad with radish, pomegranate and fresh goats' cheese is a really colourful dish that's full of flavour and so easy to throw together.

14. Try an Asian twist

(Image credit: Charlie Richards)

Add an Asian twist to grated carrot with toasted peanuts, cooked king prawns and fresh coriander, then dress with rice vinegar, a little Thai fish sauce and a squeeze of fresh lime. If you prefer chicken, you can easily make this Thai chicken salad with peanuts and ginger in just 30 minutes for the perfect speedy lunch.

15. Bulk out salads with quinoa

Pouches of pre-cooked quinoa are an excellent storecupboard standby and quinoa is great for a packed lunch. Add cucumber, avocado and fresh goats' cheese or curd cheese. Sprinkle over a little olive oil and lemon juice. This quinoa salad with chickpeas, soy beans and poached chicken makes the perfect starter or light main.

16. Make a vinaigrette with a twist

(Image credit: Monkey Business Images / Rex Fea)

For a mustardy vinaigrette, make a big batch in a large jar to keep you going for a few weeks. You will need 3 parts olive oil to 1 part red wine vinegar, add Dijon mustard to taste and plenty of seasoning. If you like it slightly sweeter, add a little honey. Your salads will never be boring again!