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Summer is salad season for sure — I eat salads all year, but in the summer, salads just seem to make themselves, and gorgeously we might add. If you want into a farmers market, a salad might leap into your environmentally friendly basket or tote, demanding to be taken home. The best salad recipes for summer have a lot going on in terms of visual appeal, texture, freshness, and color. And they are very flexible, allowing you to make the most of what is growing in the garden or available at the markets. These are the easy salad recipes I turn to over and over again.

There are vegetable salads, grain salads, pasta salads, main dish salads, side salads, and so on. Also, when you are planning a summer menu, don’t stop at just one salad. My summer parties are pretty salad heavy. I love the way a group of salads looks on a table or buffet. Super inviting, and if you are thoughtful about color and variety, you might not even need any table decoration. I think an assortment of beautiful salads is the best centerpiece around.

From main dish salads to side salads, the best summer salads for easy lunches, light dinners, and warm weather entertaining menus.

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Woman in teal apron serving fresh salad onto a white plate.

25 Easy Summer Salad Recipes

Here are some of my all-time favorite summer salad recipes:

Bowl of Mayo-Free Vegan Pasta Salad on a white, wooden table.

Mayo-Free Vegan Pasta Salad

Sometimes we want a pasta salad without mayo, and this is a great template. You can add in all kinds of vegetables or other ingredients like olives or artichoke hearts or chickpeas. This is so easy, so colorful, so make ahead, so crowd-pleasing….and actually a vegan pasta salad, too.

Modern Three Bean Salad

Modern Three Bean Salad with Hearts of Palm

Everyone loves a bean salad at a cookout or summer gathering. It's a nice protein-filled side dish, and can also take vegetarian main dish status. This recipe is contemporary version of this classic side dish, with the addition of whole grains and hearts of palm for textural contrast and substance. Some fresh herbs brighten it up.

Food Deadline Mediterranean Tomato Wheat Berry Salad with Fresh Herbs 1/Katie Workman

Mediterranean Tomato Wheat Berry Salad with Fresh Herbs

This salad has a whole lot going on in terms of color, texture, taste, and nutrition. It can be made ahead of time and is extremely portable. It also can hang out on a buffet for a good amount of time and stay delicious.

Serving bowl with Tomato Mozzarella Pasta Salad next to red napkin and silverware.

Tomato Mozzarella Pasta Salad

During the months when tomatoes are at their best, you can't do better than this simple pasta salad showcasing recipe tomatoes, fresh basil, and creamy fresh mozzarella. Yes, it's ridiculously easy to make, and we love that. This is the time of year to let those seasonal ingredients shine without much fuss!

Summer Corn, Tomato and Bacon Salad / Sarah Crowder / Katie Workman /

Summer Corn, Tomato, and Bacon Salad

Made with fresh corn, this is a must-make salad during the season. You can either give your corn kernels a quick sauté or grill the corn on the cob, then cut off the kernels. Then the corn meets up with perfectly ripe tomatoes and some red onion and scallions, tossed in a very light creamy dressing with bacon. I love the addition of fresh cilantro, but it's totally optional, or you can use parsley instead.

Cauliflower potato salad in yellow serving dish on table.

Cauliflower Potato Salad

All of the satisfaction of potato salad, but with low-carb cauliflower as the star! Perfect as a side for bbqs, grilling menus, potlucks, and buffets.

Red Quinoa Salad with Arugula, Artichoke Hearts, and Olives / Carrie Crow / Katie Workman /

Red Quinoa Salad with Arugula, Artichoke Hearts, and Olives

As with many grain-based salads, this is merely a template for mixing and matching different kinds of quinoa and vegetables, depending on your mood, the season, and what you have in the fridge. I think the red quinoa looks cool and different, but you can use whatever variety of quinoa you have in the pantry.

Late Summer Cobb Salad topped with bacon, red onion, crumbled cheese, and other toppings.

Late Summer Cobb Salad

My family loves Cobb salads so much, there have been times when we go out to eat and all four of us order it. So it stands to reason I make them a lot at home! This version makes the most of late summer produce. Of course, you should adapt it to include all of great things you picked up at the farmers market.

Yellow bowl of Egg and Potato Salad with Bacon.

Egg and Potato Salad with Bacon

The only thing that makes potato salad better is the addition of hard-cooked eggs. And it gets even better with the addition of bacon. I like to mix half of the bacon into the potato salad itself and then sprinkle the rest over the top so it stays crispy and crunchy. You can go with all onion or all scallions in this salad, but the mix adds a very nice color. 

Bowl of colorful Tomato, Red Onion, Watercress, Feta and Olive Salad.

Tomato, Red Onion, Watercress, Feta, and Olive Salad

This beautiful salad takes only 15 minutes to pull together. It is the tossed salad I make whenever I spy fresh watercress in the market, which has a wonderfully peppery flavor. Try and use young watercress, which is a little milder, or if your watercress is on the spicier side, you can mix in some milder greens.

White serving plate of Zucchini Ribbon Salad on a wooden table.

Zucchini Ribbon Salad

Thinly slicing zucchini gives it a very appealing texture, delicate and light. You can slice the zucchini crosswise, but I like to use a madolin or a vegetable peeler to create long plank-like ribbons to toss with a simple dressing.

Greek Tabbouleh Salad in wooden bowl on table with water glasses

Greek Tabbouleh Salad

A Mediterranean twist on a very classic Middle Eastern bulgur wheat salad. I've also made it with quinoa and it's a lovely and substantial summer salad choice. Be generous with the fresh herbs.

Couscous Salad with Shrimp, Roasted Tomatoes and Pesto Dressing / Mia / Katie Workman /

Couscous Salad with Shrimp and Pesto Dressing

I love the way this main dish salad looks, as much as I love the way it tastes. This is a great summer salad recipe, with a nice pop of color and flavor from the pesto dressing. You can use homemade pesto as the base of the dressing, or if you need a time-saving shortcut, use bottled.

Artichoke, Feta and Roasted Pepper Couscous Salad

Artichoke, Feta, and Roasted Pepper Couscous Salad

This kind of salad is one of my summertime go-tos. Mediterranean or Israeli couscous is bigger than traditional couscous and really fun to eat. You'll find yourself playing with this recipe all year, swapping in different vegetables depending on the season.

Vegan Potato Salad

Vegan Potato Salad

This mayo-free potato salad is a nice change of pace, even if you're not sticking to a vegan diet. I think potato salads are just the best when they are eaten the day they are made and never refrigerated, BUT the potato salad can be stored for up to 2 days, covered, in the fridge. Bring the salad to room temperature before serving.

Black bowl of Greek Chicken Pasta Salad.

Greek Chicken Pasta Salad

A great make-ahead main dish pasta salad. You can also make the main components a few days ahead of time — the orzo, the chicken, the dressing — and toss it all together before serving. Perfect for potlucks and picnics.

Chopped Salad with Chicken, Tomatoes and Lemon Thyme Dressing / Photo by Cheyenne Cohen / Katie Workman /

Chopped Salad with Chicken, Tomatoes, and Lemon Thyme Dressing

A perfect chopped salad is even more of a joy in the summer when you have a lot of seasonal ingredients to play with. If you want to meal prep the components of this salad, you can toss them together and dress them as you wish throughout the week. Make up a salad to bring to work, to a potluck party, or for a room-temp dinner for the family.

Quinoa salad on white plate with ribs

Quinoa Salad

This is the simplest gluten-free grain salad, a super flexible recipe, and it goes with just about everything.

Southwest Black Bean and Corn Salad

Cowboy Caviar

This is the kind of salad that you can play with all week long. Add some additional protein, like chicken or shrimp, to make it even more substantial. Serve it with tortilla chips for a snack or appetizer. Pile it on some grilled steaks or seafood for a colorful condiment of sorts.

Spinach and Radish Salad with Feta / Carrie Crow / Katie Workman /

Spinach and Radish Salad with Feta

What's green and white and red all over? This perfect little side salad. If you can find those gorgeous watermelon radishes, this simple salad is a little bit breathtaking.

Tomato, Zucchini and Bulgur Salad / Mia / Katie Workman /

Tomato, Zucchini, and Bulgur Salad

A great grain and vegetable salad for all kinds of occasions. This is the salad to return to over and over again when all those gorgeous tomatoes and zucchinis flood the markets in late summer and early fall.

Kamut Tabbouleh Salad / Sarah Crowder / Katie Workman /

Kamut Tabbouleh Salad

In the summer, I love mixing cooked grains in infinite salad combinations. It just never gets old, and it's a way to make leafy green or vegetable salads more satisfying and filling. Kamut is a fun grain to play with, but you can also use farro, barley, or wheat berries.

Spoon next to a bowl of Shrimp and Corn Salad with Basil Dressing.

Shrimp and Corn Salad with Basil Dressing

Grab extra ears of corn at the market to make this recipe, as well as a bunch of fresh basil. This literally tastes like summer to me — the first time I made it, I insisted a friend drive over just because I needed to share my excitement about my new favorite main dish salad.

Chipotle Chicken Salad / Carrie Crow / Katie Workman /

Pasta Salad with Chicken and Chipotle Dressing

I originally made this salad with various leftovers, but we like it so much I deconstructed it so I could make it again and again. The smoky heat of the pureed chipotles really makes this into a not-your-ordinary pasta and chicken salad.

Greek Tomato and Cucumber Salad / Sarah Crowder / Katie Workman /

Greek Tomato and Cucumber Salad

This a a traditional Greek salad, with no lettuce, just ample amounts of cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions, plus salty creamy feta.

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