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Next to a hearty grilled cheeseburger, steak, or rack of ribs, leafy green salads can feel too dainty, and grain salads can seem too heavy. Potato salad and pasta salad can be ho-hum. We want something healthy, delicious, and hearty enough to please those abstaining from the meat. So we gathered up 12 summer side salads that are fresh, chunky, and lettuce-free—and sure to please everyone in the crowd.
These salad recipes are all meat-free, mostly dairy-free, and don’t contain any lettuce that’ll wilt and get soggy in the heat. They’re filling, full of interesting flavor and texture, and sure to stand out at any barbecue or picnic thanks to their unexpected combinations of fruit, vegetables, and dressings. And while they work well as sides to barbecue staples, they’re substantial enough that vegetarian BBQ eaters won’t feel left out. So make double (and watch them disappear).
This Indonesian-inspired salad combines crunchy raw bok choy with fresh pineapple, carrots, and cucumber, all in a delectable peanut dressing (but replace the fish sauce with an appropriate substitute if serving to vegans). If you like grilled shrimp, it would be a perfect partner here. Get our Bok Choy and Pineapple Salad with Peanut Dressing recipe.
Crunchy, juicy, fresh—this chunky summer salad is fantastic with pretty much anything, especially once it’s drizzled in the creamy chipotle dressing (which is avocado-based, dairy-free, and pretty good for you, so don’t be shy). Get our Tomato, Tomatillo, and Corn Salad with Avocado Dressing recipe.
This gives a new meaning to green salad. A fresh, crisp, and juicy combo of cucumber, honeydew melon, and mint gets a salty spark from feta and a bright boost from fresh lemon juice and zest. Get our Cucumber Melon Salad recipe.
Peppery radishes lend a little bite to this crisp salad, further bolstered by slivered almonds and a tangy tarragon-lemon-crème fraîche dressing. If you can find bunches of mixed-color pink, purple, and red radishes, it’s even prettier too. Get our Radish and Wax Bean Salad with Crème Fraîche Dressing recipe.
Kale never wilts under pressure (or dressing), but it does soften just enough to be easy to chew; that said, we definitely recommend the flat-leaf kale over curly kale here. Slivers of apple bring a crisp crunch (and contrasting color), and the honey-mustard-poppyseed dressing is light enough for summer but will easily transition into fall. Get our Kale-Apple Coleslaw with Poppy Seed Dressing recipe.
This might sound a little odd, but it’s deliciously refreshing—and a great way to use a glut of zucchini and summer squash. The dressing includes cumin, paprika, and preserved lemon (but you can use fresh lemon zest if that’s all you have); pine nuts and fresh mint bring even more flavor and texture to the mix. Get our Moroccan Zucchini, Grape, and Bell Pepper Salad recipe.
Turn your notion of fruit salad on its head with this sweet, spicy, and savory blend of crisp jicama, juicy ruby-red grapefruit, and lush mango. A little cayenne and lime juice spice things up. Get our Spicy Jicama, Grapefruit, and Mango Salad recipe.
It may seem something of a retro throwback, but three-bean salad is a picnic-perfect blend of tastes and textures that’s great chilled or at room temp. We add some thin radish slices, capers, and a sherry vinaigrette to liven things up. Get our Three-Bean Salad recipe.
Decidedly less old-fashioned, the blend of sweet watermelon, briny olives, fresh cucumber, and acidic tomatoes is dynamite, even if you skip the ricotta salata (but we wouldn’t want to). Get our Watermelon, Tomato, and Kalamata Olive Salad recipe.
This snappy salad combines summer-sweet snap peas with carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, and scallions, with a spicy Thai-inspired dressing that’ll compel you to keep eating—but it’s so healthy you won’t mind scraping the bottom of the bowl. Get our Snap Pea Chopped Salad with Thai Vinaigrette recipe.
Potato salad may not sound like the most exciting thing, let alone something you’d want to make a main dish out of, but this vegan version is chock-full of extras like chickpeas, tomatoes, and red onion. They’re all tossed together in a bright, tangy, ajvar-based dressing with a hint of smoked paprika. You won’t want to share, but everyone will appreciate it if you do. Get the Tangy Vegan Potato Salad recipe.
My very favorite summer salad is a simple mix of Sungold tomatoes, avocado, and raw corn kernels, but when those summer tomatoes reach their peak, they really don’t need anything but some good olive oil and sea salt to shine—and fresh herbs are always welcome. This salad knows that, and lets the spotlight stay on those little seasonal jewels. The more the merrier, so load up your basket (or reusable bag) at the farmers market when its full of tomato treasure and make this salad to go with anything you grill. Get our Herbed Heirloom Tomato Salad recipe.