Chances are you think of salads as nothing more than a sidekick to a hunk of meat. Well, you’re wrong on both counts. If you prepare your salads with a little creativity and smarts, they can be filling meals that help you pack on muscle and shed fat this winter. The following six salads bring together a host of underrated veggies, protein heavyweights, and inspiring dressings. Whip them up at home this season for major upgrades to your diet and physique, not to mention your cooking skills.
With strips of seared steak, sweet roasted squash, fresh pears, and a bold and creamy dressing, this salad won’t disappoint at dinnertime—or anytime. The steak, squash, and dressing can all be prepared ahead of time for a quick, protein-rich meal.
- 3 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
- 4 tsp canola or grape-seed oil
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp salt, plus more for steak
- ½ tsp black pepper, plus more for steak
- 700g flank steak
- ¼ cup buttermilk
- 2 oz Gorgonzola cheese
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 garlic clove, grated or finely minced
- 8 cups spinach, ends trimmed
- 2 Bosc pears, sliced
- ¼ cup pecans
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees and place a rimmed baking sheet in oven as it heats. Toss squash with 2 tsp oil, thyme, . tsp salt, and . tsp pepper. Spread out on hot baking sheet and roast for 35 minutes, or until squash cubes are tender.
- Season steak with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tsp oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Place steak in skillet and cook for 4 minutes per side for medium-rare, or until desired doneness. Remove steak from skillet; let rest for 10 minutes before thinly slicing against the grain.
- Blend together buttermilk, Gorgonzola, cider vinegar, garlic, tsp salt, and . tsp black pepper.
- Divide spinach among serving plates. Top with squash, steak, pears, and pecans. Drizzle on dressing.
- Calories – 531
- Protein – 43g
- Carbs – 38g
- Fat – 25g
Mix it Up: You can tweak this salad in a number of ways. Try substituting sweet potato for squash, blue cheese for Gorgonzola, baby kale for spinach, and apples for pears.
The dressing and sauerkraut lend this slaw a tasty tang, while the turkey sausage guarantees your muscles are well fed. If you can’t find kohlrabi, go with shredded celery root, parsnips, turnips, or broccoli.
- 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp canola or grape-seed oil
- 700g turkey sausage
- 4 cups shredded red cabbage
- 1 medium kohlrabi, peeled and shredded
- 2 large carrots, shredded
- 1 cup sauerkraut, drained
- 3 tbsp cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp prepared horseradish
- 1 tsp grainy Dijon mustard
- ½ tsp celery seeds (optional)
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ¼ cup dried tart cherries
- ¼ cup unsalted roasted sunflower seeds
- ⅓ cup chopped parsley
- Heat 2 tsp oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage to pan and cook, turning once, until an internal temperature of 75 degrees is reached, about 8 minutes. Let sausage rest for 5 minutes, then slice into 1/2 inch rounds.
- In a large bowl, toss together cabbage, kohlrabi, carrots, and sauerkraut.
- In a small bowl, whisk together cider vinegar, honey, horseradish, mustard, celery seed (if using), and black pepper. Slowly whisk in 2 tbsp oil. Toss dressing with slaw.
- Divide slaw among serving plates and sprinkle on dried cherries and sunflower seeds. Top with slices of sausage. Garnish with parsley.
- Calories – 518
- Protein – 36g
- Carbs – 35g
- Fat – 27g
Blade Runner: Employ the shredding blade of a food processor to prepare your vegetables in a flash. Don’t have a food processor? Use the large holes of a box grater.
This monster salad has lots of terrific flavors and textures. The American-farmed rainbow trout is a nutritional powerhouse—inexpensive, sustainable, and loaded with heart-healthy omega-3 fats.
- 500g baby potatoes
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- ¾ tsp salt, plus more for trout
- 1 large head radicchio or 2 small heads, halved, cored,and coarsely chopped
- 1½ lbs rainbow trout fillets
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp capers, drained and roughly chopped
- 2 tsp grainy mustard
- ¼ tsp black pepper, plus more for trout
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup sliced roasted red peppers
- 1 cup coarsely chopped parsley
- ¼ cup sliced almonds
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place potatoes in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover by a couple of inches. Bring to a boil and heat until potatoes are slightly tender. Drain; when cool enough to handle, slice potatoes in half.
- Toss potatoes with 2 tsp canola oil and ¼ tsp salt. Spread potatoes out on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until tender and crispy, stirring once, about 25 minutes.
- Toss radicchio with 1 tsp canola oil and ¼ tsp salt. Place radicchio on top of potatoes in oven and heat until leaves have wilted and are browned in a few places, about 4 minutes.
- Place trout on a separate greased or parchment-paperlined baking sheet, skin-side down. Season with salt and pepper. Bake trout for 12 minutes, or until just cooked through in the center. Let rest 5 minutes, then gently break apart flesh into large chunks.
- In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, capers, mustard, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp black pepper. Slowly whisk in olive oil.
- Divide potatoes, radicchio, trout, red peppers, and parsley among serving plates. Spoon on dressing and sprinkle on almonds.
- Calories – 496
- Protein – 40g
- Carbs – 27g
- Fat – 26g
Go Fish: Don’t like trout? You can sub in wild salmon, arctic char, or even smoked mackerel, which requires no cooking.
This salad turns the classic Caesar on its head by swapping out the soggy lettuce and breadcrumbs for more nutrient-dense brussels sprouts and quinoa. The anchovies add a lot of flavor as well. If you don’t feel like cooking your own chicken, pick up a rotisserie bird at the supermarket.
- 1½ lbs brussels sprouts
- 4 tsp canola or grapeseed oil
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 700g boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 garlic cloves, grated or finely minced
- 4 canned anchovy
- fillets, finely chopped
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup shaved Parmesan
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees and place a baking sheet in oven as it heats. Shred 2 cups’ worth of brussels sprouts and set aside. Slice remaining sprouts in half and toss with 2 tsp canola oil. Spread the halved sprouts out on the warm baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, mixing halfway, or until sprouts have darkened and are tender. Toss together roasted and raw shredded sprouts in a large bowl.
- Place cooked quinoa on the baking sheet and bake until crispy, 12 to 15 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking. Remove from oven and let cool.
- Heat 2 tsp canola oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Place chicken in pan and cook until an internal temperature of 165°F is reached, about 5 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan; when cool enough to handle, thinly slice.
- In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, vinegar, lemon zest, mustard, garlic, anchovies, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Gently toss dressing with brussels sprouts.
- Divide sprouts among serving plates and top with chicken slices, quinoa, and Parmesan.
- Calories – 492
- Protein – 48g
- Carbs – 26g
- Fat – 22g
Don’t Guess: Use a digital thermometer to determine if meats such as chicken and pork have been cooked enough. Chicken should have an internal temp of 165°F; pork, 145°F.
This earthy salad proves that vegetarian eating need not leave you yawning. Roasting whole beets wrapped in foil helps them retain moisture, and time in the hot oven elevates carrots’ natural sweetness.
- 3 medium-size beets, ends trimmed
- 500g carrots, cut into chunks
- 2 red apples, sliced into ½-inch wedges
- 1 cup dry green or black (beluga) lentils
- 4 cups arugula
- 3 oz aged Gouda cheese, chopped
- ¼ cup unsalted roasted pumpkin seeds
- 4 tbsp canola or grape-seed oil, plus more for beets
- 3 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 2 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 2 tsp grainy Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp fresh thyme
- ½ tsp salt, plus more for carrots and lentils
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees and place a rimmed baking sheet in oven as it heats. Place each beet on a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with a little oil, and wrap tightly. Toss carrots with 1 tbsp oil and 2 pinches salt. Place beets on one end of the hot baking sheet and carrots on the other. Roast for 20 minutes, then toss apples with carrots and roast for another 10 minutes.
- Remove carrots and apples from oven and continue roasting beets until tender, about 20 more minutes. When cool enough to handle, slice beets into ¼-inch wedges. If desired, you can rub off the beet skins with a paper towel before slicing.
- Place lentils, 3 cups water, and 2 pinches salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, until lentils are tender but not too soft, about 25 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Divide arugula, lentils, beets, carrots, and apples among serving plates. Scatter on Gouda and pumpkin seeds.
- In a microwave-safe bowl, whisk together 3 tbsp oil, maple syrup, cider vinegar, shallot, mustard, thyme, ½ tsp salt, and pepper. Heat for 45 seconds, or until warmed. (You can also warm the dressing in a small saucepan on the stovetop.) Drizzle dressing over salad.
- Calories – 565
- Protein – 23g
- Carbs – 67g
- Fat – 26g
Blast Your Pan: When preheating your oven to roast vegetables, slide the sheet pan in the oven. Placing vegetables on a red-hot pan will encourage better browning and flavor.
For a salad to work as a main dish, it can’t just taste delicious. It also needs to offer a good balance of protein, carbs, and healthy fats. This one delivers in all categories.
- ¾ cup spelt
- 500g pork tenderloin
- Black pepper, to taste
- 8 cups chopped kale
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- ¼ tsp salt, plus more for pork
- 1 large carrot, shaved
- 1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- ½ cup halved dried figs
- ¾ cup crumbled goat cheese
- ½ cup walnut halves
- Place spelt and 3 cups water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, until spelt is tender, about 30 minutes. Drain any excess water.
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place pork on a greased or parchment-paper-lined baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Roast until pork reaches an internal temperature of 60 degrees, about 30 minutes. Let pork rest for 5 minutes before slicing into ½-inch rounds.
- Place kale in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, lemon zest, and ¼ tsp salt. Add dressing to kale and massage with your hands until tender.
- Divide kale among serving plates. Top with spelt, carrot, bell pepper, pork, figs, goat cheese, and walnuts.
- Calories – 564
- Protein – 40g
- Carbs – 55g
- Fat – 24g
Rub it Down: Don’t love kale’s bitterness? Massage the leaves. This will release enzymes to reduce its bracing flavor.