We often find ourselves turning to the same old ingredients when making a salad, but they needn’t be so samey. Here are 13 different ideas to instantly transform your salad from the side act to the main event, just in time for summer

Image: 12 unusual ingredients to spruce up a salad


1. Falafel

Take inspiration from the Middle East with this chickpea-based staple. Buy ready-made or make your own version of this traditional food. Add to your leafy greens either warm or cold, and replace your vinaigrette with a side serving of houmous instead. See recipe for Falafel salad pittas.


2. Last night’s roast

Sunday’s roast can make a wonderful salad addition come Monday lunchtime. Use up your leftover chicken, beef or roasted duck and finely slice the chilled meat on top of any salad. An added dollop of red onion chutney will complement the roasted meat on your salad too.


3. Kale

The ingredient of the moment, kale is a great alternative to standard cos leaves, or kale chips add a satisfying crunch. As a salad, marinate the leaves in lemon juice to ensure the kale is tender; as chips, add your favourite seasoning, or just use salt and pepper before baking the kale on high heat in the oven. See recipe for Pan-fried kale with red onion and lemon


4. Sautéed mushrooms

Combining both cold and warm ingredients in your salad ensures it’s a suitable main course. Sauté chestnut closed mushrooms and use them either as a base for your warm salad or as a hot topping on your greens or pasta salad. Easy and quick to sauté, mushrooms’ meaty texture mean they are a filling alternative to both chicken and beef. See recipe for Jewelled mushroom salad


5. Quinoa

Replace lettuce with this filling grain to ensure you don’t need a second course after lunch. Cook the quinoa in chicken or vegetable stock for added flavour and mix with any of your favourite grilled or marinated vegetables.


Photo by: nerissa’s ring


6. Halloumi

Grilled halloumi makes a great topping for a warm salad and a perfect meat alternative for a vegetarian-based diet. Pan-fry the halloumi and either serve steak-style on a bed of greens, or loosely chop after frying and use as a replacement to feta cheese. See recipe for Warm lamb and rice salad


7. Finely chopped chilli

Give your salad an added kick with finely chopped chilli as a garnish. Perfect for any Mexican or Thai-inspired salads, this garnish may not be for the faint-hearted. Offset the added heat with a squeeze of fresh lime and a side of sliced fruit like mango or orange. See recipe for Warm pak choi, prawn & lentil salad


8. Sun-dried tomatoes

Substitute your go-to cherry tomatoes with the sun-dried variety to give your salad a Mediterranean twist. Serve the sun-dried tomatoes chopped, and buy the deli variety to use the flavoured oils they are marinated in as a base for your salad’s vinaigrette.


9. Pomegranate seeds

Pomegranate seeds have the right amount of sweet flavour to add to any savoury salad, and they add a pleasing bite to its texture. Add to a grilled chicken salad or mix the seeds directly into any rice-based salads.


Photo by: zeevveez


10. Pancetta

Upgrade your standard bacon with crispy pancetta. Crumble the Italian-style bacon with chopped egg onto your spinach salad, or add strips of pancetta to the top of your homemade Caesar salad.


Photo by: Neal Campbell


11. Grilled peach slices

Adding fruit to your salad is a perfect idea as summertime approaches, and grilled peach slices give this fresh fruit an added twist. Marinate in olive oil before gently grilling, and mix with prosciutto and feta, or add to spinach leaves and roasted pecans.

Grilled peaches

Photo by: Mike McCune


12. Toasted nuts

Nuts make an excellent final topping and give an added crunch to any salad. Choose from your favourite nuts – cashews, almonds or pinenuts work perfectly – and toast them quickly in the oven for added flavour.

Toasted nuts recipe

Photo by: Veganbaking.net


Main photo: Klearchos Kapoutsis