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Yes, Virginia. You can have fresh, tasty salad without a single lettuce leaf.

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

Salads can be the definition of 'missed opportunity'. So many people think that if they don't have lettuce leaves and tomatoes, then it couldn't possibly be a salad. How sad. It's especially frustrating now that running to the store on a whim for fresh lettuce can be problematic during the pandemic. Then, there's the whole thing about lettuce not lasting very long. And, what else can you actually use lettuce for unless it's a sandwich?

Consider all the wonderful fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts out there - that last longer in the fridge and the pantry ... or even the freezer! Vegetables like fresh carrots, of course, but what about turnips, asparagus or even green beans from the freezer? Why not use those for salads - in addition to side dishes, soups and stews? This is about making your food dollars go further.

Let's look at several salads that I've served lately, and discuss what's in them.

What's in this one? Sliced Fuyu Persimmons, green onions cut on the diagonal, same with celery, fresh parsley leaves plucked from the stems, sliced radishes and pumpkin seeds from the pantry.

What's in this one? That really, really skinny asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces, celery sliced on the diagonal, julienned carrots, green onions, and those tiny, marinated Peruvian peppers that you can now find on 'salad bars' in stores like Whole Foods. Some citrus slices add a big burst of fresh color. Yes, you do see lettuce leaves. They're merely serving as a place to pile the main act.

What's going on here? Diagonally sliced snow peas, thinly sliced red onion, diced tomato, finely sliced miscellaneous greens from the fridge. You could use: Swiss Chard, Kale, Collards, Arugula, Radicchio or, gasp! Lettuce. Then, I mixed in a few spoonfuls of my own homemade Chow-Chow (that contains cabbage, carrots, celery, onions, raisins) for a bright, fresh tang that almost made the blustery, cold winter day seem further away. Sigh. But, you've GOTTA try doing snow peas like this!

What's going on here? Fresh, roughly chopped, Swiss Chard, slices of those mixed mini sweet peppers that come in the bags, sliced radishes and celery.

Did you know that you could use that funny-shaped bulbous end of the Butternut squash for something other than mashed? Yup. Peel enough of the tough outer part, and get it going on the Mandoline grater. You really should have a Mandoline and I recommend the one here, Progressive International.

This is the Butternut squash in a salad with snow peas (think: protein), diced green cabbage (although red cabbage would've killed!) and a plant-based Honey Dijon dressing from my homemade mayonnaise recipe.

I love making Chow-Chow relish, and have it in a Mason jar in the fridge pretty much all the time. It's great to toss into a salad. Here, it's with halved cherry tomatoes, sliced radish, and fresh parsley leaves. The 'juice' that I make the Chow-Chow in serves as a wonderful sweet-tangy, oil-free vinaigrette dressing. In fact, I make extra and keep it in a swing-top bottle in the fridge.

I needed something with an Asian flair, and had some leftover kelp noodles in the fridge. Yes, that's a real thing. Kelp noodles are crispy, crunchy, will absorb, and play nicely with whatever flavors you're working with.

The noodles are pantry friendly, and last really well in the fridge - stored properly - for more than a week, once opened. You can add them into soups (like Miso Soup) or toss them into fresh salads like this.

Anyway, the noodles are shown with chopped fresh dandelion greens (incredibly healthy!), celery, red onion and oranges. The vinaigrette is simply rice vinegar, some Mirin for sweet, a splash of soy sauce, and a spoonful of maple syrup. Easy!

So, let's take a look at what you probably have that would work in a No-Lettuce Salad:

Fresh Vegetables:

Celery: chopped, diced

Cabbage (Green or Red): grated or thinly sliced

Dark leafy greens (chopped or shredded) : Swiss Chard, Kale, Dandelion greens, Spinach, Watercress

Radicchio (Red Chicory)

Bok Choy (either the 'baby' or large): chopped



Green onions: sliced, minced


Peas, including Snow Peas (raw, or blanched and chilled)

Carrots, julienned or grated

Celeriac (Celery Root), julienned or grated

Beets, particularly Orange Beets: grated or julienned

Turnips, Rutabaga, Parsnips: julienned or grated

Sweet peppers: minced or sliced

Zucchini or Yellow Summer Squash: julienned, sliced, zoodles

Radishes: sliced

Bean Sprouts and other sprouted seeds

Butternut squash: grated or steamed/chilled bite-sized chunks.

Shallots (sliced or minced)

Potatoes - yams, sweets or 'new' white or red potatoes. Steamed.

Frozen Vegetables (thawed, blanched or microwaved, chilled):



Lima beans

Canned or Salad Bar Vegetables:

Water Chestnuts

Bamboo Shoots

Marinated mushrooms

Marinated White Beans in vinaigrette

Hearts of Palm

Caper Berries


Marinated Peruvian sweet peppers

Canned or cooked:

Beans - such as drained, rinsed Pinto, Kidney, Black, Garbanzo, Great Northern, Navy

Lentils (cooked)

Fresh Fruit:

Apples: chopped, sliced or shredded

Persimmons (Fuyu variety): sliced or chopped

Oranges, tangerines, Tangelos

Mango: cut into chunks

Pears: chopped, sliced

Asian Pears: chopped, sliced

Grapes: whole or halved

Dried Fruits:

Dates, pitted: chopped

Figs: chopped


Goji Berries

Dried Cranberries, Blueberries

Seeds and Nuts:




Pistachios (unsalted, roasted)

Peanuts (unsalted, roasted)

Cashews (unsalted, roasted)

Grains and Pasta (a great way to use batch cooked leftovers):


Pasta (including Asian noodles like Ramen)

Kelp noodles

Bulgar (Tabbouli) Wheat


Oat Groats

Barley Groats

Fresh Herbs:

Fresh Leaf Parsley (not the 'curly' which can be bitter and strong)



Edible flowers

Plant-based Proteins:

Tofu: various (sliced, crumbled, cubed) depending on Silken, Firm, Extra-Firm

Steamed and marinated Tempeh: sliced or cubed

Seitan: sliced or cubed, marinated

Green (canned) Jackfruit: Drained, shredded, seasoned, sautéed and cooled

Mycoprotein: seasoned, cooked, chilled

Plant-based sausage: sliced and sautéed

Butler's Soy Curls

Sauces as dressings: Thai Peanut Sauce. Thai Sweet Chili Sauce. Guacamole Salsa. Japanese Ponzu sauce (citrus vinaigrette). Your favorite BBQ sauce (think yam or sweet potato salad?).

Some combinations to riff on:

  1. Granny Smith apples, crunchy Asian pears, celery, toasted pecans or walnuts, red onion, fresh herbs. Dress with a very light plant-based mayonnaise.

  2. Sautéed Soy Curls, with celery, green onions, sautéed corn kernels, thinly sliced sweet peppers of many colors. Toss in some Chow-Chow for zing, or make a fast vinaigrette.

  3. Bok Choy, julienned carrots, diced tomatoes, green onions, firm tofu that's been marinated in Mirin, rice wine vinegar and soy sauce.

  4. Shredded cabbage, steamed tempeh chunks, peanuts, thinly sliced red onion, quick vinaigrette of Mirin, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, grated ginger and Sake.

  5. Mycoprotein (sautéed, seasoned, cooled) with shredded radicchio, basil, chopped tomatoes, celery and dressed with a bit of my homemade, plant-based mayonnaise.

  6. Pasta with red onion, celery, steamed peas and carrots (small dice for quick steaming), Arugula, dressed in a light vinaigrette.

  7. Chopped sweet peppers, green onions, dates, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, rinsed/drained/sautéed green Jackfruit, rinsed/drained Kelp noodles, dressed with a Thai sweet chili sauce.

  8. Farro with red onion, sliced snow peas, Goji berries, toasted nuts, fresh herbs, edible flowers. A very light vinaigrette.

  9. Succotash salad: Steamed/cooled corn kernels, lima beans, chopped red onion, chopped red sweet pepper, pasta or grain of your choice, creamy (soaked cashews with plant milk, seasonings, apple cider vinegar in a high-speed blender) vinaigrette.

  10. Bean salad: steamed green beans (or Haricots Verts), steamed new potatoes, diced sweet red and yellow peppers, red onion. Vinaigrette.

Well, I hope this get's you started on salad adventures that may not include the same old lettuce.

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