As the temperatures rise and the days get longer, summer produce comes into season, and there's no better way to take advantage of all the fresh flavors than with a colorful summer salad. Whether you're looking for a light lunch or a refreshing dinner, there are plenty of delicious and healthy ingredients to choose from. Here are the BEST ingredients to build your own summer salad with endless combinations!

Salads are such a light and refreshing meal option for summertime! It's also an opportunity to take advantage of ALL the fresh produce at its peak ripeness! I don't know about you….but the more beautiful a salad is, the more likely I am to eat it. It's just the truth! And summertime salads are about at beautiful and colorful as they come. We are going to share so many summer salad combinations, you'll never run out of options!

*Note: When you click the links in this post, we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

First, let's count all the benefits to incorporating summer salads into your weekly meal plan!

1. Nutrient-Dense: A well-rounded salad can provide many of the essential nutrients you need for good health, including vitamins, minerals, and fiber. By using fresh and colorful produce, you can create a nutrient-dense meal that will leave you feeling satisfied and energized.

2. Light and Refreshing: Salads are a refreshing choice during hot summer months when you don't want to eat something too heavy. By using a variety of fresh produce, you can create a salad with a range of textures and flavors. Plus, you can dress up your salad with light and tangy vinaigrettes that won't weigh you down.

3. Easy to Prepare: Salads are quick and easy to prepare, making them a perfect choice for busy weeknights or lazy summer evenings. With just a few simple ingredients and a light dressing, you can create a delicious and satisfying meal in no time.

4. Versatile: Salads can be customized and tailored to your personal taste preferences. You can use a variety of greens, vegetables, fruits, and proteins to create a salad that's both delicious and nutritious. Plus, you can experiment with different dressings to add flavor and variety.

5. Affordable: Salads can be a budget-friendly choice for summer dinners because they rely heavily on seasonal produce that is often less expensive than other types of meat and seafood. With a little bit of creativity, you can create salads that are both delicious and budget-friendly.


1. Leafy Greens: When it comes to salad greens, summer is all about freshness! Look for lettuce, spinach, kale, or arugula that is crisp and vibrant with color. These greens are packed with vitamins and minerals and can serve as the perfect base for your salad.

2. Berries: Raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries are all in season during the summer and add a sweet, juicy burst of flavor to any salad. Not only are they delicious, but they're also great for your health, as berries are packed with antioxidants and other nutrients.

3. Additional Summer Fruit: Peaches, nectarines, and apricots are all at their peak during the summer months and make for fantastic additions to salads. The sweet and tangy flavor of these fruits pairs perfectly with other summer produce and adds a nice pop of color to your dish.

4. Citrus: Grapefruit, oranges, and lemons are all great sources of vitamin C and add a refreshing, tangy flavor to salads. Try to pair citrus fruits with greens that can stand up to their acidity, such as kale or arugula.

spinach salad with strawberries, from

5. Cucumber: Cool and refreshing, cucumbers are the perfect addition to summer salads. Their crisp texture and mild flavor pairs well with other seasonal ingredients like tomatoes and herbs.

6. Tomatoes: Whether you're enjoying heirloom tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, this summer fruit is a staple in any salad. Tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C and potassium and add a burst of sunshine to your dish.

7. Avocado: This creamy fruit is a great source of healthy fats and adds a rich flavor to salads. Try pairing avocado with cucumber and tomato for a refreshing summer salad.

8. Grilled Veggies: For something heartier, try adding grilled veggies to your summer salad, such as zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, or bell peppers. These veggies pair well with vinaigrettes and add a nice smoky flavor to your dish.

9. Fresh Herbs: Basil, mint, cilantro, and dill are all great herbs to use in summer salads. They add a fresh, vibrant flavor and aroma to salads and pair well with a variety of ingredients.


grilled marinated shrimp, from Shelf Cooking

1. Grilled Chicken: Grilled chicken is a classic salad protein that pairs well with a variety of summer produce. You can marinate chicken in herbs and spices or season it with salt and pepper before grilling it to perfection.

2. Shrimp: Grilled or boiled shrimp are a great choice for a summer salad. Shrimp are mild in flavor and versatile, making them a great match for leafy greens, citrus, and other summer fruits.

3. Salmon: Fresh or grilled salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and adds a richness to your summer salad. You can season it with herbs or spices and grill or bake it to perfection.

4. Tofu: For vegetarians or vegans, tofu is a great protein option for summer salads. Tofu can absorb flavors well, making it versatile and easy to incorporate into your salad.

5. Hard-Boiled Eggs: Hard-boiled eggs are a quick and easy protein source that can be added to any summer salad. They're also rich in essential nutrients like vitamin D and choline.

6. Steak: Grilled steak can add an extra depth of savory flavor to your summer salad. You can grill it with your favorite seasoning, slice it, and add it to your salad for a hearty and protein-packed meal.

When adding protein to a summer salad, keep in mind that you don't want to overpower the fresh produce. Use lean proteins and complement them with light vinaigrettes or citrus-based dressings. 


1. Honey Mustard Dressing: Mix together 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 minced garlic clove, and salt and pepper to taste. 

2. Citrus Vinaigrette: Whisk together 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon honey, 1/4 cup olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. 

3. Balsamic Vinaigrette: Combine 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1 minced garlic clove, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon honey, and salt and pepper, shake well or whisk until well combined. 

4. Raspberry Vinaigrette: Mix together 1/4 cup raspberry vinegar, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon honey, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper until smooth. 

5. Poppyseed dressing: This is actually a recipe from our Shelf Cooking 101 book, which you can order here!

Poppyseed Salad Dressing

Refreshing salad dressing that goes well with any summertime salad!


  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1 tsp onion , finely grated
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp poppyseeds


  • Mix all ingredients, except oil and poppyseeds, in a blender. Gradually add oil and poppyseeds and continue blending.
  • Serve with your favorite salad. Refrigerate remaining dressing for later use. Keeps for 3 weeks.

Summer salads are a fun and healthy way to take advantage of the fresh produce that's available during the season. By incorporating these ingredients into your dishes, you'll be able to create colorful, flavorful, and nutritious salads that are perfect for any occasion!

Let us know, what's your FAVORITE combination for a yummy summer salad?!

You might also like these posts: