This is the BEST side salad recipe you’ll ever have! It’s the requested side dish at family gatherings and not your ordinary run-of-the-mill side salad. There’s a SECRET! How to cut the lettuce and add these two common spices that change your salad-making life.
Post written in February 2014, in February 2021, and then updated again, April 24th, 2023.
Of all of the salad recipes we’ve ever had, this is by far the favorite and easy side salad to serve alongside your favorite dinner recipes, whether it’s steak recipe, creamy lemon chicken pasta, chicken drumsticks, air fryer fish, or whatever the main course is!
- Hot Tip:
- There are a few things that make it the BEST Green Salad:
- Tips on How to Make the Best Salad
- 1. How the Lettuce is Cut
- How to Cut Romaine Lettuce (and Spinach)
- The 2 Ingredients That Make It the BEST Salad
- 🧾 Side Salad Ingredients and Toppings
- Making This Simple Salad Ahead of Time
- 💡Recipe FAQs
- Homemade Salad Dressing
- 🥗 More Salad Recipes
- 🥙 More Healthy Side Dishes
- 📖 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
If you’re making this salad as a main dish, you should try making this tuna salad recipe to go on top of it! You won’t believe how delicious the creaminess of the tuna, adds to the salad… so much so, that you may not even need a dressing! It’s the perfect lunch or light dinner!
There are a few things that make it the BEST Green Salad:
I have to thank my mother-in-law for teaching me how to make the BEST of the best when it comes to side salad recipes. The woman has some serious salad skills and I couldn’t wait to share her secret with you. Don’t worry, I asked for her permission!
For this side salad, there are two ingredients and a certain way to cut the lettuce.
I bet you even have the two ingredients in your pantry!
More Lettuce Salad Recipes You’ll Love:
Tips on How to Make the Best Salad
So there are a few secrets to the best side salad recipe that has literally left people saying,
I don’t know what it is, but it’s SO good! Why is it so good!?
Well, it’s a couple of things.
1. How the Lettuce is Cut
You’ll want to use romaine for a side salad. I’ve used other greens like, mixed greens, leaf lettuce and head lettuce and although they’ll do in a pinch, those types of lettuce don’t measure up to romaine. However, what’s even better than just romaine is a combination of TWO different kinds of greens…
Using Spinach Too:
Using fresh spinach along with romaine is definitely optional but it REALLY adds a delicious texture to the salad.
Even as someone who’s not a huge fan of spinach salads, I always try to incorporate a small handful of chopped spinach in to this salad now because it makes a wonderful difference.
How to Cut Romaine Lettuce (and Spinach)
The key is chopping the lettuce into small pieces and removing the white part (the stem) because it can overpower and cause your salad to taste bitter.
Have you ever eaten a “chopped salad” at a restaurant and found the texture and flavor to be so much more amazing than a head-lettuce or romaine salad with all of the white crunchy pieces like you typically find on a salad bar?
This is why it’s so good. The lettuce is easier to eat, less bitter and so much more enjoyable.
Best Knife for Chopping Lettuce
To chop, I’m OBSESSED with my favorite Wusthof Santoku knife. Not just for salad, but for everything when chopping or cutting. Pricier? Yes. But soooo worth it. My uncle convinced me to get one, one day, and he’s now my favorite uncle.
Some recommend to cut lettuce with a plastic knife because other, regular knives, cause the lettuce to age faster. But honestly, I don’t like the plastic knives and we’ve never had a problem with the lettuce going bad quickly. (Possibly because we eat all so fast.)
The 2 Ingredients That Make It the BEST Salad
Basil & Garlic Powder.
Isn’t that EASY?
This combination on a salad is dynamite. I’m talking dried basil and garlic powder that you probably already have in your pantry. (But if you have fresh basil, chop a few leaves up instead of dried and the flavor is even more incredible!)
Sprinkle on your desired taste preference, and toss.
By FAR one of my favorite touches to this side salad. It’s easy, and it makes a HUGE difference for your salad…. making it the BEST salad recipe of all time. At least in our house! 🙂
🧾 Side Salad Ingredients and Toppings
Along with the right lettuce and the garlic powder and basil, we love adding our favorite toppings!
Feel free to use what you like and take out what you don’t!
- Hard-Boiled Eggs
- Shredded Cheese – bagged is just fine but fresh shredded block cheddar is amazing!
- Sunflower Seeds
- Green Onions
- Croutons (especially these brioche croutons)
Or turn your side salad in to a main dish by adding proteins like:
- grilled chicken
- baked chicken
- buffalo chicken
- shrimp (like this grilled shrimp recipe)
- pork (like this bbq pulled pork)
- leftover meats (smoked brisket, roast, etc.)
- lunchmeat (ham, turkey)
Toppings Tip: Cutting the lettuce in to small bite-size pieces is important. But if you chop all of your toppings too, it makes it even better!
Making This Simple Salad Ahead of Time
We have this salad at least a couple of times a week at home. It gets in our veggies, and it takes a lot of guesswork out of what we are going to have alongside our main dish because it goes with almost everything!
I’ve never been a huge fan of making a large salad in bulk because I’ve been told that cut lettuce won’t “keep” as long in the refrigerator.
But I AM a fan of pre-chopping the ingredients and putting them in containers ahead of time, so my side dishes get easier and easier throughout the week.
See more make-ahead salads that we love!
Feel free to top it with the dressing of your choice, but we are HUGE fans of making the Hidden Valley Ranch Buttermilk Dressing, with the seasoning packet that you can make with mayo and buttermilk! See below.
A small green salad to serve alongside a main dish recipe, that usually includes a house dressing or favorite salad dressing like ranch, blue cheese, or oil & vinegar!
Plan on 1 to 1 1/2 cups of salad for a side salad to go with dinner.
Homemade Salad Dressing
For this salad recipe, there’s no better dressing than this homemade salad dressing, using Hidden Valley Buttermilk Ranch, Restaurant Style!
- 1 package of Hidden Valley Buttermilk Recipe (Restaurant Style)
- 1 cup mayo
- 1 cup buttermilk (you can use regular milk if that’s all you have but the buttermilk is thicker and is much better!)
Mix all three ingredients together and chill for about 30 minutes. Drizzle on this green salad and enjoy!
Store any remaining salad dressing in the refrigerator in an air-tight container or mason jar!
Or, if you love a spicy kick, you may love this homemade jalapeno ranch dressing instead!
🥗 More Salad Recipes
We’re BIG fans of salad around here, whether that’s pasta salad, a quick lettuce salad, savory salads, or dessert salads. If you love them too, here are our favorite salad recipes, that I think you’ll love, especially this crab salad that we’re addicted to!
🥙 More Healthy Side Dishes
I’ve compiled all of our healthy side dishes for you, that way you can take a gander at what you’d like to serve along with dinner this week!
Or, you may also love these side dishes that are popular with others:
The BEST Side Salad Recipe with a Trick!
- 3 heads romaine lettuce See how to cut and remove stalk
- 2 cups chopped fresh spinach optional
- 1 Tablespoon dried basil or fresh!
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder or more/less if you prefer!
- ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese For best results, shred your own block cheese
- 1 roma tomato chopped
- 3-4 Slices cooked bacon chopped
- 2 boiled eggs chopped
- ¼ cup celery chopped
- ¼ cup carrots chopped
- 1 radish chopped
- 1 stalk green onions chopped
- 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds hulled
- Slice romaine leaves off of white stems, (discard white stems) and chop lettuce into small pieces and pour in large serving bowl. If also using fresh spinach, chop and add to romaine in bowl.
- Next layer on your favorite toppings, such as chopped tomato, bacon, eggs, radishes, green onions, celery, carrots, sunflower seeds and cheddar cheese.
- Sprinkle the garlic powder and the dried basil on top.
- Serve with choice of dressing. (Our favorite is to make the Hidden Valley Buttermilk Ranch dressing, with the seasoning packet, buttermilk and mayo.)
- Use romaine and fresh spinach for an amazing texture and taste!
- Cut the romaine/spinach in to small, bite-size pieces, and cut out the white stem
- Chop the toppings in to small pieces as well
- Don’t forget the herbs and spices: basil and garlic powder
- We love using Hidden Valley Buttermilk Ranch for dressing (The packet that you make with mayo and buttermilk) and making this before starting the salad so it can sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, according to package directions.
- If you want to make this ahead of time, chop up the toppings and store them separately so the toppings don’t make the lettuce soggy.
- green onions
- cooked bacon
- hard-boiled eggs
- sunflower seeds
- shredded cheddar cheese
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.