BEST Side Salad Recipe for BBQ, Chicken, Steak & More! - Fantabulosity (2024)

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4.18 from 550 votes

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!

BEST Side Salad Recipe for BBQ, Chicken, Steak & More! - Fantabulosity (1)

Jump to:
  • Hot Tip:
  • What Makes 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

Hot Tip:

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!

What Makes 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:

  • Summer Side Salad
  • Italian Chopped Salad
  • Apple Cranberry Salad

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

BEST Side Salad Recipe for BBQ, Chicken, Steak & More! - Fantabulosity (2)

Romaine Lettuce:

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.)

BEST Side Salad Recipe for BBQ, Chicken, Steak & More! - Fantabulosity (3)

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

BEST Side Salad Recipe for BBQ, Chicken, Steak & More! - Fantabulosity (4)

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!

  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs
  • Shredded Cheese – bagged is just fine but fresh shredded block cheddar is amazing!
  • Bacon ( or Air Fryer Bacon )
  • Tomato
  • Cucumber
  • Radish
  • 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
  • steak
  • salmon
  • shrimp (like this grilled shrimp recipe)
  • crab
  • 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!

BEST Side Salad Recipe for BBQ, Chicken, Steak & More! - Fantabulosity (5)

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 containersahead of time, so my side dishes get easier and easier throughout the week.

See more make-ahead salads that we love!

💡Recipe FAQs

What Kind of Dressing is Best for Salad?

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.

What is a side salad?

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!

How big is a side salad?

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!

BEST Side Salad Recipe for BBQ, Chicken, Steak & More! - Fantabulosity (6)

🥗 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:

  • How to Make Guacamole – Easy Recipe + The Best!
  • The GREATEST Tuna Salad Recipe
  • Avocado Wontons
  • The BEST Bruschetta Recipe

📖 Recipe

BEST Side Salad Recipe for BBQ, Chicken, Steak & More! - Fantabulosity (11)

The BEST Side Salad Recipe with a Trick!

Jessica Burgess

The BEST Side Salad Recipe: A requested side dish at family gatherings. It’s not your ordinary run of the mill side salad. There’s a SECRET, and it tops all salad recipes we’ve tried!

4.18 from 550 votes

Print Recipe Pin Recipe

Prep Time 15 minutes mins

Total Time 15 minutes mins

Course Side Dish

Cuisine American

Servings 5 servings

Calories 222 kcal


  • 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.)



TIPS to make this the best side salad:

  • 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.

Topping Ideas:

  • carrots
  • radishes
  • green onions
  • tomatoes
  • cooked bacon
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • celery
  • sunflower seeds
  • shredded cheddar cheese


Serving: 1salad (1/5 recipe; without dressing) | Calories: 222kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 95mg | Sodium: 233mg | Potassium: 1177mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 35288IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 256mg | Iron: 5mg

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.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

BEST Side Salad Recipe for BBQ, Chicken, Steak & More! - Fantabulosity (2024)


What is a side salad and it accompanies the main course? ›

Accompaniment salads should be flavorful, and should balance and complement the rest of the meal. A starchy salad, such as a potato or pasta salad, should not accompany a main entrée that also contains a starch. Sweet fruit salads can accompany ham and pork. Vegetable salads are good for hearty meals.

What is the difference between a side salad and a salad? ›

Side salads – to accompany the main course as a side dish; examples include potato salad and coleslaw. Main course salads – usually containing a portion of one or more high-protein foods, such as eggs, legumes, or cheese.

How do you bulk up a salad for dinner? ›

  1. add fried halloumi (and sweet chilli sauce or another spicy dressing goes great with it)
  2. Add a side of focaccia or other nice white bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip.
  3. Add roasted chickpeas for extra crunch and protein (they're also very filling)
  4. Add cooked protein such as shredded chicken.
Jun 14, 2019

What goes with salad as a side? ›

Battered or breaded fried cheese dressed with a sweet or savory sauce, or a raclette or rarebit. Accompany the salad with bread, biscuits or savory crisps or crackers, along with spreads or dips. French-fried potatoes or tempura could accompany, with a spicy chutney or savory sauce.

What are the 5 main salads? ›

salad, any of a wide variety of dishes that fall into the following principal categories: green salads; vegetable salads; salads of pasta, legumes, or grains; mixed salads incorporating meat, poultry, or seafood; and fruit salads.

What does a side salad contain? ›

A simple flavorful salad that pairs with just about everything! Start with the basics -- romaine, cucumbers, red onion and tomatoes-- then add olives, some feta (optional if dairy free) and toss with our go to salad dressing, Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Is a salad healthier than a sandwich? ›

With fillings, most sandwiches hit 600 to 900 calories and 1,000 to 2,500 mg of sodium. In contrast, a full salad starts with greens (maybe even spinach) and raw veggies. With dressing, chicken, cheese, and other usual add-ons, the totals typically hit 400 to 600 calories.

How much side salad per person? ›

Plan for 1/2 to 1 cup for a side salad and 2 to 3 cups for a main course.

What are the three keys to a quality salad? ›

The three keys to ensuring a quality salad are:
  • The freshness of ingredients.
  • Having all the ingredients blend together in harmony.
  • Making sure the salad is appealing to the eye.

What can I add to salad to make it feel full? ›

Something sweet, such as apples, pears, grapes, pomegranate seeds, oranges, bananas, unsweetened dried cranberries, fresh berries, pineapple or mango.

What is the best side dish? ›

30 best side dishes
  1. Classic potato salad. Elevate your barbecue or picnic with our timeless potato salad recipe. ...
  2. Cauliflower cheese. ...
  3. Epic summer salad. ...
  4. Quick kimchi. ...
  5. Roasted carrots. ...
  6. Easy pilau rice. ...
  7. Ultimate roast potatoes. ...
  8. Giant couscous & tomato salad with zhoug-style dressing.

What else can you put in a salad? ›

Add one or more of these protein-rich foods to your salad:
  • lean meat: chicken or turkey breast, lean steak.
  • lower-fat cheese: light cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella, feta, goat cheese.
  • legumes: kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, white or black beans.
  • eggs: hard boiled.
  • soy products: cubed tofu, edamame.

What is the definition of a side salad? ›

noun. noun. a small salad served with the main course of a meal.

Can you serve salad with main course? ›

Traditionally, the salad follows the main course, but restaurants generally serve salad first, and people have come to believe that the practices of restaurants represent the best service.

What is considered a side dish for entree or main course? ›

Side dishes are any prepared dish that is served alongside the main dish. Vegetable side dishes—including salads and casserole recipes—are often paired with cooked meats to help round out the nutritional value and flavor of a meal. Pasta, grains, and bread can also be considered side dishes.

Why are salads served after main course and why? ›

It is believed that serving salad after the main course aids in digestion and prepares the palate for wine.


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