When you think of a salad, you may envision a pile of lettuce and maybe some stale croutons with dressing and think “ugh, boring.” But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I’m a year-round salad fan but leafy greens hit different in the summer — especially paired with juicy, flavorful fruits and vegetables that abound in the warmest season of the year. Most of the time, I eyeball my ingredients when I make salads. It’s not an exact science, which I think makes the process more fun.

To help you get started on your own salad streak (if you wish to do so) we’ve rounded up — and tried — several salads. Some are salads I’ve grown up with, others I’ve concocted with inspiration from various sources and all are common enough to find different versions of online.

All are sure to excite your taste buds and are customizable — you can always add protein of your choosing to turn them into a fuller meal.

Perfect every time: The only pasta salad recipe you’ll ever need

Yum: Here’s how to make the best creamy potato salad ever

Watermelon feta salad

If you’re a watermelon lover like I am, this is a no-brainer, check-yes-every-time kind of side or lunch option.

There are plenty of salad recipes online for watermelon feta combinations including those with added olive oil and vinegar for dressing, red onion and cucumber to make the salad heftier. Delish recommends including leafy greens.

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But the way I like to make it requires fewer ingredients.

When I make a watermelon feta salad, I use eyeballed amounts of everything. But I would recommend using approximate amounts if this is your first time — aim for:

  • 2 cups watermelon, cubed

  • 5 sprigs mint

  • 1/4 cup feta cheese

  • Drizzle of balsamic glaze

Once you have your ingredients prepped (basically cutting up your watermelon and rinsing your mint) just add everything to a bowl and drizzle the balsamic glaze to your liking. It’s super easy and pairs well with summer dishes.

Pasta salad

It’s not quite leafy or green but pasta salad can serve as a great weeknight meal and it’s totally customizable. You can add whatever ingredients — in whatever quantities — you think will contribute to the taste profile you’re aiming for.

Fourth of July weekend, I made a pasta salad with gluten-free pasta, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, cured meats, red onion, mini peppers and grape tomatoes along with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I’d estimate I used about:

  • 16-ounce box of pasta

  • 3/4 cup chopped peppers

  • 3/4 cup chopped grape tomatoes

  • 3/4 cup Sopresseta and Genoa salami

  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives

  • 1/4 cup feta

  • Drizzle of olive oil

  • Drizzle of balsamic vinegar

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There are plenty of popular pasta salad recipes with varying ingredients to be found on the web like this hearty pasta salad that’s a crowd pleaser.

Caprese salad

I’ve never met a caprese salad I didn’t love. It’s one of my most-ordered apps (alongside burrata) when I go out to eat. And it’s so simple to make at home.

To make the version I often prepare (which is an easy copycat dish of the real thing) you’ll need:

  • 1-2 beefsteak tomatoes

  • Pre-cut mozzarella (log can come in 1 pound — if you have extra there’s zero reason to be upset about that)

  • Drizzle of balsamic glaze

  • Handful of basil

Simply layer thick cut tomato and mozzarella slices on top of each other in a repeated format and sprinkle pieces of basil on top. Drizzle balsamic glaze over to finish. You can also add olive oil, if you wish.

Ree Drummond has published her version of a caprese salad on The Pioneer Woman, and it’s a few steps longer than mine — and probably closer to the traditional dish.

Strawberry spinach salad

My mom has been making this salad since I can remember and now I’ve completely stolen it.


  • Four to five handfuls of spinach

  • Six strawberries

  • Half an avocado

  • 1/4 cup goat cheese

  • Drizzle dressing of your choosing (I usually use a strawberry blush wine vinaigrette by Brianna’s Home Style but plenty of sites, such as AllRecipes, have strawberry vinaigrette recipes readily available)

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Sometimes I top this with balsamic glaze instead of the vinaigrette, which is also good. This makes enough for two… but I’m not going to lie, I’ve eaten an entire batch of this salad in one sitting.

There are plenty of variations on this strawberry goat cheese combo if you are interested in incorporating other flavors, like this one from Laylita’s Recipes which uses arugula, red onion and spicy pecans.

Grilled peach salad

Peaches have to be my favorite summer fruit. I almost exclusively eat them in the warmer months and didn’t quite understand just how good they can be — though I was already a big fan — until I cooked them a bit for a salad a couple years back.

This salad is easy and feels similar to the strawberry spinach salad in terms of prep but with an added step to grill (or cook on your stovetop, if you’re without grill access) peach slices.

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To make this salad, which I initially used as a side to tuna steaks, I:

  1. Wash and slice two yellow peaches

  2. Cook the peach slices with a little avocado oil on stovetop

  3. Chop an estimated 1/4 of a red onion (whatever amount you desire)

  4. Add three to four handfuls of arugula to a bowl

  5. Add in red onion

  6. Add in an estimated 1/4 cup goat cheese

  7. Add warm peaches

  8. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar

  9. Toss

Peaches are a popular salad addition in the summer. This salad from Ambitious Kitchen includes spinach, toasted almonds and avocado — all of which sound like great additions to me.

Check out these recipes to up your kitchen game:

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  • Creamy risotto: Pearl couscous is the trick ingredient for creamy risotto

  • Fried rice: The secret to making great fried rice at home

  • Jambalaya: How to make Cheesecake Factory’s Cajun jambalaya pasta at home

  • Mustard makes it better: How to use mustard not as a condiment but as an ingredient

  • Pasta salad: Perfect every time: The only pasta salad recipe you’ll ever need

  • Cranberry sauce: Three cranberry sauce recipes you need to try

  • Sugar cookies: ‘The best sugar cookie I’ve ever baked.’ Here’s the recipe.

  • Kale can be tough: Raw kale can be tough. Here’s how salt can help

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Not sure what to make for dinner? Try one of these easy summer salads

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