Salads are rarely the main course in Filipino cuisine. In fact, most of the local salad recipes you’ll find are for sides – like ensaladang mangga (green mango salad) and atchara (pickled papaya). But the continued rise of the modern wellness movement has shifted the tastes of many health-conscious Pinoys. These days, locals are craving bigger, better, and more balanced salads that shine as satisfying meals on their own.
Are you on Team Salad? Here’s everything you need to know about building nutritious and delicious veggie-heavy bowls. Plus, recipe suggestions to put your salad-making skills to the test.
How to Build a Hearty Salad
1. Start with a bed of greens and fresh herbs.
Iceberg and romaine lettuce won't fail, but remember that you have more options. Kale, spinach, and Swiss chard rank among the most nutritious greens you can use. They pack essential vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. Don’t underestimate the power of fresh herbs, either! Though not as nutrient-dense as other veggies, they bring a ton of flavor. Basil, arugula, and cilantro can take a simple green salad recipe to greater heights.
2. Make the most of farm-fresh produce.
As a tropical country, the Philippines is home to a lot of produce. For the best quality fruits and veggies, source your staples from local farmers during peak seasons. Local fruits like mangoes, watermelon, and pineapple are best during summer. They taste better than anything you can get from abroad, for a fraction of the price.
3. Add different kinds of protein.
If you want your salad to fuel you for hours, then you need to add protein. But that doesn’t mean loading up on meat and other animal by-products. While eggs and chicken breast are accessible and healthy options, you can also use chickpeas, lentils, and other legumes to get your fill. Tofu is another favorite among plant-based eaters.
4. Add whole grains and healthy fats.
On top of protein, add fiber and fats to feel satiated. Whole grains like brown rice and adlai will fill you up without spiking your blood sugar like their processed counterparts. As for fats, choose healthy sources like avocados, certain cheeses, and seeds to meet your needs. Healthy fats are energizing and help your body absorb vitamins from other food.
5. Mix warm and cold ingredients.
When most people think of salads, they think of cold, soggy greens. But you can keep things interesting by adding warm elements to your bowl. Toss in roasted veggies like squash and carrots, crunchy air-fried tofu, and freshly cooked quinoa for contrast. Adding a bit of warmth to your salad makes it hearty and enjoyable even in cooler months.
6. Vary textures and flavors.
Bring in extra crunch with add-ons like nuts, croutons, and baked wonton strips. Dried fruits add sweetness and a chewy element. Throw in some pickled jalapeños and olives for a hint of tanginess. For concentrated umami, try capers and sun-dried tomatoes.
7. Finish with a homemade dressing.
Ultimately, dressing is what will take your salad from good to great. Store-bought dressings are fine in a pinch but making your own is worth the effort. You get to control what goes into the mix, allowing you to create your ideal blend of flavors.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. Start with pantry staples like olive oil and vinegar and work from there. If you have a packet of Knorr Sinigang Mix, dissolve it in water and mix with oil for a bright, flavor-packed dressing. Try it out in a shrimp sinigang salad recipe or drizzle it over any basic lettuce salad recipe to give it that asim-kilig factor.
Satisfying Salad Recipes to Try Now
1. Classic Cobb
This classic American dish is the epitome of a hearty salad. It has a base of chopped greens topped with colorful rows of tomato, avocado, bacon, hard-boiled eggs, bleu cheese, and chicken. If you want your version to be less fatty and more filling, swap the bacon for quinoa. You can also opt for high-protein, low-fat cheese like cottage or ricotta. Finish with a simple dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar, and Dijon mustard.
The traditional French salade Niçoise is composed of tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, olives, and canned anchovies or tuna, served over a bed of greens. The dressing is olive oil or a vinaigrette. Some modern variations feature cooked potatoes and crisp green beans, while others use seared fresh tuna for an elevated spin. While potatoes aren’t traditional, the carbo-loaded tuber makes this salad more energizing.
3. Naked burrito bowl
Gather all your favorite burrito ingredients for this Mexican-inspired take. Keep the tortilla wrap in the pantry, though. Instead, prep grilled chicken, black beans, and cheese for protein. Add romaine lettuce, red onions, corn, and tomatoes. Avocado slices or a few dollops of sour cream can make up the fat component. For grains, use brown rice. Toss everything in homemade tomato salsa.
4. Hawaiian poke
Traditional Hawaiian poke bowls feature rice, marinated raw fish, green onions, and spices. The base is foolproof already, but you’re free to top it with whatever you like. Many poke shops load their bowls with fresh produce like mixed greens, cucumbers, and avocado.
Other popular additions include wakame (Japanese seaweed salad), pickled ginger, and edamame. If you want to make this vegetarian, you can even swap the fish for tofu. Dress with a simple ponzu sauce made with soy sauce, sesame oil, and citrus.
5. Mediterranean chickpea
Protein-rich chickpeas are the star of this Mediterranean-inspired vegetable salad recipe. Combine chickpeas, cucumbers, onions, olives, and other veggies of your choosing. Then, crumble in some feta for those classic Greek flavors. Season it to taste and dress with a lemon-olive oil vinaigrette just before serving. Enjoy with breadsticks for crunchy carbs.
6. Chicken and kesong puti
Want something with a Filipino flair? Try this kesong puti salad. It has lean protein from chicken breast, healthy fats from cheese and avocado, and lots of fiber from fresh veggies. The crispy bacon makes it a bit indulgent, but it’s worth it for the flavor. The only thing missing is grains, so go ahead and add some adlai to make this a truly well-rounded meal.
7. Barbecue pasta
This list wouldn’t be complete without a pasta salad! This one uses cooked fusilli, but you can use any shape you have on hand. Macaroni and farfalle make great alternatives. Swap out the ham for inasal-style chicken to up the protein content. Add cheese or eggs for fat, or cook your veggies in olive oil first before tossing everything in the sauce.
Remember that the key to a hearty salad recipe is balance. As long as you have your essential carbs, protein, and fat covered, whichever you make is sure to satisfy.