Easy Salad Bar Ideas

These DIY salad bar ideas are easy to prep for a satisfying meal! Load up a plate with salad toppings…

These DIY salad bar ideas are easy to prep for a satisfying meal! Load up a plate with salad toppings for an easy dinner on a weeknight or feeding a crowd.

Salad bar ideas

Not everyone loves vegetables. But almost everyone can get behind a good salad bar! We love the concept of salad bar for an easy dinner idea—something about calling it “salad bar” makes it more glamorous!

There are certain salad toppings that scream salad bar and make it even more special, like peas, hard-boiled eggs, or cottage cheese (or bacon bits!). Below, we’re sharing our favorite salad bar ideas so that you can recreate this simple weeknight dinner yourself.

Top salad bar ideas

The key to making a salad bar into a filling meal is to offer good protein options. If you’re making a vegetarian or vegan salad bar, use ingredients with plant based protein like beans, legumes, and nuts. Here are our top salad bar ideas for building your own at home (or jump to the recipe):

  1. Greens: Romaine lettuce, spinach, and mixed baby greens.
  2. Hard boiled eggs: With 6 grams of protein each, eggs are also one of the most nutrient-filled vegetarian protein sources around.
  3. Chicken: Make a recipe of pan seared chicken and slice it into strips of cubes.
  4. Cheese: Cheese is a great vegetarian protein: try shredded cheese, cheese cubes, or cottage cheese.
  5. Legumes: Try green peas, cooked lentils (like brown lentils or French lentils), black-eyed peas, and beans, like garbanzo beans / chickpeas, black beans, lima beans, white beans, or kidney beans.
  6. Whole grains: Try cooked quinoa, barley, farro, bulgur wheat, brown rice, or wild rice.
  7. Nuts and seeds: Try almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds.
  8. Raw veggies: Chop raw vegetables for toppings like carrots, broccoli, green onions, cauliflower, red onion, cherry tomatoes, and bell peppers.
  9. Bacon bits: Bacon bits are classic, as is cubed ham. (We eat mostly vegetarian so we use this coconut bacon).
  10. Salad dressing: Try our list of top homemade salad dressing recipes.
  11. Croutons: Top it all off with crunchy homemade croutons and your salad bar will be a hit.
Salad bar ideas

Tips for prep

The key to making a salad bar at home? Allow some prep time for all the vegetables; it does take a bit of time for cleaning and chopping. We like preparing extra veggies to use for lunches or dinners for days later. If you’re a hard-boiled egg fan like we are, make them in advance or leave enough time for easy prep (about 30 minutes total).

Salad dressings for a salad bar

Another key to salad bar dinner is a good salad dressing! We have a whole collection of delicious homemade salad dressings that are perfect for salad bar ideas. Honestly, we like leaning into classic salad bar nostalgia with ideas like Thousand Island and Blue Cheese! Here are some of our favorite salad dressing recipes to use on salad bar night:

Salad bar ideas

Dietary notes

These salad bar ideas are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and plant-based (depending on which ideas you use for your salad).

Frequently asked questions

What are some creative salad bar ideas?

Offer seasonal ingredients: berries in summer, apples in fall, etc.

Include cuisine-centered flavors: Mediterranean, Asian, Mexican, etc.

Provide a “build your own” option for customized salads.

Offer pre-made salad combinations for inspiration.

Include a “superfood” section with ingredients like quinoa, chia seeds, and hemp seeds.

How can I make my salad bar more appealing to kids?

Include kid-friendly toppings like grapes, raisins, and goldfish crackers.

Create a separate “kiddie corner” with bite-sized options.

Use colorful bowls and utensils to make it more fun.


Salad Bar Ideas

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  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Varies
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These DIY salad bar ideas are easy to prep! A plate loaded with salad toppings is perfect for weeknight dinners or feeding a crowd.



  1. Make the hard boiled eggs, according to the Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs or Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs methods.
  2. Wash and chop the vegetables; place them in serving bowls.
  3. Drain and rinse the chickpeas or beans, if using.
  4. Make the salad dressing. Serve!


These salad bar ideas are a meal concept, not a recipe: get creative and customize your toppings based on your preferences and what you have on hand! Add cooked meat for a non-vegetarian option. For a vegetarian option, be sure to include enough protein-filled items to satisfy, like eggs, chickpeas, cheese, and nuts.

  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Raw
  • Cuisine: American