12 Unusual Salad Ingredients • Kath Eats

I’m sharing unusual salad ingredients that add nutrition and flavor – your salads will never be boring again!

Are you tired of the same old green salads that lack excitement and flavor?

I love a big ol’ salad, but if they’re not full of interesting ingredients, then no one is excited about eating a boring bowl of greens. A great salad has multiple flavors and textures. And I’m a big fan of making homemade salad dressings – they’re super easy to whip up with ingredients that you already have in your pantry, like olive oil and vinegar.

Today I’m sharing a delightful array of unusual salad ingredients that will inspire the way you approach your greens – say goodbye to the mundane. These ingredients will add vibrant color, unique texture, and delicious flavors to your salads. Get ready to re-think boring with these 12 unexpected and creative salad toppings. 

Experiment with different combinations to discover your own unique salad creations!

prep bowl of quinoa salad with feta

prep bowl of quinoa salad with feta

12 Unusual Salad Ingredients

1. Candied Nuts

Instead of regular toasted nuts, try candied pecans, walnuts, or almonds for a sweet and crunchy twist. Here’s a basic recipe for candied nuts.

2. Edible Flowers

Did you know some flowers are edible!? Add a pop of color and delicate flavors with edible flowers like pansies, nasturtiums, or violets.

3. Coconut Flakes

Toasted coconut flakes can add a tropical and slightly sweet element to your salad. This summery quinoa salad – toasted coconut, mint, and crumbled goat cheese add extra delicious flavors!

4. Roasted Chickpeas

For added texture and protein, try roasted chickpeas with various seasonings like cumin, paprika, or garlic. This Greek Salad would be fantastic with roasted chickpeas.

5. Pickled Fruits or Vegetables

Pickled watermelon rinds, beets, or even strawberries can provide tanginess and a unique twist. Here’s a quick guide on easy pickling.

6. Dried Fruits

Dried fruits like apricots, figs, or golden raisins can bring a burst of sweetness to your greens. (Although I can’t say the mayo-coated raisins in a waldorf salad are my favorite, haha.)

7. Seaweed

Add a touch of umami and ocean flavor with dried seaweed, such as nori or dulse, to your salad.

8. Grilled Fruit

Grilled peaches, pineapple, or even watermelon can add smoky and caramelized flavors to your salad.

9. Pomegranate Seeds

These little bursts of tangy juiciness can elevate the taste and visual appeal of any salad. Try my Ultimate Fall Wheatberry Salad – it’s one of my favorite salads to bring to a fall get-together.

10. Crispy Shallots or Onions

You know I’m not a fan of red onions, but if you are, try crispy shallots or onions for a savory and crunchy addition instead of croutons.

11. Parmesan Crisps

These are one of my all-time favorite salad toppers because they are so crunchy yet melt in your mouth! They are also surprisingly high in protein. I buy them at Trader Joe’s or Costco.

12. Chips

Take this one from the page of Chopt salad book! I love their salads with tortilla chips crushed in. If I’m craving something crunchy and don’t have anything but tortilla chips, they make a great salad topper! Crush a few and sprinkle on top. Pita chips are naturally another great addition, and those thin pretzel crisps are good too!!

I like adding cooked veggies to my raw salads. Try roasting cherry tomatoes and zucchini with olive oil and salt + pepper.

My Salad Recipe (With Sort-of Unusual Ingredients)

My go-to salad as of late, as we transition into fall foods and flavors, is my Fall Harvest Salad Recipe. It’s made with massaged kale as the base and topped with roasted butternut squash, crumbled blue cheese, sliced Honeycrisp apple, and crunchy spiced pecans. A maple and apple cider dressing brings it all together. I love the sweet and savory flavors!

  • Butternut Squash – either one large whole squash or a tub of pre-cubed squash from the grocery store
  • Kale – a large head, 2 mediums, or a bag of pre-chopped to save time
  • Honeycrisp Apple – my favorite, but use whatever you like!
  • Spiced Pecans – you can also use plain and toast them
  • Blue Cheese – Bleu d’auvergne is my favorite variety (buy it in a block and crumbled it yourself)
  • Cinnamon – just a dusting for the squash to roast in

Maple + Apple Cider Vinaigrette

  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • salt + pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash butternut squash, peel, slice in half, de-seed, and chop into cubes. Use a pre-cubed container for a shortcut.
  3. Spread cubes of butternut squash out on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle on cinnamon. Massage butternut until well coated and bake for 30-35 minutes, until fork tender and browning at the edges.
  4. While squash bakes, wash and dry kale and remove any stems. Chop into small pieces. Slice apple thinly. Crumble blue cheese.
  5. To make the dressing, grate garlic clove and combine all ingredients in a jar and whisk or shake.
  6. Massage kale with dressing using clean hands until kale is bright green and softens. Allow to sit and marinate at least 20 minutes.
  7. Add kale to a large bowl and toss with roasted butternut squash, apple, pecans, and blue cheese.
  8. Serve as a side, a light lunch, or as a base for a meal salad with protein of your choice on top (i.e. grilled chicken breasts, chicken salad, hard-boiled eggs).

Find all the KERF salad recipes here! 

I have a bunch of unique salad recipes, including pasta salads, roasted tofu potato salad, a great summer salad recipe, and much more! You won’t find any iceberg based salads here 😉

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