Have you ever wondered how people make those beautiful fall salad bowls you see all over Pinterest?
Well search no more! I’m sharing my not-so-secret formula for how I make my own fall salad bowls that are pretty enough to motivate me to eat salad every day. And the best part, they actually don’t take long to make.
There are two secrets to building these bowls:
Secret 1: Use leftovers and staples!
Sometimes recipes for these will have so many parts that each need their own making time. I saw one a few years ago that looked inspiring. But you had to basically make 5 different recipes just to have stuff to layer on!
That salad you see below…it has leftover maple balsamic roast and leftover curry lime sweet potatoes. It also has gouda cheese, candied pecans, pickled onions, and honeycrisp apple. It’s topped with a maple walnut vinaigrette. Everything was already made. (The cheese came shredded). The only work I had to do was chop the lettuce and apple. I also heated up the sweet potatoes and roast because I like it that way. But they’re cooked so it’s not necessary if you like your salad with only cold components.
You don’t have to start from scratch with these and make a seasoned meat, make a roasted vegetable, make this and that. Look in your fridge at your leftover fall main dish meats and vegetables. When I have sautéed Brussels sprouts, in they go. When I have roasted potatoes, in they go. When I have smoked chicken, in it goes.
For staples, there are things I always like in my salad bowls and grain bowls so I keep them on hand. One of those things is pickled onions. I love them and want them in every bowl. I often like kalamata olives too. As a result, I always have these in the fridge. When my favorite olives go on sale, I pick some up and keep them in the pantry so they’re always there.
The onions I make. I follow this recipe (Give me Some Oven Quick Pickled Onions) and they are fast and easy to make. They only take 5 minutes, then chill. And one jar lasts me at least a month, even with me putting them on so many things and using them almost every day. So even though I have to make something for my salad, I make it once, usually when I’m doing something else in the kitchen too, and it’s ready for my salad every time.
For me, the onions, olives, nuts, seeds, etc… are staples. I always have nuts and seeds in my freezer. The others are either in my fridge or pantry.
Secret 2: Use a formula!
So I have a way to making these that helps me decide what to put in. It helps me keep things balanced and keeps me from finding everything I can possibly find in my house to go into the salad and putting it in there. I’m giving you my formula, and I also made a printable chart below to help you!
Base layer: This is the ‘salad’ part. I like a combo of iceberg and any dark greens. You could use kale (very in-season of you), or even turn this into a grain bowl by putting a wild rice mix, bulgar, etc…I’ve actually used some leftover orzo salad once as my base layer.
*TIP- The shallow wide bowls are a part of what makes these pretty. If you have those, use them.
Protein layer: Again, leftovers are great here. If you don’t have a leftover protein you want to use, you can add in rotisserie chicken, hard boiled eggs, or chopped lunchmeat.
Cheese layer: For autumn specifically I like gouda. It goes well with a lot of fall flavors like apple and pomegranate. Havarti is another good one. Sharp cheddar goes in any season. And now I’ve noticed some autumn cheeses cropping up in the store. I’ve seen pumpkin spice gouda and cranberry brie. There are also sometimes some seasonal goat cheeses.
Crunch: I like a bit of crunch, so I almost also add a nut or seed. In the fall, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts and pecans are in season. But you don’t have to stop there. Fresh crisp apples provide a great crunch, and pear slices do the same. I also sometimes use dehydrated apple chips or freeze dried ones.
Extras: This is all the other things I like. This is the pickled onion, the olives, the leftover roasted sweet potato or potato or any roasted fall vegetable. This is the dried cranberries or dried cherries. It’s really where creativity and personal flavor choices come in and it us a great opportunity to add fall flair.
Dressing: Of course we top if all off! My favorite fall dressing is my Maple Walnut Vinaigrette (It’s in my cookbook here in both print and Kindle). Maple dijon is another good one. I’ve made an apple cider dressing before. Cinnamon shallot sounds good. Or, you could just go with your favorite and not worry about seasonal flavors here.
I’m not making a printable recipe card for this because it can change according to your loves. But you can click on the image below to download and print and use it to guide your salad making adventures!
One final tip!
In addition to using wide shallow bowls to make these beautiful, I try to layer my toppings with different colors and textures next to each other. For example, I don’t put a white cheese next to a white chopped apple. Or apple cubes next to sweet potato cubes and so on and so forth.