25 Main-Course Summer Salads That Are Packed with Protein

Bryan Gardner

Summer nights are made for refreshing, fuss-free suppers starring in-season produce, and these main-course salads fit the bill. Each is packed with crisp, crunchy ingredients and bursts with nutrients and protein. Case in point? The Shrimp Cobb with Cilantro Lime Dressing that's pictured here. It's filling enough to serve as your entrée but light and bright enough to suit the warm-weather season. Big on taste and often low on prep time, we have a variety of recipes for hearty, tasty salads that make perfect summer main dishes.

An easy and delicious source of protein comes from meat, and many of our favorite entrée salads use it as a main ingredient. For the steak lover, create our Citrus Steak Salad, which uses strip steaks and navel oranges. If red meat isn't your thing, make our Cucumber and Celery Salad with Tuna, which can be put together in only 10 minutes. Another source of lean protein can be found in chicken. Our Chicken Salad with Pineapple-Lime Dressing is just the thing to eat on your patio while enjoying the setting summer sun.

Preparing dinner for someone who doesn't eat meat? We have many vegetarian main dish salads that are just as filling and delicious. Create our Bean, Corn, and Tortilla Salad, which uses fibrous pinto beans, corn, and tomato salsa. Another favorite is our Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad. Refreshing watermelon pairs perfectly with heirloom tomatoes for a sweet and tangy bite. For another tomato-focused option, try our Gazpacho Salad with Croutons. It transforms the treasured summer soup into a refreshing main-dish salad with croutons, tomatoes, and cucumbers, and it comes together in just 25 minutes. Meanwhile our Greek Mezze Salad features roasted za'atar chickpeas, grape leaves, and cucumbers in this quick yet filling dish.

Ahead, find more delicious and healthy main-dish salads that are sure to delight.

01 of 24

Salmon Nicoise with Caper Dressing

Bryan Gardner

Make your salade Nicoise more sustainable by using salmon instead of the traditional tuna. It's loaded with heart-healthy omega fats and pairs beautifully with creamy potatoes, briny olives, and tender green beans.

02 of 24

Summer Waldorf with Yogurt-Tarragon Dressing

Bryan Gardner

How do you make a Waldorf summery? Replace the apples with sweet-tart plums. We also mix things up by adding toasted almonds instead of walnuts.

03 of 24

Barbecued-Chicken Salad

Bryan Gardner

Toss flame-kissed chicken and corn with lettuce, avocado, cherry tomatoes, and tortilla chips for this smoky, satisfying salad.

04 of 24

Shaved Carrot Salad with Baked Tofu

Bryan Gardner

Tamari-flavored baked tofu adds heft to a deliciously simple kale and carrot salad. Sliced scallions add an extra note of brightness.

05 of 24

Roasted-Chicken Bread Salad with Peas

Johnny Miller

Toasted rustic bread soaks up the precious roast chicken juices, and green peas, sugar snap peas, and pea shoots add the perfect amount of freshness and crunch.

06 of 24

Halibut Salade Nicoise

Bryan Gardner

Parsley-flecked lemon vinaigrette ties all the flavors together in this elegant riff on the French classic—poached halibut, boiled baby creamer potatoes, blanched haricots verts, Bibb lettuce, and English cucumbers.

07 of 24

Chicken Taco Salad

Mike Krautter

Skip the fast-casual Tex-Mex and treat yourself to this zesty salad instead. It packs a serious punch thanks to all of its flavorful components.

08 of 24

Asian-Style Grilled Beef Salad

John Kernick

We love turning last night's dinner into another meal. Leftover Spiced Steak Kebabs become a delicious Thai-inspired salad when tossed with butter lettuce, mint, scallions, and roasted peanuts. Fresh lime juice, fish sauce, and Thai chile give it a spicy-tangy kick.

09 of 24

Market Salad with Poached Chicken

Courtesy of Gentl and Hyers

Run-of-the-mill chicken breast gets fancy when poached in white wine, vinegar, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, cinnamon, bay leaves, and chile pepper. Toss with endive, watercress, chicory, and watermelon radish and drizzle with lemon citronette for a stunning seasonal salad.

10 of 24

Grilled-Salmon Salad


Grilled salmon and charred sugar snap peas give this main-course salad a smoky edge. Eight-minute eggs, watercress, and boiled new potatoes complete the hearty crowd-pleasing entrée.

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Chopped Lemongrass Chicken Salad

Chopped Lemongrass Chicken Salad

This chopped salad pairs marinated chicken with tropical fruit and summer vegetables, making it the perfect summertime meal.

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Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad


Nothing says summer quite like watermelon. The sweet fruit pairs beautifully with tangy tomatoes. Protein and good fats from avocado and feta make this dish filling.

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Scandinavian Shrimp Salad

scandinavian shrimp salad served on a pink plate
Lennart Weibull

This light salad packs a ton of protein thanks to the eggs and shrimp. Potatoes are another filling component that makes this a tasty entrée salad.

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Crispy Panko Shrimp Salad

Crispy Panko Shrimp Salad
Ren Fuller

Panko fried shrimp gives this satisfying salad a little crunch. It comes together in under 30 minutes and is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.

15 of 24

Late-Summer Chopped Salad with Cottage Cheese

late summer chop

Cottage cheese is the unsung hero in this salad. Full of protein and calcium, this surprising addition to a modern chopped salad makes the dish even more filling and tasty.

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Stuffed BLT Salad

blt tomato salad
Christopher Testani

Your favorite sandwich takes salad form with this modern take on a bacon, lettuce, and tomato dish. Juicy heirloom tomatoes and seasoned toast are placed on top. The giant tomato bowl is optional.

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Italian Hero Chopped Salad

italian hero chopped salad
Justin Walker

This versatile salad works with whatever meats you have available. Spicy marinated vegetables give the classic chopped salad an Italian flavor.

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Greek Mezze Salad

Greek mezze salad
Armando Rafael

Roasted za'atar chickpeas, grape leaves, and cucumber come together in this quick yet filling summer salad.

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Lighter Cobb Salad

Lighter Cobb Salad

A main-dish salad favorite, this iteration of a cobb salad calls for low-fat buttermilk and light mayonnaise.

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Chicken Salad with Pineapple-Lime Dressing

Chicken Salad with Pineapple-Lime Dressing

The pineapple-lime dressing gives this salad a refreshing taste that's perfect for the summer months.

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Gazpacho Salad with Croutons

gazpacho salad with croutons
Christopher Testani

Turn a favorite summer soup into a main dish salad. Our Gazpacho salad with croutons is light, refreshing, and comes together in only 25 minutes.

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Cucumber and Celery Salad with Tuna

Cucumber and Celery Salad with Tuna
Petrina Tinslay

This main dish summer salad takes only 10 minutes to create, but it's super filling. It's made with two cans of solid white tuna, cucumbers, celery, and poppy seeds for an added crunch.

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Citrus Steak Salad


This summer salad comes together in under 30 minutes. Its light, citrusy taste and subtly-seasoned steak make it simply delicious.

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Grilled Asparagus and Farro Salad

Grilled Asparagus and Farro Salad recipe
Chris Simpson

Freshly grilled asparagus is the star of this delicious salad, which features lemon zest, sliced almonds, and briny feta cheese atop filling farro.

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