These salads can be made-ahead and don't get soggy. We call that a win-win!

By Laura Rege
July 22, 2021
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Now is the time of year when we want to be enjoying all the fresh, seasonal produce, and if you're attending an outdoor event, there's a good chance you'll be asked to bring a side. This is exactly when summer salads come into play. While crisp green lettuce salads have their place on the dinner table, they don't hold up in transport, and they don't do well sitting on a table waiting to be eaten. Instead, look to crunchy slaw recipes or pasta, corn, grain, and potato salads, which all hold up to heat and time.

For the freshest and most satisfying summer meals, we've selected creative versions of each of these types of salad that also won't weigh you down in the summer heat. What's more, we think these recipes taste better at room temperature than cold, but they can also be made ahead and refrigerated in advance of the meal. We've included make-ahead tips to help you get started with the prep work and keep everything as easy as possible—the way summer dining should be.

cilantro-lime kale slaw with seeds served in a blue bowl
Credit: Linda Xiao

Cilantro-Lime Kale Slaw with Seeds

For a salad that contrasts lots of greens with lots of crunch, prepare this healthy and light Cilantro-Lime Kale Slaw rather than a lettuce-based salad, which is prone to wilting as it sits. Pairing shredded kale with crisp cabbage and carrots allows the kale to soften a bit in the creamy yogurt dressing, while promoting the much-needed crunch from the other vegetables and a crunchy seed mixture.

Make-Ahead Tip: The slaw can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to five days.

herbed celery-potato salad
Credit: Linda Pugliese

Herbed Celery-Potato Salad

Potato salad doesn't always mean mayonnaise-doused potatoes; swapping out the usual mayonnaise for an apple cider-vinegar dressing makes this Herbed Celery-Potato Salad healthier and lighter with a nice little tang. Tons of herbs, crisp bits of celery, and adorable peewee potatoes are tossed together into a delightful salad that stands the test of time. We often recommend adding herbs at the last minute, which can feel fussy, but here we suggest you put them in as soon as possible; the flavors really meld as it sits, so don't hold off. If peewee potatoes aren't available at your grocery store, just dice larger creamer or Yukon gold potatoes instead.

Make-Ahead Tip: Make this a day ahead to let the flavors meld, and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Grilled Corn, Mint, and Scallion Salad
Credit: John Dolan

Grilled Corn, Mint, and Scallion Salad

In-season corn is the base for some of summer's most irresistible, wilt-proof salads, the little kernels hold up to cooking and different dressings. In our Grilled Corn, Mint, and Scallion Salad, we keep it simple by giving the cobs a quick turn on the grill to add smoky flavor and caramelize the kernels in places. Then remove them from the cob and mix with just oil, mint, and scallions—the kernels taste that good right off the barbecue. To emphasize the overall flavor of the dish, squeeze some fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice or sprinkle a dash of vinegar over the side.

Make-Ahead Tip: This salad can be made up to five days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Chickpeas
Credit: Ren Fuller

Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Chickpeas

Mixing up a classic is one of our favorite things to do in the test kitchen, so when we created this recipe, we really wanted to make sure it felt seasonal. For our Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Chickpeas, we selected gemelli noodles which are not a typical shape for pasta salad but the tangy lemon vinaigrette and other ingredients cling to this pasta which makes for nice cohesive bites. To keep it fresh we paired seasonal ingredients, tomatoes and fennel rather than celery, with flavorful crowd-pleasers: creamy mozzarella, nutty chickpeas, and briny capers. Finished with a nutty dusting of parmesan, this salad holds its own as a delicious, hearty dish and in terms of longevity.

Make-Ahead Tip: Make and refrigerate up to a day ahead; let stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving.

rice salad with tomatoes cucumbers feta
Credit: Paola + Murray

Rice Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers, and Feta

Grain salads are a perfect fit for make-ahead summer sides. Grains actually taste better as they marinate, soaking up the dressing, but they also retain their al dente bite no matter how long they sit. This Rice Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers, and Feta, is a versatile dish that could easily be made with wheat berries, farro, barley, or your other favorite grain—just make sure to follow cooking instructions for the particular grain as times and water amounts vary. Another key to a delicious salad with longevity is selecting seasonal vegetables that don't get soggy when added. Here we tossed in tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, mint, and finished the salad with an addictive briny pop of feta cheese.

Make-Ahead Tip: This salad can be refrigerated in a covered container, without the feta and herbs, for up to a day. Remove it from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving, then fold in the cheese and herbs.

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