Between healthy fast-casual chains like Sweetgreen and upscale reinventions from top chefs, salads have come a long way in the past few years. When it comes to cookbooks and recipes, though, they still seem like an unlikely candidate to seek out. After all, salads are easy enough to make—you just mix together a bunch of vegetables, right?
But if you’ve ever panicked in the middle of getting a custom salad, started pointing at random ingredients on the salad bar, and ended up struggling through a weird mixture that doesn’t seem to mesh at all, then you know how difficult it can be to actually put together a great bowl.
That’s where these fabulous cookbooks come in. Not only do they cover the foundational elements of buying and prepping vegetables, all of them suggest interesting ways to layer new flavors, pair textures, and finally try out that fancy produce you’ve been eyeing at the farmer’s market. Whether you’re a salad aficionado or still trying to figure out what goes with cherry tomatoes, these healthy, salad-forward recipe books will change the way that you approach vegetables.
“Salad-ish: A Crunchier, Grainier, Herbier, Heartier, Tastier Way with Vegetables” by Ilene Rosen with Donna Gelb, $15.52 on Amazon
This book is all about pushing the limits of salad and incorporating a vegetable-forward philosophy into everyday life. In the opening manifesto, Rosen—who launched the popular salad bar at NYC’s City Bakery—delves into the foundational elements of a good salad and suggests some pantry staples and tools. From there, the recipes are divided up by season, which makes it easy to hone in on the produce in season when you want to eat. Inventive combinations like tofu skin with cabbage, and carrots with buckwheat honey will spice up your lunchbox, and beautiful photos provide plenty of Instagram inspo.Buy Now
Do you frequently Google “What should I make for dinner?” Did you love those multi-panel flip books that let you mix-and-match the heads, torsos, and legs of different characters when you were a kid, creating tons of new combinations? Then this new release is for you: With over 30 recipes in each of three key categories (Dressings, Toppings, and Bases), you can come up with thousands of variations on salad—and play dinner roulette to get inspired when you’re not sure what to eat.Buy Now
Part cookbook and part art book, Sherman’s gorgeous cookbook makes a convincing case for why salad should be a joyous everyday meal, not just a once-a-week thing for health. Clever recipes like a kale and lentil twist on bagna cauda, a watermelon radish and spring shoots plate for brunch, and even a salad-inspired martini (featuring herb-infused vodka) are easy to put together but sophisticated enough for parties. There are also short interviews with artists, chefs, and musicians like Alice Waters and Laurie Anderson, who offer their own favorite salad recipes.Buy Now
“Food52 Mighty Salads: 60 New Ways to Turn Salad into Dinner” by Editors of Food52, $11.59 on Amazon
Like the subtitle says, the focus here is filling, stick-to-your-bones salads that are still healthy and refreshing. That means plenty of approachable recipes with grain, pasta, and bread components, plus ones that spotlight proteins like seafood and meat, all through a vegetable-colored lens. In true “Food52” fashion, tips for home cooks are also scattered throughout, including easy flavor-boosting techniques like frying herbs or melting cheese for dressings.Buy Now
Perfect for people who hate leftovers or monotony, Brennan’s cookbook offers a different salad for each day. The recipes are organized by month, which means that home cooks also get a built-in guide to which types of produce are in season. They’re inventive but totally approachable and easy to put together, ranging from pure vegetables to heartier grain and noodle bowls, like a farro salad with artichoke dressing. Buy Now
OXO Good Grips Little Salad & Herb Spinner, $24.99 on Amazon
One of the best reviewed salad spinners for a reason!
Unlike the typical breakdown by season or meal, the recipes here are organized by vegetable. They cover more familiar roots and greens like kale, potatoes, and parsnips, as well as lesser-known ingredients like sunchokes and kohlrabi. For each, Berens offers a few different techniques to best draw out and enhance natural flavors. Beets get steam-roasted or pureed, for example, while tomatoes are tossed into a panzanella or stuffed with lentils. So, okay—this book is not strictly just a salad cookbook. But the non-salad recipes (plus Berens’ helpful notes on variations) are also really useful for understanding flavor combinations and textures.Buy Now
This is another not-strictly-salads cookbook. But if you’re looking for a comprehensive encyclopedia on vegetables, “Six Seasons” is the one for you (which is why we also featured it on our veggie-heavy cookbook list). As a chef and farmer, McFadden delves into the nitty-gritty of how to get the best out of each vegetable at any given point in its harvesting lifespan, from raw and marinated to steamed, stewed, and roasted. It’s so detailed that summer is divided up into three mini-seasons (thus totaling six). Among the standout salad recipes are a beet slaw with pistachios and raisins, and a raw asparagus salad loaded with breadcrumbs, walnuts, and mint.Buy Now