Seeing as it is the peak of summer time, we’re guessing that fruit salads are playing center stage in your picnic game. If not, is that because you find fruit salad a bit run of the mill and common? It doesn’t have to be—as these 18 ways to spice up your fruit salad repertoire prove to perfection.
Related Reading: How to Make Fruit Salad That Doesn’t Suck
Have you ever had a bite of fruit salad with that certain zing or zest—a touch of brightness and flavor that made you pause and think: “What is that?” Now you can be the person whose dish inspires that marvelous question. Perhaps it will be with an unexpected crunchy cacao nugget, briny feta, sprig of mint, or a tart Limoncello-spiked mouthful. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite secret ingredients that will add a punch and extra flavor to your next fruit salad, making you the star of any and every upcoming summer gathering.
Freshen Up With Herbs
Fresh herbs can instantly add a subtle oomph to your fruit salads, providing a unique herbaceous element.
Secret Ingredient: Mint
Freshly cut herbs, such as aromatic mint, can add a lovely flavor profile to fruit salads. This salad is bright and fresh, and full of antioxidants too. Get the Rainbow Fruit Salad with Citrus Mint Dressing recipe.
Related Reading: The Science of Why Summer Fruit Is So Colorful—and Good for You
Secret Ingredient: Basil
Sure, basil is a main player in some of those Italian favorites, such as pesto and Caprese salad. But basil can also complement sweets quite nicely. This fruit salad recipe incorporates fresh basil leaves in the mix as well as a salad dressing chock-full of the sweet, fragrant herb. The flavorful dressing is drizzled over berries, fresh peaches, and sweet corn for a balanced and colorful one-dish meal that proves fruit salad isn’t just for dessert. Get the Summer Salad with Fruits and Basil recipe.
Add a Little Acidity
For a balanced bite, acidity helps bring a certain zest and zing to your food.
Secret Ingredient: Lime Zest
Try It: Honey Lime Rainbow Fruit Salad
Lime zest can pack a punch and give saccharine fruit salad a little more balance and brightness. This recipe uses both lime zest and lime juice, and a touch of honey, which gives the salad a bit of sheen. Get the Honey Lime Rainbow Fruit Salad recipe.
Secret Ingredient: Balsamic Vinegar
Try It: Summertime Fruit Salad
You may not immediately think to put balsamic vinegar in a fruit salad, but Ina Garten does it, and for good reason—it adds a nice acidity to peaches, strawberries, and blueberries. Feel free to add a dollop of fresh whipped cream to up your fancy fruit salad game. Get the Summertime Fruit Salad recipe.
Secret Ingredient: Lemon Curd
Try It: Fruit Salad Made with Lemon Curd
Got some extra lemon curd on hand and not sure if you can handle another scone? Incorporate your lemon curd into your next fruit salad attempt. Paired with whipped cream, this decadent and tart fruit salad will be a showstopper at your next potluck. (This is another classic Barefoot Contessa move, too, and it fits in with our next tip.) Get the Fruit Salad Made with Lemon Curd recipe.
Crush It with Creamy Add-Ins
Creamy foods can help bind foods together, giving you a more harmonious tasting experience.
Secret Ingredient: Yogurt
Try It: Creamy Fruit Salad
In this fruit salad, yogurt adds a tangy and creamy kick without guilt, which also helps to bind all of the sweet fruits, which include grapes, pineapples, mandarin oranges, and apples. Get the Creamy Fruit Salad recipe.
Secret Ingredient: Coconut Milk
For those looking for a creamy, old-fashioned fruit salad but without the dairy, sub in coconut milk. This recipe features a diverse medley of fruits and is served with a creamy coconut and poppy seed dressing that your vegan dining partners (and everyone else) will fawn over. Get the Creamy Fruit Salad with Coconut and Poppy Seed Dressing recipe.
Salty cheese gives an unexpected yin and yang to sweet fruits.
Secret Ingredient: Feta
Who said fruit salad has to be primarily sweet? The saltiness and brininess of feta pairs excellently with the juicy and luscious texture of watermelon, which in this savory fruit salad recipe is grilled for an extra char and crunch. Get our Grilled Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Salad recipe.
Related Reading: Watermelon Slicers & Other Summer Produce Tools You’ll Want to Try
Secret Ingredient: Mozzarella
Try It: Berry Caprese Salad
Elevate your caprese salad game by adding fresh berries alongside fresh mozzarella, a drizzle of balsamic glaze, and some freshly cut basil. In this case, maybe it’s more fair to say that the fruit is the secret or unexpected ingredient, but either way, it’s delicious. Get the Berry Caprese Salad recipe.
Enhance the Sweetness
Face it, sometimes you just need more sweetness in your fruit salad.
Secret Ingredient: Marshmallows
Try It: Apple Cranberry Fruit Salad
While this fruit salad may get you in the mood for autumn or even a wintery holiday thanks to seasonal standbys like cranberries and apples, we can’t turn down any excuse for mini marshmallows. Try it with bananas and pineapple in the summer. Get the Apple Cranberry Fruit Salad recipe.
Secret Ingredient: Coconut
If the Caribbean seems way too far away and you’re craving the tropics, adding a bit of shredded coconut can instantly give you the sense of a warm, waterside vacation. In this recipe, the coconut adds a nice textural contrast to the softer fruits too. Get the Tropical Fruit Salad with Coconut and Lime recipe.
Incorporate Some Fruits of the Vine
Who doesn’t love a boozy fruit salad?
Secret Ingredient: Wine
Muscat, a sweet white wine, is simmered and (generously) poured over this melon-based salad, which is refreshing and delicious. Get our Melon Salad with Sweet Wine and Lemon recipe.
Secret Ingredient: Limoncello
If you happen to have a bottle of Limoncello from your Amalfi Coast vacation, this is a great way to use up that bottle (and yet again, is Ina-approved). Made from Italian lemon peels and zest, Limoncello is a tart and pungent liqueur. This boozy fruit salad will certainly uplift spirits. Get the Fresh Berry Salad with Limoncello recipe.
And…Consider a Few Other Add-Ins
As if that wasn’t enough, here are a few other secret ingredients that will add a kick to your fruit salads.
Secret Ingredient: Cacao Nibs
Cacao nibs and toasted hazelnuts add bits of crunch and nutty texture to this tropical-inspired fruit salad. Get our Tropical Fruit Salad with Cacao Nibs recipe.
Secret Ingredient: Pineapple Juice
Try It: Honey Lime Fruit Salad
Yes, incorporating fruit juice to your fruit salad is simple and delicious. The pineapple juice adds a touch of sweetness and helps bind all of the fruit together. A bit of honey and some lime juice add more flavor and balance. Get the Honey Lime Fruit Salad recipe.
Secret Ingredient: Greens
Try It: Summer Watermelon Cucumber Salad
Fruit salad doesn’t have to be all about the fruit. Adding a handful of greens, such as peppery arugula, crunchy cucumbers, or hearty kale can round out the sweetness of fruit salad. Get the Summer Watermelon Cucumber Salad recipe.
Secret Ingredient: Nuts (& Bread)
Try It: Sweet Panzanella Salad
Panzanella doesn’t always need to be a savory dish. In this sweet version, stale bread is toasted with butter and dark brown sugar, and mixed with tart raspberries, and a generous portion of toasted pecans for a nutty warmth. Get our Sweet Panzanella Salad recipe.
Bonus Hack: Change Up the Presentation
Try It: Fruit Salad Pizza
Reinvent your fruit salad game by mixing up the presentation and creating a fruit salad pizza. Serve your favorite fruit on top of a sweet crust, like a sugar cookie crust with a cream cheese frosting. Your friends will go bananas for a fun and delicious take on their favorite food. Get the Fruit Pizza recipe.
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