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Substantial salads

Pasta salad with lettuce, cucumbers, yellow bell peppers, carrots, spring onions, tomatoes, sunflower and pecan nutmeat, and fresh basil and cilantro. Photo courtesy of Swell Vegan

The following vegan salads are easy to make. And they can be very hearty when you add ingredients such as beans, lentils, tofu cubes, nut and seeds, etc. If you eat dairy, you can top with your favourite cheese.

Greens – Your favourite fresh greens and dressing – add things like croutons, avocado slices, tofu, or veggie burger slices to make it more of a meal.

Beans or lentils – Use a combination of different colours and sizes for interest. Add fresh herbs, lemon juice and any chopped veggies you want. Avocado or salsa can be nice additions. Use canned beans or cook them from scratch in advance (after soaking first).

Pasta – Many kinds are available with different shapes and colours. You can also find gluten-free pasta made from rice or quinoa. Adding chopped tomatoes, basil, olives, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil makes a great salad. You can also use pesto, vegan mayonnaise or dilute hummus as a pasta salad dressing.

Noodles – Make an Asian inspired salad with long thin noodles, such as soba made from buckwheat. Add diced green onions and bell peppers, carrots cut into match sticks, tamari soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, chili oil if you like it hot, and top with toasted sesame seeds.

Corn – Fresh, frozen or canned corn with chopped bell peppers, tomatoes, other veggies, brown rice (if you have some leftover) and dressing.

Taco – Nachos, corn chips or tortillas with chopped tomatoes, guacamole, salsa, and pinto beans.

Fruit – Combine your favourite fruits with lemon or lime juice or fresh mint. Not your typical lunch but you can make it more hearty with the addition of nuts or a spoonful of nut butter or tahini.

Other salads: Rice, smoked tofu, marinated tofu, tabouli (bulgar and parsley olive oil and lemon), potato, couscous, kasha, etc.

Salad recipes

Mixed Bean Salad
Serves 4

3 (15oz/425g) cans of any variety of beans (kidney, navy, chickpeas, black, etc), drained and rinsed
¼ cup red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp prepared mustard
½ red onion, diced
1–2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil (optional)

Mix beans in a large bowl. Whisk the rest of the ingredients and pour over beans. Let sit for a few hours or overnight to allow flavours to meld. This will keep in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.

Black Bean/Corn Salad
Serves 4

2 (15oz/425g) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup corn niblets (fresh, frozen or from a can)
1 stalk/rib celery, finely diced
½ red onion, finely diced
½ red pepper, finely diced
½ green pepper, finely diced
1 lime, juiced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional – omit if you don’t like heat)
1 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Let sit for a few hours or overnight before serving to allow flavours to mix. This will keep in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.

Serve with whole grain bread or baked tortilla chips. With this recipe, you’ll be full until dinner.

Lentil/Rice Salad
Serves 4

1 cup cooked green lentils (start with ½ cup dry)
1 cup cooked brown rice (start with ½ cup dry)
2 ripe, but firm, tomatoes, diced
½ red onion, finely diced (or 2 to 3 green onions, sliced)
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
1 tsp salt (or more to taste)
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil (optional)
2 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro or parsley

Mix cooked rice and lentils together in a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until evenly combined. This can be served warm or cold. It’s very filling and nutritious.

Lentil & Spinach Salad with balsamic-orange dressing
(serves 4| <30 minutes)

Try this tasty salad served with whole wheat bread.

1 bunch of fresh spinach, washed (or a container of baby spinach leaves)
5 radishes, sliced
1 oranges, peeled and sectioned
1 cup lentils (use brown or green lentils – canned or cooked)

Ingredients for dressing

Zest and juice of one orange
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsps extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper


1. Prepare lentils by opening can, rinsing and draining. Or by cooking them for 2o minutes then rinsing under cold water to cool them.
2. Whisk all ingredients together.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Source: Casey Young (she and her husband took the Veggie Challenge).

Noodle Salad with Peanut Sauce
Serves 4

1 head broccoli, washed and cut into florets (peel and cut stalks too)
1 ( 8.8 oz/250 g) package noodles (rice, whole wheat or soba)
1 red pepper, cubed

Steam broccoli until bright green. Save broccoli water for cooking noodles. Rinse broccoli with cold water or submerge in ice water to retain bright green colour.

Boil noodles according to package directions. Rinse with cold water and set aside. Chop up the red pepper.

Peanut Sauce

½ cup peanut butter
¾ cup hot water (not boiling)
2 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 lime, juiced
1–2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp chili sauce or hot chili pepper flakes (optional)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Mix peanut butter and water until smooth (use a blender to make your life easier). Add the rest of the ingredients except cilantro and blend to combine. Add cilantro and stir through.

To assemble, pour peanut sauce over noodles to coat evenly. Add steamed broccoli and red pepper and mix through noodles. Eat warm or cold. Will keep for several days in the fridge.

Greek Salad
(serves 4| <30 minutes)

Salad ingredients

Half head of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
Half English cucumber, sliced on the diagonal
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 small red onion, chopped
1/4 cup black olives (Kalamata)
10 cherry tomatoes, cut into halves
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled (a vegan soy feta is available online or try this almond recipe or tofu recipe)

Dressing ingredients

1 Tbsp balsamic (or red wine) vinegar
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Dash of salt


1. Toss salad in a bowl. Arrange artfully.
2. Combine dressing ingredients in a small jar and shake.
3. Pour on dressing just before serving. Garnish with black pepper.

Adapted from: Vegetarian Tastes of Toronto, p. 24

Greek Salad with Marinated Tofu and Pasta
Serves 4

Marinated tofu

2 blocks extra firm tofu (450 g/16 oz), cubed
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
1 tsp salt
1 lemon, juiced
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil (optional)

Marinate tofu well in advance to get that “feta” like experience. Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. In a shallow covered dish, try to arrange tofu cubes in only one layer. Pour dressing over the tofu and let marinate at least overnight or longer. Stir occasionally to make sure all cubes marinate evenly (I often let this marinate for 2 days).


1-1/2 cups dry whole wheat fusili (corkscrew) pasta
¼ cup sliced black or kalamata olives
1 medium tomato, cut into chunks
½ cucumber, cut into chunks (English cucumber is best)
½ red onion, sliced
½ red pepper, cubed
½ green pepper, cubed

Boil pasta according to package directions. In a large bowl, combine pasta, olives and veggies. Add the marinated tofu along with the marinade. Mix well to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. If you like strong flavours, you may need additional dressing.


Unless mentioned, all of the above recipes are by Nimisha Raja. Nimisha teaches healthy cooking classes, and is a Heart Health Speaker for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. She is also an Education Alliance member of The Cancer Project’s “Food for Life” cooking series.


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