« Slow cooker green chile chicken recipe | Main | Rhode Island clear clam chowder recipe »

The Perfect Pantry's top 10 salads for picnic, potluck or barbeque


Unofficially, summer draws to a close here in the United States on Labor Day Weekend. All around the country, kids return to school, and women pack away their white pants and shoes. For those who, like me, still have a barbeque or two on the calendar, and who (again, like me) believe that sides make the meal, here are ten of my very favorite recipes for salads to grace any porch or picnic table over the holiday weekend.

My husband Ted and I have fallen head-over-heels in love with broccoli slaw with cranberries and almonds (top photo), one of the all-time most popular recipes on The Perfect Pantry. The tangy yogurt dressing holds up better than mayonnaise on hot summer days, and the salad takes just minutes to throw together when you use store-bought broccoli slaw.


Couscous with orange and dried fruit sparkles like a dish of tiny jewels, and the orange flavor catches everyone by surprise. I have yet to find a menu that didn't have room for this vegan salad.


Ever since I learned how to cook quinoa in a rice cooker from Karina, the Gluten-Free Goddess, I've been building more gluten-free salads around it. A perfect match for any barbeque, quinoa, avocado, tomato and black bean salad with chipotle lime dressing can be spicy, or spicier. It's up to you, but if you're coming to my barbeque, your taste buds should know what to expect.


If "clothes make the man", then dressing makes the salad, and nowhere is that more true than in this vegan chickpea, quinoa and spinach salad with preserved lemon vinaigrette. Susan, a long-time reader, shared this vinaigrette recipe, and it's equally good on grilled vegetables or fish.


If you've made a whole rice cooker of quinoa, save some for this black bean, quinoa and red pepper salad with honey-lime vinaigrette. The dressing perks up the flavor of the beans and quinoa, and the salad looks colorful and festive on the picnic table.


I don't make this cucumber ribbon salad often enough, yet it's the perfect, simple, clean-tasting quasi-pickled salad that everyone loves. You absolutely need a mandoline to shave the thin ribbons lengthwise from the cucumber, but you don't need a fancy French mandoline. A very sharp cheese plane or large vegetable peeler would do the trick.


To me, the perfect accompaniment to barbequed ribs or chicken might just be a crispy lettuce wedge with low-fat Russian dressing, a throwback to the fancy meals of my childhood, updated with a version of Russian dressing that won't close my middle-aged arteries. A big platter of lettuce wedges, dotted here and there with pink dressing, would be a star at any party.


You know that I'm a serious noodle-holic, and that I believe no meal is complete without at least one noodle dish. Most often, I like my noodles flavored with Asian condiments, like this cold soba salad with peppers and ponzu dressing. Ponzu combines soy sauce with citrus, and what's more summery than that?


Cold curried orzo offers another option for pasta salad on the picnic table. This version is vegetarian, with cucumber, pepper, raisins and peanuts; you can make it more of a main course salad by adding cooked shrimp, diced rotisserie chicken, or chunks of grilled tofu.


If barbeques had an official fruit, it would have to be watermelon. A different way to serve it, this watermelon, feta and arugula salad with orange vinaigrette brings fruit to the table, but not for dessert.


Technically, it's not a salad, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that I didn't want to host a barbeque without bacon guacamole and tortilla chips on the table. And I thought you probably wouldn't want to, either.

Please enjoy my Top 10 side salads for your holiday party. Plus one.

Happy Labor Day to all.

Need more ideas for how to create salads with pizzazz? Get Dress Up Your Salad, my e-book packed with easy mix-and-match recipes, full-color photos and a few fun videos. Exciting salad recipes from everyday ingredients can be just one click away, on any computer, tablet or smart phone, with the FREE Kindle Reading app. Click here to learn more.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Any or all of these salds would be perfect for a picnic Lydia.

I am drooling! I would love any of these for dinner.

These all look so good, but that couscous with orange and dried fruit is at the very top of my list!
As a fellow RIer transplanted to AZ, I am thrilled to hear you survived Irene! So difficult watching you all go through that and so very grateful it wasn't as bad as it could have been!
Have a great day!

excellent round-up - I LOVE having these all under one bookmark.
Hope your are not still "camping out" in your own house with no power still...

Bellini, I think I could make a meal out of the side salads without any main dish at all!

Kalyn, all great, and like being asked to choose a favorite child, I'm not sure I could pick just one.

Lynne, be glad you are not in RI now; Hurricane Irene wasn't very kind to us. That couscous is a long-time favorite salad in my family.

Carol, so glad you like these Top 10 posts. Believe it or not, this one was hard to do -- I had at least 20 dishes on my first list! (Yes, still camping out. Thanks for asking.)

That would be one beautiful holiday table! You've highlighted some of my favorites from the past here!

I will take some of each of these please! Wish I could just reach out and grab a spoonful - these all look so good!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.