Diving into huge bowls of leafy salad greens and crisp vegetables is rejuvenating after the holiday marathon of rich food and sweets, but after a month or so, the refreshing feeling can give way to gastronomic doldrums. There’s a simple fix, though: Bolster your repertoire.
Just when you think you’ve tried every variation at your go-to chopped salad joint, we’re here to remind you there’s a whole world — literally — of salads you may have never tried.
We’ve rounded up eight that sound interesting and delicious but are still easy to make. From the super-healthy tabbouleh to the slightly more indulgent panzanella, these international options will give your lunches and dinners a little globetrotter-approved flair.
Fiambre is unique in its history and sheer magnitude of ingredients. In Guatemala, it’s specifically prepared for and eaten on Nov. 1, or All Saints’ Day. For centuries, families have spent this day visiting their deceased loved ones at graveyards. People bring different dishes to share with one another, all of them mingled and mixed until they become one: fiambre.
Translating to “served cold,” fiambre has an average of 50 ingredients, often including asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, corn, onions, fava beans, chicken, chorizo, hot dogs, salami, hard-boiled eggs and queso fresco. Different versions today include “red” (with beets), “white” (without beets) and a version where the ingredients are laid out separately to be mixed according to individual preference. You can adapt it by mixing your own favorite components in the signature vinegar and mustard dressing a day before eating to let the flavors blend.
Like many other salads from different countries, solterito has a long history built on being able to create a meal from whatever one has in the kitchen. The word “solterito” translates to “little single man,” and while the reasoning behind that specific moniker has been lost over time, it’s believed to have something to do with how simple this dish’s preparation is — in other words, perfect for a culinarily clueless bachelor.
Solterito differs somewhat from region to region, and a main variation involves swapping between broad beans and pork as the protein. Fava beans and corn should always be on the guest list. Your solterito should also include chunks of queso fresco cheese, chili pepper (rocoto is the authentic pick if you can find it), tomatoes, olives and red onion, all chopped, seasoned with parsley or cilantro and dressed with a vinaigrette.
The pairing of feta cheese with tomatoes, cucumbers and onions, known as horiatiki, came about in the 1960s and ’70s in the Plaka neighborhood of Athens as an answer to government restrictions on the price of “simple salads.” That slab of feta transformed a modest medley of veggies into a specialty dish for which restaurateurs could charge more. The idea to team soft white cheese with acidic vegetables wasn’t a new one, though: The roots of tomato and feta as a rural farmer’s snack are reflected in the name horiatiki, which means peasant salad.
Some regional variations include using other white cheeses and adding olives, capers and green peppers, but horiatiki has rules: no lettuce (it’s a summer dish and lettuce only grows in Greece in the winter), it shouldn’t be mixed much before serving, the cheese should be in one large piece on top, the tomato and cucumber should be largely cut and not cubed, there should be no red peppers and it should be served in a shallow bowl with bread (not pita).
Gado-gado translates to “mix-mix” in Betawi Malay, the language spoken in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta. The kind of dish designed to work with whatever odds and ends you have in your kitchen, gado-gado requires only an assortment of raw or lightly steamed vegetables. You can add hard-boiled eggs, tempeh, fried or baked tofu, mung beans or all of the above. Lontong or ketupat, a sort of compressed rice cake, can be thrown in or served alongside gado-gado. They work to help soak up the salad’s key ingredient: peanut sauce. Making the sauce is the only somewhat time-consuming part of the process, but it’s necessary for tying together all of gado-gado’s different flavors with a little bit of sweetness.
Larb is considered a salad, but it will appeal to carnivores. It’s all about the meat here, whether you use chicken, beef, duck, fish or pork (though you could use mushroom as a substitute). The dish is most commonly associated with northern Thailand, but it actually originated in Thailand’s neighbor, Laos, and is regarded as that country’s national dish. Complementing its citrusy sourness (unlike southern Thai cuisine,which favors coconut-milky curries, bright lime juice is a northern fare staple), salty, sweet, bitter and hot notes feature prominently in larb, so it’s a versatile treat for the taste buds. To make it, mince your chosen meat and flavor with fish sauce, lime juice, chilis and mint. You can add some greenery in the form of shallots and lemongrass, and serve along with lettuce cups and sticky rice.
By now, you may be sensing a theme: Many of the world’s salads were concocted generations ago to make use of leftovers and random ingredients people might have in the cabinets. In Tuscany, people realized stale bread could enjoy a second life if it was ripped up, oiled and introduced to the bright sweetness of tomatoes. No, this salad won’t be the healthiest in your portfolio considering it swaps greens for bread, but it’s irresistibly easy to make and, well, delicious. Once you have a hearty bread, tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil, you can get creative. Add fresh mozzarella or ricotta, peaches, peppers, onions, capers, garlic ― and sure, greens, if they’re sturdy like radicchio.
If you’ve ever ordered a mezze platter at a Middle Eastern restaurant, you’ve probably had tabbouleh. It’s the refreshing fluff of vibrant green parsley that complements your hummus and pita so well. Tabbouleh has an eclectic range of flavors that work together harmoniously. In addition to that parsley, it features tomato, onion, mint and bulgur, and is finished with lemon juice and olive oil. The dish goes all the way back to the Middle Ages, when it was created by people who lived in the mountains of Lebanon and Syria. Fun fact: In 2009, a team of 350 people worked together to make the world’s biggest bowl of tabbouleh, a thing we never even knew we needed.
Rosolli is traditionally a key component of the Finnish Christmas dinner, but it’s a fresh mix of flavors that would work any time of year. The foundation of rosolli is a blend of sweet, starchy and vinegary, and it should always start with a trio of root vegetables, most commonly beets, carrots and potatoes. Pickles add that briny acid and onions bring some savory heat. The dressing is a mix of sour cream or crème fraîche and vinegar that’s creamy and bright. Perhaps because those beets promise to turn everything hot pink, rosolli is often served in layers: Every veggie gets chopped up and stacked. More adventurous eaters can add pickled herring.