What transforms a salad from a side dish to a main dish? When it comes to vegan main dish salads, that means combining plant-based proteins — legumes, grains, tofu, tempeh, seitan, etc. with fresh raw (and sometimes lightly cooked) vegetables (and sometimes fruits), herbs, and tasty dressings.
Salad entrées can include anything and everything, as long as the ingredients taste good at room temperature (or chilled) and please both the palate and eye. Some of these salads are composed or layered, adding to their appeal.
Perfect for potlucks, too
When warm weather hits, or you’re craving something lighter for dinner, this is a great round-up to explore. As a bonus, I’ll let you in on a little secret—this is where you may find a perfect dish to share at potlucks and other gatherings.
Many of these cool dishes look super appetizing, and keep well for many hours at room temperature—perfect qualities for food intended for sharing.
Vegan Niçoise-Style Salad: Bearing its French elegance beautifully, vegan Niçoise salad is a composed dish that may look fancy, but is incredibly easy to make. The traditional version is often made with tuna, but in this version, it’s replaced with baked tofu, which makes a great stand-in.
Vegan Cobb Salad: This vegan Cobb salad, inspired by the American classic, swaps in plant-based proteins for the traditional chicken and bacon, and replaces the customary hard-boiled eggs with chickpeas.
Vegan Teriyaki “Chicken” Salad: It’s easy to transform a contemporary classic composed cold platter into a plant-based version with chicken-style plant protein or baked tofu. This beautiful rainbow of a salad proves how easy it is to make compassionate versions of old favorites.
Vegan Buffalo “Chicken” Salad: Here’s any easy and delicious vegan Buffalo chicken salad with all the lively textures and flavors of the familiar “Buffalo” composition. Vegan butter and hot sauce envelop plant-based chicken, which then nestles on a simple lettuce, carrot, and celery salad.
Indonesian-Style Gado-Gado: This composed vegetable platter is inspired by a classic Indonesian dish. Translated literally as “mix-mix,” that’s just what gado-gado is — a mélange of raw and cooked vegetables, arranged on a platter and served with a rich peanut-coconut dressing.
Composed Asian-Flavored Tempeh Salad: Color, flavor, texture, and protein — this composed tempeh salad has it all. With an array of colorful veggies and a choice of two Asian-flavored dressings, it’s a perfect main dish salad.
Baked Tofu & Broccoli Salad with Mango & Chutney Dressing: This sturdy cool-weather baked tofu and broccoli salad has a double dose of mango (both the fruit and in the chutney dressing), for a feast of flavor, color, and texture.
Cool Cucumber and Kale Salad with Hot and Spicy Tofu: If you enjoy salads that are both hot and cold, you’ll love this cool and refreshing cucumber and kale salad, topped with sriracha-sautéed tofu.
Pasta and Quinoa Salad with Corn and Tomatoes: Corn and tomatoes give this pasta and quinoa salad a summery feel, though you can enjoy it any time of year. This is perfect for outdoor meals and potlucks.
Lemony Quinoa and Chickpea Salad with Fresh Herbs: In her signature easy, flavor-filled style, Laura Theodore presents a lemony quinoa and chickpea salad embellished with fresh parsley and basil. This cold dish is especially good in the warmer months, but can be served any time of year.
Vegan Pasta “Tuna” Salad: Made with baked tofu or plant-based tuna, this recipe brings a nostalgic classic into the 21st century. Incorporating cucumber, celery, cabbage, scallion, and parsley, it’s a great warm-weather main dish.
Vegan “Tuna” and White Bean Salad: Proving that anything can be made in a plant-based version, vegan “tuna” and white bean salad is a classic that’s welcome for lunch or dinner.
Barbecue-Flavored Tempeh Salad: As a light meal, this delectable barbecue-flavored tempeh salad can stand on its own, especially for lunch. Add some baked fries (homemade or organic frozen) for a fun meal.
Potato Salad with Red Beans & Artichokes: This potato and bean salad is satisfying enough to be a main dish, though it’s welcome as a side dish in smaller portions or packed into a container as a portable lunch. Though the yum factor in this potato salad is provided by marinated artichoke hearts.
Black Lentil Salad with Peppers and Olives: Hearty and substantial, this black lentil salad can be also be made with brown or green lentils, and is beautiful and festive no matter what kind you use.
Kale Salad with Chickpeas & Avocado: A simple kale salad, this features a lemon-olive oil dressing and is arranged in a pleasing presentation for extra eye appeal.
Quinoa and Red Bean Salad with Mini Sweet Peppers: Quinoa and beans join forces to create an ideal centerpiece for a meal. Extra eye appeal comes from the mini sweet peppers, which you can find in the produce department of well-stocked markets.
Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Black Beans & Corn: Black beans, corn, and avocado come together in a hearty southwestern quinoa salad that’s a fantastic main dish.
Kale and Avocado Salad: This salad is seriously delicious, with the addition of corn and tomatoes. Add the optional beans and it becomes a main dish salad.
Kale and Quinoa Salad with Black Beans: With black beans, quinoa, and pumpkin seeds as a trio of protein ingredients, larger portions of this kale salad can easily be served as a main dish.
Hot and Cool Layered Black Bean Taco Salad: Here’s a fast and fun main dish that has it all — salad veggies, high-protein beans, and two “yum factor” ingredients — good-quality tortilla chips and vegan cheese.
Vegan Kale Caesar Salad is topped with spiced chickpeas instead of the traditional croutons and is enveloped in an easy creamy dressing.
Curried Vegan “Chicken” Salad with Grapes and Almonds: This easy vegan “chicken” salad recipe — the classic curried variety — can be served on fresh bread or dolloped onto lettuce leaves.
Rice Noodle Salad with Plant-Based “Steak”: In this vegan rice noodle salad, strips of beefy-style vegan plant protein, cucumbers, cilantro, and an optional hint of mint star in a Thai-inspired cold dish that’s both hearty and refreshing.
Hearty Seitan Salad: Here’s a delectable vegan seitan salad that can also be made with high-protein plant-based “steak” (which is often made with similar ingredients as seitan). It’s a hearty salad that you can enjoy on its own, or stuff it into fresh pita bread for a satisfying sandwich meal.
Beautiful Buddha Bowls: Many of these are, after all, basically composed individual salads. Here’s a slew of ideas for Buddha Bowls you can make without a recipe.