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5 Unexpected salad toppings

Karen Miner is the Food Associate Editor for SheKnows, ChefMom and FabulousFoods. She is a freelance writer, recipe developer and is also the cook, author and photographer behind the food blog, Tasty Trials, a collection of original reci...

Amp up a boring salad

Salads aren't just summer fare - they can make a hearty meal any time of year. Liven up a boring salad with some of these unexpected salad toppings. You’ll want to eat salad every night with flavors like these!

salad with prosciutto

Crispy prosciutto

Swap your bacon out in favor of its leaner cousin, prosciutto. This dry-cured ham has much less fat than bacon, making it a healthier choice for your salad. Although prosciutto can be eaten right out of the package, a good way to mimic the classic bacon bits topping is to crisp it up. Tear the prosciutto into strips and cook it as you would bacon, adding a small drizzle of olive oil to the pan. When the prosciutto strips have crisped, drain on a paper towel to dry, then break into pieces and sprinkle over your salad. The prosciutto adds a slight saltiness and a huge flavor boost to any salad.

Quinoa

This healthy ingredient has been popping up everywhere, so why not use it on a salad? Although it is usually considered a grain, quinoa is actually a seed that can be prepared the same way you would whole grains. Keep your salad vegetarian by adding a scoop of cooked quinoa to it. Since quinoa is high in protein and fiber, there’s no need to add meat.

Try these protein-rich salads for lunch >> 

Cocoa nibs

If you’ve never tried cocoa nibs, you’ve been missing out. Cocoa nibs are roasted and husked cocoa beans that have been broken into bits and add an unexpected element to any salad. Instead of sprinkling your salad with nuts, try cocoa nibs for crunch. Not only do they provide great texture, they also add a hint of smoky chocolate to a savory dish. For a delicious pairing, try adding cocoa nibs to a green salad with berries or citrus flavors.

Edamame

Most of us have eaten edamame in their pods at our favorite sushi restaurant, but shelled edamame (or soybeans) make a perfect salad topping too. Although you can steam or boil them in their pods and pop out each bean separately, you can also find already-shelled edamame, making it even more convenient to toss in a salad. Add this high-fiber, high-protein ingredient to any salad, especially one with Asian flavors.

Use edamame in this flavorful Asian salad >>

Salsa

Put those tortilla chips aside and use salsa on your salad instead. Replacing high-fat dressings with salsa is an easy way to cut calories but keep all the flavor. If the salsa is too chunky, whisk in a drizzle of canola oil to thin it out -- you won’t taste it but you’ll get better coverage for your greens. Choose a spicy salsa for kick or a fruit salsa for a little sweetness. Not only is salsa low in fat, you’re getting more vegetables on your salad by adding a spoonful.

Quick Tip

Have leftover quinoa from last night’s dinner? Use it in tonight’s salad for a quick and easy meal. Heat it up first and the quinoa will soak up all that flavorful salad dressing.

More on salads

5 Salads that will fill you up
Mason jar salad recipes
Raw kale and grapefruit salad recipe

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