Types of Salads Everyone Must Know
Different types of salads and salad dressings are a staple in the culinary world. There are many types of salads to master, some easy and some difficult. While there are some basic guidelines to follow, types of salads and salad dressings are largely left up to interpretation. Indeed, there are many classic types of salad such as a Nicoise, Cobb or Caesar.
Salads were born from the simplicity and thrive with the creativity and infinite combinations that can be used. The best types of salads and salad dressings in the world have yet to be discovered. Understanding what defines the many types of salads and what types of dressings there are, your options and horizons widen. No longer will you have to pick up dressings from the store when you can make your own.
I’ve put together some additional resources for you to access if you are needing more information. Our page on salad greens is incredibly useful as we go through all the types of salad greens.
- Everything you need to know about salad greens (opens in a new window, click to save for later)
- Need to brush up on your knife skills? Check out our post on knife cuts.
- Our comprehensive guide on cookware sets for 2019
Making a vinaigrette is simple. There is a ratio to follow of 3:1. That means three parts oil to one part vinegar. This ratio is the same no matter what type of vinaigrette you are making. The creativity stems from what you do with that base. If you need a good recipe, try my Italian Vinaigrette recipe here. Delicious for those tossed salads. Be sure to pick up this fantastic recipe book from Amazon for more vinaigrette ideas.
There is quite a bit to cover when it comes to salads. From composed salads to salad greens to salad dressings, knowing and being familiar with each type of even the basic ingredients can take a long time to experience. We’ll start off this article with the identification and labeling of the various types of salad.
Overview of Salad and Dressing Types
- Tossed Salads – Salads tossed together (Caesar Salad, Green Salad)
- Composed Salads – Salads which are skillfully built (Cobb Salad)
- Bound Salads – Salads that are bound together in a mass (Tuna Salad, Chicken Salad)
- Farinaceous Salads – Salads made up of starches like potatoes, quinoa, or pasta (Potato Salads, Pasta Salads)
- Vinaigrette Dressings – Oil and vinegar based
- Mayonnaise-Based Dressings
- Emulsified Vinaigrette Dressings – Dressings that used an emulsifier to combine oil and water
Salad Recipe Books, Inspiration, and Resources
Before you get started creating your salads, you need to have a form of inspiration. For most people, salads are bland and basic with very little creativity. This can lead to avoidance, which is terrible because salads can be incredibly healthy and delicious.
There are hundreds of different regional cuisines and countless variations of salad. The good news is that all salads fall into the four types. If you are looking for some inspiration, here are some of our favorite salad recipe books.
Some of the more modern and cutting edge restaurants are pushing the boundaries of what a salad is and the flavor profiles of each. One of our favorite recipe books for salads was The Modern Salad from Amazon. It blew us away with how much variety was contained. A very good resource for chefs and home cooks alike.
For vegans, it can be hard to find recipes that are delicious and healthy. When I was looking for vegan recipes for a restaurant menu I was helping launch, I found the Salad Samurai on Amazon an incredible resource and very inexpensive. I had expected to buy 3 or 4 cookbooks to find something, but I only need this book.
Resources to Make Your Life Easier
If you want to become an expert on salads, you need to be sure you have the proper kitchen tools around. Take a moment to think about what types of tools you have to assist you in creating and serving salads.
The most frequently used tool I have in both my personal kitchen and in professional kitchens is a proper salad spinner. We were shocked at how inexpensive a great quality salad spinner can be from Amazon.
The Three Variations of Salad
You can break salads down into 3 variations of salad. Each of these variations has its benefits and strengths.
Tossed salads are the most common kind of salad and are prepared by tossing the greens and garnishes (Such as tomatoes, onions, or cucumber) in a dressing. A tossed salad uses leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach or watercress. It is important to remember that the greens be well dried before tossing. If the leaves are wet, the dressing won’t properly adhere to the greens causing the dressing to become watered down and generally unenjoyable. They can be garnished with many different ingredients such as nuts, cheese, fruits, and vegetables. All kinds of dressings can be used including a light oil and vinegar dressing to a hearty hot bacon dressing.
Always remember to combine the dressing with the greens at the last possible second. Acid causes most greens to wilt and become soggy.
Matching dressings and salad greens
There is a rule when dressing salads: The more delicate the texture and flavor of the greens, the lighter and more subtle the dressing should be. Mayonnaise-based dressings should be used for more stronger flavored greens while a vinegar-oil dressing should be used for lighter greens.
Composed types of salads are inspired and a properly composed salad tells of that inspiration. A composed salad is one of order and detail. A composed salad is also built from the ground up and is carefully arranged to produce a beautifully crafted salad. There are 4 layers to a composed salad: Base, Body, Garnish, and Dressing.
The Base is more often than not salad greens that line or anchors the plate where the salad will be served. This means the foundation of the plate. For example, a Chicken Cesar Salad will use Romaine lettuce as the base.
The Body is the main ingredient and can consist of other greens, vegetables, another salad made from cooked ingredients such as chicken. For example, a Chicken Cesar Salad will use chicken.
The Garnish is added to the salad for color, texture, and flavor. It can also be simple with chopped herbs. It can be warm or cold as well. There are many options to use, but always use a garnish that compliments the flavor of the type salads you are making.
For example, a Chicken Cesar Salad will have parmesan, chicken, croutons, and lemon as its garnish.
The Dressing, while sounding simple, should always compliment the salad rather than masking it. A composed salad is often served with the dressing on the side or by having it ladled over the top before serving. You may also dress the individual ingredients before composing the salad.
Preparing a Basic Composed Salad
- Gather all your ingredients and be sure to wash, cut, trim or otherwise prepare them as necessary
- Arrange your ingredients on the plate, dressing them if needed and keeping in mind the 4 layers
- Before serving, cook any items that are required to be served hot and add them to the salad
Bound types of salads are one that is made by combining cooked meats, fish, shellfish and/or legumes with dressing and garnishes. A bound salad literally means each of the ingredients is bound together in one mass. They can include pasta, potatoes, quinoa as the base. The difference from farinaceous salads in that bound salads is heavier more robust salads.
The binding agent is usually mayonnaise-based but can include thicker vinaigrettes as well. Trying to standardize the proportions of a bound salad is difficult due to the many different types of bound salads out there, each with their own varying amounts.
Bound salads can also be used as the body for composed salads (For example, salmon salad on a bed of sorrel)
You probably haven’t heard of these types of salad but no doubt you have seen them before. A farinaceous salad is a salad that is made with potatoes, pasta or grains. A farinaceous salad differs from a bound salad in that many farinaceous salads are not bound.
Many pasta salads use combinations of light dressing and flavorful ingredients to bring it together. A farinaceous salad is almost always tossed but can be used as the body for a composed salad. A famous and popular farinaceous salad include potato salad.
Without dressings, salads just wouldn’t be salads. There are many things to learn about when it comes to dressings, and this article will get you up to speed. Many of the methods taught here are used in many other capacities in cooking.
An emulsified sauce or dressing is unique. An emulsion is the uniform combination of two liquids which are unmixable, such as water and oil. By forcing these two liquids together with the help of lecithin. Lecithin is a protein that is also unique in that it has the property of being able to combine with both water and oil. The most common source of lecithin is egg yolks.
The most common emulsion is mayonnaise. By whipping egg yolks until frothy, you slowly add oil drop by drop while whisking vigorously. Once the emulsion begins to form, the oil is added in more quantity. The fastest way to prepare mayonnaise is to make it in a Robocoupe, or food processor while slowly adding the oil. It is recommended to start with a whisk so you gain an understanding of the process.
The higher the proportion of oil to water in emulsification, the thicker the emulsion will be. The higher the proportion of water to oil will produce a thinner emulsion.
A vinaigrette is a simple dressing and comes from the classic French Dressing. Not to be confused with the North American commercially-available dressing that is creamy, tart/sweet and red-orange in color, a classic French dressing is 3 parts oil, 1 part vinegar, salt, and pepper. When using stronger flavored oils, using less oil will help offset the strength. Some dressing recipes call for a citrus juice to be used in place of all or part of the vinegar, in which case it will take more than 1 part to balance the acidity.
There are countless ingredients to add to a vinaigrette dressing. The classic nature of a vinaigrette opens itself up to a lot of interpretation. Items such as garlic, fruit, and different types of vinegar can be used.
Because oil and water do not combine without the help of an emulsifier, it is important to whisk them as close to serving as possible.
If you’re looking for hearty, a mayonnaise-based dressing is sure to provide it. Mayonnaise by itself is a pretty heavy product, and using it in the dressing will require some robust greens that can withstand it. In order to make a mayonnaise dressing work, you’ll have to play around with it. Adding different ingredients to change the texture, color, and flavor is definitely a plus. Dairy products are especially popular and include buttermilk and sour cream. This will help lighten the mayonnaise a bit. You can add vinegar, fruit juices, vegetables that are pureed or minced, tomato paste, garlic, onions, herbs, spices, capers, anchovies, boiled eggs. The list goes on and on.
Emulsified Vinaigrette Dressings
As we learned earlier about emulsification, an emulsified vinaigrette is simple a basic vinaigrette that is thickened by emulsification. Using the proportional guidelines above for oil/water, we can get the desired thickness easily. Being thinner and lighter than a mayonnaise dressing, the emulsified vinaigrette is excellent for delicate flavors and textures.
How To Prepare Emulsified Dressings
- Gather all ingredients, hold at room temperature (Room temp. ingredients emulsify easier)
- Whip eggs until frothy
- Add dry ingredients and flavorings such as herbs, garlic, shallots.
- Add a small amount of liquid from the recipe. Whip until incorporated.
- With your stand mixer on high or by whisking vigorously, slowly add the oil in a steady stream.
- Once the emulsion forms, add the oil a bit faster.
- Alternate between oil and liquid a few times until all the oil is used. The dressing will be much thinner than the mayonnaise. If you find your dressing is too thick, thin it out using a little water, vinegar or lemon juice.
We have covered the basics in salad preparation and identification, and you have also learned how to properly make an emulsified dressing. Much of what we learn here when it comes to dressings will be applied in more advanced cooking as you progress. For example, a hollandaise sauce is an emulsification that requires the use of many other skills. By using your knowledge of cooking, and coming back to The Culinary Cook to hone them, there is no limit to what you can cook! Read more