The Best Greens To Use When You Need To Dress Salad Ahead Of Time

Whether you're throwing a large holiday party or making a small dinner for two, salads are easy and nutritious dishes you can make ahead of time so you can focus on more time-sensitive parts of the meal. It's a well-known faux pas to dress a salad ahead of time when using dainty greens like romaine, microgreens, or iceberg lettuce. However, there are plenty of greens that enjoy being doused in dressing well before it's time to eat.

The best salad ingredients to use if you want to dress the whole thing in advance encompass heartier, sturdier greens and brassicas like kale, cabbage, radicchio, endives, swiss chard, raw broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and collard greens. All of these greens have much thicker, fibrous leaves and stalks than lettuce that will not wilt or turn soggy when dressed ahead of time. In fact, many of them will taste better when pre-dressed in a raw salad. Since most salad dressings consist of acidic ingredients like vinegar or citrus, dressing super fibrous greens early will help macerate and marinate them.

Dressing a kale or cabbage salad ahead of time will thus result in more palatable and chewable greens. You can dress most of these sturdy greens and veggies up to a day in advance. The optimum time to do it is about two hours before eating.

Tips for making the most of a hearty green salad

Since there are a wide variety of greens that you can dress ahead of time, you have many possibilities for delicious salad combinations. You can make a simple single-green salad or use a blend of vegetables for varied textures and flavors. You can even use different types of the same green like lacinato and curly kale. Coleslaw exemplifies a pre-dressed cabbage blend. A mixture of neutral napa cabbage, bitter radicchio, and earthy lacinato kale would offer a complex flavor profile and delightful textural contrast.

You can use an oil, mayo, or dairy-based salad dressing for hearty greens. No matter how heavy or creamy the dressing, a thick and fibrous green will stand up to and benefit from being dressed ahead of time. After dressing your ingredients, place them in a covered or sealable container in the refrigerator. Refrigeration will keep the crispness of the ingredients and covering the salad will protect it from absorbing flavors or aromas from other foods in the fridge.

Sitting in dressing won't just enhance hearty greens, but aromatics and root vegetables will also reap the benefits of marination. Red onions, julienned carrots, radishes, cherry tomatoes, and bell peppers will all become sweeter, tangier versions of themselves and take on a pickled texture. When you're ready to serve the salad, garnish with a sprinkle of chopped nuts or seeds, roasted chickpeas, or fried shallots or garlic chips for that crunchy and delicious pièce de résistance.