How To Keep Soft Salad Ingredients Intact

Although we might sometimes take it for granted, salad is a timeless appetizer or side dish that brings freshness, crunch, and vitality to many of our favorite meals. Whether it's a substantial version that can serve as a main dish in its own right, like this loaded summer chipotle chicken cobb salad, or more of an accompaniment, such as this winter Greek salad, the crispiness and acidity of a well-made salad are truly welcome at mealtimes.

Because a salad can include a huge array of ingredients that are bound with a dressing (via Allrecipes), there are an almost infinite number of recipes and formulations out there, ranging from the simple leafy green salad many of us probably think of first to complex arrangements of roasted vegetables, seeds, fruit, and cheese. And although the basic gist of a salad is to throw all the ingredients in a bowl and toss them together with dressing, there are some instances when it pays to use just a bit more care when putting together a salad so all of the ingredients to shine at their full potential. 

One category of salad ingredients that merits extra attention? Soft ones, which have a tendency to go mushy or get lost in a salad.

Add soft ingredients after the salad has been tossed with dressing

One of the things we love most about salads is their mix of contrasting textures, which are lent by ingredients such as crunchy raw vegetables, crispy nuts and seeds, and softer items such as creamy goat cheese, avocado, and hard boiled eggs. Who among us hasn't tossed these ingredients right in with the lettuces and greens, mixing everything up with the dressing, only to find that these lovely ingredients have more or less dissolved right into the salad? In addition to marring the salad's appearance, this misstep can actually take away from the textural contrast provided by those soft ingredients because they break up and disappear, according to Taste of Home.

The outlet advises taking a different approach to salads that call for such soft ingredients: Namely, tossing the main salad ingredients with dressing and adding the soft, creamy ones only afterwards. That way, your thin slices of avocado will look lovely fanned out across the salad, for example, and they'll maintain their texture instead of breaking apart into little chunks. Incidentally, this tactic works for ingredients at the opposite end of the texture spectrum, too, with Taste of Home noting that crispy ingredients such as croutons and toasted nuts should be added just before serving so that they don't go soggy in the dressing.