There’s just something about a $14 Sweetgreen salad that tastes so much better than salads you make at home. Maybe it’s that Sweetgreen salad recipes are just elite. Maybe it’s the fact that a bowl costs close to $14 so perhaps you cherish it just a bit more. Or maybe, we just aren’t utilizing the best salad tips or putting in enough effort to create an at-home salad that doesn’t suck.
For cost-effectiveness’ sake, I’m leaning into the third possibility that, if we figure out just what makes Sweetgreen salad recipes so great, we can pin down the high points and incorporate them in our own kitchens so that we can save money and feel like we’re not just eating leaves. As a longtime salad hater who was rebirthed and rebranded after my first Sweetgreen experience, I am passionate in my pursuit to improve my own ability to make salads enjoyable. If you’re looking to upgrade your salad game and save some money, you’re in the right place. Here are six affordable ways to make your salads taste as good as Sweetgreen:
1. Use in-season veggies and fruits (and prep them ahead of time)
Repeat after me: I deserve to eat great salads. And part of keeping your salads fresh and nonboring means varying your produce so that you’re not eating the same salad recipe over and over and over. Opting for in-season veggies will ensure that you’re getting the freshest salad toppings in the game and will help you experience loads of variety in your salads.
2. Massage your kale
I don’t know who needs to hear this but start. massaging. your. kale. Maybe you’ve heard of this phenomenon but until about a year ago, I didn’t. I absolutely despised kale when I would try to prep it at home. My salads tasted like the contents of a paper shredder and were so unbelievably bitter. I’d sit there chomping while tears welled up in my eyes as I was filled with regret.
Once I realized that I was supposed to be giving my kale a little extra TLC, I truly get the hype. Now that I massage my kale I swear to you… it’s so much better. Before dressing your kale and adding all of the extra goodies on top, use a squeeze of lemon or some vinegar and a pinch of salt. Then start crunching them between your hands until they start to wilt. It’s an absolute game-changer.
3. Use contrasting textures
My first Sweetgreen salad experience was their infamous kale caesar and, besides the fact that the kale actually was edible, it was the texture that really sold me. Parmesan crisps, light but crunchy kale, and soft roasted sweet potatoes in one bite? It was like a party in my mouth. Adding a bit of crunch to your salads goes beyond adding in a few croutons. Try experimenting with nuts, seeds, dried fruits, crunchy veggies, parmesan crisps, or roasted chickpeas. Contrast that with some softer textured foods like roasted potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, avocado, or caramelized onions and, boom. You’re one step closer to creating a spiced-up salad that you’ll actually look forward to.
4. Cut ingredients to similar sizes
There’s nothing worse than having a beautiful-looking salad with a variety of produce and texture, nose-diving your fork deep into your bowl of salad, and emerging with one singular shred of kale. One way to achieve a singular bite that is representative of an entire salad is to cut ingredients to similar sizes. There are plenty of gadgets to get your salads chopped with ease but if you haven’t bought into a 2 a.m. QVC infomercial (we applaud you), you can 100 percent make a chopped salad happen the old-fashioned way (chopping your ingredients separately). Or, you could add one of these items to your cart that will make chopping salad 10 times easier:
5. Try new dressings and seasonings
There’s no easier way to take your salad to a new level than to switch up your dressing. Whether you opt for a new homemade dressing or hit up your local grocery store to try something new, you can teleport your salad to a different dimension with little to no effort.
Another great way to add flavor to your salad is to add seasonings to your base. Just like any other dish, salads need seasonings. Per American celebrity chef Bobby Flay, it’s best to season greens and veggies with salt, pepper, and whatever other seasonings tickle your fancy before dressing them which helps to draw out their flavors.
6. When in doubt, use copycat recipes
If you like a particular Sweetgreen recipe, try making it at home. When I tell you I ran to my Google search bar after trying Sweetgreen’s kale caesar, I am not exaggerating. As soon as I got to my laptop, I hit search with unmatched speed and launched into the pursuit of making great salads at home. And while these types of salad recipes take a little more effort than what you may be used to, the flavor pay-off and affordability make it so worth it. Add these five copycat recipes of Sweetgreen’s most popular salads to your to-make list and you won’t be disappointed: