Supercharge your salad with protein

High-Protein Salad Recipes to Help Achieve Your Goals

By: Caroline Thomason, RD, CDCES

Scientifically Reviewed By: Holli Ryan, RD, LD/N

When you think about salad, you might envision a sad bowl of greens or vegetables that doesn't leave you feeling full or satisfied. While salads have the potential to be delicious and filling—serving up enough food for a complete meal—most people make them without enough protein. And devoid of this key macro, salads lack the staying power to keep your hunger at bay, which likely will lead to you reaching for another snack.

Getting enough grams of protein in your diet is crucial for a variety of health goals, not just healthy weight management. Protein helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels, promotes muscle growth and supports bone health. It is a crucial building block within the body for muscles, bones, skin, and even enzymes and hormones. Plus, protein-rich foods are often chock-full of essential vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and more.

Whether you're looking to build lean muscle mass or simply feel your best, eating enough protein is a must. Fortunately, we've got recipes to help you increase the protein in your salads and reap the rewards of this vital nutrient.

15 high-protein salad recipes

Not only does protein play a vital role in muscle growth, it also promotes feelings of fullness, helping to control appetite, and helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels. With 15 salad options boasting a variety of protein sources, there's sure to be one that appeals to your taste buds and chosen diet.

  1. Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

    : Use a combination of quinoa, black beans (15 grams of protein per cup when cooked or canned), corn, diced bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and a lime-cilantro vinaigrette for a southwestern take on a high-protein salad. This option keeps well in the fridge, making it an ideal meal prep salad or make-ahead dish for parties.
  2. Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

    : Combine grilled chicken breast, romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, and Caesar dressing for a simple, high-protein salad. The classic chicken Caesar is an easy way to pack in the protein from grilled chicken and Parmesan cheese. Plus, you can add veggies like broccoli (which has 2.5 grams of protein per cup, raw) to give this dish more volume and help keep you full.
  3. Chopped Greek Salad with Chickpeas

    : You can't go wrong with a classic Greek salad, and this one is vegetarian friendly. With chickpeas (14 grams of protein per cup when cooked) and feta cheese, this high-protein, high-fiber option will keep you full for hours. Use a combination of mixed greens, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, red onion, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, chickpeas, garlic and Greek dressing.
  1. High-Protein Fruit Salad

    : High-protein salads don't have to be savory; they can also be sweet! This high-protein fruit salad comes together in minutes with your preferred fruit and protein in the form of plain Greek yogurt mixed with a vanilla-flavored protein powder supplement. Blend the yogurt with a whey protein powder and then mix in your favorite sliced or chopped fruits for a high-protein, creamy fruit salad with extra staying power.
  2. Tuna Nicoise Salad

    : Mixed greens, canned tuna, hard-boiled eggs, green beans, cherry tomatoes, olives, and a Dijon vinaigrette make this high-protein tuna salad come together. It doesn't get more convenient than canned tuna and hard-boiled eggs that have been prepared ahead of time.
  3. Salmon and Avocado Salad

    : Combine mixed greens, baked or grilled salmon, avocado slices, cucumber, red onion, and a lemon-dill dressing. Perfect for summer, flaky salmon and a mixture of vegetables work together in this high-protein, heart-healthy salad. Between the omega-3s in the salmon and the healthy fat and fiber in the avocado, this salad delivers a one-two punch for your health.
  4. Asian Edamame Salad

    : With shredded cabbage, edamame beans (18 grams of plant protein per cup when raw or cooked), shredded carrots, bell peppers, sliced almonds, sesame seeds, and a soy-ginger dressing, this salad requires no cooking. If you love Asian food, you will love this simple plant-based salad that uses edamame beans for protein. As a high-quality plant protein, soybeans offer a well-rounded nutrition boost.
  5. Mediterranean Lentil Salad

    : Mix cooked lentils (18 grams of protein per cup), diced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onion, feta cheese, Kalamata olives, and a balsamic vinaigrette for a high-protein salad. Lentils are protein-packed and have fiber, making them an excellent choice for healthy weight management. Plus, this recipe includes feta cheese for another protein boost that helps to keep you full.
  1. Spinach with Strawberries and Chicken Salad

    : The classic spinach (5 grams of protein per cup when cooked) and strawberry salad gets a facelift with chicken salad or grilled chicken breast on top and a sprinkle of goat cheese and almonds, providing three different protein sources to give this meal as much staying power as possible. Chicken, baby spinach, sliced strawberries, goat cheese, almonds, and a balsamic vinaigrette are all you need to bring this dish to life.
  2. Egg Salad with Arugula

    : Hard-boiled eggs and veggies like baby arugula, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber slices, plus shredded cheddar cheese and a ranch dressing, work well together. They give this chopped egg salad a delicious and satisfying balance of protein and fiber.
  3. Steak and Blue Cheese Salad

    : Use a lean cut of steak and combine it with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, red onion, blue cheese, and a balsamic vinaigrette for an easy and delicious high-protein meal. If you're meal-prepping this one, save the dressing until you're ready to eat.
  4. Chickpea and Avocado Salad

    : Chickpeas are an impressive source of fiber and proteins—two macronutrients we need to feel full. Particularly important for those who are working on healthy weight management, chickpeas with avocado, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, and a lime cumin dressing can help reinforce your efforts and keep your appetite at bay. Or try this chickpea pasta salad.
  5. Turkey and Cranberry Salad

    : Sliced roasted turkey breast, mixed greens, dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, feta or goat cheese, and a cranberry vinaigrette are your magic ingredients here. If you have Thanksgiving leftovers, or if you just enjoy turkey, combine them for a delicious and nostalgic salad. If you want to serve this warm, make an open-faced sandwich with the turkey salad on top of whole-grain bread.

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  1. Cobb Salad

    : Incorporate mixed greens, grilled chicken breast, hard-boiled eggs, avocado slices, crispy turkey bacon bits, cherry tomatoes, and blue cheese crumbles with a creamy ranch dressing for a high-protein Cobb. Most Cobb salads are high in protein, especially if they include grilled chicken or shrimp. You'll also get a protein boost from the eggs and blue cheese.
  2. Waldorf Chicken Salad

    : A refreshing twist on a simple Waldorf salad incorporates chicken breast, sliced apples, toasted walnuts, blue cheese, and a vinaigrette of your choice over a bed of mixed greens for a delicious salad that is high in protein.

Tips for the best high-protein salad recipes

  • To make the best high-protein salads, start by choosing protein-rich ingredients, like grilled chicken, tofu, beans or fish.
  • Mix in a variety of colorful vegetables such as leafy greens, bell peppers and tomatoes for added nutrition.
  • Add more flavor and texture with ingredients like nuts, seeds and crunchy vegetables.
  • Experiment with flavorful dressings such as olive oil-based vinaigrettes, tahini, or DIY dressings with Greek yogurt as the base.
  • Consider cooking your proteins and chopping your veggies ahead of time for easy assembly.
  • If you're meal prepping, wait until you're ready to eat to add the dressing to prevent a soggy texture.

What high-protein ingredients can you add to a salad?

From meat to plant-forward options, here are some of the easiest ways to increase protein in your salad.

  • Lean protein

    : Lean and versatile, grilled chicken and turkey breast are classic salad additions with a substantial amount of protein. Sliced, grilled or seared lean beef or steak can add a savory flavor and protein punch to salads.
  • Seafood

    : Grilled or baked salmon is a flavorful protein option that pairs well with leafy greens and vegetables in salads. Canned tuna is convenient and high in protein, making it an easy addition. Grilled or sautéed shrimp adds a fork-friendly protein boost to salads.
  • Plant-based options

    : Tofu is a plant-based protein option that can be marinated and grilled, baked, or sautéed before adding to salads. Beans are a great source of plant-based protein and fiber, adding texture and flavor to salads. Edamame is a protein-rich soybean that can be boiled or steamed and added to salads for a crunchy texture.
  • Boiled eggs

    : Hard-boiled eggs are rich in protein and add a creamy texture to salads.
  • Dairy

    : Hard cheese, Greek yogurt, protein powder and cottage cheese add protein and a rich flavor to salads. Cottage cheese is a high-protein dairy option that can be spooned onto salads for a creamy texture. Greek yogurt is rich in protein and can be used as a creamy salad dressing or added directly to salads.
  • High-protein grains

    : Farro is a whole grain that provides protein, fiber, and a nutty flavor. Quinoa is a complete protein and a nutritious grain alternative that can be cooked and added to salads for an extra protein boost. Both are great options for Mediterranean dishes.
  • Nuts and seeds

    : Seeds and nuts are rich in protein and healthy fats, adding a satisfying crunch and flavor to salads. Be aware of your portion size. Nuts can be high in total calories, even though they're a healthy and filling food.

Do high-protein salads support healthy weight management?

High-protein salads support healthy weight management by increasing feelings of fullness, supporting muscle mass, helping to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, and offering more versatility in meal planning. Protein's satiating effect helps prevent overeating, plus its role in muscle health and growth helps prevent muscle loss if you are running on a calorie deficit. Portion sizes are important for maintaining a healthy weight no matter which salad options you choose.

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About the Author: With over 10 years of experience in nutrition, Caroline Thomason is a media dietitian in the greater Washington, DC area. As a dietitian, she is the best at breaking down science-based information in an easy-to-digest way for consumers and healthcare professionals alike. In her private practice, she works with women who want to stop dieting and find confidence with food.


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