Our side salad is a simple recipe you can serve with most main meals. It’s easy, crunchy, fresh, and colorful and goes well with anything.

Toss it with extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, and a pinch of salt, or dress it with our delicious homemade Italian dressing.

side salad in a large bowl

Check out our best vegan salad recipe collection!

Are you looking for a simple salad recipe that goes well with most meals? Then this recipe is for you.

It’s a classic and authentic Italian recipe you’ll find in most restaurants and homes in Italy, served as a side salad. It’s the queen of side dishes!

We make it with mixed leafy greens, tomatoes, and carrots to make it colorful and crunchy, and it’s dressed in extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, and salt.

It’s fresh, crunchy, and tasty, especially if you use local and seasonal ingredients. You’ll be also pleased to know that it’s low in calories, as there are no add-ins, heavy dressings, or dairy products.

This is the perfect everyday recipe to add more delicious and crunchy greens to your diet without too much effort.

If you want a more complete, richer salad, check out our Italian salad recipe with plenty of add-ins and seasoned with our homemade Italian dressing.

simple side salad in a bowl


ingredients for side salad
Ingredients for side salad: romaine lettuce, arugula, radicchio, tomatoes, celery, carrot, onion, extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, and salt.

Romaine lettuce

Romaine is our lettuce of choice for this simple side salad recipe; however, you can replace it with most other lettuce varieties, including iceberg lettuce, Batavia lettuce, little gems lettuce, butter lettuce, oak leaf lettuce, and frisée or curly endive.


Arugula adds a dark-green color, is packed with antioxidants, and adds a mildly spicy and slightly bitter flavor that we love in a salad.

If you don’t like its taste, you can replace it with other non-bitter leaves, such as Lamb’s lettuce, purslane, or watercress.


Radicchio is a slightly bitter, red and white Italian type of lettuce. It’s one of our favorites; however, if you don’t like its somewhat bitter taste, you can leave it out.


Any tomatoes will do, as long as they are not overripe. Our favorites are cherry tomatoes and San Marzano Tomatoes (but those are hard to find).


A freshly grated carrot adds sweetness, color, and crunch.


Celery adds loads of crunch, and we love it in a salad. But, of course, you can replace it with radishes or thinly sliced fennel.

Red Onion

Thinly sliced red onion adds sharp, tangy notes that elevate the other ingredients. You can substitute it with green onions, spring onions, or shallots.

Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is our dressing of choice for this side salad. Try to go for a good quality one if you can. If you want a more elaborated dressing, try our homemade Italian dressing.


Balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, and apple cider vinegar are all excellent options.


Add a pinch of salt to bring out the flavors of the veggies.

Fried eggplant served on a simple side salad
Fried eggplant served on a simple side salad.


Rinse and dry the veggies. Then, to a large mixing bowl, add chopped romaine lettuce, radicchio, arugula, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped celery, grated carrot, and thinly sliced red onion.

mixed veggies in a bowl

Season with extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, and salt. Toss the salad well before serving it as a side dish to most mains.

side salad tossed in olive oil

Serving suggestions

Serve as a side salad with most main courses, from fried eggplant to risotto cakes; this light and simple side salad recipe will add a crunch and freshness to your meals. Serve it next to your favorite main dish, for example with:

Spinach cutlets on bed of salad
Vegan spinach cutlets


This recipe is the perfect base salad upon which you can build with add-ins and dressings. For example:

Creamy Tofu Salad

Italian salad with pan-fried tofu

You can add avocado, corn, cucumber, and fried tofu and dress it with a tahini sauce and lemon juice to turn it into a nutritious tofu salad.

Italian Salad

Big Italian salad with Italian dressing

Add homemade croutons, Italian vinaigrette, olives, black pepper, and pepperoncini to transform into a tasty American-Style Italian salad.

Vegetarian Salad

We like to keep most of our salads vegan, especially if we serve them as a side dish; however, if you are vegetarian, you can add a type of cheese (choose from feta cheese, blue cheese, or gorgonzola), walnuts, and sliced pears or dried cranberries.


This side salad is best eaten soon after you add the vinegar. Leftovers keep in the fridge for about 24 hours, but the salad will lose its crunch after about 2 hours due to the acidity in the vinegar.

If you wish to make it ahead and store it for longer, then don’t toss it in olive oil and vinegar until you are ready to serve it.

More Salad Recipes

An easy side salad pairs with literally any main dish. If you’re looking for salads you can eat as a main meal, see these vibrant favorites:

Or take your pick from our 25 best vegan salad recipes, including cabbage slaw, grain bowls, and raw veggie salads.

For many more side dish ideas, check out our sides category page.

simple side salad

Side Salad

By: Nico Pallotta
5 from 1 vote
Our side salad is a simple recipe you can serve with most main meals. It's easy, crunchy, fresh, and colorful and goes well with anything.
Toss it with extra virgin olive oilvinegar, and a pinch of salt, or dress it with our delicious homemade Italian dressing.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Course: salad
Cuisine: American Italian


  • 1 large head romaine lettuce chopped
  • 3 cups radicchio chopped
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 large carrot grated
  • 1 stalk celery chopped
  • 1 small red onion sliced finely
  • 12 cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar or other vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt or more to taste


  • Rinse and pat dry the veggies. Then, to a large mixing bowl, add chopped romaine lettuceradicchioarugulahalved cherry tomatoes, chopped celery, grated carrot, and thinly sliced red onion.
    mixed veggies in a bowl
  • Add extra virgin olive oilvinegar, and saltToss the salad well before serving it as a side dish to most mains.
    simple side salad in a bowl


Nutrition information is for 1 portion of side salad out of 4.
Here’s our homemade Italian dressing recipe if you prefer to use that as a dressing.


Calories: 99kcal, Carbohydrates: 14g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 4g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Potassium: 754mg, Dietary Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 17178IU, Vitamin B6: 0.2mg, Vitamin C: 25mg, Vitamin E: 2mg, Vitamin K: 257µg, Calcium: 96mg, Folate: 259µg, Iron: 2mg, Manganese: 0.4mg, Magnesium: 42mg, Zinc: 1mg
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If you like this easy side salad, you might also like:

Nico and Louise in the kitchen

Hi! We are Nico & Louise

Welcome to The Plant-Based School, a food blog with easy, tasty, and wholesome recipes.

Our aim is to help you and your family eat more veggies through delicious recipes with simple ingredients.

Easy right?

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