Salads tempt our taste buds with their fresh ingredients and bright flavors. Grab a fork and join us as we reveal our picks for the 34 best salads in the world. Be sure to read to the end for a bonus salad that may surprise you.
As professional food travelers, we’re frequently queried about our favorite foods in the world. Mindi has no hesitation by responding with “pizza” while Daryl typically proceeds to explain how he hates the question and instead provides a laundry list of his favorite foods.
Salad isn’t on his list.
It’s not that we have something against salad. Rather, the issue is that we tend to forget about salad when we’re busy slurping soup, chomping on burgers and tasting wine. Shame on us! Every time we eat a salad, we support independent farmers and food artisans while connecting with the food local culture. Yes, salads are part of culture too.
Table of Contents
- The History of Salad
- Our History with Salad
- Our Picks for the Best Salads in the World
- 1. Cobb Salad (USA)
- 3. Salade Niçoise (France)
- 4. Caesar Salad (USA via Mexico)
- 5. Som Tam (Thailand)
- 6. Horiatiki (Greece)
- 7. Insalata Caprese (Italy)
- 8. Falafel Salad (Egypt and Israel)
- 9. Salade Lyonnaise (France)
- 10. Crab Louie (USA)
- 11. Chopped Salad (USA)
- 12. Gargouillou de Jeunes Légume (France)
- 13. Kritikos Dakos (Greece)
- 14. Waldorf Salad (USA)
- 15. Fatoush Salad (Lebanon)
- 16. Roasted Vegetable Salad (Various)
- 17. Wedge (USA)
- 18. Taco Salad (USA)
- 19. Larb (Thailand)
- 20. Potato Salad (Germany)
- 21. Eggplant Salad (Various)
- 22. Salad Chèvre Chaud (France)
- 23. Salad Bar (Various)
- 24. Beet Salad (Various)
- 25. Shrimp Salad (Various)
- 26. Seaweed Salad (Japan)
- 27. Salat Katzutz (Israel)
- 28. Chicken Salad (USA)
- 29. Octopus Salad (Various)
- 30. Wurstsalat (Germany)
- 31. Bean Salad (Various)
- 32. Insalata di Cavallo (Italy)
- 33. Whitefish Salad (USA)
- 34. Fruit Salad (Various)
- Bonus – Fruit Salad Gummies (Germany)
The History of Salad
Men and women have been eating salads for centuries, probably for as long as they have been eating bread, maybe even longer.
Historians trace mixed salads back to ancient empires that include the Greeks, Persians and Romans. The Brits also have a long history with salads as do Asian nations like China and Thailand. In other words, salad doesn’t have a specific origin story.
Like many foods, salad has evolved over the years. Many of the salads we eat today are more modern creations that incorporate new world ingredients that weren’t globally available in ancient times.
Salads took a big leap in the 20th century when modern technology provided tools like salad spinners and food choppers to home cooks while chain markets sold those same consumers bagged lettuce and jarred dressing. As you can see, not all those leaps forward were positive.
But today, many are returning to their salad roots (pun intended) by buying fresh ingredients at weekend farm markets and through CSA memberships. They quickly chop their vegetable bounty with chef knives and some (like us) even skip the uni-tasker dust collector otherwise known as a salad spinner.
Our History with Salad
We didn’t love salad when we were little. In fact, Daryl hated the stuff and rarely ate it. As for Mindi, her mother mostly prepared salads with iceberg lettuce and smothered the greens with store-bought dressing. It wasn’t pretty.
During our nomadic years, we ate salads in four continents. Without a plan or intention, we ate dozens and dozens of salads. Some were standard tossed salads while others impressed us with unique ingredients like compressed watermelon and horse meat. Yes, horse meat – more about that later.
Fast forward to the present and we now choose to make and eat salad on a regular basis. But the salads we eat are different from those of our childhood. We buy fresh ingredients at local Lisbon markets and top our salads with dressings that Daryl whips up from with ingredients like olive oil, white wine vinegar and Dijon mustard.
Our Picks for the Best Salads in the World
Despite salad’s dubious reputation as healthy rabbit food that’s more about substance than style, certain salads have delighted and surprised us during our travels. Some were were simple starters with super-fresh vegetables while others were hearty meals in a bowl. The best ones showcased pure culinary artistry.
Based on our vast salad sampling, the following salads get our votes for the best salads in the world:
1. Cobb Salad (USA)
Some salads are dainty starters filled with vegetables typically eaten by rabbits and vegetarians alike. The Cobb Salad isn’t one of those salads. Instead, it’s a protein-laden main course dish that offers a different taste in every forkful. Avocado? Check. Blue cheese? Check check. Crispy bacon? Check check check.
Follow our Cobb Salad recipe and make a tasty Cobb Salad at home.
Although Bob Cobb (yes, that’s his real name) introduced his signature salad at The Hollywood branch of the Brown Derby in 1937, we didn’t taste the inspired California chopped salad until more than a half century later. Filled with avocado, bacon, chicken breast, hard boiled egg slices and blue cheese, those first bowls weren’t our last bowls.
The Cobb Salad is an iconic American food. Discover more American food favorites.
Now that we’ve mastered making Cobb Salads at home, the classic California dish has joined our dinner rotation.
Not only is it relatively easy to make, but this salad also gives us enough protein to either climb a mountain or bake a cake. However, we typically choose to take a nap after eating the filling bowl of yummy ingredients instead.
Try our tasty Cobb Salad recipe.
3. Salade Niçoise (France)
Originally a simple salad featuring tomatoes and anchovies, the Salade Niçoise has come a long way since its 19th century debut in Nice. Modern-day versions include additional ingredients like tuna, green beans, olives and potatoes.
Try our inauthentic yet tasty Salade Nicoise recipe.
The signature French salad has become a global salad standard. We’ve eaten excellent renditions at disparate locations around the world including a cruise ship in Norway, however none have been better than those we’ve eaten at restaurants in Marseille and Paris except the ones we’ve made ourselves at home.
Discover our favorite restaurants in Paris.
4. Caesar Salad (USA via Mexico)
Despite the fact that it was invented just over the border in Tijuana, the Caesar is a popular American salad that poses an important question: With or without anchovies? We always answer this question affirmatively whether we eat the classic salad at a Las Vegas casino, at a hotel in Vietnam or at home.
Try our restaurant-style Caesar Salad recipe.
Legend has it that Cesare (a/k/a Caesar) Cardini didn’t add anchovies in 1924 when he created the iconic romaine lettuce salad and served it tableside in his restaurant. We’ll let the omission slide since he included a veritable laundry list of other ingredients that included romaine lettuce, black pepper, croutons, Dijon mustard, eggs, garlic, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and Worcestershire sauce.
Julia Child ate a Caesar Salad at Cesare Cardini’s Tijuana restaurant when she was a child.
5. Som Tam (Thailand)
Easily the most popular Thai dish to originate in Northeastern Thailand’s Isaan Province, Som Tam is Thailand’s most iconic salad. However, this salad isn’t like most salad served in western countries.
Instead of lettuce and croutons, Som Tam’s ingredients include shredded and pounded green papaya, carrots, tomatoes, beans and peanuts. Additional ingredients like chili peppers, garlic, palm sugar, tamarind, fish sauce and lime juice give the crunchy salad a burst of complex flavor.
Discover more Thai food favorites.
6. Horiatiki (Greece)
Leave your perceptions about Greek salad at home when you visit Greece. Greek salads known as Horiatiki don’t include lettuce. Instead, these rustic salads feature a bounty of local ingredients like tomato, cucumber, onion, feta cheese and olives finished with oregano, salt and olive oil.
In many countries, salads are considered ‘diet’ food for those looking to lose weight. This is not the case in Greece where it’s a pleasure to eat a colorful salad filled with ripe tomatoes, kalamata olives and slabs of briny feta. In cities like Athens and Rhodes, the best Horiatiki salads add paximadia or twice-baked barley rusks similar to crunchy croutons but larger.
Discover more Greek food favorites.
7. Insalata Caprese (Italy)
Italy’s Insalata Caprese, also known as a Caprese Salad, proves that simple salads can be the best salads. Invented on the Isle of Capri near Naples, the salad is a popular Aperitivo dish in cities like Bologna and Venice.
To make this five-ingredient salad, chefs and home cooks layer sliced tomatoes with mozzarella and top the melange with fresh basil, olive oil and salt. Not only does the resulting dish taste like summer, but it also matches the colors of the Italian flag.
The Insalata Caprese pairs well with Margherita Pizzas. Access our comprehensive Naples pizza guide to discover the best Margherita pizza in its homeland.
8. Falafel Salad (Egypt and Israel)
Falafel’s origin is debatable with various countries claiming credit, though our research points to either Egypt or Israel. Vegetarians and street food junkies don’t really care who first started deep frying chickpea fritters when then they stuff the crispy balls inside pita pockets and top them with fresh vegetables, pickled vegetables, hot sauce and tahini.
The Falafel Salad deconstructs the traditional Falafel by artfully placing all of the ingredients on a plate instead of inside a pita. Though substantial enough to be a main course, the salad is a great starter at Middle Eastern restaurants around the world.
Add hot sauce to your Falafel Salad if you like a little heat when you eat. You may have to request the condiment from your server if it’s not already on the table.
9. Salade Lyonnaise (France)
Lyonnaise food is famous for comforting dishes like Quenelles de Brochet (fish dumplings), Saucisson de Lyon (sausage) and thinly sliced, pan-fried Lyonnaise Potatoes. We’ve enjoyed all these dishes and more at multiple Lyon bouchons over three separate visits but our favorite Lyonnaise specialty may very well be Salade Lyonnaise.
The seemingly simple French salad has a short list of ingredients – frisée, bacon lardons, crispy croutons and a poached egg. Tangy vinaigrette brings them together in a harmony that makes us say “oui” with glee. As a bonus, the more salad we eat, the more room we have for French pastries.
Discover more great food in Lyon.
10. Crab Louie (USA)
The Crab Louie is a salad with multiple potential origins. The crab-filled salad’s home city may be San Francisco unless it’s Seattle or Portland. Then again, it could be Spokane. At least food historians can agree that the Crab Louie was born somewhere on the American west coast more than a century ago
Chefs are just as confused as the historians when it comes to this salad. While lettuce and crab meat (either real or imitation) are a must, other ingredients vary depending on the chef. Typical elements include asparagus, eggs and tomato. Some chefs go further by adding olives, onions and even avocado.
Although you can add Thousand Island or Green Goddess dressing to your Crab Louie, opt for Louis dressing made with mayonnaise, green onions and chili peppers instead. The dressing is the classic choice.
11. Chopped Salad (USA)
Almost any salad can be chopped but not every salad is chopped. The delineation is whether or not the chef chooses to chop up all the ingredients instead of mixing different shapes, sizes and textures in a bowl.
Since Chopped Salads are more fun to eat than they are to make, most people eat Chopped Salads at restaurants instead of at home. However, a home chef with a good knife and/or a chopper can make a fine Chopped Salad. As for cleaning up the inevitable mess, that’s a different story.
Although he didn’t invent the Chopped Salad, Wolfgang Puck made the dish famous when he added it to his Los Angeles menu at Spago in the 1980s.
12. Gargouillou de Jeunes Légume (France)
A revolutionary dish that has inspired chefs around the world, the Gargouillou de Jeunes Légume is a hallmark of nouvelle cuisine. It’s also the dish that motivated us to journey to Laguiole to dine at Maison Bras. We were obsessed after we first saw the colorful salad featured in the movie Entre Les Bras.
More than 40 years after Chef Michel Bras created the conceptual dish in 1978, Maison Bras’ team prepares the dish differently every day based on what’s available in the Chef’s garden, at local markets and in Aubrac’s vast forests and fields. The opposite of a simple salad, each Gargouillou incorporates 50-60 flowers, herbs and vegetables in varying forms of doneness. It’s a showstopper.
Read about our three-star Michelin dinner at Maison Bras.
13. Kritikos Dakos (Greece)
Kritikos Dakos takes the Greek Horiatiki salad to new heights – literally. Invented in Crete, the Dakos salad starts with a crunchy barley rusk and piles chopped tomatoes and cheese, typically mitzithra or feta, on top. Olive oil, capers and olives provide the finishing touches.
14. Waldorf Salad (USA)
Don’t be insulted if somebody likens you to a Waldorf Salad. Invented in 1896 at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, the salad achieved prime pop culture stature when Cole Porter wrote the lyrics “You’re the top! You’re a Waldorf Salad!” for the show Anything Goes in 1934.
More than just a lyric reference, the Waldorf Salad recipe includes apples, celery, grapes and walnuts as well as lettuce and mayonnaise. Modern renditions often include extras like chicken, raisins and cheese. Some replace the mayo with a yogurt-based dressing.
Discover more New York food favorites to explore after you eat a Waldorf Salad.
15. Fatoush Salad (Lebanon)
Created in Lebanon, the Fattoush Salad is a Middle Eastern salad with a twist. Actually two twists.
This salad’s ingredient list includes tart sumac and crunchy pita chips in addition to standard items like lettuce, tomato and cucumber. Some Fattoush Salads include mint, parsley and radishes as well.
Sumac isn’t just an ingredient in Fattoush Salad. The dried berry is also a key ingredient in za’atar, a flavorful Levantine spice mix.
16. Roasted Vegetable Salad (Various)
Proving that not all salads are raw, the Roasted Vegetable Salad takes vegetables to the next level by serving them (you guessed it) roasted. Root vegetables like carrots, beets and squash work great in this comforting salad that doubles as both a starter and side dish.
Clever cooks switch things up in the summer by heating veggies up on the grill instead of in a roasting pot. Seasonal options like zucchini, bell pepper and corn work great using this method.
Add goat cheese and/or chicken to transform a Roasted Vegetable Salad to a main course.
17. Wedge (USA)
It’s difficult to mess up a Wedge Salad, the steakhouse staple that tops a wedge of iceberg lettuce with crumbled blue cheese, crispy bacon and dressing. It’s also difficult not to love this simple salad that packs a wallop in terms of both roughage and calories.
Try our Wedge Salad recipe. It’s a winner.
Americans have been eating Wedge Salads for more than a century, going back to the early 20th century when the iceberg salad first appeared in cookbooks and at restaurants. However, the Wedge Salad didn’t achieve icon status until steakhouses across the land added it to their menus. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Wedge Salad made its way into pop culture when it appeared the TV show Mad Men.
18. Taco Salad (USA)
You might think that the Taco Salad was invented in Mexico. You would be wrong. This Tex-Mex dish is an American invention with roots in California and Texas. It’s also a favorite at fast food chains like Taco Bell and Chipotle.
For the uniniated, Taco Salads take ingredients usually found inside a Taco and place them inside a crispy fried tortilla bowl. We’re not gonna lie – this salad is probably the most fattening one in this list thanks to ingredients like cheddar cheese, guacamole and sour cream. It’s also one of the tastiest for the same reason.
Some food historians credit Elmer Doolin with inventing the Taco Salad concept. Doolin’s biggest claim to fame is founding the Frito Lay company.
19. Larb (Thailand)
Like Som Tam (see above), Thailand’s Larb is a spicy salad with Isaan roots. However, this dish’s main ingredient is minced meat instead of green papaya. Yes, Larb is a meat salad seasoned with typical Thai ingredients like fish sauce, red chilis and fresh herbs.
After first eating Larb at Andy Ricker’s restaurants in both Brooklyn and Portland, we were curious to see how Larb would taste in its homeland. While we enjoyed eating lettuce wraps stuffed with Larb in Chiang Mai, we liked eating Nam Prik Ong, a spicy, meaty dip with both pork and tomato, even more.
Larb is one of the most popular dishes to eat in Laos, Thailand’s Southeast Asia neighbor.
20. Potato Salad (Germany)
Germany isn’t the only country where people love Potato Salad, but Germans seem to love the chunky, starchy salad just a little bit more than their European peers in France, Italy, Scandinavia and Russia. In cities like Berlin and Hamburg, locals eat warm Potato Salad without mayonnaise along with Schnitzel, Currywurst and pretty much everything else.
Ironically, considering that potatoes are a new-world vegetable, German immigrants get credit for bringing Potato Salad to the USA. However, Americans modified the recipe by adding mayonnaise and chilling the dish except in Texas cities like Lockhart where locals eat warm Potato Salad with barbecued brisket. (This makes sense since many Germans immigrated to Texas.) It’s now a summertime favorite at cookouts and picnics from sea to shining sea.
Potato Salad didn’t just jump the pond. It’s also a popular side dish in Asian countries like South Korea and Japan.
21. Eggplant Salad (Various)
As Americans, we didn’t grow up eating Eggplant Salad. The closest we got was when we dipped pita bread into bowls of Baba Ghanoush dips at Israeli restaurants.
Without doubt, the situation would have been different had we grown up the Eastern Europe, India or the Middle East where various versions of Eggplant Salad were more of the norm than an exception. Our favorite version so far was the mashed Salată de Vinete we ate in Transylvania.
Learn more about traditional Romanian food in Transylvania.
22. Salad Chèvre Chaud (France)
Just like the French have a way with Camembert and Roquefort, France’s Chèvre is simultaneously distinctive and divine. Adding the goat cheese to salad was most likely a no-brainer. Heating it first was ingenious.
Bistros across France serve Salad Chèvre Chaud, a simple green salad featuring warm Chèvre slices and toasted bread. We’d call it French bread, but that would be redundant in France. The concept is equally popular in Montreal where we ate a memorable Salad Chèvre Chaud at L’Express, one of the city’s most iconic restaurants.
Discover more iconic Montreal restaurants.
23. Salad Bar (Various)
The late food pioneer James Beard succinctly stated that “too many simple green salads suffer from lack of imagination.” If you agree with Beard’s assertion, then salad bars are the answer to your concern. And, if you create a simple green salad at a salad bar, then it’s your own fault.
Invented in America and embraced by the baby boom generation, salad bars are a finicky eater’s happy place with vast selections of vegetables, toppings and dressings. While we don’t know how and if salad bars will continue in post-pandemic restaurants, we’ll always have fond memories of using our imagination at them in the past.
Go big or go home when you construct a salad bar salad. This is your chance to eat it all without worrying about peeling, dicing or cleaning up the kitchen.
24. Beet Salad (Various)
Beet and Goat Cheese Salads were our gateway to eating beets, a food that was typically overly pickled during our childhoods. Little did we know that we’d later enjoy roasting beets at home and would voluntarily choose to eat them in soup.
But, as we discovered during our travels, Beet Salads don’t require goat cheese to taste good. This is especially the case in countries like Russia and Turkey where the root vegetable is extremely popular but goat cheese not so much.
While Americans call the earthy vegetable beets or sugar beets, countries like the UK and Germany call them beetroots instead.
25. Shrimp Salad (Various)
The Shrimp Salad is one of those salads that has a different meaning depending on where you eat it. Thai versions frequently involve large prawns and chili peppers whereas New Orleans versions often feature herbaceous remoulade sauce. Then there are Scandinavians Shrimp Salads filled with extras like potatoes and fresh dill.
In our opinion, the best Shrimp Salad is the one that we’re currently eating. Perhaps we’ll whip one up this weekend.
Don’t hesitate to add shrimp to your salad. They’re low a low calorie protein, clocking in at just 28 calories per ounce.
26. Seaweed Salad (Japan)
While humans have been eating seaweed for millennia, it was the Japanese who transformed the prevalent marine plant into a tasty salad. To do make this transformation, they soak Wakame seaweed and add flavorful ingredients like garlic, ginger, pepper flakes, sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar and vinegar.
We’ve eaten Seaweed Salad at sushi restaurants around the world in cities like Osaka, Lisbon and Budapest. It’s a great Sushi complement that tastes great and isn’t overfilling. In other words, we still have plenty of room for Sushi after we eat Seaweed Salad.
Unlike sheets of Nori seaweed used to wrap sushi, Wakame seaweed is leafy and tender. Wakame also has a more mild flavor compared to Nori.
27. Salat Katzutz (Israel)
More commonly known as Israeli Salad outside of the promised land, Salat Katzutz is a chopped vegetable salad that features a rainbow of tomatoes, cucumber, onion and every possible bell pepper color (i.e green, red and yellow). Other potential ingredients include lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and za’atar.
While Mindi ate Salat Katzutz at hotel breakfast buffets when she visited Israel years ago, we’ve both eaten the chopped salad as a side dish at Israeli restaurants in cities like Philadelphia and Paris. We hope to eat it together in Tel Aviv at some point in the future.
Some people consider Salut to be the national dish of Israel while others would choose Hummus or Falafel instead.
28. Chicken Salad (USA)
Chicken is one of the world’s most versatile proteins. It can be deep-fried, sautéed, baked or stir-fried. Sometimes it’s served in a casserole and other times it comes on a sandwich.
Home cooks commonly make Chicken Salad by combining the cooked bird with mayonnaise and serve it on a bed of lettuce or between two slices of bread. Additions like curry powder, apples and cashews turn simple Chicken Salad into a more exotic dish.
Despite its name, Chinese Chicken Salad was invented in Hollywood and not Shanghai.
29. Octopus Salad (Various)
Octopuses swim in saltwater all over the world. We’ve eaten the tasty mollusks in countries from Greece to Japan and in preparations that include sushi, ceviche, pasta and fresh off the grill. One of our favorites is Octopus Salad.
Eating Octopus Salad is always an adventure since most chefs add their personality to the dish. Some Octopus Salads are chilled while other are served warm. The best ones feature meaty octopus cooked to an ideal level of tenderness.
Octopuses have eight arms, three hearts, nine brains and blue blood.
30. Wurstsalat (Germany)
Germans take their love for meat to the next level when they add strips of sausage to salad and create meat salads called Wurstsalat. Literally translating to sausage salad, these meaty salads provide a protein punch before diners eat the main course featuring…. you guessed it… more meat.
31. Bean Salad (Various)
Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart… Well, you surely know the rest of this chant. If not, you can and should look it up.
The important thing to know about Bean Salad is that there are as many versions as there are countries. Actually more. Plus, most Beans Salads are healthy side dishes that are both filled with fiber and low in fat.
Three Bean Salad is a popular American Bean Salad with exactly three beans. However, the three beans aren’t always the same. Typical legumes include green beans, kidney beans and garbanzo beans.
32. Insalata di Cavallo (Italy)
Italy’s Insalata di Cavallo is basically horse salad. Yes, you read that right – it’s a horse salad, not a house salad. However, technically it could be both at Italian restaurants that specialize in the equine protein.
While most Americans wouldn’t consider eating Black Beauty for dinner, other countries liken eating horse to eating cow or pig. Italy is one of those countries.
Living up to the expression ‘ when in Rome’, we gave Insalata di Cavallo a try in Parma, though technically, it was actually a ‘when in Parma’ situation. Our verdict – horse issn’t all that different from beef, just leaner.
Horse meat has half the fat of beef and is less caloric too.
33. Whitefish Salad (USA)
Whitefish Salad is a salad without any vegetables in its most basic form. The only two required ingredients are smoked whitefish and mayonnaise; however, some recipes add chopped dill, minced celery and lemon juice to the mix. We don’t know why we love this savory salad so much. We just do.
Perhaps we love it for the memories it evokes of family meals involving bagel and lox spreads. Nah. We love Whitefish Salad because it tastes sooooo good.
34. Fruit Salad (Various)
Fruit Salads are popular wherever fruit is available. In other words, Fruit Salad is popular all over the world including Antarctica where fruit is both imported and grown in year-round greenhouses.
Each Fruit Salad is different based on ingredients which can include a myriad of fruits or just one solitary fruit. Some Fruit Salads have additional elements like nuts and whipped cream. You could hypothetically call the Waldorf Salad (see above) a Fruit Salad since it has apples and grapes but we’d debate you on that assertion.
Although tomatoes are technically fruit, Fruit Salads do not typically include the savory red fruit.
Bonus – Fruit Salad Gummies (Germany)
Not all fruit salads are made with actual fruit and such is the case with Fruit Salad Gummies. While we can’t call this candy salad healthy due to ingredients like sugar, corn syrup and food coloring, there’s no added fat so there is that.
Haribo makes the most popular Fruit Salad Gummies with flavors like cherry, grapefruit, lemon, orange, passion fruit and peach. We found a generic version without artificial coloring at a local Lidl market that made us smile when we saw it as well as when we ate it.
Buy a bag of Haribo Fruit Salad Gummies from Amazon.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: April 11, 2021