* Thank you to Flavor of the Earth for sponsoring this post. All opinions are mine alone.*
Take your next salad from bland to grand with Classic Garden Salad with Spicy Vegan Ranch Dressing which features creamy, protein-packed hemp seeds and almonds instead of dairy. It’s also spiked with an extra bit of spicy flavor from turmeric and cayenne!
I’m not going to lie to you all—despite that salads are often seen as boring, I happen to think they’re one the easiest healthy meals of all because you can take whatever produce you have lingering in the fridge, pile it in a bowl, use up all those healthy veggies, and then cover your salad with whatever dressing you please.
If that’s not an easy healthy meal, I don’t know what is!
One of my favorite salads has always been the classic garden salad because it’s easy, familiar, affordable, and can be paired with any meal or serve as the base for a mini meal. While I love other types of salad for quick and easy meals, like my Roasted Veggie Beauty Detox Salad or my Curry, Kraut, and Cranberry Garden Salad, there’s still something about a classic garden salad in the middle of summer that just hits the spot!
Fresh, crisp, kind of juicy from the lettuce and tomatoes, a hint of mellowness from the mild, summer cucumber, a hint of sweetness from the carrots, and the awesome crunch of everything when you pile it on together. Simple, healthy, perfect!
But instead of sharing a boring, everyday garden salad, I thought I’d create a basic recipe and then top it off with a super flavorful, healthy dressing that’s packed with superfood potential.
For the base of my salad, I chose a mix of fresh butter lettuce (a super sweet and juicy variety that I love) and romaine lettuce which is a great source of Vitamin C. Then, I dressed it up with simple, everyday superfoods that take it from bland to grand in just seconds!
Check out the nutritious foods in this Classic Garden Salad…
Broccoli is a fantastic source of plant-based calcium, Vitamin B6, and fiber which are all important nutrients for healthy blood pressure levels. Calcium also supports the bones, teeth, hair, nails, and skin and it’s much better to get your calcium from whole plant foods than supplements. Vitamin B6 is also a great nutrient to help relieve tension, aid in muscle relaxation, calm the nerves, and can contribute to healthy energy levels and a healthy mood.
TIP: Broccoli is great for you whether fresh or frozen, but you’ll obviously want fresh broccoli for a classic garden salad. I like to cut the florets off and just include those in the salad versus the hard-to-chew fibrous stem. You can juice or blend the stems later, compost them, or just toss them in your next soup where they’ll soften up (like this Creamy Butternut Squash Turmeric Broccoli Soup). Broccoli stems are a great source of nutrition, but the florets work best in a salad.
Cucumbers are a great source of the mineral silica which is a natural beauty mineral that helps support your skin, nails, and hair. Cucumbers are also one of the most powerful detoxifying foods you can eat. Cucumber naturally aids in cleansing the lymphatic system to eliminate toxins and aids in your daily water intake. Cucumbers also help fight bloating, constipation, and are excellent fruits to aid the relaxation of the body due to the way their nutrients can help lower blood pressure levels. Just be sure to buy your cucumbers organic whenever possible since they’re consistently on the Dirty Dozen list.
TIP: Cucumbers can also be used in smoothies, not just salads. So if you see your cucumbers are starting to get soft, wash them, chop them up, freeze in baggies, and use them in your next smoothie recipe!
Tomatoes are well-known for their amazing antioxidant content, specifically the antioxidant lycopene which is wonderful for aiding in the prevention of skin cancer and even prostate cancer. The antioxidant is also wonderful to help fight skin-related aging. If you’re sensitive to tomatoes in terms of their acidity, you can cook them before using them on a salad if you wish. Tomatoes are also a great source of Vitamin C, potassium, and can help fight bloating while still providing some healthy fiber intake.
TIP: Keep your tomatoes on the counter before use to let them fully ripen. Place them stem side up and let them sit until they get super soft and ready to cut into. If they start to wrinkle a bit, they’re either fully ripe or have been exposed to cold temperatures which change their texture and taste. I like to refrigerate my grape tomatoes but always leave the larger ones out on the counter and try to use them up ASAP.
Celery is one of the best sources of Vitamin K of all veggies aside from fresh greens. Vitamin K is important for our bones and also our immunity. Celery also helps reduce high blood pressure levels and is a great way to naturally flush toxins from the body since it’s a natural diuretic. It’s crunch and flavor is also a great way to add texture and savoriness to any salad dressing. I also enjoy celery because it’s a natural source of sodium, so using celery in recipes can help reduce the need for excessive added salt if any at all.
TIP: Celery is also one of the most consistent veggies on the Dirty Dozen list, so buy organic whenever possible–it’s well worth it! To help you celery last longer, wash it when you get home, dry it off, and wrap it in paper towels. Then keep in the crisper drawer and it will stay fresher much longer, by at least a week.
Carrots are an excellent source of Vitamin C, fiber, magnesium, and potassium. Carrots are also well-known for their high beta-carotene content which aids in the health of the skin and heart. Their bright orange color indicates their high antioxidant content making them one of the top must-have salad ingredients for taste and nutrition! Carrots are also affordable, especially when it comes to organic varieties. Baby carrots or large carrots work great in salads, and you can peel them or slice them up however you wish.
TIP: Carrots last a long time in the fridge if kept properly in the crisper drawer, however, they’ll last much longer if you take them out of the plastic bags they come in at the store (even the baby carrot varieties), wash them, dry them off really well, and put them in a Ziploc baggie lined with paper towels. Then leave the bag open and place back in the crisper drawer. Carrots need to breathe, and the liquid they are washed with before they reach the supermarket can sometimes cause them to spoil more quickly than necessary. If your carrots fade in color, that’s no biggie, but when they start to turn brown, use them up or compost them so they don’t go to waste.
But…enough about the veggies–let’s talk about that dressing!
Ranch dressing is a classic, too, so it’s simply a must for this Classic Garden Salad. If you weren’t a ranch fan before, I hope I can convert you with this new version. I grew up loving ranch dressing dearly, though, and I wasn’t picky on the kind.
However, it wasn’t until I tasted a spicy ranch dressing at a restaurant once almost a decade ago that I really fell in love. I can’t believe I haven’t created a healthier option of that dressing until now, but I didn’t want to make a copycat version that was made with store-bought non-dairy mayo. Although that would be an option for a vegan ranch dressing, I thought I’d just make my own since salad dressing is one of the easiest recipes to make healthy. Plus, store-bought vegan mayo products tend to be all oil and just a few seasonings, so I made an oil-free option instead that’s still totally delicious and super creamy.
Spicy Vegan Ranch Dressing has all the beloved flavors of ranch like chives, garlic, onion, and pepper, but it also has a hint of something special thanks to the addition of turmeric, smoked paprika, and cayenne!
I used my favorite turmeric from Flavor of the Earth in this dressing which is hand-ground as soon as it’s harvested and then packaged up. I love this brand of turmeric because it’s incredibly fresh, flavorful, and never tastes bitter like some store-bought options. (I also love their cinnamon too, by the way!) Turmeric is a great sources of ant-inflammatory compounds that can also help boost circulation. It’s also an excellent addition to savory or sweet recipes. I love to use it in salad dressing for its gorgeous color and for its digestive and heart health benefits.
And guess what? This dressing is also made with naturally creamy and protein-rich hemp seeds and almonds for an extra dose of flavor and nutrition!
Hemp seeds and raw almonds get blended together with the spices and some plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk in the blender. Then they thicken up and turn into a wonderfully creamy dressing that seriously hits the spot when they mix with the crunch from all the fresh produce in the salad.
You won’t believe this dressing is dairy-free and oil-free because it’s so creamy, I promise. The longer it sits, the creamier it gets. It can also be kept in the fridge all week long, about 5 days. You could even use raw sunflower seeds or raw cashews in place of the almonds if you prefer, but I went with raw almonds because they add an incredibly mild flavor and I tend to have them on hand most often.
Hemp seeds are also packed with potential as you probably know; they’re packed with healthy omega fatty acids and are one of the best sources of magnesium and iron of all nuts and seeds. Hemp seeds and almonds are also great sources of plant-based protein which makes this dressing a nutritional all-star!
- a head of your favorite lettuce, I like butter lettuce and romaine the best (feel free to mix and match)
- celery stalks
- broccoli florets
- optional: red onion slices (I didn't use any)
- 1 cup of a plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk (not coconut or rice milk; choose unsweetened plain almond or plain unsweetened organic soy)*
- 3 Tbsp. of organic raw hemp seeds
- 2 Tbsp. of raw almonds
- ½ Tsp. turmeric
- ⅛ Tsp. cayenne (omit if you're sensitive to the heat in cayenne)
- ⅛ Tsp. smoked paprika
- ⅛ Tsp. garlic powder
- ⅛ Tsp. onion powder
- 1 Tsp. dried parsley
- 1 Tsp. dried chives
- ½ Tsp. black pepper
- pinch of high-quality sea salt
- juice of 1 lemon
- To make the salad, wash and chop your lettuce, carrots, celery stalks, cucumbers and broccoli florets into small pieces. If using red onion slices, go ahead and peel and wash that too.
- Make enough depending on how many salads you want. Generally, a large head of lettuce will make enough 4 salads. For the veggies, I use 1 large cucumber, 2 tomatoes, ½ head of broccoli, 1 cup of baby carrots and 2 large stalks of celery. This also provides enough for 4 salads. If you're just making this for one, you'll only need about 1 cup of greens and ¼ cup or so of each veggie, or make enough for 4 as directed and then keep the extra salads in the fridge for later use.
- Ensemble your salad by putting equal amounts of salad greens into 4 bowls and then add your chopped carrots, celery, cucumbers and broccoli to each salad. Slice 2 tomatoes and add ½ of each tomato on top of each salad along with a garnish of black pepper if you like.
- To make the dressing, add the non-dairy milk, hemp seeds, almonds, the juice of a lemon, and all the spices into a blender. Blend on low, then progress to high and let it run a good 15 seconds - 20 seconds to fully blend. A high-speed blender or Nutribullet (or Magic Bullet) work best here since they blend more finely.
- Pour the dressing mixture into a mason jar, put the lid on well, shake a couple times, and then let it sit in the fridge for 10 minutes to set and thicken up. The longer it sits, the thicker it gets. I recommend letting it sit overnight in the fridge if you want it really thick and then shake again before use. Or, make it 10 minutes before you enjoy it. This will make enough for 1 cup of dressing, which is plenty for 4 salads. Store the dressing separately from the salad in the fridge since the salad(s) will get soggy if prepared with the dressing ahead of time.
*Feel free to sub the almonds with sunflower seeds or cashews since they are mild and creamy like almonds. I don't recommend walnuts or pecans since they have a more pronounced, sweet flavor.
This is a fantastic, simple ranch dressing you can make at home without any oil, dairy, or processed ingredients. And if you’re sensitive to spicy foods, just omit the cayenne, paprika, and black pepper. I might also note, that I included a pinch of salt in the recipe because not all non-dairy milk products have salt added to them. Generally, the plain varieties of soy that are unsweetened don’t, and the unsweetened non-dairy almond milk products do. So, if you use a non-dairy milk with added salt (check the ingredients), you may not need the extra pinch of salt included in the recipe. Just a note, test to your liking!
Since the dressing has natural protein in it, I didn’t add any additional sources, but any legume such as chickpeas, black beans, or even tempeh would work. Other great add-ins for flavor and nutrition include roasted sweet potatoes, fresh fruit, and even sun-dried tomatoes or olives. Get creative!
Oh, and don’t forget!
Never let those veggies in your fridge go to waste. Wash them, chop them up, and make yourself a classic garden salad. It’s one of the simplest ways to ensure you get a variety of veggies into your day in one single meal and when you have a nutritious dressing like this Spicy Vegan Ranch Dressing on hand, you can also be certain that your dressing is 100% healthy all the way around!
What’s your favorite homemade dressing recipe?
More Healthy Dressing Recipes to Check Out:
* Thank you to Flavor of the Earth for sponsoring this post. All opinions are mine alone.*