Our best summer salad recipes for hot summer days – for picnics in the park, backyard barbecues, and lazy lunches at home – and sultry nights when you can’t be bothered going out, include everything from a healthy Thai green salad and a Cambodian papaya salad to a Russian garden salad and Mexican grilled corn salad.
As scorching days are predicted in Australia this weekend, we thought we’d share a round-up of our best summer salad recipes. Whether you’re planning beachside barbecues, waterfront picnics or you’re just planning to hibernate in the cool of your home and stay very very still, we’ve got plenty of recipes for cooling summer salads for you.
Some of our best summer salad recipes are our Southeast Asian salad recipes, from a recipe for a fantastic Thai inspired fragrant green salad of aromatic herbs by chef Chalee Kader of 100 Mahaseth restaurant in Bangkok, pictured above, to our Cambodian green mango salad with smoked fish recipe. We also have summer salads from everywhere from Mexico to the Mediterranean.
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Now, here are our best summer salad recipes. Stay cool this weekend!
Best Summer Salad Recipes for Hot Summer Days and Sultry Nights
Beneath each of our best summer salad recipes, you’ll find suggestions for companion dishes if you’re up to it.
Yum Chee Fresh Herb Salad Recipe from 100 Mahaseth Restaurant Bangkok
This fresh herb salad recipe makes one of the best summer salad recipes, a big fragrant bowl of Yum Chee from chef Chalee Kader’s 100 Mahaseth restaurant, a casual Isaan region-focused nose-to-tail eatery in Bangkok‘s hip Charenkroeung neighbourhood that is one of the Thai capital’s most sustainable restaurants. ‘Chee’ is herb’ in Thai and there are three key herbs in the dish: Puck Chee or coriander, Puck Chee Lao or dill, and Puck Chee Farang or Sawtooth coriander. ‘Yum’ is a salad. Akin to a European-style green salad, it’s distinctly Southeast Asian in its sweet and sour flavours and zesty-ness. For me, its European-ess comes from the green-ness of this green salad and lack of crunch and combination of textures typically associated with Thai salads such as som tam (the fiery Northeastern salad made with green papaya) and khao yam (a herb and rice salad from Southern Thailand with a gazillion ingredients). Of course, dill and sawtooth coriander are used in northeastern Thai cooking and the list of ingredients includes some of those you’d find in som tam, although just a tiny fraction of the chillies used in the fiery Isaan salads.
Green Papaya Salad Recipe for Cambodia’s Bok Lahong
Our Cambodian green papaya salad recipe makes Bok Lahong or Nhoam Lahong, one of our best summer salad recipes. A fresh, aromatic, crunchy papaya salad that is a little funky, a little spicy, a little sour, a little salty, and a little sweet, it’s a well-balanced salad, and this is arguably what sets it apart from its bolder cousins in Laos (where pounded salads are called Tum Som), Thailand (Som Tam), and Vietnam (Gỏi Đủ Đủ), which are, respectively, a lot funkier, more fiery, and more fragrant. The green papaya salad can be both a ‘nhoam’ and a ‘bok’ in Khmer. A nhoam or gnoam is a salad made with ingredients that are cooked, such as poached chicken, wok-fried prawns, barbecued pork, etc. The other kind of salad is a p’lear, which is made with raw ingredients, such as raw beef or raw fish that are ‘cooked’ in a lime juice-based dressing in much the same way as a ceviche or eaten raw like an Italian carpaccio. ‘Bok’ refers to something that is made by being pounded or partly-pounded in a mortar and pestle – ‘bok’ being the sound that’s made by the pestle hitting the mortar, as in ‘bok, bok, bok, bok’ – and it usually applies to papaya salads, of which there are countless, as well as dips and relishes.
Easy Cherry Tomato Salad Recipe
This easy cherry tomato salad recipe is the best tomato salad recipe ever if you want a taste of summer on the Mediterranean, and it’s another one of our best summer salad recipes. It’s super quick and easy to make – so easy that after you make this you’ll never have to look at this recipe again. The key to making this summer salad taste great is fresh, flavourful produce and top quality ingredients. In my dreams I’m using the sweetest tomatoes and crunchiest cucumbers from Lebanon, the grassiest extra virgin olive oil from Valencia, sweet red onions from Tropea, briny capers from Pantelleria, Ortiz salted anchovies from Spain, aromatic Italian basil from Liguria, and, of course, the juiciest olives from Kalamata and finest feta cheese from any village in Greece. Munching into this has me dreaming about the summer holidays we used to have on the Mediterranean, diving from rocky ledges into the turquoise waters in southern Turkey, reading in between snoozing by hotel pool overlooking colourful Positano, long sweaty late afternoon walks along the forested paths that snake around Capri.
Long Bean Salad with Smoked Fish Recipe for Bok Sondek Trey Cha-er
This Cambodian long bean salad with smoked fish recipe makes bok sondek trey cha-er and for me it’s the Cambodian equivalent of a European green salad. As delicious as it is, you might not eat it on its own just as you probably wouldn’t eat a lettuce, tomato and onion salad by itself. But it’s the best accompaniment to barbecued or grilled meats or fish, a soup and steamed rice. I love this Cambodian long bean salad but unlike some of the other Cambodian salads here, such as the pork and jicama salad, which I’d happily tuck into on their own for a filling lunch or light dinner, this salad is best shared as part of a family meal, with steamed rice and perhaps a soup, a grilled fish or barbecue meats. The inclusion of ‘bok’ in the title tells you that this is another pounded or partly-pounded salad – and it should be pounded in a big wooden mortar and pestle. Don’t use a stone or granite mortar and pestle, which are best for making curry pastes and Cambodian kroeungs (herb and spice mixes), as you don’t want to completely crush everything to mush. I like to give the beans a light pound, just enough for them to break, as I still want the salad to have crunch. If you’ve never used a mortar and pestle before, we have some tips.
Classic Russian Garden Salad Recipe
My classic Russian garden salad recipe makes another of our best summer salad recipes. It’s a simple tossed green salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and onion that my baboushka served with every family meal when I was growing up in Sydney in the Seventies. The addition of fresh dill and pink radishes add fragrance and crunch, setting it apart from other classic European garden salads. As simple as the salad sounds, it was the perfect companion to heartier dishes she served, such as Russian cabbage rolls, borscht, beetroot and potato salad, and vareneki and pelmeni (Russian dumplings). My baba’s garden salad was exceptional, because most of the ingredients were just picked from papa’s backyard vegetable garden. Baba and papa had a market garden in Seven Hills when they were younger, and papa grew vegetables in their backyard at Blacktown – and also had chooks, made pickles and distilled vodka. Papa’s tomatoes were the sweetest I’ve ever tasted, his radishes the zestiest, and his cucumbers the crunchiest.
Easy Pork Salad Recipe with Yam Beans and Aromatic Southeast Asian Herbs
This easy pork salad recipe with yam beans is another of our best summer salad recipes, packed with aromatic Southeast Asian herbs and peanuts, it’s a light, refreshing dish with fragrance, texture, crunch, and spicy pork flavours. Made with yam beans or jicama, it’s fantastic eaten on its own or part of a Cambodia feast. It’s not only incredibly delicious but also very healthy. Yam beans or jicama are known for their abundance of vitamins, fibre and minerals and can be eaten raw and cooked. Local cooks in Cambodia love yam beans. Yam beans are used in salads to add crunch, as well as in deep fried spring rolls. If you can’t find yam beans and still want to make this easy pork salad recipe with yam beans, jicama is very similar in taste and texture to a slightly unripe green apple – but note that you’d have to add your julienned apple to a salad at the last minute to avoid discolouration.
Mexican Grilled Corn Salad Recipe
This Mexican grilled corn salad recipe can be made from scratch or can be assembled using any leftovers from the grilled corn on the cob street food snack called elotes. It’s easily one of our best summer salad recipes and is a terrific salad for using up corn lovers and is fantastic for late summer barbecues or early spring picnics. We first began making these and other Mexican dishes after we returned to Australia following our first trip to Mexico way back in 1993, when we backpacked all over the country. In Mexico we snacked on elotes and esquites, also called elote en vaso or corn in a cup everywhere from Mexico City to Merida. When we got back home to Australia we were missing Mexico and Mexican food so much that we started having Mexican-themed dinner parties and drinks at our Sydney apartment to transport us back as much as give our friends a taste of Mexico for an evening. We do our corn on a griddle pan in the kitchen or a traditional clay brazier on the balcony here in Cambodia. You could also use an outdoor barbecue or grill or stovetop Korean BBQ grill pan. If you’re up for a full Mexican/Tex-Mex food feast, see our recipes for sopa de tortilla from San Miguel de Allende, tacos al pastor, chili con carne, easy red tomato salsa, authentic Mexican guacamole, quesadillas, and Lara’s ultimate nachos. We also have recipes for classic margaritas and micheladas.
Classic Banana Flower Salad Recipe for Cambodia’s Gnoam Trayong Chek
This recipe for a banana flower salad – also called a banana blossom salad – makes the Cambodian banana flower salad called gnoam trayong chek in Khmer, another one of our best summer salad recipes. Our banana flower salad includes shredded poached chicken but you could make a vegetarian version. It’s super-easy, you just need to work fast so your banana flower doesn’t brown. It’s a fragrant and crunchy salad that is all about the texture and aromas. This salad falls into the category of ‘gnoam’ salads here in Cambodia. A gnoam, which you’ll also spot spelt as nhoam, is a fresh salad that’s prepared with cooked ingredients, such as poached chicken in this case. The other sort of salad you’ll come across in Cambodia is called a p’lear, which features raw ingredients, such as raw fish that’s ‘cooked’ in a citrus-based dressing, like a ceviche is, or with raw beef, served like an Italian carpaccio.
Grilled Corn Salad Recipe With Lime, Chilli, Lemongrass Mayo and Sourdough Croutons
Inspired by the traditional Mexican grilled corn salad, above, and the corn salads of the backyard barbecues of my childhood growing up in Sydney, Australia, this grilled corn salad recipe with lime, chilli, lemongrass mayonnaise, and sourdough croutons is another one of our best summer salad recipes. The salad uses up grilled corn on the cob leftovers from your weekend barbecues (I used up the leftovers I had from this char-grilled corn with lime butter and lemongrass mayonnaise to create this recipe) and those hard sourdough bread ends you didn’t finish. Terence happened to have a crunchy end of near-stale sourdough, as, avid sourdough baker that he is, he’s pulling homemade sourdough boules out of the oven every few days (if you’re new to sourdough baking, see his excellent easy sourdough beginner’s guide), so I asked him to make some sourdough croutons and crunchy toasted sourdough crumbs, which gave this fragrant grilled corn salad fantastic texture.
Green Mango Salad and Smoked Fish Recipe for Cambodia’s Nhoam Svay Trei Chhae
Our green mango salad with smoked fish recipe makes Cambodia’s nhoam svay trei chhae, an aromatic salad full of texture and flavour, thanks to the raw fruit and vegetables, crispy smoked fish, dried shrimp, crunchy peanuts, and a classic Cambodian dressing of fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, birds eye chillies, and palm sugar. It’s easily another of our best summer salad recipes. As with all Cambodian and northern Southeast Asian salads in this style, always make your dressing first to let the flavours meld together. But always add the dressing last to the actual salad so it doesn’t get too wet and soggy. The smoked dried fish involves a little bit of preparation that is not difficult but it’s a bit fiddly. In Cambodia, we buy skewers of the small smoked fish that you see in the image above from the local markets. These crispy dried fish are typically small local freshwater fish called trey riel, which tend to be either baby carps or Indonesian snakehead fish, although trey slak, trey changwa mool, and trey russey are also used. They are smoked in rustic homemade wood-fire smokers in the floating villages around the Tonle Sap (Great Lake) in Cambodia, just as they have been smoked for well over a thousand years.
Russian Beet Potato Salad Recipe
This Russian beet potato salad recipe makes vinegret (ВИНЕГРЕТ in Russian), a creamy pink potato and beetroot salad that is fragrant with dill and delightfully tangy, thanks to the gherkins and capers. Based on my Baboushka’s recipe, it was a staple at family meals and holiday feasts, Sunday lunches and summer picnics. I’ve been making babouskha’s traditional Russian beet potato salad recipe for Vinegret (ВИНЕГРЕТ in Russian) for as long as I can remember, and always make it for Russian Christmas and Russian Easter when I spend some days cooking the Russian food I learnt to make in the kitchens of my mother and baboushka as a child growing up in western Sydney. There would rarely be a family meal at baba and papa’s Blacktown home without this Russian beet potato salad and my mum made it every time we had a backyard barbecue. Despite the fact I can make it in my sleep, this beetroot and potato salad turns out a little differently each time and the main difference is the colour. It could be a pale pink like the salad below or a deep dark ruby-pink in this photo. Fresh beetroots always result in a more vibrant colour than tinned beetroots. I definitely recommend the former.
Pork Larb Recipe for Cambodian Laab Sach Chrouk Pork Mince Salad
Our pork larb recipe makes Cambodia’s laab sach chrouk, a stir-fried minced pork salad that’s combined with fresh fragrant herbs, infused with the delightfully funky flavour of fish sauce, dusted with toasted rice powder, and served with crunchy vegetables and steamed rice, is another of our best summer salad recipes. We’ve been cooking and eating Thai larb since the 1980s when we first began cooking and eating Thai food in Australia, but it wasn’t until we moved to Siem Reap, Cambodia, from Vietnam in 2013 that we first tasted Cambodia’s wonderful pork laab – also spelt as larb and lab here. Like the Cambodian-Chinese rice porridge called borbor, which we posted about yesterday, Cambodians have really made their take on the larb their own. It’s very much a case of ‘same same but different’ when you compare the Cambodian laab sach chrouk minced pork salad to the larb minced salads from Thailand and Laos. The differences between this pork larb recipe and other larb salads are subtle. The Thai larbs are more spicy, the Lao larbs are more earthy, and the Cambodian larbs are more fragrant. We love them all.
Cambodian Grilled Beef Salad Recipe for Nhoam Sach Ko
This Cambodian grilled beef salad recipe makes nhoam sach ko, a simple but refreshing salad made with lightly grilled marinated beef, infused with fresh fragrant herbs, in a classic Cambodian dressing of lime juice, fish sauce and garlic, and it’s another of our best summer salad recipes. It’s a fantastic dish to share alongside a few other barbecue dishes, a soup and a curry or two. When it comes to beef salads in Cambodia, there are essentially two types. There is one salad where the raw beef is marinated in lime juice and herbs (lemongrass is essential for this) and served after it has been ‘cooked’ in the lime juice in the same way that a ceviche is. This kind of cold salad is called a p’lear or plea in Khmer and along with beef you’ll find fish and seafood salads made this way. The other kind of salad makes this Cambodian grilled beef salad recipe, where the meat is marinated for a short amount of time and grilled quickly over charcoal before being dressed. This kind of salad is called a nhoam or gnoam and this refers to salads where the key ingredients, such as beef, chicken, fish or seafood, are actually cooked in a wok or on a grill, before being combined with raw or lightly cooked vegetables, aromatic herbs, a dressing, and ingredients that add texture such as dried shrimp or peanuts.
Russian Potato Salad Recipe for the Olivier Salad Also Known as Ensalada Rusa
This Russian potato salad recipe for Olivier Salad or ensalada Rusa makes a Russian salad dating to the 1860s, when it was invented at a celebrated Moscow restaurant. Served at family meals, especially at Russian Easter and Christmas, it’s another fantastic summer salad for barbecues and picnics but is also a filling winter salad served as a side to steak, sausages or roast. My potato salad recipe makes the modern take on the Olivier salad, which was invented by the chef of a famed Moscow restaurant in the 19th century, and popularised in the 20th century during the Soviet period. The potato salad recipe would then go on to travel the world, becoming known as ensalada Rusa everywhere from Madrid to Mexico, Barcelona to Buenos Aires. The typical Soviet-era Russian potato salad ingredients list included potatoes, carrots, onion, peas, gherkins, and mayonnaise, which was ever-present. Mayonnaise was considered to be the glue that bound the Soviet states together. The Olivier salad was more luxurious, comprised of seasonal ingredients such as crayfish tails, caviar, smoked duck, veal tongue, grouse, and capers. While ingredients were diced, it didn’t contain potato.
Cambodian Cucumber Salad Recipe for Nhoam Trasak
This Cambodian cucumber salad recipe for nhoam trasak – also spelt gnoam trasak or gnoam tra-sakk – makes a fantastic filling salad that you can eat year-round, if you’re lucky to live in warmer climates, such as Southeast Asia, or a colossal country like Australia, where you can source cucumbers throughout the year. Traditionally shared in Cambodia, where, like most of our salads above, it’s eaten family-style with rice, and perhaps an array of other dishes, you could also serve this as a satisfying single-bowl meal for lunch or dinner. cucumbers are fantastic in summer salads. Keep them refrigerated until you’re ready to use them and thanks to their high water content, they remain crunchy and cold for quite a while. Hence the expression “cool as a cucumber”. The addition of fried bacon, smoked dried fish and dried shrimp are what make this salad more filling and a great year-round salad for me. This is a classic Cambodian cucumber salad, yet you’ll find countless variations in Cambodia, so do feel free to tweak this – just as Cambodians do. It’s easily another of the best summer salad recipes for this scorching heat.
Cambodian Pomelo Salad with Prawns Recipe, A Traditional Dish with Modern Presentation
This Cambodian pomelo salad with prawns recipe is another of the best summer salad recipes for a sweltering day. It has been a favourite since we moved to Cambodia and it’s a breeze to make. It’s also another traditional dish that can be served in a more contemporary style for entertaining and that’s just what we did. Salads are almost always a component of a Cambodian meal and this Cambodian pomelo salad with prawns recipe has the fresh, clean flavours you want to accompany a stir-fry, soup, stew or curry. Sometimes served with pork, this version uses large, fresh shrimps for protein. This Cambodian pomelo salad with prawns recipe has been a favourite since we moved to Cambodia. It’s a salad we always look forward to eating at Sugar Palm restaurant here in Siem Reap and guests we take to the restaurant always love the dish. This recipe uses dried shrimp. In Cambodia, dried shrimp is a serious business. In Siem Reap, the stands that sell the shrimp at Old Market have regular customers who take time to inspect the different grades and sizes before making a purchase. While you can buy dried shrimp in the local supermarkets, the stalls at Old Market offer far superior quality and are the place to make a purchase. The pomelo is the largest citrus fruit here and is native to South-East Asia. Similar to grapefruit (which can be used as a substitute in this recipe), it’s less sour and is often a lot more firm.
Do let us know if you make any of our best summer salad recipes in the comments below, by email or tag us on social media if you share them. We’d love to know how they turn out for you.