Make-ahead salad recipes for a week of easy lunches

An overhead view of salads and vegetables on plates
Simple proteins plus salad — like harissa meatballs with cucumbers — are great make-ahead lunches to enjoy outside.
(Danielle Campbell / For The Times)

The collective haze of gloom brought about by these past couple of weeks — heck, months — of cold and rainy weather finally seems to have eased, at least for now. Don’t get me wrong, I love a day of rain to stay in and watch TV while lying on the couch as a big pot of soup cooks on the stove. But after the 15th consecutive day, I’m a little over it.

Most everyone else I’ve talked to recently is also very much over it, and now that the sun has finally come out, we’re all champing at the bit to be outside again, even if the temps are colder than usual. To allow me the most time outside during the middle of the day to soak up all the warmth and rays I can (with sunscreen on, don’t worry), I’m preparing several meals that I can make ahead and dole out for quick lunches to enjoy on the patio, in the backyard or if you’re like me, by my apartment complex’s swimming pool so I can pretend it’s summer even though we have a few more months to go.

Danielle Campbell’s Roasted Salmon With Chermoula and Kale Salad is my ideal lunch. A side of roast salmon lasts for a few meals, while the kale — dressed simply with olive oil and lemon juice — holds up days later as well, giving me a meal that eats the same on day three as it does on day one.

Campbell’s Spicy Harissa Meatballs With Cucumber Salad is another make-ahead hit. Roast the meatballs, dress the cucumbers and then all you have to do is warm up some pita at each meal to bring it all together. You can open the pita and stuff the insides with all the fixins to take your lunch on a walk around the neighborhood.

Christian Reynoso’s Red Cabbage and Date Salad With Preserved Lemon and Pistachios is one of my favorite make-ahead salads because the hearty cabbage holds up so well for so long in the fridge. Dressed with a cumin vinaigrette and mixed with red onions and preserved lemons, it’s a sharp slaw that pairs well with some sautéed shrimp or tofu, a plain chicken breast or a thick-cut pork chop for dinner.


And when I want something veggie-forward for the end of the week, Dawn Perry’s Chickpea Salad Bowls With Cucumbers, Feta and Za’atar is a must. Chickpeas are dressed in a warm, za’atar-seasoned oil, then piled in a bowl with a fresh onion and cucumber salad, some blistered peppers and slabs of fresh feta. Serve it atop couscous or rice if you want, but I like all the parts assembled in a big bowl that I pick at with my fingers like a mezze platter while sipping ice-cold seltzer and enjoying the sunny days during this break from winter.

Roasted Salmon With Chermoula and Kale Salad

Lemon zest adds brightness to simple roasted salmon in this easy dish served with a lemony kale salad. The chermoula sauce for the salmon comes together quickly in a food processor or blender.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 30 minutes.

Roasted Salmon on a plate with Kale Salad.
(Danielle Campbell / For The Times)

Spicy Harissa Meatballs With Cucumber Salad

Harissa, the spicy chile paste from Morocco, flavors these tender meatballs, along with fresh mint and warm cumin. A bright cucumber salad adds freshness and crunch to the meatballs; serve them on yogurt and warm pita bread.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 35 minutes.

Spicy Harissa Meatballs on a pita with Cucumber Salad, photographed from overhead.
(Danielle Campbell / For The Times)

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Red Cabbage and Date Salad With Preserved Lemon and Pistachios

Dates get the slaw/salad treatment here, adding slivers of sweet and soft to the crunch and savoriness of this dish. This goes great with pork chops, braised chicken or warm flatbread and labneh.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 15 minutes.

Three bowls of Red Cabbage, Date and Salted Citrus Salad on a wood cutting board, with a serving fork and spoon on a napkin
(Rebecca Peloquin / For The Times)

Chickpea Salad Bowls With Cucumbers, Feta and Za’atar

A mix of spiced chickpeas, crunchy and tart cucumber salad and salty, cool feta, these make-your-own bowls are a breeze to prep and serve for a weeknight meal. Store each component separately in the fridge and bring it together just before you make each serving to preserve the textures and freshness of each component.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 30 minutes.

A Chickpea Salad Bowl next to a platter of its ingredients
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times; prop styling / Sean Bradley; food styling / Ben Mims)

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