Delicious Salads That Can Keep for Days

Workweek lunches just got so much easier and healthier.

bowl of bean salad
A bowl of bean salad.

 @maltesewanderer via Twenty20

I love a great green salad, especially when the weather is hot. The only problem is, I do not always love making salad for lunch, especially during the workday. It feels like too much effort to wash the greens, cut up all the crunchy vegetables and toppings that I crave, open and wash a can of chickpeas, toast some nuts, hard-boil an egg, and shake up a vinaigrette. Yes, I could be one of those super-organized people who does it all on a Sunday afternoon and has it beautifully arranged in glass jars in the fridge, but I'm not. 

I have, however, discovered the wonders of the keeper salad. By this I mean non-lettuce-based salads that keep for days in the fridge and give me (almost) the same level of satisfaction when I eat them. After the initial assembly, which can be done in large batches, they're a fast and healthy lunch, and an instant side dish for dinner if I need it.

When making salads to keep, you'll want to avoid adding things that wilt or get slimy, so stay away from greens and herbs. Don't ever add tomatoes or cucumbers until serving time because they release water. There are plenty of other ingredients that taste great after marinating for a few days in their dressings. These are some of my favorites.

1. Coleslaw

This is the best way to use up a cabbage that's been lingering in your fridge for a while. My old 1976 "More With Less" cookbook even describes it as a way to "preserve cabbage when heads begin to split in the garden [that] provides instant salad for weeks." Chop or shred finely, along with some carrots, celery, and onion. Make a sweet dressing with sugar, vinegar, oil, and celery seeds, and pour over top. Store in a sealed container. Here's a recipe.

2. Bean and Corn Salad

Who doesn't love a great bean salad? Buy a variety of canned beans (kidney, chickpeas, black beans) and canned corn kernels and mix together with red pepper, and red onion. Add a mustardy vinaigrette and it'll keep for several days in the fridge. It will soften slightly, but it's still delicious. Sprinkle with fresh basil just before eating.

3. Potato Salad

Potato salad can be kept for several days in the fridge. Idaho Potato says keeping for 3 to 4 days is safe for a salad that hasn't sat out for any length of time; “if the potato salad was held in excess of 41°F for over two hours, then discard.” Make whatever your favorite recipe is and stash it in a sealed container in the fridge. (Tip: A Fine Cooking technique that I learned is to toss the just-cooked hot potatoes with 1/4 cup rice vinegar + 1 tbsp kosher salt that's been dissolved in it, then dress as usual once cool. It adds fabulous flavor.)

4. Quinoa, Black Bean and Mango Salad

Probably my favorite in this list, I make it over and over again and never get tired of it. The recipe I use comes from America's Test Kitchen "Complete Vegetarian Cookbook," and it's a grain salad made with quinoa, black beans, cilantro, scallions, avocado, and fresh mango chunks, with a lime-jalapeno vinaigrette. The key is not to add the mango until you're ready to eat because it will turn brown and soft, but other than that, it can prepared on a weekend and eaten all week long (if it lasts).

5. Curried Lentil, Orzo and Wild Rice Salad

I discovered this Canadian Living recipe nine years ago, when my aunt made it in giant pails for my cousin's wedding reception. Then my mom made it later the same year for my sister's wedding reception. Then I made it for my husband's 30th birthday party. It was the summer of the curried lentil salad and, despite eating it non-stop, I only grew to love it more. It's a nutty, chewy, filling salad that keeps well for days. 

6. Vegetable Pasta Salad

Pasta salad tastes better the day after it's made because it needs time for the flavors to blend. Cook and cool some pasta. Add an assortment of fresh vegetables, such as peppers, zucchini, broccoli florets, red onion; marinated vegetables, such as pickled artichokes, olives, eggplant; and additives like feta cheese, chickpeas or kidney beans. Toss with a vinaigrette, and add minced fresh herbs when ready to serve.