How To Make An Oil-Free Vegan Salad

Posted by:Lindsay S. Nixon

Fresh, oil-free salads are a staple at our house.

They are so healthy, delicious and easy to make - and trust me, you don’t need to add any oil to make them taste amazing!

My tips and recipes will help you save time and calories, as well as show you that a salad can be so much more than a boring side dish.

Why I Make These Salads

I like to keep a large Tupperware bowl of salad in my fridge at all times.


Because it makes meal prepping easy. If you are looking for something to add to your lunch, you can simply reach into your fridge and grab a few handfuls of this deliciousness to complete your meal.

Or, if you are in a pinch, it can even be your whole meal! If you do it right, a salad is so much more than a bunch of leaves thrown together, and cankeep you full and satisfied until dinner!

These types of salads also work great for parties or other occasions when you need something simple and satisfying to feed a large crowd.

Or hey, sometimes I’m just craving a large bowl of salad to eat all on my own.

The Basics of Making An Oil-Free Vegan Salad

Fresh, raw veggies form the base of all of my favorite salads.

I actually used to HATE putting things like raw mushrooms and onions in my salads, until I did some research and learned all about the benefits of eating them raw. Now I’m a convert!

I’m also a big basil gal (which my husband does not appreciate.)

If you are not, take my recommended amount of basil with a grain of salt, or eliminate it altogether if you also have any basil-haters in your life.

(Seriously. I’ve had guests ask me “Is this salad all basil?!” before.)

I will be sharing some of my favorite recipes with you below, but here’s what you will need to make a simple salad taste amazing no matter what you have in your fridge:

  • Start with some salad leaves (about 2 handfuls per portion). Spinach, arugula or even watercress are all great options, as are premade salad mixes. Kale might be a bit too fibrous for this type of salad, but do what suits your taste buds!
  • Add some interest (about ½ handful per portion) to the base with veggies like zucchini, mushrooms or even an avocado. (If you are making this salad for meal-prep, hold the avocado until the day you are actually eating the salad to make sure it does not brown.)
  • Add some texture (a small handful per portion) with crunchy things like toasted seeds, nuts or sprouts. You can even make oil-free vegan croutons to add to your salad if you like!
  • Add some freshness (a small handful per portion). This is my favorite part! Basil works great, as does mint, tarragon or even some good old parsley.
  • If you want something heartier, you can also add a grain like quinoa, couscous or pearl barley to the mix. That will take your salad from a simple side dish to a proper meal, and keep you full for longer.

And voila! You have a great salad ready to go.

While you can eat this on it’s own, an oil-free dressing is a great way to add more interest to the salad.

3 Oil-free Vegan Salad Dressing Ideas

If you are in a rush, you can throw on a quick oil-free dressing from Trader Joe’s and call it a day.

However, if you’ve got a little more time on your hands, I’d suggest trying one of these super simple oil-free dressings:

  • Lemon juice/lime juice. Mix it with hot sauce, tabasco sauce or even something like Bragg’s Liquid Aminos to make a simple, acidic dressing.
  • Mustard. Mix it with equal parts agave for a sweeter taste, or add soy sauce and lemon for a more oriental flavor.
  • Fruit juices. You can replace the oil with orange juice. Or you can skip the dressing altogether, but add fresh or dried fruit to your salad for some extra flavor!

I also recommend trying artisanal flavored vinegars like chocolate balsamic, garlic and cilantro, or apricot.

They offer an interesting twist on fan-favorites like balsamic vinegar, and can usually be found in farmers markets or local grocery stores.

Tips & tricks

Get the real Tupperware

For some reason, things stay fresh for much longer in the real Tupperware bowls than they do in knock-off brands. I did not believe it at first, but after testing it out myself, I have to admit it’s true.

If you are going to use your salad for meal-prep (or even leave it in the fridge overnight for an upcoming party), get the real Tupperware container if you can.

Add juicy vegetables (like tomatoes) later

I put in most of my vegetables when I make the salad (that’s what makes it so easy). However, I find that adding tomatoes then and there makes them lose their flavor and makes the salad a bit soggy.

To avoid this, I keep a container of cherry tomatoes in the fridge, and simply cut up 5-6 of them each time I take some of the salad out of the bowl.

Same goes for other “soggy” veggies, as well as avocadoes.

It’s all about the ratio

Getting the ratio of leafy greens to vegetables is key to making your salads taste great. Practice makes perfect, so play around with it and see what ratios you like best!

Don’t be afraid to adjust this as the week goes on, either.

I will often add an extra 5 ounces of salad greens to my Tupperware bowl in the middle of the week, because I find that the salad-to-vegetable ratio tends to decay over time.

Any “mistakes” are easy to fix by adding more or less of the other ingredients, and, as you make more and more salads like, you will start intuitively knowing what works and what does not.

Embrace the seasons

I am all about living seasonally, and like to embody that feeling when it comes to my salads, too.

Unfortunately, fresh basil isn’t always an option year-round, so, in a pinch, I will substitute parsley, mint and other herbs to really get that freshness in my salad.

Keep seasonality in mind when shopping for groceries, and don’t be afraid to make some last minute additions to your salad recipe.

Chances are, it will turn out great!

The Recipes

Time for the good stuff! Here are my favorite oil-free vegan salad recipes for you to try.

My favorite veggie salad

This is exactly what I like to make for my meal prep every week. I switch out the vegetables based on seasonality (as well as what’s in my fridge!), but this is definitely my favorite recipe to go with.


3-4 bags of salad mix (15-20 ounces)
A handful of shredded carrots
8 ounces of sliced mushrooms
6-7 stalks of green onion
1 small zucchini
2 small cucumbers
6-10 leaves of basil
5-6 cherry tomatoes (add when serving)


Simply chop up all the ingredients (except the tomatoes) and add them to a large Tupperware bowl.

Store in your fridge for up to one week. Add the tomatoes when serving.

Make sure the ingredients are evenly sized, but don’t worry too much about getting the exact measurements right here. As you make more salads, you will learn what kind of texture and taste combination you like, and become a pro at making delicious salads in no time.

The best part about this? You can mix and match the vegetables to your liking.

Hate carrots? No problem. Shredded cabbage will add some crunch to the mix as well.

Can’t stand eating raw mushrooms? There’s nothing stopping you from throwing them on a frying pan (with a little bit of soy sauce instead of oil)!

My Actez Corn Salad Recipe

If you’d like an oil-free salad that’s a little heartier, or one that you can substitute for a meal, look no further than this!


  • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 15 ounces black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup cooked quinoa
  • 3 tbsp lime juice


Combine all ingredients except lime juice and chill or allow to cool until room temperature. Add lime juice before serving.

Chef's note: You can substitute three ears of fresh corn for the frozen.

Other favorites

If you’d like to get a little fancier, try one of these recipes:

They use more ingredients and take a little more time to make, but are all excellent, satisfying options for a quick, make-ahead lunch.

What’s your favorite oil-free salad recipe?

Leave a comment below and tell the rest of us!

Or, if you are jonesing for even more healthy vegan recipes, check out our Recipes section. From quick side dishes to delicious desserts, we’ve got you covered!

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