Let’s take it easy with a quick, healthy side like this Arugula Salad with lemon balsamic dressing. This flexible recipe goes with just about anything (chicken, seafood, pizza, and even brunch recipes like quiche all taste fab with arugula). It’s simple, endlessly customizable, and the bright dressing makes it the best arugula salad you’ll ever make.
This colorful blend of peppery arugula, juicy cherry tomatoes, and colorful carrot ribbons (plus giant shavings of Parmesan because YUM) is pretty enough to be worthy of the weekend.
It’s so easy to make, I never feel too tired to throw it together, even at the end of a long weekday when my brain is saying hi, I’m done.
This salad is flexible, fast, and makes me feel both wholesome and creative at the same time.
It’s the sort of salad I wish I could order at every restaurant: veggie packed and crisp, with a vibrant lemon balsamic dressing that enhances the other ingredients without making the salad wet or soggy.
I’ve made assorted versions of this arugula salad dozens of times over the years. It’s a back-pocket kind of recipe that gives me a zippy, tasty way to add some green to our plates. I enjoy it every time I make it.
Arugula is one of my favorite greens to use in a salad because of its signature flavor. It can stand up to fully flavored dressings, but it’s not *so* strong that it overpowers the plate, hence its ability to pair with so many dishes.
Arugula recipes like this one are excellent for easy lunches and healthy sides. Depending upon what other ingredients you have on hand, you can make one to suit any mood.
When I’m craving a more filling, main dish-style arugula salad with goat cheese, I make this Creamy Arugula Pasta Salad with Goat Cheese and Tomato. When I need a main that will impress everyone I serve it to, I go for this Roasted Eggplant with Crispy Chickpea Arugula Salad.
When I need a slam-dunk side dish, however, today’s balsamic arugula salad never fails.
Tips to Make a Healthy Arugula Salad
Because of its nutritious ingredients and light dressing, this arugula salad is very good for you. Arugula is packed with vital nutrients, and it’s low in calories, carbs, fat, and sugar.
- To make the salad even better for you, focus on adding extra servings of healthy ingredients, like fresh vegetables or fruit (arugula salad with pears or strawberries would be wonderful). An arugula avocado salad is next on my list.
- Use more indulgent ingredients, like nuts and cheese, in moderation. These are important to add to make the salad satisfying; just don’t go overboard.
- Arugula salad recipes with chicken are also a great way to add lean, filling protein. You can easily toss chicken or your cooked protein of choice on just about any arugula salad.
How to Make Arugula Salad
I added carrots and tomatoes to this salad because that was what was in my refrigerator. I also tossed in some sunflower seeds for texture and some chopped fresh herbs that were threatening extinction.
Honestly though, you can serve this salad with only the arugula, lemon balsamic dressing (which tastes completely dynamite with arugula), and Parmesan and call it a day. The other ingredients are yummy, but it’s the simple trio of arugula, homemade dressing, and Parm that does the heavy lifting.
- Arugula. Despite its appearance, arugula is not a lettuce. It’s actually part of the mustard greens family. You can do so much with arugula besides make a salad, but that’s my favorite way to serve it. It’s tender, fresh, and peppery. Additionally, arugula is rich in calcium and potassium (read more about arugula here).
- Carrots. Grated carrots make this salad even more nutritious and give it beautiful color. Carrots are packed with Vitamin-A and fiber (see more carrot health benefits here). If you’re in a hurry, you can even buy the bagged kind.
- Tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes add a delicious burst of sweet, juicy flavor to every bite.
- Parmesan. A critical component of this easy salad. Skip the pre-shredded stuff, and buy a high-quality Parmesan you can shave yourself.
- Toppings. Sunflower seeds or chopped, toasted nuts and herbs are the perfect final flourish for this salad.
- Dressing. The arugula salad dressing is a simple combination of lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt. It’s light, bright, and so tasty.
- Add the salad ingredients to a bowl.
- Mix the dressing ingredients together.
- Pour a portion of the dressing over the salad ingredients, tossing to combine. You want the salad moist, but not soggy.
- Top with Parmesan and toppings. Add a little extra dressing if you like. DIG IN!
What Goes Well with Arugula Salad?
- Pasta. Serve this salad alongside a heaping plate of Chicken Pesto Pasta or Penne Alla Vodka with Chicken.
- Pizza. Try serving this salad with Burrata Pizza or Broccoli Pizza Crust. AMAZE.
- Salmon. Pair it with Baked Salmon in Foil for a light, healthy meal.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips
- To Make Ahead. Prepare the dressing, and store it in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Combine the arugula, shaved carrots, and tomatoes in a large mixing bowl up to 1 day in advance, storing it in the refrigerator. Toss the salad ingredients with the dressing, toppings, and freshly shaved Parmesan just before serving.
- To Store. Leftover, dressed salad can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 additional day. The arugula may wilt a little, but the salad will still taste delicious. I like to toss in some fresh arugula with the leftovers to crisp things back up, as well as drizzle on some additional dressing.
Recommended Tools to Make Arugula Salad Recipes
- Citrus Juicer. With this tool, you’ll never dread juicing a lemon or lime again. It gets EVERY DROP.
- Liquid Ingredient Measuring Cups. Mix and measure your salad ingredients in the same cup.
- Vegetable Peeler. My favorite way to shave cheese right from the block.
This healthy salad is poised and ready to be your weeknight warrior or elegant dinner party contribution. It’s a salad everyone will enjoy!
FOR THE ARUGULA SALAD:
- 5 ounces arugula about 5 cups
- 4 medium carrots shaved into ribbons (about 8 to 10 ounces) or 1 cup grated carrots (if you’re in a hurry, you can use the pre-bagged grated carrots)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
- 1/3 cup large Parmesan cheese shavings see pictures—don't skip this, and the better the quality of the cheese, the better the salad! I like to shave mine right off of the block with a vegetable peeler
- 3 tablespoons chopped sunflower seeds or chopped nuts of choice—toasted and chopped walnuts pecans, and pistachios are all delicious (optional)
- 1 tablespoon chopped mild fresh herbs of choice such as chives, parsley, or tarragon (optional)
FOR THE DRESSING:
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice about 1/2 medium lemon
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Place the arugula, carrots, and tomatoes in a large bowl.
- In a small bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the dressing ingredients: lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt. (Alternatively, you can shake them all together in a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid).
- Drizzle enough over the arugula to moisten it, then toss to combine.
- Sprinkle Parmesan and any desired nuts or herbs over the top. Serve immediately with a drizzle of extra dressing as desired.
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