The Best Dressing for Every Type of Salad Green

Keep your summer kitchen cool as a cucumber with hearty salads for lunch and dinner. Beat the heat with our guide to the best salad dressing for every green in your garden.

Best dressing and greens pairingsClaire Krieger/Taste of Home

While we love our comfort foods, a cool, crisp bite of fresh homemade salad is equally as appetizing. To keep all the crunch without the wilt, it’s time to think through the best salad dressing for each type of salad. If your greens are tough and crunchy like endive or kale, they can stand up to a rich, creamy dressing. But more delicate greens like arugula or spring mix need a lighter vinaigrette that won’t weigh them down.

P.S. Don’t forget the healthy salad toppings you can add to any salad.

Arugula

Pair with: Sweet vinaigrettes

Flavorful and peppery, fresh arugula makes for a delightful lunch or dinner salad. While the flavor is strong, the leaves are delicate, so opt for a light, sweet vinaigrette. Achieve that perfect balance of savory and sweet with this strawberry arugula salad with feta.

Bibb lettuce

Pair with: Tangy vinaigrettes

Bibb lettuce looks crunchy like iceberg lettuce, but the leaves aren’t very crisp. Punch up the flavor and prevent wilting with a tangy vinaigrette like raspberry or tomato. Or toss some Bibb lettuce into this summery nectarine arugula salad for a light lunch.

Endive

Pair with: Creamy dressings

Never tried endive? Its bitter, thick leaves make a sturdy base for a salad or avocado endive cups. Endive’s tough leaves can stand up to creamy dressings like ranch or blue cheese. Now is not the time for a little vinaigrette; look for dressings with fat to offset the bitter bite.

Iceberg

Pair with: Creamy dressings

Crisp and tasteless, iceberg lettuce can handle any rich, creamy dressing you throw at it. Boost the flavor with a creamy dijon or cilantro salad dressing. Because iceberg has such a crunch, it makes a great base for a hearty meal like taco salad.

Kale

Pair with: Citrus vinaigrette

Kale salads can be tricky; the tough leaves need a little care. Try using a citrus vinaigrette; the acidity will help break down the leaves. Prep your kale salad an hour before your meal and massage the dressing into the leaves to soften them a bit. Look for an acidic dressing at the store or learn how to make vinaigrette at home.

Little Gem lettuce

Pair with: Citrus vinaigrette

You’ve probably passed Little Gem lettuce in the grocery store dozens of times without noticing it. It looks like a smaller romaine, and the leaves have a sweet taste. Little Gem lettuce doesn’t need a heavy dressing, so whip up an easy lemon vinaigrette.

Radicchio

Pair with: Creamy dressings

Bitter and tender, radicchio needs a rich dressing to balance the bitterness without weighing it down. Skip the blue cheese and look for a fresh basil salad dressing for a light dressing bursting with serious flavor.

Romaine

Pair with: Creamy dressings

If you haven’t branched out from iceberg salads yet, make the leap to romaine. It’s got the same crunch and flavor while being more nutritious. You can’t go wrong with a classic caesar dressing (make your own) with shaved Parmesan and homemade croutons.

Spinach

Pair with: Hot dressings

Quick to wilt, spinach leaves are delicate and do well with just a splash of light vinaigrette. And while it doesn’t make sense to pour a heavy dressing onto these sensitive leaves, somehow a hot bacon dressing always works, too. Make sure to hold off on dressing your salad until you’re sitting down and ready to eat.

Spring mix

Pair with: Tangy vinaigrette

Have you ever thrown out an entire container of spring mix because it wilted before you had the chance to use it? Us too. These soft leaves need to be used right away and pair well with a light vinaigrette and plenty of fresh, crunchy veggies. Try this tangy tomato dressing with chopped bell peppers for a bright lunch or snack.

Swiss chard

Pair with: Tangy and citrus vinaigrette

Swiss chard’s thin, tough leaves need a dressing that can break it down without overpowering it. Try an acidic vinaigrette with some sweetness to balance out the toughness. This tart, tangy citrus vinaigrette can help soften the leaves while keeping their crispness.

Watercress

Pair with: Creamy dressings

Watercress has the peppery flavor of arugula with the crunchy bite of iceberg. Go all-in with a creamy buttermilk salad dressing. It will complement the savory flavor and hearty crunch; other creamy dressings like ranch work as well.

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Carrie Madormo, RN
Now a freelance health and food writer, Carrie worked as a nurse for over a decade. When she isn't hunched over her laptop with a baby in hand, you will find her cooking her grandmother’s recipes, lacing up her running shoes or sipping coffee in the bathroom to hide from her three young children.