10 of Our Best Picnic Salad Ideas for Every Diet

Updated: May 05, 2023

Celebrate summer with these delightful picnic salad ideas. We have recipes, tips and tricks to fit any lifestyle!

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Traditional Salads

If you don’t have any dietary restrictions, load up your salad with anything and everything. We’re big fans of macaroni salad with all of the fixins’, potato salad with a creamy dressing, a deli-style pasta salad or any of these other summer salad recipes.

Get Our Recipe for Classic Macaroni Salad

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Healthy Salads

For a healthy salad, load up on the veggies! You’ll also want to consider lean proteins, healthy fats (like avocado) and a lightened-up dressing. Give it a try with these healthy pasta salads.

Get Our Recipe for My Favorite Avocado Salad

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No-Mayo Salads

No mayo? No problem! You can enjoy all of your favorites—including traditionally mayo-based salads like coleslaw. Simply swap the dressing for one based in oil, vinegar or citrus juice. And if you’re craving something creamy? Try avocado or yogurt. Find 50 of our favorite no-mayo salad recipes.

Get Our Recipe for Campers’ Coleslaw

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Vegetarian Salads

Veggie lovers, listen up. Vegetarian salads are generally pretty simple: Just skip the meat! If you want added protein, sub in chickpeas, beans, nuts, seeds or cheese. These vegetarian picnic salad recipes are a great place to start.

Get Our Recipe for Hummus Pasta Salad

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Vegan Salads

A good vegan salad starts with fresh produce—all fruits and vegetables are fair game. (This vegan pasta salad recipe is packed with bright veggies.) Other potential add-ins include nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, nutritional yeast and vegan dairy replacement products. Here’s how to make vegan mayo from scratch. We’re smitten with these vegan salad recipes.

Editor’s Tip: When dressing the salad, keep an eye out for sneaky ingredients like honey, Parmesan or anchovies. They often crop up in store-bought dressings.

Get Our Recipe for Green Goddess Vegan Potato Salad

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Low-Carb Salads

Whether you’re following the keto diet or generally trying to eat fewer carbs, there are lots of healthy ways to enjoy a salad. Start with some low-carb veggies, like cauliflower or leafy greens. Then, add in some fill-you-up protein options, like hard-boiled eggs, cheese or meat. For more ideas, check out these keto-friendly salad recipes. We’ve even got you covered with a keto-friendly pasta salad.

Get Our Recipe for Faux Potato Salad

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Diabetic-Friendly Salads

Keeping an eye on your blood sugar? Salads for people with diabetes should be low in carbs, full of nutrients and packed with flavor. Try using a non-starchy veggie as the star of the show—green beans, cucumbers and avocados are all good choices—then load in other veggies, healthy fats and lean proteins. Turn to this collection of diabetic-friendly summer salads for ideas.

Get Our Recipe for Balsamic Green Bean Salad

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Gluten-Free Salads

Gluten-free guests can enjoy almost any type of picnic salad—they just may need to make a few swaps. Vegetables (including potatoes), rice, beans and other salad starters are naturally gluten-free. Plus, you can find gluten-free varieties of macaroni or rotini at nearly any grocery store for a gluten-free pasta salad. We love these gluten-free salad recipes.

Editor’s Tip: Pre-packaged dressings can be sneaky, since they often include gluten-containing ingredients like soy or Worcestershire sauce, so play it safe by mixing up your own.

Get Our Recipe for Peach Mango Caprese Salad

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Low-Calorie Salads

To keep a salad low in calories, stick with fresh produce. You can spruce up low-cal veggies like green beans, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers and peppers with fresh-from-the-garden herbs and citrus juices. These low-calorie salads are anything but boring.

Editor’s Tip: Make it a meal by adding a lean protein source, like grilled chicken or salmon.

Get Our Recipe for Cucumbers with Dill

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Dairy-Free Salads

For a dairy-free picnic salad, you’ll want to avoid cheese, yogurt, sour cream and other milk-based add-ins. You can often use plant-based replacements for these products, or skip them entirely. Try out these dairy-free side dishes.

Get Our Recipe for Corn and Black Bean Salad