Cooking Tips

Why Do Restaurant Salads Look So Pretty?

It’s not just about looks, though. Here’s how to get the same results at home.

Published Feb. 3, 2023.

Verdant, crunchy greens and ribbony vegetables, all perfectly tossed with a glossy vinaigrette. When you order a quality salad at a restaurant, it looks as good as it tastes, every bite is evenly distributed and each forkful is perfectly balanced.

When you try to replicate that salad at home, however, the results are rarely as nice. Even if it tastes fine, it’s often an afterthought of jumbled lettuce and vegetables that have gone soggy from the dressing.

It’s no wonder so many people just make a sandwich for lunch.

But you can have restaurant-quality salads at home. Heres the secret: The best salads are all about the details.

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From the best ways to coat each ingredient with dressing to creating those delicate carrot ribbons, here are four tips for making superior salads at home.

1. Use a Mandoline or Vegetable Peeler 

Peeling and shaving vegetables does more than make them visually appealing. That pretty translucent look creates more surface area to be coated with dressing. 

Crunchy root vegetables such as carrots and radishes become easier to fork up too. It also allows vegetables to be softened by acid, as in our Shaved Celery Salad with Pomegranate-Honey Vinaigrette

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2. Add the Salad Dressing to the Bowl Before the Salad 

It may sound counterintuitive, but adding the dressing to the salad bowl first keeps the salad from sogging out and helps build a better foundation for tossing later.

Need more reasons? You can even make the vinaigrette in the salad bowl for one less dish to wash.

3. Get Out the Grater 

Similar to shaving, using a grater to shred your vegetables maximizes their exposed surface area. In our Brussels Sprout, Red Cabbage, and Pomegranate Slaw, for example, all parts of the shredded brassica bits get coated with the perfect amount of dressing while maintaining their lightness and bright color. The result is a salad packed with nutrients that looks stunning.

And it’s not just vegetables that benefit from this technique—we also grate other ingredients, such as hard-cooked eggs for our Springtime Spinach Salad

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4. Arrange Ingredients Intentionally

Be a kitchen composer and turn your next salad into edible art simply with mindful ingredient placement.

Instead of tossing everything together in a bowl, make a composed salad by arranging ingredients artfully on a platter after they’ve been dressed, as we do in our Grilled Peach and Tomato Salad with Burrata and Basil.

Bonus: Decorate your tossed or composed salad with garnishes. Cheese, croutons, and nuts are classic, but let your creativity run free. 

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