You may find plenty of dandelions in your backyard this spring. Instead of tossing them, make this dandelion salad. A zippy, garlic dressing and toasted, herby breadcrumbs provide the perfect accompaniment to the salad.
What is it?
Dandelions are members of the daisy family, and you'll find their sunny yellow heads popping up in yards and gardens in the springtime. Like many weeds, dandelion greens are edible and they make a delicious salad.
Dandelion greens taste wickedly bitter, but that's part of their charm. Cooking increases their bitterness, so serving the greens fresh and raw in a salad makes perfect sense (although they are delicious when wilted and served with bacon).
Easily foraged during the spring, dandelion salads always prove to be a favorite when times are hard and finances are stretched thin. They provided a ready source of nourishment during the Great Depression, as well as World War II when food rationing encouraged many home cooks to forage.
What's in it?
At its simplest, a dandelion green salad includes only greens and some sort of dressing. In this version, you'll partner dandelions with a zippy, herb-forward garlic dressing and toasted breadcrumbs seasoned with lemon zest and caraway. The result is fantastic - aromatic, bright, acidic, with just the right touch of salt.
- Dandelion greens are the foundation of this salad. They're a bitter green vegetable that's extraordinarily rich in vitamin K, vitamin C, and caretenoids which act as a precursor to vitamin A. It's also a good source of various minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, and manganese (1). They also support metabolic health (2).
- Lemon gives the salad a nice punch of acidity which helps to balance the bitter greens. It's also rich in vitamin C.
- Mayonnaise and yogurt form the foundation of the dressing. The fat in these ingredients helps you absorb the fat-soluble nutrients from dandelions - specifically vitamin K and various antioxidants such as beta carotene.
- Garlic gives the dressing a zippy flavor, and is traditionally used to ease colds, support the heart (3) and metabolic health. Researchers have linked most of garlic's anti-inflammatory actions to its sulfur-containing compounds (4).
- Tarragon and parsley give the dressing flavor, complementing the garlic. Like most herbs, tarragon and parsley are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
- Caraway seeds give the breadcrumb topping its flavor, complementing the lemon zest. You might recognize its flavor from rye bread, and it has a bright herbal pop with notes of celery and citrus.
How to Pick Dandelion Greens for Salad
You can purchase dandelion greens at many well-stocked grocery stores and at farmer's markets during the spring. But, consider foraging for them in your own neighborhood.
Dandelions are easy to identify, and easy to clean. Picking your own greens for salad is also fun, and saves your grocery budget, too.
- Look for tender dandelions, smaller and thinner leaves tend to be the most tender and the least bitter.
- Harvest dandelion greens from plants that haven't flowered yet. Once the plant flowers, the leaves can become even more bitter.
- Pick greens from clean areas only. Dandelion greens and other wild herbs can absorb pollutants and other toxins. So, avoid picking them near roadways or public parks and private lawns where they may have been sprayed with toxic chemical pesticides or fertilizers.
- Look for open fields away from busy streets and that you know aren't treated with fertilizers or pesticides.
- Only forage in areas where it is legal to do so, avoiding private property and reviewing the foraging rules for public parks and forests. These guidelines vary from place to place and are typically available for review online.
How to Prepare Dandelion Greens for Salad
Preparing a dandelion salad is easy. If you've purchased your dandelion greens from the store, they'll only need a rinse to remove any dirt or debris. But, if you've foraged for your own greens, you'll need to take a few extra steps.
- Plunge the greens into a bowlful of cold water and swirl them around to remove any dirt and debris.
- Gently pat them dry with a kitchen towel.
- Clean away the unusable bits, such as stems, browned leaves, and the dandelion root. You can reserve the dandelion root, and roast it. It's a classic ingredient in herbal coffees.
- Rinse the cleaned greens a second time, and then pat them dry with a kitchen towel or use a salad spinner to dry them.
- Store the greens in a resealable plastic bag until you're ready to make dandelion salad. They'll keep about 5 days.
Most salads are flexible and forgiving. And that's the case for this dandelion salad recipe, too. While working with the greens is straightforward, making the dressing and the breadcrumb topping is also easy, too.
- Use a blender to make the dressing, but if you don't have one an immersion blender works well as does a food processor. You can also whisk the ingredients together by hand, if you prefer, though it may take longer.
- Keep an eye on the breadcrumbs while they toast. They can go from pleasantly toasted to burned in an instant.
- Store all the components of the salad separately until the moment you plant to serve it. If you toss the salad together to early, the greens will wilt and the breadcrumbs will become soggy in the dressing.
Dandelion Salad Recipe
For the Dressing
- 1 medium lemon
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons yogurt
- 2 medium garlic cloves
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
For the Breadcrumbs
For the Salad
- 4 ounces dandelion greens (coarsely chopped)
- 1 medium shallot (sliced paper thin)
- small bowl
- 10-inch skillet
- large bowl
To Make the Dressing
- Scrub the lemon under running water and pat it dry with a kitchen towel. Finely grate the lemon’s colorful zest, avoiding the bitter pith. Set the lemon zest aside in a small bowl. Slice the lemon crosswise and squeeze its juice into a blender or food processor.
- Add the mayonnaise, yogurt, garlic, anchovies, chives, tarragon, and parsley to the blender and puree to form a smooth dressing. Pour the dressing into a small jar, seal it, and place it in the refrigerator while you prepare the bread crumbs and salad.
To Make the Breadcrumbs
- Set a 10-inch skillet on the stove over medium heat. When you can feel the heat emanating from the pan, drizzle in the olive oil and then stir in the bread crumbs, caraway seeds, salt, and black pepper. Stir until the bread crumbs are pleasantly toasted, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the reserved lemon zest.
To Make the Dandelion Salad
- In a large bowl, toss the dandelion greens with the shallot, sprinkle with toasted bread crumbs, and drizzle the greens with the dressing. Serve immediately.
Variations and Substitutions
If dandelions are out of season, you can make this salad with any bitter-tasting green. It works well with both escarole and frisée.
Add bacon for a salty, smoky punch of flavor. It also makes the salad a little richer and more satisfying.
Skip the breadcrumbs and try seasoning finely chopped almonds instead.
If you don't care for anchovies, try swapping in a tablespoon of miso paste instead.
Try fresh basil in place of tarragon, it has a similar flavor profile with notes of anise and cinnamon and works just as well
If you don't want to forage for your own greens, you can buy them at well-stocked grocery stores in the produce section. Dandelion greens are typically located near other specialty greens such as escarole and endive.
You can make each component of the dandelion salad ahead, and then assemble them right before serving. The breadcrumbs will keep for about 10 days at room temperature in a tightly sealed container, and the dressing will keep for about 5 days in the refrigerator.
Once you dress a salad, it will begin to wilt. So, serve the salad right away, or keep the components separated and toss the salad together just before you plan to serve it.
Try these simple salads next
- Dandelion Nutrition Facts. Nutritiondata. (2022)
- Wirngo, Fonyuy E et al. “The Physiological Effects of Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale) in Type 2 Diabetes.” The review of diabetic studies : RDS vol. 13,2-3 (2016): 113-131
- Bradley, Jessica M et al. “Garlic-Derived Organic Polysulfides and Myocardial Protection.” The Journal of nutrition vol. 146,2 (2016): 403S-409S.
- Lee, Da Yeon et al. “Anti-inflammatory activity of sulfur-containing compounds from garlic.” Journal of medicinal food vol. 15,11 (2012): 992-9. doi:10.1089/jmf.2012.2275