Parsley, watercress, and chives shine in this easy and versatile herb salad recipe. Dress the salad with an intense, garlicky vinaigrette for a simple, healthy side dish.
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What is it?
An herb salad is a salad made from fresh, leafy green herbs. It can include parsley, cilantro, watercress, mint, basil, chervil, or dill. And just about any fragrant leafy herb works in this recipe. The herbs you use depends on the season.
Occasionally edible flowers, such as chive blossoms or violets, are also added to the salad. Some cooks add the herbs to a bed of other leafy greens, such as lettuce, arugula, or bitter greens. The salad is typically served with a vinaigrette.
In this herb salad recipe, we use a base of dandelion greens and watercress and add fresh parsley, chives, and chervil. However, you can add just about any herbs you like and have on hand. A garlicky vinaigrette works well to dress the salad.
- Dandelion greens are a bitter, nutritive herb that’s rich in beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin K, and minerals. Dandelion salad is delicious with a bitter note, but the greens also form a foundation for other herbs in this recipe. You can also cook dandelions, as in this wilted dandelion recipe.
- Watercress is a member of the mustard family. It has a peppery taste reminiscent of horseradish and is a nice partner for dandelion. It’s also rich in vitamin K, vitamin C, and various minerals.
- Parsley has a clean, green flavor. It’s also rich in beta-carotene and vitamin K, and is traditionally used to support the kidneys.
- Chervil has a delicate sweet flavor, and it tastes like a cross between tarragon and parsley.
- Chives bring a delicate onion-like flavor to the salad. Chives are rich in vitamin K. They also contain antioxidants called glucosinolates. These glucosinolates support cellular health in the same way as onions and garlic.
- Garlic helps give body and flavor to the vinaigrette, and it also balances the bitter notes of the dandelion greens.
- Extra virgin olive oil is the foundation of the vinaigrette. Olive oil contains a healthy mono-unsaturated fat. This helps you to absorb the fat-soluble micronutrients in leafy greens and herbs.
- Red wine vinegar brings a note of acidity to the vinaigrette. It’s a natural match for robust herbs - especially dandelion and watercress.
- Dijon mustard helps to emulsify the vinaigrette, and it also partners well with watercress, chives, and parsley.
Where to find real extra virgin olive oil.
Graza offers single-origin, hand-harvested olive oil from Spain that's perfect for this recipe. They offer buttery, lightly flavored olive oil for sautéing and a more robust green oil for drizzling as a finishing oil.
Making any salad should be straightforward. There’s plenty of latitude for experimentation and substitutions. But, there are a few things to keep in mind when you make an herb salad.
- Forage for wild herbs, such as dandelion greens, in safe places. Stay away from roadways and fields sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals.
- Soak your herbs in a bowlful of cold water. Then dry them in a salad spinner. This will remove grit and other debris. It also helps keep them crisp and vibrant.
- Discard bruised or discolored herbs. Clean your herbs thoroughly. Soak them in a bowl full of cold water. Then spin them dry in a salad spinner.
- Use what’s available and in season. In the spring, that means dandelions, cress, and chives. In summer, you might opt for parsley, basil, and cilantro.
- Run the garlic through a garlic press or mince it finely for a more uniform vinaigrette.
- Thoroughly mix the ingredients for the vinaigrette so that it emulsifies effectively and becomes smooth. Adding them to a mason jar and shaking them thoroughly works, but so does running it through a high-speed blender.
What goes with an herb salad?
I like to serve this herb salad with crunchy sourdough croutons and thinly sliced grilled chicken.
It's also delicious served with a spring-inspired soup. Carrot leek soup. If you're looking for a more substantial soup-and-salad meal, make this salmon chowder recipe or give this potato leek soup with bacon a try.
Get the cookbook.
Vibrant Botanicals is our gorgeous botanically-focused cookbook that guides you through simple herbal recipes like this one. Order it online or through your local bookshop.
Variations + Substitutions
Meyer lemon is in season during the spring, and it works well with fresh herbs. Substitute one minced shallot for the garlic, and then squeeze lemon juice into a small jar in place of the vinegar. Add the mustard and olive oil, shake, and serve.
Garlic scapes are an excellent stand-in for the garlic cloves in this recipe. You’ll find them at the farmer’s market during spring. You can also mix them with basil and parsley to make an excellent garlic scape pesto recipe that freezes well.
Dandelion greens may be too bitter. If this is the case, try butter lettuce or add watercress to the recipe. This will add more flavor to the dish.
Add other herbs liberally depending on what’s in season and what you like. Cilantro, mint, borage, chive blossoms, fennel fronds, and even fresh dill are delicious added to the salad. Just keep the total volume of herbs to about 5 to 6 cups to serve four people.
Love this salad? Try these spring favorites next.
How long does the salad keep?
You should serve this salad immediately after making it and discard the leftovers. The herbs will wilt and become soggy when stored in the fridge.
You can keep extra vinaigrette in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Just let it come to room temperature and give it a good shake before using it.
Which herbs should I use for salad?
Look for tender, young, leafy herbs. Cilantro, fennel fronds, dandelion, basil, parsley, tarragon, and chervil work well. In contrast, woody herbs such as thyme, rosemary, lavender, and sweet bay are too tough for salads.
Where do I find fresh herbs?
You can find most herbs in well-stocked grocery stores year-round. Seasonally, they’re available at the farmer’s market.
Foraging for wild herbs, such as dandelion greens, is an additional option. When foraging, safety is important. Be sure to check local laws and respect private property. Additionally, avoid dandelions growing close to roadways or in fields that have been sprayed.
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