Using only 5 ingredients and in just 5 minutes, you can whip up a killer green salad any night of the week without relying on bottled dressings. The secret, my friends, is in the bowl.  (Don’t miss the step-by-step VIDEO!)

Close up of a green salad on a plate with a fork.

Simple green salad

We eat a quick green salad at least three times a week with dinner. Until recently I never thought to post the recipe here, as it seemed too simple, but over the past month I’ve had three good friends drop their jaws when I made the salad, and not just to steal greens from the bowl. It’s so good, but beyond easy.  I’ve been making the same version for over fifteen years, ever since I studied abroad in France in college.

Salad greens in a bowl seasoned with salt and pepper.

French green salad

While in France my French maman would make this green salad every night after dinner (before the cheese). She’d pull a wooden salad bowl from the fridge, which would be brimming with torn lettuce leaves (never anything else), which she had cleaned earlier in the day. As she tossed the leaves, they would almost magically start to glisten with dressing. It was the best salad I had ever eaten, and I’ve been making it ever since.

Salad greens in a bowl tossed with dressing.

How to make a one bowl salad

Here’s how you do it. Start with fresh lemon juice in the bottom of the bowl, add a crushed garlic clove and rub it around the bowl. Spoon in some good quality Dijon mustard, followed by a healthy pinch of salt and pepper. Finally, whisk in good quality extra virgin olive oil. Pile in a head of lettuce, and boom, you’ll have the best salad you’ve ever tasted.

Salad dressing ingredients on a marble surface.

Prep ahead quick green salad

One of the wonderful things about this salad is that you can prep it ahead, making it perfect for entertaining or busy weeknights. Whisk together the vinaigrette in the bottom of a salad bowl, pile the leaves on top, and then stick the whole bowl in the fridge until it’s time to eat. Come dinnertime, all you have to do is toss the salad together. The sweet lettuce remains crisp and cold, and the flavors in the dressing mingle and become more robust – it’s heaven.

Customizable green salad

You can also customize the salad according to what you have on hand. Sometimes I use Bibb lettuce, sometimes spinach or kale. Occasionally I’ll add shaved fennel or citrus. Sometimes cheese and nuts. The sky is the limit!

Just remember, for the best tasting salad, use fresh greens and the best quality olive oil you have. No matter what, it transports me back to Southern France. Which, for an average Wednesday night, is a pretty awesome thing.

Simple green salad on a plate with a wooden salad bowl alongside.

FAQ

What lettuce is best for a green salad?

You can use any lettuce you like in a green salad recipe, from tender Bibb or Boston lettuce, to spinach, to arugula, to baby kale. It’s a great way to use up what you have!

What should I put in my salad?

You can keep this salad super simple and just use greens, or you can bulk it up with other ingredients. Try adding veggies such as shaved carrots, fennel, tomatoes, cucumbers and/or roasted squash (the sky is the limit!), or sprinkle in toasted nuts or seeds, cheese, fresh or dried fruit and/or croutons. You can turn the salad into a full meal by adding protein (think grilled chicken, shrimp, sliced steak or tofu).

Can I prep a green salad ahead?

Yes! You can prep this salad up to 2 hours in advance. Make the dressing in the bottom of the salad bowl, pile the greens over top, then refrigerate the whole bowl (if you’ll be refrigerating the salad for 30 minutes or longer, arrange some damp paper towels on top of the salad before refrigerating to keep it crisp). Right before serving, toss the salad greens in the dressing.

Watch the Video!!

Get the Recipe!

Quick Green Salad from Scratch

This is less a recipe and more a technique. I encourage you to eyeball the quantities, which will not only be faster, but will help you to determine the right balance for your palate. You might like a bit more garlic, or more olive oil. Maybe throw in some herbs if you have them. Sometimes I drizzle in some honey if the mood strikes. Make it your own. This is the time to pull out the really good olive oil. Serve the salad simply as is, or augment it with toasted nuts, shaved raw vegetables (I’m partial to fennel and radishes), crumbled cheese, diced avocado, etc.
Prep Time5 mins
Total Time5 mins
Servings: 4 -6
Author: Nicki Sizemore

Ingredients

  • ½ lemon
  • 1 garlic clove , peeled and smashed
  • 1 spoonful Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 head or bunch of salad greens (the freshest you can find), torn into bite-sized pieces if needed
  • Optional add-ins: toasted nuts , shaved raw vegetables, tomatoes, cheese, etc.

Instructions

  • Squeeze the juice from ½ lemon into the bottom of a large salad bowl. Add the garlic, and rub it around the bowl. If you like a mild dressing, you can pull the clove out, but I always leave it in. Whisk in a spoonful of Dijon mustard, and season with salt and pepper. Whisk in olive oil—you’re aiming for about twice as much oil as lemon juice. Dip a lettuce leaf into the dressing and give it a taste. Adjust the flavorings as desired.
  • Pile the lettuce leaves into the bowl. If you’re not eating the salad right away, stick the bowl in the fridge (without tossing). Right before serving, season the greens with salt and pepper, and toss them with the dressing. Do Ahead: The salad (before it’s tossed) can be refrigerated for up to 2 hours. If you’re storing it for over an hour, lay a couple of damp paper towels over the top to prevent the greens from drying out.