Favorite Salad Toppings: Lessons From Restaurant Salad Bars

A couple of the restaurants that frequent recently added some terrific new selections to their salad bars. The days of basic lettuce, tomato, and shredded cheese salads topped with croutons are a thing of the past in most restaurants ... unless that's actually what you want.

The Basics

For years, the only type of lettuce on most salad bars was iceberg lettuce. Over the last several years, most restaurants have started adding romaine lettuce. Recently, many restaurants have added fresh spring mix and baby spinach to their offerings.

Cheese Varieties

Most restaurants with salad bars have always had mild shredded cheddar cheese available. Lately, I've noticed more cheese selections on salad bars, including shredded Swiss, crumbled bleu cheese, grated parmesan, and cubes of jalapeno jack and Colby. Of course, cottage cheese is usually included as well.

Vegetable Toppings

No salad from a salad bar is complete without a variety of fresh veggies to top the basic lettuce. Popular veggie salad toppings include:

  • Artichoke Hearts
  • Baby Corn
  • Beets
  • Bell Pepper
  • Black Olives
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Green Olives
  • Mushrooms
  • Onion
  • Pickles
  • Shredded Carrots
  • Tomato (wedges, grape, or cherry)

Side Dish Selections

Many salad bars include a variety of prepared salads from which diners can choose. Many salad bars offering pasta salads, potato salad, coleslaw, three-bean salad, corn salad, and many other dishes that could stand alone as side dishes.


Most salad bars also include a selection of fruits. Fresh grapes and strawberries are among the most common fresh fruits. Many salad bars also feature chunks of different types of melons, typically watermelon, cantaloupe, and honey dew melon. It's also fairly common to find canned fruits such as mandarin oranges, peaches, and pears on large salad bar displays.

A Little Something Extra (Lagniappe)

Sunflower seeds have long been available on most salad bars, as a way of providing a little extra crunch, protein, and flavor. Lately, I've observed that topping selections have expanded to include peanuts, slivered almonds, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries.

What's Your Favorite?

Did I leave off your favorite salad bar topping? Feel free to post your favorite items in the comments section below.

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Comments 17 comments

MM Del Rosario profile image

MM Del Rosario 9 years ago from NSW, Australia

I always add boiled egg on my homemade salad, spanish onions and pineapple chunks....

Regards MM

Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 9 years ago from Georgia

Fruit salads are definitely my favorite. But, a nice plain salad with eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, spring lettuces, and shredded carrots, are yummy too.

TalentManager profile image

TalentManager 9 years ago from Suisun City, Calif.

Reading your article made me hungary. Whitney05 added some nice ingredients to the salad bar.


Alicia 7 years ago

definetaly need hard boiled eggs and bacon bits or ham. I also like to add peas to my salads. I am about to have a salad bar for a baby shower so this gave me some nice ideas. Thanks

Pablo 7 years ago

I can't resist Feta cheese on a salad bar, even if it doesn't go with the dressing I am using. I'll eat it separately if I have to. Also, a little imitation crab is good, and jell-o salad of some kind.

lissame73 7 years ago

I like spinich, shredded carrot, boiled egg, tomato, feta and bacon..

Dan 7 years ago

Dry Roasted Soynuts add a great crunch to the salad and have 12g of protein to go with it. I prefer the Nature's Select brand. They are heart healthy and have been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. Give it a try, you will be surprised how good they are.

nikki1 profile image

nikki1 6 years ago

Great hub/love salads

jessica 6 years ago

just a few extras... beans: lima, kidney or black. Peas: green peas, chick peas, any peas. trail mix or any single ingred in trail mix. hard boiled eggs. lemon juice. spices of choice, ie, parsley, dill, etc. if you go to a health food store that has all those individual containers of wheats, grains, nuts, fruits, etc, there is a world of ideas that can come from there on things to put in a salad. the variety to salad topping combos is nearly limitless! :)

cat 6 years ago

my fave is red onions, feta cheese, dried cherries, edamame, peas, and walnuts with asian ginger sesame dressing... yum!! :)

ladykay 6 years ago

thank you very helpful. you don't kknow how hared it was to find some one that list the ingrdients.

Judi 6 years ago

A great addition to a salad is tuna or ham , I get the healthy deli meat or canned low salt ham or turkey . Chop it up and add it to the salads. Another great idea is bar-b q chicken , Cut up in pieces and add to the salad both healthy and deliciious!!

Julie 6 years ago

In my family, no salad bar is complete without pepperoncini!

Ash 6 years ago

Love edamame red onions and tangerines with a rice vinegar dressing!

Matt 6 years ago

Croutons and crackers

Roni 5 years ago

Must have avocado!

Stephanie 5 years ago

Dried cherries are really good :)

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