From Side Dish to Main Event: 5 Times Salad Proved It’s the Star of the Meal

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Forget everything you know to be true about tiny plates of overdressed lettuce — those are side salads, and perhaps boring ones at that. Loaded with fresh flavors, colorful ingredients, and plenty of crunchy and cheesy textures, these over-the-top salad recipes will bring greens out of the shadows and into the shining role of entree. Get Food Network’s best-ever main dish salads below — each is a hearty, satisfying meal worthy of the spotlight.

5: Chef’s Salad

A trio of deli meats, plus buttery Swiss cheese, cool avocado and juicy cherry tomatoes beef up a classic base of greens, which you can toss with a topping of your choice. How about shallot vinaigrette or blue cheese dressing?

4: Farro and Kale Salad

“It’s got a nutty texture and flavor to it,” Giada De Laurentiis says of the Italian grain she pairs with kale in her warm, citrus-dressed salad. For extra richness, she mixes crumbled goat cheese into this easy salad just before serving.

3: Spinach, Pear and Chicken Salad

Don’t let the name fool you. This chicken salad from Food Network Magazine isn’t the gloopy mayonnaise-filled concoction you may be imagining. This quick-fix salad, built on a base of nutrient-packed spinach, features sliced seared chicken, plus chewy dried cranberries and a crisp pear.

2: Israeli Couscous and Arugula Salad

While tender pearl-shaped couscous adds heft to Guy Fieri’s party-ready salad, the combination of cucumber, bell pepper, onion and tomato promises bright freshness alongside the peppery arugula.

1: BLT Sandwich Salad

All of the flavors of a traditional BLT sandwich combine in Sunny Anderson’s simple salad (pictured above from Food Network Magazine), like sweet and smoky caramelized bacon, chopped tomatoes and plenty of cool romaine. In an homage to the smear of mayo typically found on the bread of a BLT, she makes a creamy dressing of mayonnaise and mustard.