This healthy Greek salad recipe is easy to prepare with restaurant-quality results. It’s a combination of crisp vegetables and pickled onions tossed in a light and tangy homemade red wine vinegar dressing.
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One of the best ways to start a meal is with a refreshing Greek salad. Cucumbers and lettuce, juicy tomatoes, briny olives, and creamy feta cheese all come together for the perfect balance of taste and texture. Traditional recipes just use sliced onions, but I pickle them to enhance their flavor, making the taste more interesting.
The salad is not complete without a tasty red wine vinegar dressing to complement the vibrant veggies. A bright and tangy combination of ingredients mix with extra-virgin olive oil to add richness to each bite. This salad also pairs well with juicy pieces of grilled chicken or salmon for a complete meal.
Pickle the onions
You’ll often find big slices topped on a traditional Greek salad. Although colorful and intense, there’s an easy way to infuse more flavor. I cut the red onions into ⅛-inch thick rings, then soak the pieces in a red wine vinegar and honey mixture.
The pickling solution takes the harsh bite out of the onions and adds a pleasantly tangy taste. You can omit the sweetener if desired, although it has a nice balance of flavors. The process only takes 15 minutes, and by the time you finish prepping the other components, it’s ready. You can even make them a day ahead to save time.
Make a dressing
I use a blend of red wine vinegar, lemon juice and zest, minced garlic, honey, Dijon mustard, and dried oregano for the base. Not only does the mustard add a pleasing spicy flavor, but it also acts as an emulsifying agent to keep the dressing from separating right away.
To make an adequately emulsified salad dressing, it’s important to slowly add the olive oil while vigorously whisking it into the vinegar mixture. This technique creates tiny fat droplets that suspend in an oil-in-water emulsion, resulting in a thickened consistency that easily clings onto the leaves. This dressing is a semi-permanent mixture, so over time, it will separate. If not serving immediately, whisk it right before you’re ready to eat.
Lettuce selection and preparation
I use romaine lettuce for its contrast of crisp-tender green leaves on the outside and firm lighter green ribs in the center. Grocery stores sell them as whole heads or hearts with the outer leaves removed. Cut the lettuce down into pieces that are easy to grab with a fork, about ¾-inch.
The larger size prevents the leaves from wilting too much when tossed with the acidic dressing. You can also use other types of lettuce like little gem, butterhead, loose-leaf, baby spinach, or a mixture for variety.
Add flavorful mix-ins
It’s all about adding the freshest produce. It’s best to use vine-ripened tomatoes to add sweetness to the flavor profile and cut them into hearty wedges. I use English cucumbers for their thin, tender skin and tiny edible seeds. Chopped green bell peppers add an earthy flavor, but pepperoncini’s make a pickled sweet and mild substitute.
Kalamata olives add a salty taste. However, green or black olives are good swaps. Feta cheese adds a creamy element to the dish. I cut them into small cubes so they don’t break down too much when mixing, and they have a more robust burst of flavor compared to crumbled.
I like to toss half of the dressing in the salad and serve the rest on the side so guests can add more to their liking. This amount gives the vinaigrette a light coat to flavor the ingredients without turning soggy and wilted. For a fancy presentation, transfer to a nice serving bowl and garnish with more cheese and vegetables.
Serve this with
It’s typically a simple combination of red wine vinegar, minced garlic and Dijon mustard for spice, lemon juice for acidity, dried oregano for herbaceous notes, and extra-virgin olive oil for richness. This acidic mixture creates a thickened, tangy vinaigrette that clings to the ingredients.
This Greek salad is the perfect way to start a meal! It tastes even better if you make it ahead of time to allow the vegetables to chill. They are very robust, so you don’t have to worry about the ingredients becoming soggy or wilted. However, it is best to wait to add the dressing if not served within the same day for the crispest lettuce texture.
I’m a big fan of pairing this salad with grilled chicken skewers, baked salmon, or lamb kabobs. You can even add sliced pieces of meat to make it an entree salad. Serve alongside a hot bowl of lentil soup or Greek pasta salad.
Benefit of soaking onions in vinegar
Unless you’re a big fan of raw onions, one way to make the flavor more interesting is a quick vinegar and honey soak. Marinating in the solution mellows out the strong sulfur notes due to the acids in the vinegar. In turn, slightly sweet and tangy flavors infuse into the onions.
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- ½ cup red onion, ⅛-inch thick slices
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 8 cups romaine lettuce, ¾-inch thick pieces, about 2 romaine hearts
- 1 cup english cucumber, ¼-inch dice
- 1 cup tomatoes, ½-inch thick wedges
- ¾ cup green bell pepper, ¾-inch dice
- ½ cup pitted kalamata olives
- 4 ounces feta cheese, ¼-inch cubes
- In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup red wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons of honey. Add the sliced red onions and allow them to sit for at least 15 minutes. Drain well before adding to the salad.
- Rinse the romaine hearts under cool running water. Wash the surface and between the leaves to remove any dirt and debris. Shake well to remove moisture and dry using clean towels. Chop the lettuce into about ¾-inch pieces yielding about 8 cups.
- In a large bowl, add the lettuce. Top with cucumbers, tomatoes, green bell pepper, drained red onions, kalamata olives, and feta cheese.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together red wine vinegar, lemon zest, lemon juice, dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon honey (if using), minced garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper.
- Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the dressing mixture, continuously and vigorously whisking until you achieve a thickened dressing—season with salt and pepper to taste. If not serving right away, whisk again right before adding to the salad as it may separate over time.
- Right before serving, drizzle half of the dressing over the salad, gently toss to coat. Serve the remaining on the side. Garnish with more vegetables and cheese as desired.
- Serving Size: About 1 cup
- Salad Yield: About 8 cups
- Dressing Yield: About ¾ cups
- Make-Ahead: The salad ingredients can be prepared 1 day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It’s best to make the dressing the same day. You can pickle the onions 2 days in advance.
- Storing: Store salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 day as the lettuce will wilt once tossed with the dressing.
- Onion Option: Omit the honey for a less sweet taste.
- Make it Keto: Omit the honey from the pickles and dressing, or use a zero-calorie sweetener like stevia, monk fruit, or erythritol.
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