A salad is a dish consisting of a mixture of small pieces of food, usually vegetables. Salads are typically served at room temperature or chilled, with notable exceptions such as south German potato salad which is served warm. Salads may contain virtually any type of ready-to-eat food.
Garden salads use a base of leafy greens like lettuce, arugula, kale or spinach; they are common enough that the word salad alone often refers specifically to garden salads. Other types include bean salad, tuna salad, fattoush, Greek salad, and Japanese sōmen salad (a noodle-based salad). The sauce used to flavor a salad is commonly called a salad dressing; most salad dressings are based on either a mixture of oil and vinegar or a fermented milk product.
Salads may be served at any point during a meal:
The word "salad" comes from the French salade of the same meaning, from the Latin salata (salty), from sal (salt). In English, the word first appears as "salad" or "sallet" in the 14th century. Salt is associated with salad because vegetables were seasoned with brine or salty oil-and-vinegar dressings during Roman times. The phrase "salad days", meaning a "time of youthful inexperience" (based on the notion of "green"), is first recorded by Shakespeare in 1606, while the use of salad bar, referring to a buffet-style serving of salad ingredients, first appeared in American English in 1976.
The Romans and ancient Greeks ate mixed greens with dressing, a type of mixed salad. In his 1699 book, Acetaria: A Discourse on Sallets, John Evelyn attempted with little success to encourage his fellow Britons to eat fresh salad greens. Mary, Queen of Scots, ate boiled celery root over greens covered with creamy mustard dressing, truffles, chervil, and slices of hard-boiled eggs.
Oil used on salads can be found in the 17th century colony of New Netherland (Later called New York, New Jersey and Delaware). A list of common items arriving on ships and their designated price when appraising cargo, "a can of salad oil at 1.10 florins" and "an anker of wine vinegar at 16 florins". In a 1665 letter to the Director of New Netherland from the Island of Curaçao there is a request to send greens, "I request most amicably that your honors be pleased to send me seed of every sort, such as cabbage, carrots, lettuce, parsley, etc. for none can be acquired here and I know that your honor has plenty,...".
Salads, including layered and dressed salads, were popular in Europe since the Greek and Roman imperial expansions. Salads are sold in supermarkets, at restaurants and at fast food chains. In the US market, restaurants will often have a "Salad Bar" laid out with salad-making ingredients, which the customers will use to put together their salad. Salad restaurants were earning more than $300 million in 2014. At-home salad consumption in the 2010s was rising but moving away from fresh-chopped lettuce and toward bagged greens and salad kits, with bag sales expected to reach $7 billion per year.
A salad can be composed (with the ingredients specifically arranged) or tossed (with the ingredients placed in a bowl and mixed).
A green salad or garden salad is most often composed of leafy vegetables such as lettuce varieties, spinach, or rocket (arugula). If non-greens make up a large portion of the salad it may be called a vegetable salad instead of a green salad. Common raw vegetables (in the culinary sense) used in a salad include cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, onions, carrots, celery, radishes, mushrooms, avocado, olives, artichoke hearts, heart of palm, watercress, parsley, garden beets, and green beans. Nuts, berries, seeds, and flowers are less common components. Hard-boiled eggs, bacon, shrimp, cheeses, and croutons may be used as garnishes, but large amounts of animal based foods would be more likely in a dinner salad.
A wedge salad is made from a head of lettuce (such as iceberg) halved or quartered, with other ingredients on top.
They are assembled with thick sauces such as mayonnaise. One portion of a true bound salad will hold its shape when placed on a plate with an ice-cream scoop. Examples of bound salad include tuna salad, pasta salad, chicken salad, egg salad, and potato salad.
Bound salads are often used as sandwich fillings. They are popular at picnics and barbecues.
Main course salads (also known as "dinner salads" and commonly known as "entrée salads" in North America) may contain grilled or fried chicken pieces, seafood such as grilled or fried shrimp or a fish steak such as tuna, mahi-mahi, or salmon or sliced steak, such as sirloin or skirt. Caesar salad, Chef salad, Cobb salad, Chinese chicken salad and Michigan salad are dinner salads.
Fruit salads are made of fruit, which may be fresh or canned. Examples include fruit cocktail. Note that "fruit" here refers to culinary fruits, many components of vegetable salads (such as tomatoes and cucumbers) are botanical fruits but culinary vegetables.
Dessert salads rarely include leafy greens and are often sweet. Common variants are made with gelatin or whipped cream; e.g. jello salad, pistachio salad, and ambrosia. Other forms of dessert salads include snickers salad, glorified rice, and cookie salad popular in parts of the Midwestern United States.
Sauces for salads are often called "dressings". The concept of salad dressing varies across cultures.
In Western culture, there are two basic types of salad dressing:
In North America, mayonnaise-based ranch dressing is most popular, with vinaigrettes and Caesar-style dressing following close behind. Traditional dressings in France are vinaigrettes, typically mustard-based, while sour cream (smetana) and mayonnaise are predominant in eastern European countries and Russia. In Denmark, dressings are often based on crème fraîche. In southern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, salad is generally dressed by the diner with olive oil and vinegar. In Asia, it is common to add sesame oil, fish sauce, citrus juice, or soy sauce to salad dressings.
Other salad dressings include:
On 4 September 2016, the largest recorded salad, weighing 20,100 kg, was created in Red Square, Moscow, Russia, by Mouzenidis Travel. It was a Greek salad consisting of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives, feta cheese, olive oil, oregano and salt.