Which Salad Dressings to Pair with Which Greens

All salad greens are not created equal. At least when it comes to salad dressings. No one wants a salad of overpowering dressing and soggy greens. Learn how to pair greens with dressings here. Our Salad Dressing topic is brought to you by Stonyfield Organic. Gotta love that healthy tasty yogurt!

How to Choose the Right Salad Greens
Pairing greens and dressings is kind of like wine pairings. The right dressing and green can totally make a salad. A heavy blue cheese dressing can come alive with endive. But a light vinaigrette will disappear against its bitter flavor.

Let’s break it down. Here are pairing for 12 of the most popular greens.

Iceberg

Almost any dressing works with iceberg lettuce. Unlike other greens, iceberg is bland, but crispy. So it can hold up under strong-tasting and creamy dressings. It can also work with lighter-flavored dressings (just make sure you add lots of other fresh cold veggies, so you have some substance).

Romaine

Romaine is as versatile as iceberg. It goes with any dressing. But it holds a nutritional punch compared to iceberg lettuce. Of course, Caesar dressing is a no-brainer here.

Spinach

If you look at a bunch of spinach wrong, it will wilt. In general, keep your dressings light. Baby spinach is best served with a basic vinaigrette like this one. Older leaves can be paired with a tad bit of creaminess or fat. And for some reason, spinach and bacon work. So any dressing made with bacon, just do it.

Spring Greens

Let’s talk about delicate greens. And spring mixes are at the top of the list. Vinaigrettes are best. Anything heavier will result in soggy salads (Ew!).

Arugula

This persnickety green will dramatically wilt under thick dressings like ranch or blue cheese. Light vinaigrettes will bring out its peppery flavor while retaining its crispness.

Bibb Lettuce

Bibb greens are like arugula. In the salad world, this lettuce is dainty and needs delicate care. Again, heavy dressings will not work. Instead go for vinaigrettes. It’ll hold up under the dressing just fine.

Radicchio

This is a good middle-of-the-road green for a good middle-of-the-road dressing. Nothing too light. Nothing too thick. Radicchio pairs well with a mustard-based or ranch dressing.

Watercress

Watercress is another medium-bodied green. It has a peppery flavor that can hold its own against ranch or any fatty dressing.

Endive

OK, endive is made for a thick and creamy dressing like blue cheese. These leaves are heavy and bitter and can withstand something as glorious as a homemade blue cheese dressing. How many greens can brag about that?

Frisée

This green tastes bitter, and pairs nicely with a fattier dressing, like thousand island. Heavier vinaigrettes work too. If a dressing has fat and salt, it’ll work with frisee.

Kale

Oh, what can I say about one of the trendiness of greens? Kale is rough and sturdy, so a good acidic vinaigrette is a must. Here’s a quick science lesson (I’m embracing my inner Bill Nye). Acids, such as lemon juice, break down kale’s cellular structure. In other words, it softens the leaves, making it much easier to eat. So mix those raw kale leaves with an acidic dressing and let them sit for a couple of minutes before digging in.

Swiss Chard

Swiss chard may be thinner than kale, but it is still a tough green. So what do you need? An acidic vinaigrette. It’ll soften the leaves and give the salad a nice bite.

O.K., I’m done. Which pairing are you going to try first? I’m totally doing a search for bacon dressing and grabbing some spinach leaves.

Disclosure: Stonyfield has provided giveaway items and social media promotion in exchange for mentions in the Salad Dressing Series. Also, the senior editor of this site is a paid brand ambassador for Stonyfield. All opinions are ours and honest, always.

Amy Bowen

Amy had no clue how to cook until she became the food reporter for a daily newspaper in Minnesota. At 25, she even struggled with boxed mac and cheese. These days, Amy is a much better cook, thanks to interviewing cooks and chefs for more than 10 years. She even makes four cheese macaroni and cheese with bacon, no boxed mac in sight. Amy is also on the editorial team at The Cookful.