using berries as a plant based salad topper

The best salad toppers for summer (plant-based)


Salad often has a reputation for being bland, boring and served on the side of something else. So let’s flip the script and change salads into the main event! In the summer, you want to avoid foods that bog you down or are too heavy. Salads are crisp, fresh and quick to prepare, so you can’t spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the summer sunshine.

Take your summer salads to the next level by adding these toppers to your favorite salad mix.

1. Bacony Bits

This plant-based alternative to traditional bacon bits is a guilt-free way to add some southern smokiness to a fresh summer salad. The saltiness of plant-based Bacony Bits compliments just about any salad combination, but we especially love these paired with sweet fruit like berries or apples. Try sprinkling them on a spinach salad to add some extra texture and flavor.

These bits are made from non-GMO soy and just one tablespoon contains two grams of protein and six percent of your daily recommended iron intake. Plus, there is no prep needed. You can just pour them straight onto your salad. 

plant-based bacony bits as a salad topper

Discover our Plant-Based Bacony Bits:

2. Berries

Berries are some of the healthiest foods you can consume, and using them as salad toppers helps to up the nutritional value of your favorite salads. Biting into a juicy berry gives you a burst of freshness that is much-needed for summertime.

 In addition, berries are full of antioxidants, which give your immune system a boost. For the most antioxidants, choose blueberries, blackberries, raspberries or pomegranates. For a big hit of vitamin C, pick strawberries or cranberries.

using berries as a plant based salad topper

3. Seeds and nuts

Seeds and nuts add crunch to your salads and complement any summer salad. They are high in healthy fats, which are proven to lower your risk of heart disease and cancer. These include omega-3 fatty acids, mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Pecans, walnuts, almond slices and cashews have tons of protein and iron as well. They pair great as a topper with berries and a vinaigrette dressing.

Seeds like flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds also make great salad toppers. Flax has omega-3 fatty acids, which are very important if you’re consuming a plant-based diet. They are also high in fiber which lowers cholesterol and controls blood sugar levels.

nuts and seeds as a plant based salad topper

4. Quinoa

While quinoa is technically a type of seed, it has the composition and flavoring of a whole grain. It may not be a grain like wheat or rice, but we still think it deserves its own category as a salad topper. Quinoa is often the base for a salad in place of lettuce or greens. But you can also add it as a topper to any of your salads to add some extra nutrients. Quinoa is one of the healthiest foods on the planet, plus it soaks up the flavor of any dressing that you put on it, so it’s incredibly versatile. It contains all nine essential amino acids, iron, protein, and fiber.

Quinoa goes amazing in a summer, Mediterranean-style salad with olives, roasted red peppers, red onion, cherry tomatoes and a vinaigrette or mustard-base dressing.

using quinoa as a plant based salad topper

5. Cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes remind me of my papa’s garden and eating them straight off the vine in the summertime. They are bursting with flavor and are the perfect complement to many different types of salads. For example, you can top off a Mediterranean, Greek-style salad like the one we listed above, or add them to a spinach salad with a red wine vinaigrette. Cherry tomatoes come in many different colors, including red, green, yellow, purple and orange, so they will also make your salad look more visually appealing.

Try marinating your cherry tomatoes in balsamic, olive oil, garlic and herbs before adding them to your salad if you have more time, or slice in half and top as is.

Cherry tomatoes are high in vitamin C and lycopene, which supports bone health and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.

using cherry tomatoes as a plant based salad topper

6. Olives

Olives are one of those foods that you either love or hate. If you’re in the love group like us, these salty little fruits (yes, olives are technically fruits) make fantastic salad toppers. There are tons of different varieties of olives to choose from. You can find classic green olives stuffed with just about anything, including pimentos, almonds, garlic, jalapenos or blue cheese. Kalamata olives are typically found in Greek salads and are super salty, where black olives are milder in taste.

Olives contain vitamin E and tons of healthy fats, which are used to make olive oil. They are low in carbs, most of which are fiber. But they are also high in sodium, so use them sparingly when topping your salad to get all the benefits without taking in too much salt.

olives as a plant based salad topper

7. Avocado

Another fantastic summer salad topper that is packed with healthy fats is avocado. Summertime is when avocados are in season, so it’s also the best time to eat them, so they are at peak freshness. The creaminess of an avocado is the perfect replacement for cheese or cream-based dressings, and they’re healthier too! Avocado’s pair great with tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions as a salad topper. Try them with a lime-infused sauce to give it an almost guacamole-like taste.

One avocado contains around 30 grams of fat, most of which are monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fats lower bad cholesterol, which reduces your risk of stroke and heart disease. They also help with cell maintenance. A whole avocado also has around four grams of protein.

avocado as a plant based salad topper

8. Black beans

Black beans are one the best ways to add a nice boost of protein to your salads. Mexican food is excellent in the summer, and black beans are essential to creating the perfect Mexican salad. You can get them in a can, so there is no preparation involved, making it super easy to pop open and spread out over your salad. Try black beans as a topper with corn, avocado and peppers on an iceberg or leaf lettuce salad with a zesty lime dressing.

One cup of black beans has almost 17 grams of fiber and 14.5 grams of protein! On top of that, they contain magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, zinc, and lots more.

black beans on top of a plant based salad

Plant-based summer salad toppers

Try adding these delicious and nutritious salad toppers to your favorite salads this summer, and let us know what you think. And we’d love to hear what other ingredients you enjoy topping your salads with!