Best Protein Ideas for Salads (Creative & Easy)

If you’re looking for the best protein ideas for salads beyond the usual chicken, then you’re in the right place! While chicken is undoubtedly a fantastic protein choice, I’ve curated a fantastic list of alternative proteins that can add variety to your busy weeknight meals or quick lunches.

protein ideas for salads

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Whether you’re looking to prepare a heartier meal or simply want to switch things up, this list has got you covered.

Save this post, bookmark it, and refer back to it whenever you need inspiration for refreshing salad ideas. Dive into the tasty salads below, and keep an eye out for more exciting salad recipes coming your way!

Best Protein Ideas for Salads

If you are looking for some creative ways to pack your salads with protein, then read on! We’ve gone beyond the basic chicken breast (although we’ve included it too) so if you’re making more salads for meal prep, healthy goals, or whatever the reason may be, this list below will be helpful!

Animal-Based Protein Ideas for Salads

  1. Grilled Chicken: Marinated and grilled for a tasty, lean protein.
  2. Steak Strips: Sliced, seasoned, and seared steak adds a hearty and savory element.
  3. Hard-Boiled Eggs: Sliced hard-boiled eggs provide a classic protein addition.
  4. Turkey: Roasted or grilled turkey breast, sliced thinly, works well with a variety of salad ingredients. Ground turkey is another delicious protein topping for salads.
  5. Bacon: Crispy bacon bits add a salty and savory element to salads.
  6. Pulled Pork: Tender, slow-cooked pulled pork adds a flavorful and substantial protein. (pulled pork salad)
  7. Sausage: Grilled or sautéed sausage slices can bring a smoky and savory touch to salads.
  8. Prosciutto: Thin slices of cured ham provide a salty and savory protein element.
  9. Roast Beef: Thinly sliced roast beef can add a rich and beefy flavor to your salad.
  10. Grilled Lamb: Marinated and grilled lamb slices add a bold and savory protein option.
  11. Ham: Sliced ham offers a slightly sweet and savory protein component to salads.

Seafood Protein Ideas for Salads

  1. Tuna: Canned or fresh tuna adds a protein-rich, flaky texture to salads.
  2. Salmon: Baked, grilled, or smoked salmon adds a rich, flavorful protein to salads.
  3. Shrimp: Light and quick to cook, shrimp adds a seafood twist to your salad.
  4. Crab: Lump crab meat or imitation crab can bring a sweet and delicate flavor to your salad.
  5. Mussels: Steamed or grilled mussels add a unique seafood twist to salads.
  6. Scallops: Pan-seared or grilled scallops provide a tender and elegant protein option.
  7. Anchovies: For a burst of umami flavor, add a few anchovies or anchovy paste to your dressing.

Plant-Based Protein Ideas for Salads

  1. Tofu: Marinated and pan-fried or baked tofu is an excellent plant-based protein option.
  2. Chickpeas: Roasted chickpeas provide a crunchy texture, while canned chickpeas offer a protein-packed boost. You might also seem them referred to as garbanzo beans.
  3. Quinoa: A complete protein, quinoa is versatile and adds a nutty flavor to salads. It’s a great addition to any salad!
  4. Black Beans: Canned black beans are a convenient source of protein with a hearty texture.
  5. Edamame: These young soybeans add a pop of color and a protein boost to salads.
  6. Smoked Tofu: For a different twist, try smoked tofu for a unique flavor profile.
  7. Brown Rice: Cooked brown rice adds a nutty flavor and chewy texture, enhancing the salad’s heartiness.
  8. Peanuts: Crunchy peanuts add a savory and nutty element to salads.
  9. Almonds: Sliced or chopped almonds provide a crunchy texture and nutty flavor.
  10. Pistachios: Pistachios add a unique flavor and vibrant color to salads.
  11. Sunflower Seeds: Sunflower seeds offer a mild and nutty crunch to salads.

Dairy-Based Protein Ideas for Salads

  1. Cottage Cheese: A creamy, lower-fat option that pairs well with fruits and veggies.
  2. Greek Yogurt: Use as a dressing or as a topping for added creaminess and protein.
  3. Goat Cheese (Chèvre): Creamy and tangy, goat cheese adds a luxurious texture to salads.
  4. Mozzarella Cheese: Fresh mozzarella balls or slices add a mild and milky protein.
  5. Gouda Cheese: Grated gouda brings a smooth and slightly sweet taste to salads.
  6. Cheddar Cheese: Sharp or mild cheddar, shredded or cubed, adds a classic cheese flavor.

High Protein Salads: 11 Recipes to Try

Each of the salads below is topped with a protein mentioned above to give you a jumpstart to your salad preparations!

Pulled Pork Salad
Pulled Pork Salad
A chopped salad loaded with fresh and flavorful ingredients like sweet corn, cheese, chopped lettuce, pulled pork, tomatoes, black beans, crunchy cucumbers and more!
Grinder Salad
Grinder Salad
A delicious Italian chopped salad that tastes just like a Grinder sandwich, full of meats, cheese, tomatoes, red onion and peppers!
Cajun Shrimp Cobb Salad
Cajun Shrimp Cobb Salad
A vibrant and flavorful salad featuring Cajun-spiced shrimp, crispy bacon, boiled eggs, and a medley of fresh vegetables, all topped with crumbled blue cheese!
Grilled Steak Cobb Salad
Grilled Steak Cobb Salad
Sizzling grilled New York Strip Steak is a delicious protein source for this cobb salad!
Chickpea Pasta Salad
Chickpea Pasta Salad
Opt for a plant-based protein to top your salad like this chickpea salad that's both delicious and easy!
Santa Fe Chicken Salad with Tangy Lime Dressing
Santa Fe Chicken Salad with Tangy Lime Dressing
Chicken doesn't have to be boring! Chicken is a delicious protein source for a salad. This chicken salad is zesty and delish! It's loaded with leafy greens, cherry tomatoes, and protein!
Marinated Tofu Salad Recipe
Marinated Tofu Salad Recipe
Tofu adds an excellent protein source to any salad! They're one of my favorite high-protein toppings for salads.
Healthy Tuna Salad Recipe (Italian Style)
Healthy Tuna Salad Recipe (Italian Style)
Give tuna a unique twist by making an Italian Style Tuna Salad! Full of protein and so delicious!
Salmon Nicoise Salad
Salmon Nicoise Salad
Hard-boiled eggs and salmon are a fantastic protein source duo on this Nicoise salad!
Southwest Quinoa Salad
Southwest Quinoa Salad
A delicious quinoa salad with black beans, corn, peppers and topped with a lime vinaigrette. This is such a delicious salad!
5 Bean Salad Recipe
5 Bean Salad
A delicious and hearty bean salad made with 5 different kinds of beans, corn, bell pepper, onion and seasonings!

Whether you’re a fan of beef, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, or beans, you’ve got a bunch of awesome options to jazz up your salads with protein. Tossing some protein into your salad not only makes it tastier but also turns it into a well-rounded and satisfying meal. Plus, having a good dose of protein regularly brings along perks like supporting muscle strength, helping with post-workout recovery, and just keeping you in that feel-good zone!

I hope you loved these protein-packed salad ideas, and browse these other salad recipes below for more ideas! is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associate Programs and other affiliate services. This means that we receive a small commission by linking to and other sites at no cost to the readers.

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