Nothing says easy summer dinner quite like a summer salad! This vegetarian salad calls for Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders, along with a delicious homemade maple balsamic vinaigrette, goat cheese, strawberries, and other tasty additions. You can pack in all kinds of nutrients along with the flavors of the season for a delicious and satisfying meal.
I’ve got a habit of getting really fixated on a certain meal or ingredient for a few weeks at a time. For example, I’ve been going through those packs of mandarin oranges packed in water like hot cakes. Also these asiago and sun dried tomato crackers that I eat way too many of. Oh, and these smoothie bars from Superstore. To name a few….
But this summer salad is another one of those fixations! There’s nothing quite like the fresh taste of a good salad and this one delivers on every level. The Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders (not sponsored–I just love them!) are an incredibly realistic chicken alternative. And now that I make them in my air fryer, they’re ready and crispy in 8 minutes!
So the whole salad recipe is ready in under 20 minutes. Onto your plate and into your belly in the blink of an eye!
Okay, so in addition to the crispy tenders, here’s what you’ll need if you want to dig into this vegetarian summer salad for yourself.
- Romaine lettuce (that’s right–not spinach! I don’t do raw spinach but that’s a story for another time)
- Fresh strawberries
- Red onion (don’t miss my tip for deflaming red onions)
- Goat cheese
- Pumpkin seeds
- Balsamic vinaigrette
My homemade balsamic vinaigrette
A lot of balsamic vinaigrette recipes call for honey, but we use maple syrup instead to make it vegan-friendly! Go ahead and add a teaspoon or two of white sugar if you want a sweeter dressing.
Most balsamic vinaigrettes also only use one garlic clove, but I personally can’t get enough garlic in salad dressings so my recipe calls for two.
It also uses some dijon mustard because this is an incredible binder in balsamic vinaigrettes. It helps make sure you don’t get all olive oil when you try to pour the dressing–it seriously makes such a difference.
My homemade balsamic vinaigrette makes just over a cup of dressing. On each summer salad, I use about 2.5 tbsp of salad dressing. But it’s up to you how much to use on your own!
So that’s what I use in my salad. But the beauty of this recipe is how customizable it is.
Swap out or add these ingredients if any of them sound just right:
- Vegan goat cheese
Or any of your other favorite salad toppings. The star of this dish is the dressing, the strawberries, the goat cheese, and the Crispy Tenders. Anything else is just gravy! (Okay but not really)
Deflaming red onions
Red onions are such a nice crunch to salads, but they’re also STRONG! Just ask the tears that run down my face when I try to chop them…But it’s really easy to take a bit of the edge off without losing their essence. If you’re apprehensive about adding raw red onions to your summer salad, try this!
How to deflame red onions
- Chop your red onions
- Place them in a bowl of ice water
- Leave them in for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally
- Drain the water and they’re ready to go!
My favourite way to cook Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders
I got an air fryer back in June for my birthday and it’s safe to say it’s a game changer. It’s so nice to have an extra “oven” on hand when you’re cooking multiple dishes. Not to mention, it’s SO quick and easy. I choose it over my regular oven anytime I can.
I cook my Crispy Tenders in the air fryer at 400F for 8 minutes (learned this from Air Fry Guide) and it works great. They come out so crispy and in less than half the time.
By the way, next time you cook Crispy Tenders (or any tenders for that matter) try dipping them in this sauce. It’s the bomb. And did I mention it’s ready in 30 seconds?
Now that I’ve done the classic food blogger “talk your ear off” thing, let’s get to the goods.
Here’s my vegetarian summer salad recipe with homemade balsamic vinaigrette you just need to try!
Vegetarian Summer Salad with Gardein Crispy Tenders
Vegetarian Summer Salad with Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders
- 7 cups romaine lettuce chopped
- 8 Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders
- ¼ cup goat cheese crumbled
- 10 large strawberries sliced
- ⅓ cup pumpkin seeds (AKA pepitas)
- 1 avocado sliced or diced
- ¼ cup red onion*, diced
Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette
- ¾ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp maple syrup can also use honey if not vegan
- ½ tsp black pepper finely ground
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
For the Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Mix all ingredients except olive oil in a jar with a lid or in a bowl with a whisk.
- Add the olive oil and mix/shake very well. Taste test, and adjust salt, etc. as desired. (the perfect result really depends on your specific taste and ingredients)I recommend letting it sit in the fridge for at least half an hour before serving to really let the flavors come out.
For the Summer Salad
- Cook the Crispy Tenders according to package directions, or in an air fryer at 400F for 8 minutes.Let sit for a minute. Cut into strips or pieces.
- Mix all salad ingredients in a bowl and add the Crispy Tenders on top.Top with balsamic vinaigrette (I use about 2.5 tbsp on each salad).Serve with more black pepper and enjoy!
If you’re as much of a Gardein (again, not sponsored, just love it) fan as I am, don’t miss these other recipes with different Gardein products:
Planning to give this a try? Let me know what you think. Can’t wait to hear from you!
XO – C