Anytime you’re invited to a potluck or hosting a dinner, you don’t just go with the norm. You aim to please, to impress, to hand out recipe cards at the end of the meal. Ok, maybe not that last part. Maybe it’s not just about getting pats on the back, it’s about creating a lasting impression long after your guests leave; creating memories, and foods to connect those memories to. Let’s face it, almost nobody gathers around a salad and remembers it as the highlight of their dinner. However, in veering away from traditional salads it may just take your side dish from forgettable to center stage.

1. Chickpea and Tomato Salad with Lemon and Parmesan

This recipe is the perfect one to make when you have short notice, with all ingredients you likely have on hand. This refreshing combination brings about a flavor that will compliment summer barbecues, picnics in the park, as well as create a hearty vegetarian option, as chickpeas are a great source of protein for anyone living a vegetarian lifestyle. This salad holds up well, so you can even prepare this up to a day in advance. Photo by: Cara’s Healthy Cravings

2. Vegetable Zoodle Salad

Do you own a spiralizer yet? It’s the best and most fun $20 you’re going to spend this year, so get after it. It makes vegetables into noodles, and those noodles into whatever you feel like! This recipe makes one impressively different salad, that’s made up of spiralized zucchini, carrot, cucumber and apple. With a tangy dressing, you’ll be pleasing the eyes and the appetites of all your guests. Photo by: A Zesty Bite

3. Skinny Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Maybe you’re firing up some chicken souvlaki skewers on the barbecue and need a nice light side to keep you bikini ready all summer long. This version of a Mediterranean pasta salad substitutes traditional pasta for the increasingly popular shirataki pasta. The shirataki noodles are made of a Japanese root called konjac, which has little to no calories, carbohydrates, or gluten. Combined with grilled zucchini, and classic Mediterranean ingredients such as tomatoes, red onion, kalamata olives and feta, this one is sure to delight the taste buds, and make you forget about traditional pasta salads. Photo by: The Wanderlust Kitchen

4. Asian Sesame Cucumber Salad

Still looking for creative ways to use your spiralizer? Then this recipe is for you. With the fusion of Asian flavors, crisp taste and unique appearance, this one is likely to capture attention. The base of the salad is spiral sliced cucumbers and carrots, and then dressed in a rice vinegar and sesame oil vinaigrette. Refreshing and different, not to mention pretty to look at. Photo by: Will Cook For Friends

5. California Spaghetti Salad

Pasta salad isn’t anything new or really all that exciting, but switch up the format in which you make it? Well, that pasta salad just got new legs! With fresh ingredients like olives, onions, peppers, zucchini, cucumber and tomatoes, along with a doctored up Italian dressing, this bright and colorful side dish will have everyone coming back for seconds. Photo by: The Recipe Critic

6. Fully Loaded Baked Potato Salad

You know what takes a potato salad to the next level? FULLY LOADING IT. Just like all potatoes, they are always better with the addition of bacon, cheese, sour cream, and green onions. So why not take that same theory and apply it to salad? In doing so you may have permanently removed any healthy notions that come along with the term “salad” but your guests will still be overjoyed at this take on a classic side dish. Photo by: Closet Cook

7. Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

Scaling back down into the healthy category of salads, this spin on potato salad takes it from high calorie, down to a healthy, diet friendly option that everyone will still love. Not to mention, it’s way more colorful than traditional potato salad and with a flavor that is is rather unconventional as well. With a dressing that opts for a sweet mustard vinaigrette over the typical creamy sauces of potato salads past, this healthy spin on things is sure to shake up your next event. Photo by: Wendy Polisi

8. Cowboy Caviar

The name alone is charming enough to repeat a handful of times to, you know, get attention. So if the name isn’t catchy enough, the appearance alone will appeal to the masses (or however many people you invited over). This salad can also work double-duty as a dip/salsa with nacho chips. Ring the supper bell and dig in y’all. Photo by: Culinary Hill

9. Strawberry Watermelon Caprese Salad

Traditional caprese salad usually consists of tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and balsamic glaze. So why not make this fun and exciting with a fresh fruity swap out? One red fruit for another, and you have this tantalizing fruit salad that’s anything but traditional. Make this seasonally and it’ll also be a very inexpensive and easy side to make, with only 5 ingredients and nearly no prep. Photo by: Rhubarbarians

10. Individual Crab-Stuffed Avocado Salads

What better way to indulge your guest in something different, than to have a salad that’s perfectly portioned and presented to them in a delicious little avocado boat. Ripe avocados, halved, peeled and pitted, make the perfect little serving bowls for this amazing seafood concoction. This is certainly something special for your guests to enjoy. Photo by: Laylita

11. Crunchy Asian Ramen Noodle Salad

Remember eating ramen noodles raw from the package on the school-ground as a kid? Well, now you can indulge your inner child with those same ramen noodles in a salad (you refined adult, you.) This recipe recommends the noodles and almond slices be roasted first, but if you skip that step, it’s a 10 minute salad with an Asian flair and crunchtastic results. Photo by: Gimmie Some Oven

Sarah Nicole

Since successfully losing 100lbs by changing her relationship with food and her body, Sarah has taken her passion for food and balanced it between cucumbers and cupcakes. When she's not bustling her way around a kitchen, you can find her working out or winding down at home with her 3 kids and pug. Follow Sarah's journey on Instagram @TheBirdsPapaya.

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