When You're Low On Fresh Ingredients, A 'Canned Salad' Comes In Handy
There's no better light, refreshing meal than a salad. But sometimes when the fridge is empty, and there are no fresh greens in sight or only a few sparse veggies to spare, you have to make do with what you have in the pantry. That's where the canned salad comes in: a salad made of mostly canned foods, from beans and olives to artichokes and tinned fish. Add in a few fresh accompaniments like herbs and fresh lemon juice, and these salads can be refreshing and light meals in their own right, with an immense number of possible flavor combinations based on what you have in your cabinet.
Whether you're looking to stretch a little money by using canned foods, or you simply want to use up some shelf-stable groceries, adding canned salad to your lunch or dinner repertoire is an inexpensive way to get in nutrients and big flavor. It's an easy meal to throw together anytime — though we'll walk you through some tips to make your canned salads as delicious as possible.
While canned salads are meant to be low-stress and low-fuss, there are still some easy techniques you can use to ensure your finished product doesn't end up a wet, mushy mess in the bowl. The most important thing to remember: always drain your ingredients before adding them. In most cases, you'll also want to give the items a rinse to remove any excess brine. Foods packed in oil don't need to be rinsed, but should still be drained of excess liquid, so you don't have a pool at the bottom of your salad. Put the food in a strainer for a few minutes to fully let it drip dry, or pat with a paper towel if any extra moisture remains.
Remember to be mindful of your seasonings as well. Sometimes, manufacturers add salt to canned goods to enhance flavor; check your cans to see whether your ingredients are pre-seasoned or have no salt added. It's always a good idea to taste before adding extra spices and seasonings. Lastly, don't be afraid to roast some of your veg. Spread out your canned corn or garbanzo beans on a tray, pop it under the broiler for a few minutes, and you'll add new flavor to tinned goods to brighten things up.
The best meals, especially salads, are a healthy mix of complementary textures and flavors — keep this in mind when choosing ingredients to use in your canned salad. Canned beans are always a popular choice; cheap, sturdy, and full of nutrients, they fit in well with a medley of other ingredients and flavors. Mix together multiple bean varieties to make a bean-centric salad, or choose one variety as the star and pair additional ingredients to taste (such as black beans and corn, kidney beans and artichoke, or white beans and canned tuna).
Don't forget to check the pantry for other shelf-stable items that don't come from a can — from nuts and seeds to bacon bits and pita chips, there are plenty of possibilities for add-ins. After all, a bit of crunch is always welcome in a salad.
Finally, always be sure to dress your salad! Bright, tangy flavors often go well with canned foods, so opt for a tart vinaigrette or even just a glug of good olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. If you have any fresh herbs or vegetables in the fridge (such as red or green onion, a bit of radicchio, or slices of carrot), you can toss them in as well for extra flavor and crunch.