Build-Your-Own Grain Salad

Poke bowl with avocado, black rice, smoked tofu, beans, vegetables, sprouts, dark background.

This is the kind of use-what-you’ve-got approach to cooking that we love best. Start with some cooked grain or pasta — and then build a main-dish salad from whatever ingredients you have on hand. You’ve got grapes but no dried fruit? Use them. Broccoli leftover from last night’s dinner? Toss it in. The only rule is to taste as you go so you’ll learn what you like.

kitchen gear

  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife (adult needed)
  • Measuring cup
  • Large bowl
  • Mixing spoon



  • 2 cups cooked grain or pasta (brown rice, barley, farro, quinoa, bulgar wheat, whole-wheat orzo)
  • 1⁄4 cup dressing (herby vinaigrette or your favorite vinaigrette or a mix of oil and vinegar) or any herb pesto
  • 2 cups vegetables (any combination of diced tomatoes, cucumbers, or zucchini, or green beans, corn, peas, or canned peas)
  • 1⁄2 cup protein (diced mozzarella, cheddar, or monterey jack cheese, or leftover diced cooked chicken, meat, fish, or tofu)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh herbs (basil, mint, parsley, chives, cilantro, or a combination)
  • 1⁄4 cup lightly toasted seeds or nuts
  • 1⁄4 cup dried fruit (raisins, currants, or cherries or chopped dried apricots, prunes, dates, or figs)



  • Put all the ingredients in the bowl and stir to combine. Taste and add more dressing or a pinch of salt if the flavor needs a boost.
  •  Serve right away, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days.

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