Classic House Salad

5 from 2 votes

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A great house salad can be so many things from a side salad to a dinner salad. Just use fresh ingredients and make your own dressing to take this often overlooked salad to the next level. This recipe has romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, carrots and more tossed with homemade croutons and red wine vinaigrette. This is the kind of all-purpose salad that goes with countless meals. 

If you’re looking for another versatile way to do greens, try this arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette.

House salad on a large serving dish.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

This is such a fantastic house salad. I know it’s not the kind of salad that usually drums up that much excitement, but when you make it in your kitchen, you have full control to pick the best ingredients and whip up homemade vinaigrette and croutons too. You can make it memorable.

We all can use a go-with-everything salad. Just because it’s served as a side dish, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be as tasty as the main. With a little effort, this salad can really enhance the entire meal.

It’s easy to customize. You own the house, right? Start with this basic salad recipe and make your own tweaks and changes. That can be motivated by dietary preferences or not wanting certain ingredients you have around to go to waste.

What is a House Salad?

A restaurant menu staple, a house salad starts with greens. They can be romaine, iceberg or a spring mix. Then there are other ingredients mixed in like tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage and carrots. You often have the option of ordering it as a side salad or an entree salad with the addition of a proteins like chicken, shrimp or salmon to turn it into a main dish. 

Ingredients & Substitutions

Ingredients including romaine, cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage carrots, parmesan, oil, vinegar, seasonings and torn bread.

This is what you need:

For the salad:

  • Lettuce: The recipe call for 3 romaine hearts, which is the inner section of a head of romaine. These leaves have a juicy, crisp stem that gives the salad structure and texture.
  • Tomatoes: You can use either cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes. Just slice them in half. I prefer small tomatoes because they keep their shape when you toss them in the salad. If you chop larger tomatoes, they are juicier, and you don’t want a soggy salad.
  • Cucumbers: I like English cucumbers because the skin is more delicate, and they have less seeds than regular cucumbers.
  • Carrots: It’s easiest to buy a bag of shredded carrots, but you can cut the carrots yourself with a box grater or with the shredding disk on your food processor.
  • Cabbage: Just like the carrots, it’s easiest to get a bag of shredded red cabbage.
  • Onions: I thinly slice a red onion with a sharp knife or a mandolin. Scallions would be another good option for mild onion flavor.
  • Sunflower seeds give the salad some salty crunch. You can substitute with chopped walnuts, almonds, pecans or even pistachios.
  • Parmesan, finely grated, is fantastic in the salad, but again, you can make a swap. Try grated cheddar cheese, crumbled feta or goat cheese.
  • Parsley: I finish the salad with chopped fresh herbs.

For the croutons:

  • Bread with a nice crust works best. Avoid soft sandwich bread. A rustic country bread or sourdough are both good. Cut it into 1-inch cubes. 
  • Olive oil, salt & pepper are what help the bread toast and brown in the oven, and they season the croutons.

For the vinaigrette:

  • Garlic: The dressing calls for 1 minced garlic clove.
  • Mustard helps the vinegar and oil emulsify, and it adds flavor.
  • Honey adds a touch of sweetness to balance out the lemon juice and vinegar.
  • Oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper season the dressing.
  • Red wine vinegar has a more mild taste than something like balsamic. It adds a nice amount of sharpness while harmonizing with the rest of the ingredients. You can substitute with white wine vinegar.
  • Lemon juice: Always use fresh lemon juice and never bottled.
  • Olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil has the best flavor for vinaigrettes. 

Optional Additions

The following are suggestions for how to customize your salad:

  • Beans: Try white beans like cannellini or navy beans.
  • Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, make the salad more filling.
  • Olives, pitted, add a nice briny and salty accent.
  • Hard-boiled eggs: Either dice them and toss them in or slice the eggs and arrange those slices on top of the dressed salad.
  • Avocado: Dice a ripe avocado to give the salad something creamy and rich.
  • Vegetables (raw or roasted): This salad is a great way to use up random quantities of veggies that aren’t enough quite for another recipe. Try broccoli, bell peppers, cauliflower, corn or sweet potatoes.
  • Couscous, quinoa, farro or barley: You can add cooked grains to the salad.
  • Protein: For the non-vegetarians, this is a way to make this an entree salad with roasted or grilled chicken, salmon, shrimp or even steak.

How To Make This House Salad Recipe

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

1. Toss the bread cubes with oil, salt and pepper and spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet.

2. Toast the bread in the oven until it turns into golden brown, crunchy croutons. This will take about 17-20 minutes, flipping them over halfway through toasting.

Croutons on a sheet pan before and after they bake in the oven.

3. Make the vinaigrette. Whisk the whisk together the garlic, mustard, honey, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, vinegar, lemon juice and oil in a small bowl.

4. Combine the salad ingredients in a big bowl. That includes the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, onions, cabbage, parmesan, sunflower seeds and parsley.

Red wine vinaigrette in a small bowl. Salad ingredients assembled in a large bowl.

5. Drizzle the dressing into the salad. Toss to combine.

Salad tossed with vinaigrette in a bowl.


As mentioned, this is the type of salad that is a reliable side to go with recipes such as sun-dried tomato pasta, sheet pan gnocchi and vegetables or baked kale risotto. If you like a soup and salad combo, try it with chickpea soup, pasta e fagioli or even three bean chili.

Leftovers, Storage & Make-Ahead Tips

You can store the salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days. It’s best if you plan ahead and not toss the entire salad in the vinaigrette if you know you’re planning to save some of it. Then it won’t get soggy. Keep the dressing in a mason jar in the fridge.

Keep the croutons in a separate airtight container at room temperature. I recommend fishing them out of the salad if you have tossed them in the greens. The croutons will soften if they are in the fridge with the salad.

You can make the vinaigrette up to 2 days in advance. When you take it out of the refrigerator, give it 15 minutes at room temperature and then stir it. This allows the oil to liquify again assuming it hardens in the chill of the fridge.

House salad in a small bowl.

Recipe Tips

Use ripe tomatoes and the freshest produce. Tomatoes that aren’t in peak condition will take away from the overall quality of your house salad. What you can do is oven roast your tomatoes if they need a boost.

Don’t be tempted to use store-bought croutons. It’s easy to make your own croutons, and they taste so much better than what you get in a package.

Don’t toss the salad ahead of time, even without the vinaigrette. In fact, it’s best to wait to cut your tomatoes and cucumbers until you are ready to assemble the salad, so it has a fresh bite.

Be creative. You can set your own house rules. Start with the base recipe and then make adjustments and additions as you see fit. That can be because of your own tastes or what you have in your kitchen.

You will need a large salad bowl. Give yourself space to really mix the lettuce and the rest of the ingredients with the dressing.

Recipe FAQs

Do you have to use romaine lettuce?

I prefer crisp lettuce like romaine, but you can use baby spinach, butter lettuce, iceberg lettuce or a package mix of leafy greens most similar to your favorite restaurant house salad.

Can you toss the salad with another kind of dressing?

Yes, you set the house rules! If you prefer balsamic vinaigrette or homemade ranch dressing, then go for it. Salad dressings are where you can personalize this recipe.

How do you make the salad gluten free?

You would need to use gluten-free bread for the croutons.

How do you make the salad vegan?

For the vinaigrette, use maple syrup instead of honey. Also, either leave out the cheese or use a dairy-free, plant-based substitute.

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Classic House Salad

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 6
A great house salad can be a side salad or a dinner salad. This easy recipe has romaine, carrots, cucumbers, cabbage and tomatoes all tossed in red wine vinaigrette plus homemade croutons.


For croutons

  • 3 cups bread cubes (about 1 inch)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salad
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For vinaigrette

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

For salad

  • 3 romaine hearts, chopped
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes
  • 1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley


For croutons

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • On a sheet pan, toss the bread with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Use your hands to make sure the bread is evenly dressed in the oil.
  • Bake the bread for 10 minutes. Turn it over to the other side. Continue baking for 7-10 minutes until the croutons are golden brown. Let them cool. 

For vinaigrette

  • In a small bowl whisk together the garlic, mustard, honey, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil.

For salad

  • Combine the lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, onions, cabbage, parmesan, sunflower seeds and parsley in a large bowl.
  • Drizzle in the dressing. Toss to combine.


The salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 days. If the greens are tossed in the dressing, they will soften. If you are planning to have leftovers, try to not toss that portion in the dressing. Keep the vinaigrette in a separate jar in the fridge.
Store the croutons in an airtight container at room temperature.
You can make the dressing up to 2 days in advance. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Let it sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes before tossing it into the salad.
Optional Additions:
  • Cannellini or navy beans.
  • Chickpeas
  • Olives, pitted
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Vegetables (raw or roasted): broccoli, bell peppers, cauliflower, corn or sweet potatoes.
  • Cooked couscous, quinoa, farro or barley
  • Avocado, diced or sliced
  • Protein options: roasted or grilled chicken, salmon, shrimp or even steak.


Calories: 290kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 641mg | Potassium: 459mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 7285IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 126mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Salads
Cuisine: American
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Hi, I'm Paige.

Welcome to Last Ingredient where you will find simple seasonal recipes with plenty of fruits and vegetables, all for the home cook.

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