I have a “two crunch” rule when it comes to making salads—as in, there must be at least two elements that add crunch to every bite. I can’t take credit for this criteria; I picked it up from a waitress at a local Pittsburgh restaurant who rated the salads by their crunch factors. This, I decided, was a brilliant technique, because when it comes to salads, the more crunch, the better.
Salad kits are no exception, which is why I’m obsessed with Trader Joes’ Organic Mediterranean Style Salad Kit. The salad base—a mixture of romaine lettuce, shredded broccoli stalks, radicchio, and celery—is far crunchier than kits built on spinach or arugula, and the packet of seasoned flatbread strips and roasted chickpeas completes the double crunch criteria. Dried tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, and a tangy red wine vinaigrette rounds it all out.
With such a satisfying starting point, it’s easy to transform the kit into a hearty weeknight meal. Here are five of my favorites, each made with five ingredients or less. As a bonus, every component can be found at Trader Joe’s.
1. Falafel Pitas
Keep the Mediterranean vibes flowing with hand-held pita sandwiches. Trader Joe’s sells three types of falafel: one shelf-stable mix (just add water) and two frozen options. I’m partial to the frozen Dill Pickle Mini Falafel, but you do you. Prepare them as directed in the package.
Next, warm the pita pockets in the microwave or the oven, then cut each one in half. Spread the insides of each with hummus and tzatziki sauce. Stuff a few falafel in each half, then add a generous handful of the salad. That’s it! The combination of creamy sauces, warm falafel, and tangy salad is truly delightful.
2. Pasta Salad
The best pasta salads are full of bright, fresh ingredients, which is why starting with a salad kit is one of the smartest shortcuts I know. Begin by mixing the assembled salad with the cooked pasta of your choice. Orzo and bowtie are classic salad pastas, and cheese tortellini never fails—Trader Joe’s Fusili Corti Bucati is the most fun pick of the bunch.
Next, stir in kalamata olives, marinated artichoke hearts, and halved cherry tomatoes. Or better yet, add Trader Joe’s Feta, Pepper Drop, and Olive Antipasto, which combines three flavor-packed mix-ins in one. If you’re hoping to work in some protein, stir in some tuna, chicken, or chickpeas.
3. Salad Pizza
If you’re not familiar, salad pizza is exactly what it sounds like: warm, freshly-baked pizza crust topped with a cool and crispy salad. Though you can add sauce, you really don’t need to—the vinaigrette provides enough tang.
To start, bring a ball of TJ’s refrigerated pizza dough to room temperature, then stretch it onto an oiled sheet pan. Drizzle olive oil over the dough and top with minced or grated garlic, as well as the feta and dried tomatoes from the salad kit. Bake at 475°F until the crust is browned, then let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, toss the salad greens with the dressing and remaining toppings, plus more feta cheese. Distribute over the pizza, then slice into squares and dig in.
4. Air Fryer Salad
Have you heard of a baked salad? What about an air fryer salad? Both are trending on social media for a good reason: warm salads are satisfying. If you’re worried about losing a crunch factor, don’t be—the greens are heated until crispy, never wilted.
Start by spritzing the base of the salad mix with olive oil, then air fry at 400°F for 4 to 5 minutes. Then, air fry your protein of choice, be it chicken, salmon, or tofu. Combine both in a bowl, add the remaining salad toppings, and toss with the dressing. Add farro or quinoa to make it a grain bowl, or some diced avocado for a creamy component.
5. Mediterranean Nachos
Forget tortilla chips. These feel-good nachos start with crispy pita chips: either store-bought or homemade. Arrange them on a large platter. Then toss together the salad kit and use a slotted spoon to transfer it onto the chips, letting the dressing drain before transferring (too much liquid will make the chips soggy).
In lieu of a nacho cheese sauce, you’ll drizzle the dish with a vibrant green tahini sauce—a simple mix of tahini, lemon juice, fresh herbs, and (optional) garlic. These are a fresh twist to classic nachos.