How glorious is Greek Salad? The ingredients are simple, but the flavours bold. The dance between salty feta, bitter olives, fresh veggies, aromatic oregano and a big glug of olive oil is total salad perfection and party-in-your-mouth type stuff.
The classic Greek side salad inspires the recipe below, but with a few tweaks to morph it into a standalone, nutritionally balanced meal.
It has a protein bump, with the addition of tinned fish and butter beans. Protein is a satiating nutrient, meaning it helps keep us full for longer. The butter beans also offer a rich source of carbohydrates, so there’s more energy and dietary fibre in the mix! Perfect as a lunchtime salad to power you into the afternoon.
Ingredients & Substitutions
This speedy healthy salad idea comes together in around 15 minutes. You’ll need a combination of fresh, dried and canned goods, including:
Tinned tuna. A good source of anti-inflammatory omega-3’s, as well as protein. Opt for tuna in spring water – I prefer a solid or chunk tuna for this recipe (meaning tuna packaged as a loin or chunky pieces; over flaked, which tends to disintegrate). Canned salmon would be nice too!
Tinned butterbeans. Fun fact – they’re also called lima beans, depending on where you are in the world. You can sub for another tinned legume, chickpeas would work well.
Fresh tomatoes. The major dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene (responsible for tomatoes ruby red colour!). I used cherry tomatoes, but feel free to sub for a whole tomato, or two, diced into chunks.
Cucumber. I used a telegraph variety here (a popular supermarket cucumber in Kiwiland), which is the longest and thinnest of cucumbers. They’re sweeter and have less seeds compared to other types.
Dried oregano. An aromatic herb that brings subtle sweetness and warm. If you have fresh on hand, you could sub it in. As dried herbs are typically more potent and concentrated compared to fresh, you need less – the general ratio is one tablespoon of fresh to one teaspoon of dried.
Lemon juice to add acidity for that all important flavour balance. If you can, opt for fresh lemon juice over bottled – it’ll taste fresher and brighter! To further omph the acidity beyond the recipe, add more lemon or a splash of red wine vinegar.
Kalamata olives. Originating from Greece (of course!), this olive variety is large, dark brown and with a smooth meaty texture. It is most traditional to use in this style of salad, but you can use any on hand.
Olive oil. My favourite oil of all the oils. With oodles of documented health benefits, olive oil has anti-inflammatory properties (1) and is protective against heart disease (in the context of a Mediterranean dietary pattern (2)).
Feta. A Greek brined white cheese made from sheep’s milk, or a mix of sheep and goat, or even cow (which is popular where I’m from, and used here). Like most dairy products it’s a great source of calcium.
If you’re dairy-free, feel free to drop the feta cheese. To still get that creamy factor, try swapping in a ripe avocado!
Cut ingredients into similar small pieces so with each mouthful you’ll likely get a bite of everything, encouraging that flavour dance!
Pit be gone! For pleasant eating, remove the olive stones (aka pit) before adding to the salad. I find pressing the flat-side of my knife down hard on the olive is the easiest way – it pops right out!
Finely dice the red onion. Raw onion polarises – some love it, some find it overwhelming, especially in big hunks or rings. If you’re not a huge fan, you can reduce the portion; OR – hot tip – submerge diced onion into ice cold water for 10 minutes, before using as intended. The pungency will be knocked back.
This salad is a great balanced meal alone, ticking off each of the food groups (carb-rich butter beans, protein-rich tuna, fat-rich olive oil and feta, and a few servings of veggie!).
However, don’t hold back – you can take it to a whole other level:
Make pita pockets or wraps. Add a few handfuls of spinach, following with the salad. Stuff in, roll or clamp shut, and enjoy.
Add couscous or pasta. Bulk into a delicious couscous or pasta salad. Great served cold!
Dunk in pita chips. Cut pita bread into chips, brush with oil, sprinkle with salt and bake into the oven until crisp. Dunk into the salad, using it as a bowl-to-mouth vehicle.
Load into lettuce cups. For those who want more fun, but still control the carbs. Simple load salad into a large and crisp lettuce leaves. Eat. Repeat.
Slice tomatoes in half. Dice cucumber. Finely dice onion. Slice olives into halves.
Add to a mixing bowl tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olives and oregano. Mix together.
Drain and rinse butter beans. Drain tuna.
Add butter beans and tuna to the mixing bowl. Crumble feta into mixing bowl. Add lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper (to taste). Mix together.
Taste test and adjust flavours if needed to your liking – does it need more olive oil? Salt? Pepper? More zingy acidity (e.g. more lemon if on hand? Or sub for a splash of vinegar?). Taste, play, enjoy!