Best Creamy Salad Recipes

It’s unfortunate that some people never explore salads beyond chopped lettuce, tomato, and cucumber. In reality, salad boasts incredible versatility — it serves as a main course, pairs beautifully with grilled meats, transforms into a sandwich filling, tops baked potatoes, and, in some cases, even becomes a dessert. Not to mention the fact that the majority of salads are a breeze to prepare, requiring minimum cooking and prep time — a welcome relief for busy home cooks.

Today, we’re diving deep into a specific category of salads that are sure to tantalize your taste buds: creamy salads. We’re talking about the type of dressing that coats your pasta, proteins, or greens with a luxuriously smooth, creamy, and tantalizingly tangy sauce that keeps you coming back for more.

While we’ll thoroughly explore the classics — macaroni salad, potato salad, and egg salad — if you’re the type of cook who revels in unique combinations, we’ve got a few surprises up our sleeves as well. Curiosity piqued? Read on to find your new favorite.

1. Southwest Pasta Salad

Colorful creamy pasta salad

The rustic cuisine of the Southwestern U.S. is beloved statewide for a reason: it’s robust, homely, spicy, and packed with fusion recipes. If you’ve ever wanted to put a Southwestern twist on pasta salad, check out this recipe; it’s got all our favorite ingredients from the area, including fire-roasted corn, protein-packed black beans, bell peppers, avocado, cilantro, red onions, and bell peppers. Even the dressing offers a distinctive twist, featuring added sour cream, minced chipotle peppers, and a blend of spices. 

Once everything is mixed with colorful rotini, it’s ready to serve. The salad is ideal for vegetarians, and you can substitute zucchini noodles for a fully raw dish, too.

Recipe: Southwest Pasta Salad

2. Chicken Macaroni Salad

Chicken macaroni salad in bowl

Macaroni salad is a classic dish for barbecue season, and every family has their own take on the traditional recipe. This version combines the conventional elements, such as chilled macaroni, celery, and dill, while swapping out diced onions with sweeter shallots and adding surprises like earthy black olives, juicy cherry tomatoes, Italian parsley, and chunks of shredded chicken, which add protein.

Round off the salad with a quintessential creamy dressing by combining Dijon mustard with red wine vinegar, mayonnaise, freshly cracked black pepper, and a generous pinch of salt. We love how the fresh tomatoes burst in the mouth, balancing out the fattier flavors.

Recipe: Chicken Macaroni Salad

3. Grilled Sweet Potato Salad

Grilled sweet potato salad

Homestyle potato salad is delicious in its own right, but if you want to experiment with something a little more imaginative, healthy, and bursting with intriguing flavors, this grilled sweet potato salad is for you. It’s only the perfect creamy side for the family cookout, but vegetarians can easily make it a main by using the dish as a sandwich filling.

Making the dish is straightforward: Grill lightly seasoned sweet potatoes until delicately charred and smokey before tossing in a rich dressing. The base is yogurt and mayonnaise, while Thai basil, lime zest, turmeric, and ginger add a unique fusion flair.

Recipe: Grilled Sweet Potato Salad

4. Shrimp Macaroni Salad

Shrimp macaroni salad on plate

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While we typically picture salads as a health-based food, the creamy, mayonnaise-rich base of macaroni salad slots more neatly into the indulgent recipe category. And while there’s nothing wrong with indulging (we’ve eaten a whole bowlful more than once!), as macaroni salads go, this one is lighter. 

How? We swap out half the mayonnaise for Greek yogurt, instantly adding extra protein to the mix while bypassing additional calories. The tangy sauce coats the pasta and vibrant vegetables flawlessly. The delicate shrimp add supplementary nutrition, which we cook in the same pot as the pasta for convenience.

Recipe: Shrimp Macaroni Salad

5. Best Broccoli Salad

Broccoli and bacon creamy salad

We love this salad for two main reasons: It’s flavor and vibrancy. While preparing the dish does require some cooking, it’s not the broccoli (we’ll enjoy that deliciously crunchy). All you have to do is saute some turkey bacon until it’s gloriously crispy, then whip up a simple and healthy dressing of Greek yogurt, vinegar, water, honey, salt, pepper, and garlic.

If you haven’t noticed, there’s a festive theme with these tasty ingredients, and our toppings really seal the deal. Add the broccoli and dressing to a bowl alongside cranberries, red onions, and crunchy sunflower seeds. It’s fantastic served over brown rice or alongside grilled chicken.

Recipe: Best Broccoli Salad

6. Candied Walnut Waldorf Salad

Waldorf salad on lettuce

For over a century, the Waldorf Astoria in New York has symbolized indulgence, luxury, and refined taste. While few of us have ever visited the iconic hotel chain, the salad created at one of the hotel’s charity balls in the late 1800s is just as legendary and indulgent as its namesake.

Everyone has their own take on the classic Waldorf salad, but candied walnuts are a must — In this case, crunchy roasted buttery honeyed halves. Subtly floral celery, crisp apples, and sweet grapes with their sour undertones match that tangy, creamy dressing made of Greek yogurt and lemon juice.

Recipe: Candied Walnut Waldorf Salad

7. Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Bowl of Hawaiian macaroni salad

You know your macaroni salad is a hit when everyone helps themselves to seconds. If you want to serve something familiar yet with a subtle distinction, look towards the sunny Pacific island state — Hawaii — for this creamy dish.

According to our recipe developer, this simple and affordable recipe is a staple across the archipelago. It’s similar to the American classic but with a looser dressing that combines mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, and a splash of milk. The tangy, sweet flavors coat the al-dente pasta with grated carrots, celery, and onion. To enjoy this salad best, serve it alongside the traditional Hawaiian kalua pig.

Recipe: Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

8. Sous-Vide Chicken Salad

Sandwich with chicken salad

Restaurants frequently employ cooking techniques that make delicious food seem complex but are achievable for home cooks. Take sous vide, a French term for “under vacuum.” It involves cooking vacuum-sealed ingredients at low temperatures, extracting unique depths of flavors. All that’s needed to recreate the process at home is a water bath and a sealed bag.

This approach will create the juiciest, tenderest chicken you can imagine. And the best use for it? Chicken salad flavored with tarragon, garlic, bright and spicy serrano chile, honey, and lemon juice. The creamy salad is just waiting to be sandwiched between fluffy bread.

Recipe: Sous-Vide Chicken Salad

9. Creamy Macaroni Salad

Spoon of creamy macaroni salad

When it comes to creamy summer dishes, macaroni salad is the top choice. Skip the store-bought versions; in just under 20 minutes in your kitchen, with a few handy tips and a handful of unique ingredients, you’ll have the best macaroni salad you’ve ever tasted, all set to enjoy.

This recipe features abundant vegetables like celery, onions, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and dill pickles, but the real difference comes from the dressing. Mayonnaise, vinegar, and Dijon mustard may be familiar additions — but once you add a subtle sweetness with honey, additional tanginess with sour cream, and an earthy undertone that’ll bind everything together with a large pinch of celery seeds, the macaroni salad transforms into the meal highlight.

Recipe: Creamy Macaroni Salad

10. Old-Fashioned Ambrosia Salad

Bowl of ambrosia salad

Rummage through your Grandparent’s old recipe books, and you’ll likely stumble across a recipe for ambrosia salad. Although the salad dates to the late 1800s and has since fallen out of fashion, it still features in many Southern family’s festive spreads.

Ambrosia salad — a reference to the food of Greek gods — is only a salad in its laxest meaning. If you’re searching for a sweet dish that both children and adults will enjoy, this is the one. Grab cans of pineapple, mandarin oranges, and maraschino cherries, drain them of syrup, and mix with shredded coconut, marshmallows, sour cream, and whipped cream (or cool whip).

Recipe: Old-Fashioned Ambrosia Salad

11. Korean Potato Salad

Bowl of Korean potato salad

Korean barbecue may be centuries old, but in the Western world, its rise to popularity started in the past decade. Much like American potato salad, Korean potato salad — gamja saelleodeu — is a delicious accompaniment to grilled meats or fried chicken.

The traditional Korean recipe uses smooth mashed potatoes mixed with finely chopped boiled eggs, red onions, cucumber, carrots, and a tangy dressing of apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and creamy mayonnaise. Uniquely, grated egg yolks finish the dish, contributing a richness that counteracts the creamy salad base. And the best news of all? It’s ready in less than 20 minutes.

Recipe: Korean Potato Salad

12. Creamy Kidney Bean Salad

Creamy kidney bean salad

A can of kidney beans is probably not what the average cook gravitates toward when searching for salad ingredients. However, as a plant-based alternative to animal-based proteins, kidney beans are a powerhouse of beneficial nutrients. If you need more persuading, the pulse provides hearty robustness and a surprisingly soft, creamy texture that complements the silky mayonnaise punctured by tangy vinegar.

Like all good salads, this refreshing dish has plenty of fresh vegetables — namely shredded carrots, celery, and red onion. We recommend serving the salad with wraps, sandwiches, burgers, or barbecue dishes.

Recipe: Creamy Kidney Bean Salad

13. Cauliflower Potato Salad

Cauliflower potato salad plate

Have you ever purchased a gigantic head of cauliflower, used only a few florets, and then found yourself wondering how to use the remaining portion? We sure have. And there’s an easy answer: Make a salad.

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This recipe is almost identical to a classic potato salad — complete with rich mayonnaise, grassy dill, vibrant lemons, and punchy mustard. Except it uses healthy steamed cauliflower instead of the traditional waxy potato. For extra flavor, chopped hard-boiled eggs and pickles contribute a welcome savoriness and sharpness. Creamy cauliflower salad is ideal for picnics, alongside other cold finger foods. It shines equally well next to grilled meats.

Recipe: Cauliflower Potato Salad

14. Maine-Ish Salmon Salad Rolls

Salmon salad hot dog rolls

For the finest lobster rolls, it’s a well-known fact that New England is the destination of choice. Unfortunately, if you live inland, finding fresh, good-quality lobster in the off-season is nigh on impossible. Luckily, there’s a solution: pile your buttery toasted brioche hot dog buns with a light and creamy salmon salad instead.

These Maine-inspired rolls feature flaky baked salmon seasoned with bright, zesty lemon juice, parsley, chives, and green onions. Once you add some yogurt, celery, and a hint of warming cumin, the salad is ready for fluffy rolls and ridge-cut chips.

Recipe: Maine-Ish Salmon Salad Rolls

15. Buttermilk Ranch Potato Salad

Ranch potato salad plate

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Ranch dressing is undeniably one of the nation’s all-time favorites, and it takes center stage in this gourmet potato salad. Instead of settling for a store-bought version, this dish undergoes a tremendous transformation by simply dedicating a few minutes to preparing a homemade ranch dressing. The difference it makes is truly remarkable — and the best part? It’s a breeze to prepare. All you have to do is mix together some creamy buttermilk, freshly chopped herbs, garlic, yogurt, mayonnaise, and scallions.

After preparing the sauce, generously coat your boiled and cooled potatoes with the herby, garlicky ranch dressing, and enjoy them alongside buttermilk fried chicken.

Recipe: Buttermilk Ranch Potato Salad

16. Esquites (Mexican Street Corn Salad)

Mexican creamy corn salad

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Among all the Mexican side dishes, guacamole steals most of the spotlight — but have you heard of esquites? This refreshing grilled corn street food shares similar flavors with elotes, but while the latter features whole corn, esquites are served in a bowl with a creamy dressing. Nonetheless, the best esquites recipes are cooked with freshly charred, smoky corn sliced right from the cob.

Corn may be the star, but chopped bell peppers, jalapeño, red onions, and cilantro add more vibrancy. When tossed with a dressing consisting of lime juice, sour cream, Tajín seasoning, mayonnaise, and cotija cheese, the corn shines. Serve it with tortilla chips or atop baked potatoes to savor a taste of sunny South America.

Recipe: Esquites (Mexican Street Corn Salad)

17. Zippy Tuna Pasta Salad

Tuna pasta salad plate

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During the warm summer months, tuna pasta salad fills children’s lunchboxes, picnic baskets, and beach bags across the U.K. This recipe has all the bearings of the characteristically English dish, namely al dente fusilli twists, briney canned tuna, canned sweetcorn, chopped red onion, and a bright, zingy dressing packed with crème fraiche, basil, dill, and fresh lemon juice.

The canned items make this classic recipe time-effective and cost-friendly — but to add an extra dash of flavor, we recommend topping the salad with crispy toasted breadcrumbs infused with smoky ground paprika. It’ll elevate your meal from nostalgic to gastronomic.

Recipe: Zippy Tuna Pasta Salad

18. Easy Avocado Chicken Salad

Avocado chicken salad bowl

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Dairy isn’t the only thing that makes for creamy salads. Avocado, a powerhouse ingredient known for its smooth, buttery texture and creamy flavor, is an unexpected yet delicious addition. While this chicken salad still uses Greek yogurt as the main sauce, the avocado plays a key role.

There’s no lack of other textures either, with walnuts providing a nutty crunch, apples a crisp juiciness, dried cranberries a tart chewiness (and bucketfuls of nutrition), and shallots a delicate bite. Slathered between two slices of seeded bread, every bite of the creamy chicken salad delivers new sensations of delicious mouthfeel.

Recipe: Easy Avocado Chicken Salad

19. Creamy Egg Salad

Creamy egg salad in bowl

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Many people often toss boiled eggs into salads to amp up the protein content, but if you ask us, that’s only scratching the surface of what eggs can bring to the salad game. Our favorite way of using this vitamin-packed ingredient is to create egg salad, a delightfully creamy mixture perfect for making Japanese sandos or filling crunchy lettuce cups. This way, they’re the central focus.

The best part is this recipe takes less than ten minutes. Roughly mash the eggs with a fork, then mix with mayonnaise, mustard, apple cider vinegar, chives, and parsley. Alternatively, you can switch out the herbs for salad cress to make a British high tea sandwich filling.

Recipe: Creamy Egg Salad

20. Crisp And Creamy Chicken Salad

Chicken salad on lettuce leaves

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Home chefs will know that fruit pairs beautifully with meat. In particular, chicken complements the tart, sweet notes of apples. We only use one in this simple, no-fuss chicken salad recipe — but it’s enough to add a unique balance and interest to the dish.

In addition to apples, you’ll need chunks of chicken breasts, celery, scallions, and a lusciously creamy condiment made with mayonnaise, mustard, herbs, and citrusy lemon to finish it off. We recommend spooning the salad onto crisp lettuce leaves, but it’s incredibly versatile.

Recipe: Crisp And Creamy Chicken Salad

21. Classic Ham Salad

Ham salad in white bowl

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We absolutely love salad recipes that boast less than ten ingredients but still deliver an explosion of flavor. Even better, if those components are accessible and affordable staples that don’t require you to step outside the house.

The protein of choice here may be unorthodox, but ham — we suggest using leftovers from your holiday meals or roast dinners — has a nuanced, sweet-savory base taste, which provides intense multifaceted flavor to the recipe. Mix the sliced ham with celery, white onion, dill pickles, mayonnaise, and a touch of mustard for a satisfying side, starter, or light lunch. We love to stuff it inside buttery croissants — after all, ham and croissants are a natural pairing.

Recipe: Classic Ham Salad

22. Creamy Curried Chicken Salad

Curried chicken salad sandwich

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Craving all the flavors of curry but don’t have the time to labor over the saucepan? Wish you could be tucking into a spicy, saucy chicken breast but don’t want a heavy lunch? Creamy curried chicken salad may be the answer you’re looking for.

Cubed and sauteed chicken make up our base (although you can use pre-cooked chicken to save time). To infuse the bulk of seasoning, concoct a dressing with mayonnaise, curry powder, and lemon juice. Scatter over chopped celery and crunchy cashews before finishing with bursts of fresh grapes. The salad tastes fantastic with sprouts or fresh greens and can also be sandwiched between pita or naan wraps.

Recipe: Creamy Curried Chicken Salad

23. Spruced Up Tuna Salad

Colorful tuna salad plate

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While tuna salad is an enduring favorite amongst foodies worldwide, canned tuna is known for its distinctively strong flavor, meaning you’ll need some punchy elements to stand up to its savory intenseness. The creamy, tangy dressing does this flawlessly; lemon juice counteracts overt fishiness, while olive oil and mayonnaise provide a silky dressing. Dijon mustard is just the finishing touch.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a “spruced up” tuna salad without some extra additions, namely cucumber, red onion, red pepper, grated carrot, and roughly chopped parsley. We love the contrast of the creamy salad served on crisp toast, although any leftovers match equally well with rice.

Recipe: Spruced Up Tuna Salad

24. Apple Pecan Chicken Salad

Chicken, apple and pecan salad

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Don’t let those leftover chicken breasts go to waste after dinner. Transform them into something entirely new and delicious with this easy recipe, which works either as a main course or a side dish. There’s no cooking involved, so it’s perfect for busy weekdays when you’re short on time or energy. Just dice some tart and juicy green apples (we suggest Granny Smith for optimal flavor) with celery, red onion, delicate chives, and halved pecans for an undertone of buttery sweetness.

Even our dressing is easy-as-can-be, with merely three ingredients: mayonnaise, onion powder, and salt. Its simple, light, and creamy nature makes it the perfect backdrop to the core ingredients.

Recipe: Apple Pecan Chicken Salad

25. Creamy Dill Potato Salad

Creamy dill potato salad bowl

Catherine Brookes/Look

We love experimenting with and innovating on traditional dishes as much as the next culinary enthusiast. However, we’re sure you’d agree that many nostalgic, time-honored recipes are perfect as they are, without any changes needed. That’s the case for this creamy dill potato salad, which will be the crowd’s favorite at any potluck, picnic, or barbecue.

There’s something about the combination of these flavors: the freshness of dill, the buttery potatoes, the hint of garlic, the zesty lemon, the fruity olive oil, and the crunch of onion, all complemented by the blend of Dijon and mayonnaise. They come together in perfect harmony, making an ultimate coupling with steak.

Recipe: Creamy Dill Potato Salad

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