This summer salad is bursting with flavor thanks to ripe fragrant peaches and a crunchy lettuce base. Learn all the different ways you can tailor this salad to accompany your main dish or transform it into a full meal.
What can you do with an abundance of ripe peaches? Especially if you don’t want to make a bunch of desserts with these fragrant fuzzy fruits?
One of my favorite ways to use up a lot of peaches and nectarines is to make a peach salad. There are many types of salads you can add peaches to, including leafy green salads, tomato-based salads, and fruit salads.
Let’s cover one of my favorite green salads: romaine lettuce with sliced peaches, nuts, and cheese. It’s terrific because romaine lettuce is easy to find and prepare. The peaches add a floral, sweet twist to balance the tangy cheese.
You can serve this salad with your favorite toppings and make endless variations. Read on to learn how.
The most important part to picking the best peaches for this salad recipe is to make sure they are ripe and room temperature (cold peaches are less flavorful). Although you could use crunchy peaches if you’re going for a crisp texture, the unripe fruits will lack the aroma and sweetness that we’re aiming for.
NOTE: You could get away with using crunchy white peaches or nectarines, which are sweet even when they’re not fully ripe. But they lack the complexity that the ripe versions can deliver.
To check whether your peaches are ripe, give them a quick sniff. They should smell fragrant. If you push gently, they will give a little. But don’t squeeze too hard! You don’t want to damage the peaches before serving.
There’s a fine balance. We don’t want a peach or nectarine that’s so ripe that its skin is dimpled or wrinkled. Pick a fruit that’s still got some resistance so you can slice it without crushing it.
RELATED: Check out this Peaches & Nectarines article for more details on how to pick peaches and tell when they’re ripe for eating.
Peeled vs unpeeled
Some people dislike eating the fuzzy skin on peaches. If you’re in this camp, feel free to peel the peach before you slice it.
laziness convenience, I keep the peach skin on. I like the bright red and gold colors the skin adds to the salad’s presentation. And I don’t mind the texture of peach skins.
As nectarines don’t have fuzzy skins, you could use nectarines instead of peaches (and get the benefits of eating the fiber and nutrients in the skin).
Plain vs. grilled
For speed’s sake, I like to slice fresh raw peaches and add them to the salad. I don’t do anything extra to the peaches.
If you’re in a fancy mood (or your peaches aren’t fully ripe and you want to help them along), you can grill, sauté, or poach the peaches before slicing and adding them to the salad.
Grilling and pan-frying peaches introduce extra work. But you may enjoy the added smoky flavors (if grilled) and the caramelization (if pan fried/sautéed).
TIP: In the winter, with zero in-season fresh peaches, I rely on canned peaches or frozen peaches for this salad. Once you thaw frozen peaches, you can sauté them before topping your salad.
This salad is the classic leafy green with a lemon and balsamic vinegar dressing. I add sliced peaches, walnuts, avocado, and goat cheese to finish the salad. These toppings add sweetness, brightness, and crunchiness.
NOTE: I like to use a vinaigrette that’s got a touch of sweetness and/or fruity flavors to pair with the peaches. That’s why I like balsamic vinegar because it’s sweet and offers a syrupy consistency. When substituting with another vinaigrette, pick one that’s on the sweeter, fruity side rather than a spicy or garlicky dressing.
You could take this basic recipe and substitute all kinds of ingredients to tailor the salad to your taste buds and what you’ve got in the fridge. Here are some ideas:
- Vinaigrette: Honey Dijon mustard vinaigrette, lemon-honey vinaigrette, raspberry balsamic vinaigrette, mint vinaigrette with honey or maple syrup,
- Vegetables: any lettuce works (butter, romaine, Little Gem, red leaf, green leaf, even iceberg lettuce), arugula, baby spinach, tomato wedges
- Fruits: Sliced avocado, pears, apples, berries
- Herbs & aromatics: Finely minced red onions or shallots, basil, mint, cilantro, chives
- Cheese: Mozzarella, burrata, feta, blue cheese, goat cheese,
- Protein: Sliced polish sausage, grilled or poached or broiled salmon (or a white fish), grilled or pan-fried tofu steaks, grilled chicken, pan-fried shrimp
- Nuts & seeds: Walnuts, pecans, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
TIP: Consider using toasted nuts and seeds for extra flavor. Adding protein can transform your salad from a side dish to a full meal.
Tips for success
- Use a salad spinner to remove excess water from the lettuce leaves before dressing. I really like this big salad spinner. It’s saved me from eating soggy salads.
- I prefer to dress the lettuce and lay the greens on a plate. Then I top the lettuce with the peaches, walnuts, and cheese. This is a personal preference. I find that assembling the toppings after dressing the lettuce prevents the delicate peaches from getting bruised when tossing the salad dressing into the greens. (See the photo caption above for details.)
- I dislike biting into a huge chunks of goat cheese because it’s so tangy and pungent. So, I use my fingers to crumble the goat cheese on top of the salad to try to break it into smaller pieces. (If the cheese is soft, it’s less crumbling and more like molding paste, but you get the idea.) If you have a better way, leave a comment to let me know.
- To scale this recipe: Increase the ingredient quantities. This recipe scales linearly so you can easily double or triple the quantities. You’ll need a larger mixing bowl to toss the dressing into the lettuce without overflowing the bowl.
Summer salad with peaches, romaine, walnuts, avocados, and goat cheese
- Chopping Board
- salad spinner
- Mixing Bowl
- 2 heads Lettuce, romaine lettuce or your favorite leafy green
- 5 medium peaches, use as many as desired
- ¼ cup (30 g) walnuts, use as much as desired
- 1 large avocado, ripe
- 2 tablespoons goat cheese, use as much as desired
- Gather the ingredients.
Prepare the lettuce & ingredients
- Cut the ends off the head of the romaine lettuce (the part that keeps the leaves attached together). Wash the leaves thoroughly to remove dirt and sand.
Make the salad dressing
- Cut the lemon in half. Juice one half of the lemon.
- Mix the lemon juice, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil in a bowl until well combined and emulsified.
Assemble the salad
- Slice the peaches and avocado. Cut the lettuce or rip into bite-sized pieces.
- Put the cut lettuce into a large mixing bowl. Add the salad dressing. Mix until evenly combined.
- Place a serving of the lettuce on a plate. Add the sliced peaches and avocados. Add the walnuts and crumble goat cheese over top. Repeat for the 3 remaining servings of salad.
- Enjoy your summer salad with peaches!
Can you make this in advance?
Kind of. You can prepare the ingredients separately but wait to add the dressing to the lettuce until you’re ready to serve.
You may want to squeeze lemon juice on the avocados to slow down browning. This keeps the avocados looking fresh.
Dress the salad and add the toppings just before serving.
How to store leftovers
You can make extra servings and plan to eat the leftovers the next day. The main goal is to dress the lettuce as close to when you plan to eat the salad as possible to reduce the amount of lettuce wilting.
Assemble the salad and store the dressing in an airtight container. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss before serving. Once you add the toppings, the salad is ready.
If you’re taking the salad in a brown bag lunch, layer the ingredients so the leafy greens are on top of an airtight container and the peaches, walnuts, and avocados are at the bottom of the container. Add the dressing to the bottom of container. Store upright if possible. Shake to mix the ingredients before eating.
Can you freeze it?
I would not recommend it. This salad is designed to be eaten fresh (or refrigerated overnight at most). Freezing would make the lettuce and peaches soggy.