January 25, 2023

Use This Whole30 Meal Template to Create a Delicious, Easy Protein Salad

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Recipes are amazing. (And Whole30 has so many great ones.) But sometimes you want easy Whole30 meals that have more flexibility and can provide variety for days—with one cooking and prep session. That’s where my Whole30 meal templates can help out. And one of my favorites is the protein salad.

This delicious, filling, protein-packed, Whole30-compatible meal template will take your salads to the next level!

Whole30 Meal Template: Protein Salad Ingredients

Here are the pieces you’ll use to mix and match your way to days of protein salad satisfaction:

  • Diced or canned protein
  • Diced veggies
  • Sliced, diced, or whole fruit
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Base (optional)
  • Flavor boosters

Protein: Use canned meat (salmon, tuna, chicken), diced hard-boiled eggs, or cooked and diced chicken breast or salmon.

Veggies: Use raw veggies like carrots, celery, bell peppers, onion, jicama, snap peas, or pickles. You can also incorporate heartier veggies like roasted sweet potato, broccoli, or asparagus.

Fruit:  Use firm fruits like blueberries, strawberries, mandarin oranges, apple, pears, grapes, or pineapple. You can also include raisins, dried cranberries, or dried cherries (sweetened with apple juice, or unsweetened) for extra sweetness.

Nuts and seeds: You can use anything but peanuts on the Original Whole30! Dice, chop, slice, or add walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, or pine nuts. Don’t forget seeds like chia, hemp, or flax for texture and crunch.

Base: If you want to serve your protein salad on a base, try fresh greens, a hollowed-out bell pepper, a firm collard green wrap, a jicama round, or the inside of a tomato for a pretty presentation.

Flavor boosters: A good protein salad is excellent on its own. But you can add flavor in a ton of spots. Mix your protein base with Whole30 compatible Dijon, hot sauce, coconut aminos, or BBQ sauce. Crumble in a Whole30-compatible, crispy-cooked bacon or prosciutto. Add fresh herbs or spice blends. Top with a drizzle of your favorite compatible dressing or sauce.

How to Make Your Dream Protein Salad with the Whole30 Meal Template

If you’re using canned meat, pop three cans into a large bowl. If you choose hard-boiled eggs, dice 8-12 boiled eggs. For leftover cooked chicken or salmon, dice small or shred one pound. Add Whole30 compatible mayo to taste. Add an acid (like apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, white vinegar, lemon juice, or lime juice) to taste. Mix thoroughly, then add salt to taste.

If you want specifics, a good rule of thumb is one pound meat (or eight hard-boiled eggs) + ¼ cup mayo + 2 tablespoons of acid. 

However, some folks like a really creamy mixture, while others prefer a dryer texture.  It also depends on how much stuff you add. The more veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, etc. added, the more mayo and acid you might want to blend it all together. It’s easy to mix it all up, then add more. It’s harder to make it less creamy or acidic. Just sayin’.

Now it’s time to deal with the plant part of your protein salad. Dice your cooked or raw veggies. You want a medium dice here. Not so small it all blends in, but not so big that you’re biting into huge chunks of broccoli. Add diced veggies to the bowl and stir to combine.

Dice or add your fresh or dried fruit. If you’re using watery fruit (like pineapple), drain well before adding. Add to the bowl and stir to combine. Then, chop and dice your nuts and seeds (if needed) and add them to the bowl, stirring to combine. Add flavor boosters to the mix if desired, or save them for the top.

All that you have left to do is prepare your base before serving and eating.

Serving and Storage Tips

To serve your protein salad:

  • Plate your base
  • Add a scoop or two of protein salad on top
  • Drop in your dressing and sauce, flavor boosters, or toppings (like fresh herbs or slivered almonds) and serve.

Since you’d like to have a few days of quick, delicious meals, storage is important. Place the leftovers in a glass storage container for best results. (This does not freeze well.)

Whole30 Meal Ideas Based on Combos I Love

While these aren’t “recipes” per se, I’m going to share some combinations I love to inspire you. Remember, the whole point of these templates is to mix and match whatever you have on hand, because I promise it’s all delicious.

Combo 1: Canned chicken with sun-dried tomatoes, chopped black olives, capers, celery, chopped walnuts, fresh basil, and cracked black pepper. Put the mixture over baby spinach with a drizzle of Whole30 compatible Greek dressing.

Combo 2: Canned salmon with rice vinegar and a splash of coconut aminos, bell pepper, green onion, pineapple, shredded carrots, and slivered almonds. I like this over chopped romaine lettuce with a drizzle of Whole30 compatible Sriracha or hot sauce.

Combo 3: Canned tuna with Dijon mustard, celery, grapes, apple, red onion, pecans, and green onion. Serve this option in jicama “wraps” with a drizzle of Whole30 compatible balsamic dressing.Combo 4: Shredded chicken with hot sauce, roasted white sweet potato, blueberries or diced green apple, celery, and chopped cashews. You can serve on roasted sweet potato rounds and drizzled with Buffalo sauce or compatible ranch dressing.

Combo 4: Shredded chicken with hot sauce, roasted white sweet potato, blueberries or diced green apple, celery, and chopped cashews. You can serve on roasted sweet potato rounds and drizzled with Buffalo sauce or compatible ranch dressing.

Tips and Tricks for Protein Salad Success

  • Canned meat offers a convenient and cost-effective way to pull this staple meal together. Read your labels or look for Whole30 Approved Safe Catch for seafood.
  • You can use a Whole30 Approved or homemade mayo (search the Whole30 blog for “perfect mayo”), or use mustard or mashed avocado and skip the mayo altogether. (Some folks don’t like a creamy mixture.) 
  • If you want maximum variety during the week, portion your protein/mayo/acid into TWO bowls. Mix half the protein using one set of ingredients, and the other using a different set.
  • If you’re using jarred or canned veggies, drain them well to avoid excess water in the mixture. 
  • Spice mixtures like Oomph cooking blends, Danielle Walker’s new seasonings, or Primal Palate spice blends and fresh herbs are quick and easy ways to add flavor.  
  • Get creative with your sauces, and don’t be afraid to double up, like a splash of ranch dressing and Buffalo sauce. You can also use salsa or guacamole, fresh herbs, seasoned salts, nutritional yeast, or seeds to add texture and flavor before serving.

I hope my fun and easy Whole30 meal templates help you stress less when it’s time to plan and prep. Tag me @melissau and @whole30 in your creations and share YOUR favorite combos with the Whole30 community.