Meet my go-to side salad recipe. I hope it becomes yours, too. This simple salad features fresh arugula and the world’s easiest homemade balsamic salad dressing.
This salad truly could not be more easy to make. In fact, it’s so easy that I’ve hesitated to share it with you. It’s hardly a recipe, but one that I make constantly. It’s about time that I bring this method to your attention, you say?
Side salads should be easy to prepare, and this one is so delicious that it doesn’t taste like an afterthought. It goes with just about everything—think Italian entrées like lasagna, sandwiches, scrambled eggs, and even holiday meals.
You can use this salad formula with any type of leafy green, but arugula is my favorite. You’ll eat more healthy greens if you keep this recipe in your back pocket. Here we go!
Watch How to Make Simple Arugula Salad
Balsamic Vinegar Options
The key to this salad’s success is using thick balsamic vinegar, not regular runny balsamic. My absolute favorite is Napa Valley Naturals Grand Reserve Balsamic Vinegar (affiliate link/be sure the bottle says “25 stars” on it). It’s typically under $10 at Whole Foods or Natural Grocers.
Or, use store-bought or homemade balsamic glaze. Keep reading to learn how to make your own.
How to Make Homemade Balsamic Glaze
Bring 1 cup (or more) runny balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small, thick bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, stirring often, until the vinegar is reduced by half, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Allow the reduction to cool, then transfer to an air-tight jar and store in the pantry.
More Uses for Thick Balsamic Vinegar or Balsamic Glaze
Can you tell that I’m a little obsessed? Add a drizzle of balsamic to any of the following recipes:
- Caprese Salad
- Easy Tomato Salad
- Strawberry, Basil and Balsamic Pizza or Ultimate Veggie Pizza
- Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries & Pecans
- Vanilla ice cream or plain/vanilla yogurt with fresh berries, cherries or stone fruit
Please let me know how you like this simple side salad in the comments below! I love hearing from you.
Super Simple Arugula Salad
- Prep Time: 3 minutes
- Total Time: 3 minutes
- Yield: 1 side salad
- Category: Salad, side dish
- Method: By hand
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Gluten Free
Make this simple arugula salad recipe with balsamic vinegar and olive oil! It takes seconds to prepare. Meet your new favorite side salad! Make as many side salads as you’d like with this basic formula.
- A couple handfuls of arugula (about 1 ½ cups)
- Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
- Lighter drizzle of thick balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze*
- Optional: Light sprinkle of finely grated aged cheese, such as Parmesan or even cheddar
- Small pinch of flaky sea salt, kosher salt or fine salt
- Freshly ground black pepper or pinch of red pepper flakes
- Add a couple handfuls of arugula to a bowl or small plate. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, followed by a lighter drizzle of balsamic vinegar (the ratio is really up to you—balsamic is sweeter than most other vinegars, so you might enjoy equal parts vinegar and oil).
- Sprinkle with cheese, if desired. Sprinkle with a small pinch of flaky sea salt, crushing it between your fingers as you sprinkle, or other salt (use a little more salt if not using cheese, which is salty).
- Finish the salad with a couple twists of freshly ground black pepper or a small pinch of red pepper flakes. Repeat for additional salads, if needed. Enjoy promptly, as the salad will wilt over time.
*Balsamic recommendations: The key to this salad is using quality balsamic vinegar that is thick instead of runny like most other vinegars. My favorite is Napa Valley Naturals Grand Reserve Balsamic Vinegar (be sure the bottle says “25 stars” on it). Or, use store-bought or homemade balsamic glaze (see post for how to make the glaze).
Make it dairy free/vegan: Simply don’t add the optional cheese. It’s still great without it.
I always have arugula in the house, partly because I make this same salad! It pairs well with everything.
Right?! Thanks Kaedi!
Arugula is my favorite salad green, so I make this salad a lot. I use shaved Parmesan instead of grated, and instead of sea salt, I add roasted, salted sunflower seed nuts. Those really seem to complement the nutty flavor of the arugula. (Arugula tastes best, of course, when grown in one’s own garden or from the garden of a friend/neighbor/relative–or the local farmers’ market.)
All my olive oils and balsamic vinegars come from Olivelle, a small women-owned business in Bozeman, Montana. For this salad, I use their black pepper infused olive oil and their barrel-aged balsamic vinegar–nice and thick.
Thanks so much for posting this recipe!
Thank you, Pam! Your variations sound so nice. Love that you’re using such high quality oil and vinegars!
Hi and Greetings to you and Cookie from the UK…. Your blog post is so spooky as I have been dressing Rocket (UK) arugula and baby watercress salads exactly this way for the last few months during Lockdown (3) It is so lovely and light. The key thing that I’ve found is to dress it with the best and finest olive oil and balsamic vinegar you can afford… I just had to write this as the timing of your post is almost supernatural hahaha. Keep well and especially stay safe is these difficult times ♥️
That’s quite a coincidence, love it! Completely agree that the quality of the olive oil and balsamic is absolutely key. Stay well, Nina!
I’m so excited about this! Arugula is my absolute favorite, and I always overcomplicate it! Can’t wait to try this!
Thanks Rebecca! I know, I have a ton of elaborate arugula salad recipes (love each one of them) but this is my daily go-to! Hope you enjoy it.
I agree that this method of eating arugula should be shared with everyone! I recently discovered what a great vinegar can do for a bunch of greens — so much so that I often skip the oil entirely! So, for the uninitiated, please follow Kate’s advice and try this salad!
Thanks so much, Pam!
This is a perfect salad. It’s simplicity is beautiful. But if I want to make it a little more of a meal I add either mandoline-fine shavings of fennel or the classic toasted walnuts and very very hard thin slices of pear. Thank you for your wonderful recipes which I devour all the way from Melbourne, Australia. They kept us going through one of the world’s longest lockdowns.
Thank you, Jo! Your variations sound marvelous. Stay well!
This salad was so easy and tasted sublime. We had as a side with flat enchiladas. It was a perfect counterpoint to the heaviness of enchiladas. I made a balsamic reduction using TJ’s balsamic vinegar. Easy and tasty.
Ooh yes, I love this salad with Mexican meals! Thank you, Patricia!
Super, super side salad. I added some olives and dried peppers in a jar. Pam
Thanks Pam! Love those additions!
Kristin M Lauersen
I enjoy the straightforward delish recipies you give to the world – I have your cookbook and am enjoying more veggies than ever. Thank you for making cooking easy and tasty.
Thank you very much, Kristin! That’s my goal. :)
This salad is amazing. I usually eat them at formal events. This time I used your recipe. I used walnuts, strawberries and shrimp in my’s. Mouthwatering!
Love it! Thank you, Ivory!
This salad is amazing! I made it with regular runny balsamic vinegar since I was short on time, but will definitely be trying this again with the balsamic glaze. I used nutritional yeast in place of the Parmesan, and it turned out so well!
Thanks, Laura! I’m so glad.
Love it! Finally, the salad season is coming. The colors, the flavors, and it’s always healthy. I’ll definitely try this one. I have really good balsamic vinegar (my favorite), can’t wait to use it.
Thanks Kate! Curious if you have a favorite Olive Oil you use for dressings? Also, what is your go to for pepper kernals? I always love your recipes, and LOVEEEE how often you post new ones. It brightens my day!
Hi Dana, I don’t have a go-to at the moment, but try to buy organic when I can. I use the same olive oil for both my dressings and popcorn. I have more recipes and techniques I’m working with coming soon!
Love this salad. I use white balsamic vinegar with EVO in a glass jar. Once I tried balsamic in a plastic jar and it tasted horrible. Glass makes such a difference. (I once had a infant who was allergic to her whole world. Couldn’t bathe her in tap water, or purified water from a 5 gal plastic jug. Had to go to the plant and get glass!) Plastic leashes so much
Back to the salad. Then drizzle with just a bit of the thick balsamic or glaze.
Some blue cheese sprinkles take it to a different level.
Fabulous with sliced sweet grape tomatoes. Ask your produce manager for Sunset Sugar Bombs. Totally amazingly sweet and sustainably farmed.
And S&P and toasted or raw sliced almonds.
Mohosin Hasan Akash
This food is so delicious.
Thnx!! For this lovely recipe. Stay safe and be happy!!
You’re welcome! I’m happy you enjoyed it, Diane.
You are a lifesaver! Thank you for this posting. Living in New England, I start to feel veggie starved in the transition months of spring- craving all things green, but having limiting options available. This simple salad filled the void and soothed my soul. I am LOVING your balsamic vinegar recommendation. It made the dish. Thanks.
Perfect! Yay, you will find so many fun uses for that balsamic.
Just made this for lunch. It’s a sophisticated tasting salad, but is super simple to make. Absolutely delicious. Ingredients were easy to find. Thanks again Kate for another amazing salad. So easy to eat healthy when you have so many great recipes.
Glad to hear it, Vicki! Thank you for your comment. :)
Perfect salad. I love arugula.
Delicious and so simple! I added cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds, and shredded parmesan. Everyone loved it!
That’s great, Carol! Thank you for your review.
Thank you for sharing. You are so right about arugula and balsamic dressing. My absolute favorite salad is arugula, beets, thinly sliced onion, feta crumbles and a sprinkling of sunflower seeds! Balsamic dressing brings it all to life!
I totally agree about the beets.
Try warming the beets in the microwave and adding the balsamic dressing to the warm beets then topping the arugula with them, some grated white cheese and nuts of choice. (walnuts, pecans, slice almonds, or your favourite).
My favouite salad.
This salad is a big success! For me it is so easy to make, for my family and guests – always a tasty side dish. It tastes great even if I don’t have all the ingredients. Thank you so much for sharing!
I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it, Karina! I appreciate your review.
I’ve been making this salad for years, but quite honestly forgot about it until I stumbled across your recipe! Thank you for reminding me about this simple, delicious little salad.
You’re welcome, Melissa! Thank you for sharing.
This was so easy and so good. My 16 year old said, “This salad is really growing on me.”
That is high praise! Thank you for sharing, Dodi.
I made this without the cheese and added a little bit of lemon juice to it and I’m OBSESSED! It’s seriously so light, so yummy, and the perfect pairing for nearly anything! Thanks so much!
This is my favorite way to make a salad dressing! It lets the flavors of the salad shine. Always better than store bought.
Wonderful to hear, Lynn! Thank you for your review.
I got your recommended balsamic on Amazon and it’s very nice compared to the Trader Joe’s Balsamic Glaze I was using (which I love and use constantly. But Trader Joe’s is made with other additives while your recommended balsamic is pure and so nice!) I had baby spinach on hand so I made the most simple side salad imaginable: Spinach, olive oil, balsamic. It was perfect!!! I am sure you are correct that having this quick and easy dressing close at hand will lead me to eating more leafy greens like kale which is so healthy! I love arugula but I don’t always have arugula because its life is a bit shorter than other greens, and the taste is not too good when it’s not ultra-fresh. Any tips on holding arugula?
Great to hear! Thank you for sharing, Lois.