Have you ever experienced one of those whirlwind days when everything seems to be moving a little too fast, and all you crave is a really good meal that not only excites your taste buds but also brings a soothing sense of calm? Well, that’s exactly the kind of day our founder, Nina, experienced when she stepped into her kitchen and crafted her “Savory and Sweet Mandarin Salmon Salad.” This is the recipe we’re excited to bring to you here at That Salad Lady. It’s yet another bowl that’ll redefine the way you think about healthy eating.
We always say that every bowl is opportunity to build layers of whole food nutrition for whole life wellness. That’s why our recipes go beyond simply tossing together a bunch of greens. We’re all about creating salads that are culinary experiences, salads that do more than just fill you up – they nourish your body too! Combining fresh sockeye salmon, juicy mandarin oranges and a homemade dressing, this bowl is a flavorful and nutritious choice that’s sure to bring both satisfaction and sustenance to your lunch box or dinner table.
THE BALANCING ACT
The star of this bowl is undeniably the mandarin oranges, infusing their vibrant sweet flavor into the salmon, the salad and the dressing. Beyond their delightful citrus burst, these little wonders pack a powerful nutritional punch. Rich in immune-boosting vitamin C, they act as a shield against a range of illnesses, from the common cold to more severe diseases. Additionally, their fiber content promotes good digestion and helps maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Paired with protein-rich sockeye salmon, celebrated for its heart-protective qualities, this bowl offers a robust and unbelievably wholesome foundation. It’s also layered with fresh arugula and a vibrant array of other non-starchy vegetables, all bathed in a zesty mandarin dressing, resulting in a symphony of all-natural flavors. Whether you follow a pescatarian diet, adore seafood or are simply seeking a satisfying meal, it’s an enjoyable fusion of taste and health benefits.
Now, let’s dive deeper into these and all the other layers that come together to create our Savory and Sweet Mandarin Salmon Salad, and, more importantly, the reasons behind our choices.
The Sweet & Tangy All-Rounder
Beyond their impressive nutritional benefits, mandarin oranges are like little bursts of sunshine in this bowl. Their delightful sweetness and tanginess harmonize perfectly with the salmon and elevate the flavor profile of the dressing, resulting in a mouthwatering blend of savory and citrusy goodness. They also balance the salad’s overall flavor profile, countering arugula’s mild bitterness, ensuring each bite is a flavorful journey.
Now, choosing the freshest mandarin oranges can take your salad from great to outstanding. Opt for firm, heavy fruits with smooth, vibrant orange skin. Avoid blemishes, deep wrinkles or overly rough skin. Give the fruits a gentle squeeze too – they should yield slightly without being too soft. To seal the deal, also seek out that delightful citrusy aroma at the stem end. This is a sign of optimal ripeness and flavor.
A Savory Canvas for Mandarin Goodness
In any salad bowl, the quality of your protein takes center stage. Our star player here is sockeye (or red) salmon. You might be wondering, how do we infuse that irresistible mandarin flavor into the salmon? Well, that’s where our culinary magic takes the spotlight. The salmon itself serves as a savory blank canvas, ready to soak up the vibrant citrusy goodness of our mandarin dressing during the marination process. Yes, the dressing doubles as a marinade.
But it’s not just about flavor; salmon is a powerful supporter of your heart’s health too. Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, it helps combat inflammation and promotes overall well-being. Sockeye, as a Pacific (or wild-caught) salmon, delivers one of the heftiest doses of omega-3s. It also boasts a dense, meaty texture and a rich, buttery flavor that truly elevates the bowl. This is why our recipe specifically calls for it.
Our recipe calls for using sockeye salmon fillets, either with or without skin. Salmon fillets are a versatile and convenient choice, as they’re easy to work with. If your budget doesn’t allow you to splurge on sockeye or other wild-caught salmon varieties, farmed-raised salmon can be a healthy, safe and more affordable option.
The Bold and Nutrient-Rich Base
Just as important as the mandarin oranges and salmon in the bowl is the base – arugula. It’s not your ordinary leafy green; it adds a peppery kick to each and every bite. Beyond its flavor, arugula is packed with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K for bone and heart health. It’s also rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene. These antioxidants work together to boost your immune system and protect all your body’s vital cells from oxidative damage.
When selecting arugula, pay attention to the details. Seek out vibrant, crisp leaves that are free from wilting or yellowing, as these are indicators of freshness. A simple sniff test can also help. Fresh arugula should exude a slightly peppery aroma. This signifies good quality and ensures you’ll get the best greens for your salad. Carefully chosen arugula is not just pleasing to your taste buds but also more nourishing to your body.
A Vibrant Medley of Non-Starchy Veggies
In addition to the fresh and flavorful arugula base, our Savory and Sweet Mandarin Salmon Salad features a vibrant medley of non-starchy vegetables, including English cucumber, red bell pepper, red (or purple) onion and radishes. These veggies not only infuse a burst of color but also play key roles in elevating the salad’s overall nutritional value.
Take, for example, the cucumber, which brings refreshing crunch and hydration, along with generous servings of vitamins C and K. Then there’s the bell pepper, a powerhouse of vitamins and antioxidants, covering everything from brain and heart health to immune system support. While our recipe calls for red bell pepper, feel free to choose whatever you have on hand. But remember, the brighter the color, the more nutrients you get.
Now, red onions, apart from their zingy flavor, deliver a good supply of antioxidants and gut-friendly fiber. And let’s not underestimate the radishes. Despite their modest size, they pack a punch with vitamin C, potassium and more fiber, providing a satisfying crunch to every bite while helping keep blood pressure levels under control.
It’s crucial to mention that the freshness of all these veggies plays a pivotal role in the overall quality of your salad. So be sure to choose cucumbers free of soft spots, smooth and vibrant bell peppers, firm and sprout-free red onions, and bright, crisp radishes without any signs of shriveling. Doing so ensures that these veggies are not only nutritious but also bursting with flavor and hearty texture.
A Sprinkle of Creamy Goodness with a Crunch
Cashews are indeed the secret ingredient that brings creamy indulgence, satisfying crunch and plenty of good quality nutrients to every bite of our Mandarin Salmon Salad. Besides being rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and essential minerals like magnesium and zinc, these nuts provide a plant-based protein boost that further ups the nutritional ante of the bowl.
But there’s one extra step that truly brings out the best in cashews: giving them a quick toast. A light toasting in a dry skillet for a few minutes can intensify their flavor and add an extra layer of crunch. Just be sure to let them cool before sprinkling them over your salad to enjoy their irresistible creamy goodness.
The Zesty Dressing that Brings it All Together
Last but certainly not least, our zesty, yet super savory dressing serves as the finishing touch that unites all the flavors in the bowl. It not only elevates the taste but also contributes health benefits. With its abundance of monounsaturated fats, pure avocado oil provides a heart-healthy foundation, while fresh mandarin orange juice and zest infuses the dressing with a burst of vitamin C and antioxidants.
The addition of honey lends a touch more of natural sweetness and may offer potential antibacterial benefits as well. And let’s not forget the garlic and grainy mustard. This combo not only enhances the flavor but also provide immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory properties. The subtle fruitiness of white wine vinegar and rich savoriness of soy sauce (see recipe card for gluten-free swaps), along with freshly chopped parsley, complete this delightful creation.
As mentioned earlier, this dressing also pulls double duty as a marinade for the salmon. The end result is a salad bursting with citrusy goodness and richness, leaving you craving more.
We suggest mixing the dressing first, as you’ll be using it to marinate the salmon. Our zesty mandarin dressing recipe is included as part of this recipe (see recipe card). Given the dressing’s delicate texture, you have several options for mixing it. You can combine and whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl, use a dressing shaker or even opt for a jar with a twist-on lid. Once you’ve chosen a method, blend all the layers until you achieve your desired consistency.
Aside from giving the cashews a light 2–3-minute optional toasting in a dry skillet, the only cooking required in this recipe is for the salmon – and it’s a straightforward process. Marinating the salmon beforehand is crucial for enhancing its flavor.
To begin, season the salmon with salt, pepper and paprika. Then, place the salmon in a resealable freezer bag, add half of the prepared dressing, seal the bag and shake it vigorously to ensure an even coating. Allow the salmon to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or for a more intense flavor, marinate it for up to 2 hours.
When your salmon is adequately marinated, it’s time to cook it. You have two options: baking or using an air fryer. For baking, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and bake the salmon for 12-15 minutes. To check if it’s done, gently press down on the fillet with a fork or your finger. If the salmon flakes, meaning it separates easily along the white lines running across the fillet, it’s cooked.
Alternatively, you can use an air fryer for a quicker cooking process. Place the salmon in the air fryer and cook at 400 degrees F for 7-9 minutes, adjusting the time based on the thickness of the salmon. Please note that cooking times may vary slightly between air fryer models.
GET YOUR CHOP ON
With the salmon prep behind you, the rest of this recipe is a breeze. Your next step is to prepare the veggies.
Simply cut the cucumber and radishes into small slices or half-moons, chop up the bell pepper, and thinly slice or julienne the onion. That’s all there is to it! No chopping is needed for the arugula, as you can buy it either by the bunch or as loose leaves.
After prepping these fresh layers, set them aside until it’s time to assemble your delicious bowl.
BUILD YOUR SALAD BOWL
Once you’ve prepared all the tasty layers, it’s time to build your bowl. Depending on how many bowls you choose to make (your portion sizes), divide all the ingredients evenly. We recommend dressing the arugula first, but don’t drown it. A light drizzle of dressing (no more than a tablespoon or two) in a large bowl, tossed with salad spoons, tongs or your gloved hands, should do the trick. Arugula already has a peppery flavor that shines on its own.
From there, add all the veggies along with the mandarin oranges. If desired, you can add more dressing on a bowl-by-bowl basis. Next, crumble the salmon and gently mix it in or place it on top of the salad. And, finally, sprinkle the salad with cashews, a dash of chopped parsley, and freshly cracked black pepper.
This Savory and Sweet Mandarin Salmon Salad is your reminder that salads can be both nutritious and mouthwateringly delicious. The recipe itself yields 4-6 satisfying servings. If you’re planning for leftovers, store the veggies and oranges together while keeping the arugula and cashews separate. Seal them in airtight containers, and your leftovers will stay fresh in the fridge for 3-5 days.
SHOW US YOUR BOWL
That Salad Lady wants to see your bowl! If you like it, which we are sure you will, drop a comment below and tag pics on Instagram (@that.salad.lady) and TikTok (@thatsaladlady). Add the hashtags #thatsaladlady and #buildyourbowl too. If you really love it, pin it on Pinterest and share it on Facebook using #thatsaladlady.
This information is provided as a courtesy and is only an estimate. Please review our full disclaimer to get a clear understanding of the nutrition and health information and resources presented and written on our website.