Hosting a dinner party or a braai for a special occasion can be an exciting time but it can also be a source fret and worry when it comes to deciding what to cook for your guests!

Preparing a salad bar for your special occasion can add a bit of flair and excitement to your table spread. It’s not every day you get served a whole salad bar at a dinner or a braai. Plus, if you are not quite sure what kind of side dish or salad your guests would like, then preparing a salad bar is the ideal choice to accompany your main dish as your guests can then choose their own salad / side dish combination ingredients!

A Salad Bar

When preparing to serve up a salad bar, you can also use up whatever ingredients you already have at home, even in small quantities: perhaps a few gherkins or olives left in the jar. The more varied and interesting the spread, the more choices you will be serving your guests, and all without spending a fortune!

Also, preparing a salad bar can be fun, especially if you have one or two of your friends or family helping in the kitchen before dinner or braai is served, so you won’t be stuck in the kitchen by yourself for a good couple of hours while everyone else is sipping on a glass of wine and catching up.

Salad Bar

So how do you go about preparing this salad bar?

Choose your base first. Your options could include just one or a combination of the following:

  • Iceberg/crisp lettuce
  • Butter lettuce
  • Romaine lettuce

If you only want to include crisp lettuce (which is always the cheapest), why not? I chose a combination of crisp and butter lettuce this time around.


Then, have a look at your choice of vegetables, and choose some of the following:

  • Tomatoes, sliced or whole
  • Onions, sliced
  • Celery sticks
  • Spring onions, sliced or chopped
  • Green or red peppers
  • Cucumber
  • Radishes
  • Carrots, sliced
  • Asparagus, steamed
  • Mushrooms, fried whole
  • Corn kernels, steamed or tinned, drained
  • Gherkins
  • Olives
  • Pickled beetroot, grated or sliced

For the salad bar I served up, I chose cocktail tomatoes whole, sliced onions and spring onions, red peppers, cucumber, radishes, fried mushrooms, steamed asparagus, olives and gherkins, small / whole.

A Salad Bar
A Salad Bar

Next up would be your proteins and legumes, tinned and drained, such as:

  • Beans in brine
  • Chickpeas
  • Peas
  • Lentils
  • Bean sprouts, fresh

I just happened to have a whole lot of sprouts and chickpeas in the fridge already, so that was also served!

A Salad Bar

For some extra choices, you might want to consider:

  • Hard boiled eggs, sliced
  • Feta cheese, cubed
  • Cheddar, grated
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Pecans, chopped

And then, of course, you’ll need an assortment of condiments:

  • Salt, pepper, cayenne pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar (apple cider/balsamic/white)
  • Salad dressing of your choice

As we don’t normally have any bottled salad dressing (we prefer to make our own), I made sure there was salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, olive oil and vinegar, and some crushed chillis on the table.

And voila, my salad bar was done! It was all served in just over an hour, but the spread looked just lovely on the table with some braai meat, mealie meal bread, baked potatoes, chakalaka and braaied mealies.

A Salad Bar

Have you tried making your own salad bar at a party or braai? Are there any other ingredients you’ve included which are not on my list? Let me know by leaving me a comment below.

If you are looking for a few more salad ideas, check out the recipes for my 3 Easy & Delicious Braai Salads.

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