9 Alternatives To Croutons Guaranteed To Up Your Salad Game

While once you could get away with calling iceberg lettuce, ranch, and the ultimate re-use for stale bread, croutons, a "salad" – these days that would be blasphemy.

It’s hard to remember a time when salads were more-or-less an afterthought side. These days they have slid ahead to become enticing entrees in and of themselves. But with a larger focus comes more intense scrutiny.

While once you could get away with calling iceberg lettuce, ranch, and the ultimate re-use for stale bread, croutons, a “salad” – these days that would be blasphemy.

Nowadays we expect more from our salad and more from our salad toppings. It’s times to think outside the bowl when it comes to dressing your salad.

Here are nine alternatives guaranteed to up your greens game.

1. Wasabi Peas


Permission to eat this at every meal? Granted. Photo: @sarahlynch_ / Instagram

Just the right amount of zest to give your salad the kick it deserves. Plus, these crunchy vegetables add a heaping of protein and fiber to your already heaping pile of veggies, so you totally have an excuse to indulge in that ice cream sandwich afterward.

2. Sriracha/Hot Sauce


Proceed with caution. Photo: @macromitch / Instagram

Speaking of spicy, why not switch out your go-to dressing for some flaming hot sauce? Or just incorporate it into whatever dressing you prefer. It can do no wrong. You put it on everything else, right?

3. Veggie Chips


Great on a salad OR as a salad all its own. Photo: @ritarri / Instagram

Whether they come in zucchini, beet, kale, or another form of dried chip, they’ve got both the savoriness and crunchiness you love from a crouton but with more flavor. You may even consider dropping potato chips entirely after dipping your toe into the alternative chip world.

4. Dried Fruit


Remember when everyone called dried cranberries Craisins? That was weird. Photo: @healthy.believer.nami / Instagram

You add croutons for texture, so why not change things up with these little flavor-packed powerhouses. Cranberries, raisins, cherries—now we’re talking. Save the fresh fruit for one of those acai bowls, or whatever blended beverage you are into these days.

5. Roasted Chickpeas


These little babies blow croutons straight outta the water. Photo: @asynth / Instagram

Chickpeas don’t get much respect, but crunchy, roasted chickpeas or any legume in general, are a great addition because they come packed with that thing you could be lacking called protein. Black beans, kidney beans—they all do the trick.

6. Shrimp


Look at all those tiny shrimpies! Photo: @rebeccadactyl / Instagram

Don’t think of shrimp as just main toppings to a salad. Canned tiny shrimp are little protein-packed morsels welcomed by all other salad toppings.

7. Pumpkin Seeds


The rising stars of the salad world. Photo: @marketa.prokopova21 / Instagram

Pepitas, anyone? Unlike pumpkin lattes, pumpkin seeds can be enjoyed year round. Hear that crunch? That’s the sound of good fats and protein making their way into your body via your salad. Coming lightly-salted, they are a great savory alternative to croutons.

8. Nuts


Want some salad with those nuts? Photo: @banoon_01 / Instagram

Assuming you are free of nut-related allergies, crushed, shaved or whole pecans, walnuts or almonds are another quick and easy way to get some protein up in your biz.

9. Cheese


Mmm, little pops of cheesy goodness! Photo: @christenps / Instagram

We’re talking about that cheddar-gorgonzola-brie-mozzarella-goat cheese goodness! Doesn’t matter if it’s shredded, cubed, or in little crumbles — cheese beats crouton any day.