This healthy salad is packed with fresh California-inspired flavors making it a go-to option for packable lunch or a light weeknight dinner.
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Avocados are one of my all-time favorite foods! I have always loved them - mixed up as guacamole, on a burger or a sandwich, or just as avocado toast. Instead of creating some type of a sandwich, I thought I'd ditch the bread and create a California-inspired salad that featured avocados! For me, California cuisine means fresh flavors and lots of local produce, so this salad is my take on those California fresh flavors.
This salad is incredibly easy to make. Just mix up the meatballs, toss the ingredients in a bowl add some dressing and you're ready to go. The meatballs in this salad are so tasty that I usually make a double batch of them during my weekly meal prep so I've got enough for several meals. The addition of the toasted quinoa and sunflower seeds gives this salad a substantial crunch. I added an Asian-inspired dressing to mix it up a little. If that doesn't sound good to you a champagne vinaigrette is a good substitute.
This is the perfect recipe to add to your everyday meals recipe collection. Read on to learn more about how to make this California Meatball Salad, or jump straight to the recipe to start cooking!
- Ground turkey: I recommend using ground turkey thigh as it will give you better flavor.
- Panko breadcrumbs: Panko breadcrumbs are my go-to when it comes to using breadcrumbs. For this recipe, you could substitute seasoned breadcrumbs but it will change the taste of the meatballs a bit.
- Kale salad mix: Any type of kale salad mix will work well for this salad.
- Egg: One large egg.
- Veggies: Yellow onion, Italian parsley, avocado
- Goat cheese: I generally use pre-crumbled goat cheese on salads.
- Avocado: You'll need one whole small or medium avocado.
- Dried cranberries: I recommend using unsweetened dried cranberries in salads.
- Sunflower seeds: You want to use the kernels, out of the shell.
- Toasted quinoa: I generally purchase this pre-toasted as it's a great topper for salad. You can make your own as well.
- Spices: garlic salt, ground chipotle pepper, ground pepper
- Pantry staples: Avocado oil, honey, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, dark sesame oil
How to make this salad
I love this salad because parts of it can be prepped in advance so you can pull the final dish together in a snap!
Make the meatballs. Add all of the meatball ingredients to a large mixing bowl, and mix until very well combined. Use a 1-2 tablespoon scoop to form the mixture into meatballs and then place them on a baking sheet. Once the meatballs are cooked, let them cool slightly before assembling the salads.
Make the dressing. Add all of the dressing ingredients to a small bowl or a mason jar and mix well to combine.
Assemble the salads. Once the meatballs have cooled, divide the kale mix between two salad bowls. Top each with several meatballs and then add the remaining salad ingredients. Drizzle the dressing on top and toss to combine. Serve the salads immediately.
Meal Prep Tips
- Meatballs: If you prep the meatballs on Sunday you can reheat them for about 30 seconds in the microwave before you assemble the salad. I also often make a double batch of the meatballs as they are good with pasta or rice or even just on their own as a quick lunch or dinner.
- Dressing: You can make the vinaigrette a couple of days in advance and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to make the salads. Remove it from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before you plan to serve the salads.
- Salad greens: I often use bagged salad greens. While they do cost a little more I like that they are ready when you want to make a salad, no washing or chopping necessary. To make them last as long as possible, I recommend removing them from the bag and storing them either in mason jars or in a produce keeper specifically designed for lettuce.
Tools you'll want for this recipe
OXO GreenSaver Produce Keeper – I'm a fan of most OXO products and their produce keepers are no exception.
Half Sheet Pan – Sheet pans are a very handy kitchen tool. Because they are rimmed, they ensure juices and sauces stay in the pay when you are roasting meats or veggies. They also double as a baking sheet for cookies or other baked goods.
Stainless Steel Scoop - Though these are designed for making cookies, they work great for forming meatballs too.
Toasted Quinoa - This is one of those things you can make yourself but since it's probably not something you'll use a lot of at one time, I find it easier to buy it since it keeps for quite a while. There are many different brands available and I've also seen it in the bulk food section in some grocery stores. It adds a great crunch, and a bit of protein to just about any salad.
This salad makes a great meal all on its own, but if you want to add a side dish, a bit of homemade garlic bread is a great option!
More salad recipes
If you are looking for other salad recipes check out these reader favorites:
- Autumn Kale Salad. This salad combines some of the fall's best produce for a big, beautiful salad! Tossed with balsamic vinaigrette this salad is sure to become a fall staple in your meal rotation.
- Asian Quinoa Salad. This quick & easy recipe combines the protein power of quinoa with some tangy Asian flavors for a great vegetarian salad. Add some chicken or salmon and you've got an even more protein-packed meal!
California Turkey Meatball Salad
For the meatballs:
- ½ pound ground turkey thigh
- ¼ cup chopped yellow onion
- 2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
- 1 egg white
- 2 teaspoons chopped parsley
- ⅛ teaspoon ground pepper
- dash of garlic salt
- dash of ground chipotle pepper
For the dressing:
- 2 tablespoons avocado or other vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon honey or agave
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon tamari or soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
For the salad:
- 4 cups of chopped kale salad mix
- ⅓ cup crumbled goat cheese
- 1 avocado, sliced
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- 2-3 tablespoons sunflower kernels
- 2 tablespoons toasted quinoa
- Heat the oven. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Make the meatballs. While the oven is heating mix the turkey, onion, breadcrumbs, egg white, parsley, peppers and salt in a bowl. Using a 1-2 tablespoon scoop, form the mixture into meatballs and place on the baking sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until fully cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool slightly while you assemble the salads.
- Make the dressing. While the meatballs are cooking combine the oils, honey, vinegar, and soy sauce in a small bowl. Mix with a fork and set aside until ready to serve.
- Assemble the salads. Divide the kale salad mix between two salad bowls. Divide the meatballs between the two bows and top with goat cheese, sliced avocado, cranberries, sunflower kernels and quinoa. Add dressing and toss.
This post was originally published in August 2018. It was updated in September 2022 with some new information and photos. No changes were made to the original recipe.
I've only driven through Colorado to get back to NJ from Vegas, but I'd love to go back. Sounds like an awesome place! Avocados are one of my favorites too! I love the idea of putting turkey meatballs over top a beautiful salad like this! Such a hearty and healthy, satisfying meal! 🙂
Colorado is such a beautiful state - you should definitely come back some time!
Allison - Celebrating Sweets says
I love avocados, too! And I never thought of putting meatballs in a salad, but it's a great idea!
Emily Leary says
This looks so delicious and I love the ingredients in the salad, especially the avocados!
Kelly Anthony says
This looks awesome! The perfect balance of savory meets healthy!
Veena Azmanov says
I have never been to Colorado but sounds wonderful. I love adding turkey in our diet often instead of red meat. This sounds wonderful. So simple and easy too. Saving this for later.
prasanna hede says
Love adding avocado in most of my salads and this bowl looks so lovely and perfectly satisfying.
Jackie @ The Seaside Baker says
I too am a California girl and avocados are a staple in our home! This salad looks like the perfect balance of fresh, easy, and packed with protein!
Karyl Henry says
I'm always trying to come up with new ways to make salads not boring...you've for sure done that with this one! I love using thigh meat for my meatballs, since the darker meat has more flavor. This looks like a perfect light lunch or dinner
Eileen Kelly says
I just love this salad! You have added all of my favorites to make a yummy bowl of comfort! I have not used turkey thighs to make meatballs. I have to make these, I bet they are so flavorful!
Amanda Mason says
What a perfect lunch item!! Or for a light dinner...but I can see me taking this for lunch all the time and becoming a favorite for me!! What a great new recipe for me!! So healthy!
What a great to go or picnic option! Vibrant colors make me want to eat eat it right now, delicious!
Jagruti Dhanecha says
A perfect way to enjoy burger, plenty of healthy and delicious ingredients on that plate, especially avocado my favourite.