A warm and filling salad with garlicky mushrooms, peppery arugula (rocket), creamy avocado, sundried tomatoes and cheese all tossed in a sweet balsamic dressing. Quick and easy to make as a vegetarian side dish or light meal, with plenty of variations and opportunities to customize it to make your own perfect mushroom salad.
Let’s make an easy warm salad for dinner
We have a long run of comfort food dishes on here, and it’s just TIME for a salad. So here is my offering: a warm garlic mushroom salad that is filling and oh so tasty, with sweet tangy sundried tomatoes, creamy avocado and salty pecorino shavings. All tossed in peppery arugula (aka rocket) leaves and a light balsamic maple mustard dressing.
It’s classic, it’s filling, it’s balanced, it’s meal worthy when served with fresh bread, a baked potato or soup. It’s low in carbs if that’s your thing, and if you’re careful with the cooking oil and halve the dressing, it can be very low in calories too.
As ever, you are encouraged to customize and change this up all you want! So here’s a little Q&A to help you do that, or you can scroll straight to the recipe if you wish.
Is arugula the same thing as rocket?
Yes! Arugula is the common North American term and rocket is the common British and Antipodean term for this leaf. Each region Anglicised from different sources: “rocket” spun off from the French term “roquette” and “arugula” spun off from the Calabrian term “aruculu” (source: Bon Appetit). So there we are. No one is wrong.
Arugula has a pretty distinctive bitter / peppery taste and there is a lot of it in this salad so you need to be a fan of it. If you’d rather use a different leaf – feel free! Baby spinach is an easy swap-in.
What kind of mushrooms should I use?
I’ve used chestnut mushrooms, but you can use any of the darker varieties (portobello mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms) or wild mushrooms (oyster mushrooms, chanterelles). I wouldn’t necessarily recommend white button mushrooms but they’ll work if that is all you’ve got.
Each mushroom has its own flavor profile so as long as you like the mushroom in question, that is the most important thing.
Any other ideas for the dressing?
Why yes. I have kept the dressing really simple for this recipe, just a standard balsamic. It’s super tasty, a great match for the other ingredients, but it’s definitely not the only way. Some other ideas:
- If you want a creamy dressing, my Simple Creamy Pesto Salad Dressing is sooo good and would be a perfect match for this salad.
- If you prefer a citrus juice based dressing instead of balsamic, there is a lemon dressing recipe in this Bocconcini Salad, a honey lime dressing in this Roasted Corn Salad, or an orange dressing in my Christmas Salad
Any alternatives to sundried tomatoes?
- Some fresh baby tomatoes, halved or quartered, will work great if they’re in season and actually flavorful and sweet. If they’re not in season, you could roast some and let them cool down before adding to the salad.
- If tomatoes are a no-go too, try pomegranate seeds or even dried cranberries for a burst of sweetness instead.
What other cheeses would work?
I love pecorino because it’s got a super strong salty flavor and holds up well in this salad, not melting when it comes into contact with the warm mushrooms. Any Italian hard cheeses like parmesan will work well – but if you’re a vegetarian, be mindful of animal rennet with these cheeses (In the UK, Tesco has a vegetarian pecorino which is what I use). Manchego is another good option.
Flavor wise, the likes of crumbled feta or blue cheese would be great too – even cubes of cheddar or mozzarella! It would all be super tasty. But any of those options are likely to start melting when the mushrooms get tossed in. So if this is the type of cheese you want to use, you have two choices:
- Toss all the cold ingredients together first with the dressing, plate it up, put the mushrooms on top and just don’t mix them in so the cheese stays as cold as possible.
- Let the mushrooms cool down and make it a room temperature or cold salad instead.
Can I make it vegan?
Easily. The cheese is the only issue. I’d suggest replacing it with some lightly toasted nuts. Pine nuts, walnuts or pistachios stand out as excellent choices.
How can I add more protein to the salad while keeping it meatless?
- Adding a can of drained chickpeas would get you pretty far – you’ll definitely need the whole batch of dressing if you do this.
- Adding hard boiled eggs or fried halloumi cheese to the top of the salad. If you’re using halloumi, I wouldn’t feel the need to include the pecorino but you can double cheese if you wish!
Warm Mushroom, Avocado & Arugula Salad
- 2 oz (60 g) arugula (rocket) leaves, washed and patted dry
- ¼ cup (4 tbsp) red onion, finely diced
- 1 avocado, cubed
- ⅓ cup (5 tbsp) sundried tomatoes, chopped
- ¼ cup (4 tbsp) pecorino cheese , shaved
- 10 oz (300 g) chestnut mushrooms, halved
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- olive oil, for cooking
Dressing (this will make a little more than is needed – you can halve the recipe if you only want a very light amount of dressing)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp maple syrup or honey
- ½ tsp dijon mustard
- In a large salad bowl, toss together the arugula leaves, sundried tomatoes, onions, cheese and avocado.2 oz arugula (rocket) leaves, 1/4 cup red onion, 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes, 1/4 cup pecorino cheese, 1 avocado
- Whisk together the dressing ingredients until emulsified, then pour into the salad bowl and toss through. Set aside until the mushrooms are cooked.2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 2 tsp maple syrup or honey, 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
- In a large frying pan, heat a little olive oil over medium-high heat. Stir fry the mushrooms until they start to reduce and release a little bit of their liquid. Then add in the garlic. Add lots of salt and pepper to taste. You can drizzle a little balsamic vinegar (around 1/2 teaspoon) or squeeze in some lemon juice if you wish. Continue to cook until they are well browned.10 oz chestnut mushrooms, olive oil, 3 cloves garlic
- Add the mushrooms to the salad, give it a final toss (or you can leave the mushrooms on top, without mixing it together if you prefer) and serve.