Frugal Sardine Salad with Artichoke Hearts and a Creamy Lemon Shallot Dressing (Gluten and Dairy-Free)

frugal sardine salad with artichoke hearts and a creamy lemon shallot dressing

By April Swiger, Contributing Writer

Fresh greens, savory sardines, and artichoke hearts are dressed with a vibrant homemade dressing for a nutritious and delicious meal.

Simple meals packed full of nourishment is the foundation I build my weekly menu on. This includes regularly eating seafood (specifically fish that is high in nutrients, sustainable, and low in toxins), but can be tough to do on a tight budget. It wasn’t until recently (with much fear and trepidation) that I cracked open my very first can of sardines. I was pleasantly surprised at the milder-than-expected scent, and buttery, flaky texture. I knew this frugal fish, packed full of necessary omega 3’s, would begin to make a regular appearance in my kitchen.

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Kimi recently wrote about finding seafood untouched by radiation from Fukushima, and the information she shared about sardines had me sold. It has always been a struggle for me to figure out how to afford quality seafood. Imagine my excitement when I learned that Costco sells a pack of five BPA-free cans of wild-caught sustainably harvested sardines for less than $9! The brand I bought is boneless, skinless, soaked in olive oil, and mild to the taste. Kimi has also outlined a number of additional brands and types of sardines that she enjoys. I’m eager to try the smoked one. sometime soon!

Sardine salad with artichoke hearts and a creamy lemon shallot dressing 2

As I began brainstorming how to incorporate sardines into our meals, I considered the beautiful weather we have been experiencing lately. Spring is in full swing here in Connecticut, and hearty soups and stews have finally given way to a variety of seasonal salads. When the days get longer, and we’re busy enjoying the outdoors, a nourishing salad with little to no preparation becomes a staple for us. This frugal sardine salad has only a few ingredients and can be easily adapted with other vegetables you have on hand. I love the addition of artichoke hearts and a handful of local radishes to add crunch and beautiful color.

One of the most frugal (and healthy) practices I’ve adapted over the last few years is making my own salad dressing. It’s so easy to do! With a base of extra virgin olive oil, and some vinegar or lemon juice, you can make a unique dressing to suit any dish. For me, I love sardines mixed with citrus. Whether it’s on pasta, or a bed of greens, lemon juice pairs well with this little fish. The addition of a spicy brown or dijon mustard, and raw honey, allows this dressing to thicken up nicely.

If you’re like me and desire to add more fish into your diet, consider trying sardines. You may be surprised at how much you enjoy them! Kimi has graciously written about eating seafood on a budget and offers six tips for doing so.

Here are some other recipes you may enjoy:

Frugal Sardine Salad with Artichoke Hearts and a Creamy Lemon Shallot Dressing (Gluten and Dairy-Free)
Recipe type: Salad
This salad is a quick to prepare and full of nutrients! It can be easily adapted for any vegetables you have on hand. Pair it with a piece of crusty sourdough bread and butter if you desire. This recipe makes two large salads with dressing to spare.
  • FOR THE DRESSING (makes 1 cup):
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp - 1 Tbls raw honey
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbls spicy brown, or dijon, mustard
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 can of sardines (I used boneless, skinless in olive oil but I imagine that sardines in water or even smoked would be delicious as well!)
  • 3 radishes, chopped
  • 3-4 whole cooked artichoke hearts, cut into quarters (fresh, frozen or marinated in a jar is ok)
  • About 4-6 cups of chopped romaine lettuce
  1. Put all the salad dressing ingredients into a glass measuring cup or a large mason jar. If you have a hand blender, gently pulse the mixture together until it is a creamy consistency. If you don't have a hand blender, you can use a stand blender just as easily.
  2. Assemble your salad. On a bed of chopped romaine lettuce sprinkle your radish pieces and artichoke hearts.
  3. Open your tin of sardines, and use a fork to break apart the fish onto your salad.
  4. Top with the lemon shallot dressing.


Vietnamese Bun: Refreshing Noodle Salad with Vegetables, Chicken & Herbs (GF & DF)


Vietnamese Bun: Refreshing Noodle Salad with Vegetables, Chicken & Herbs (GF & DF)

By Alison Diven, Contributing Author

Have you heard it yet, the siren call of spring? Here in northwest New Mexico, the birds are dancing in the junipers, new-green shoots surprise me daily along our pathways, and the very light and air seem re-born. My palate has changed too: I’m ready for all things light, crisp, fresh. Vietnamese bun, a cold noodle dish, showcases the best of spring—tender lettuces, crisp sprouts, sweet carrots, and fresh herbs nestled into silky rice vermicelli and highlighted with a tangy-salty-sweet sauce. Broiled or grilled chicken makes it a complete meal.

This dish is a great incentive to explore farmers’ markets and home gardening. Endless variations can be dictated by what’s available. Fresh-picked sugar snap peas, perhaps? Daikon or little red radishes? It’s all fair game! Not traditional, no, but I’m not judging.

My version of bun isn’t the most traditional anyway. Since I’m seeking great nutrition, I’m happy to swap out some of the usual pile of noodles for nutrient-dense lettuce and extra vegetables. Coconut sugar in the dipping sauce turns it a surprising deep brown, but it tastes just as good as the white sugar-laced kind. I also was unable to find lemongrass locally, so I improvised with lemon peel in the marinade. It added just the hint of lemon flavor I craved.

Because our climate puts us still weeks away still from the first harvest, I used all grocery store produce to get my fresh fix a bit early, but come May, you better believe I’m going to hit the local growers’ markets! I’m hooked for life. Some especially busy or ill seasons have kept me from the farmer stands, but I always return sooner or later. I just can’t stay way. There’s no comparing the taste and nutrition of fresh, local produce, not to mention the joy of partnering directly with those who lovingly work the land.

If you have yet to experience the difference buying local can make, I encourage you to take a step toward finding a farmers’ market today. You may be just in time for the first fruits of the growing season. Visit and search for your location. You can also ask around at health food stores, natural food co-ops, yoga studios, and anywhere else health- or eco-conscious people gather.

Other  noodle dishes you might enjoy: 

A few recipe notes:

(Amazon affiliate links)

  • While the ingredient “fish sauce” may sound scary and even smell a little off-putting, it tastes wonderful and absolutely non-fishy in the final dish. It simply adds wonderful umami and depth to food. I splash in a little to any kind of soup when I need a flavor boost. Check ingredients for a sauce made only of fish, salt, and perhaps, sugar. Red Boat is the purest option I know, and is often available in health food stores, but we also buy and enjoy Tiparos, which can be cheaper and easier to find. Asian markets will have the best prices.
  • Did you know you can grow your own bean sprouts in 4 days without fancy equipment? This tutorial has a special trick for making them grow thick and strong like the ones from the grocery store.
  • For a vegetarian version, top with boiled eggs instead of chicken.

Vietnamese Bun: Refreshing Noodle Salad with Vegetables, Chicken & Herbs
Recipe type: Gluten Free, Dairy Free
Cuisine: Asian
Serves: 4
A light, refreshing salad perfect for spring and summer produce. Can be made entirely ahead for a stress-free dinner. Feel free to use whatever vegetables are fresh from the garden or farmers' market. The marinade as written produces an intensely meaty, savory flavor that works well when contrasted with the rest of the dish. If you or your children prefer a mild, sweeter taste, replace 1 Tbsp of fish sauce with coconut sugar. Finally, for the Dipping Sauce, use the larger amounts in parenthesis if you already know you like lots of sauce.
  • ~1 lb organic or pastured chicken thighs
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce (check label for gluten; I prefer Red Boat)
  • 2 Tbsp coconut sugar or Rapadura or Sucanat (I like Nutiva coconut sugar)
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • zest of 1 small lemon
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 8 ounces rice vermicelli
  • 1 small head nutritious lettuce like butterhead or romaine, thinly sliced
  • 2 handfuls bean sprouts (see tutorial here for making your own), washed
  • 3 small carrots, julienned (I like this julienne peeler)
  • 1 seedless cucumber, julienned
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, especially Thai basil, optional
  • ¼ cup crushed roasted peanuts, optional
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
Dipping Sauce:
  • 4 Tbsp (or 6 Tbsp) lime juice
  • ½ cup (or ¾ cup) water
  • 2 Tbsp (or 3 Tbsp) fish sauce (Red Boat is my favorite)
  • 2 cloves (or 3 cloves) garlic
  • 4 Tbsp (or 6 Tbsp) coconut sugar (Nutiva brand is excellent)
  1. Combine chicken thighs and all marinade ingredients in a dish and leave in refrigerator for at least several hours, and preferably overnight.
  2. Prepare vermicelli according to package instructions. (Can be done ahead, refreshing noodles in warm water before serving.)
  3. Prepare dipping sauce by mixing the lime juice, water, fish sauce, garlic, and coconut sugar together until well combined. (Can be made ahead; chill until serving time.)
  4. Heat broiler on high. Shake marinade off chicken, place on broiler-safe pan, and broil for 3-4 minutes per side, watching closely to avoid burning. Allow to cool slightly and cut into slices.
  5. Assemble the salads by dividing noodles, lettuce, carrots, cucumber, green onions, herbs, and chicken among 4 large bowls. Top with crushed peanuts and lime wedges if desired.
  6. Sauce can be served in 4 small bowls for dipping, or poured over the top of each salad.
  7. Enjoy!

Looking for more springtime inspiration? The Nourishing Gourmet has got you covered!

Spring Is Here Asparagus Egg Drop Soup
Tangy Lemon Curd (Honey Sweetened and Dairy Free)
Spring Green Frittata
Healthy Strawberry Lemonade (Stevia-Sweetened)
Nourishing Nettle Soup

Quinoa Salad with Cucumbers, Chickpeas, and a Yogurt Dill Dressing

Quinoa salad yogurt dill dressing

By April Swiger, Contributing Writer

This quinoa salad has the unmistakable taste of fresh dill, tangy yogurt, and refreshing lemon and cucumber. Quinoa is gluten-free, packed with nutrients, and fills you up without ill effects when prepared properly. When soaked with a little raw apple cider vinegar, it’s easy to digest, and can be used in countless recipes ranging from breakfast porridges to summer salads.

Cucumbers have been on sale at my little local market the past two weeks and I’ve been itching to add them to a creamy yogurt based salad. As spring has finally sprung, I’m eager to begin making hearty and nourishing salads again for the warmer months. I love the idea of a filling side dish that can easily transfer over to a simple main dish. With the addition of chickpeas to this salad, it can be both!

Quinoa is a grain-like seed (from the same family as beets and spinach) and benefits from a long soak like other grains and legumes to reduce anti nutrients. There is a distinct bitter taste to quinoa which can be reduced significantly through soaking, and a thorough rinse before cooking. I have found that as I plan my meals for the week, adding an alert to my phone to “soak quinoa” the day before I need it has proved to be an easy way to incorporate this traditional practice into my routine.

quinoa salad yogurt dill dressing2

I love the addition of a creamy and tangy dressing to this salad! It’s reminiscent of a Greek tzatziki sauce but with the delicious taste of fresh dill. I used a Russian kefir yogurt for this recipe, but any plain, full-fat yogurt will work just fine. A whisk works great to blend all the ingredients together.

If you enjoy experimenting in the kitchen, you can easily adapt this recipe with different dressings and vegetables that are available to you. Kimi has shared a fantastic list of nourishing salad dressings that are very simple to make and can be substituted in this recipe. Along with that her cookbook, Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons, includes more salad dressing recipes and a couple of quinoa salads as well. Her summer quinoa salad is one of my favorites!

Other recipes you may enjoy:

Quinoa salad with cucumbers, chickpeas, and a yogurt dill dressing
Recipe type: Side, or main dish
This tangy quinoa salad could serve 8-10 people as a side dish, or 4-6 as a nourishing main dish
  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 2 cups warm filtered water for soaking
  • 2 tbls raw apple cider vinegar (you can also use yogurt, kombucha, whey or kefir)
  • 2 cups filtered water for cooking
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cucumber, peeled if desired, and cubed
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1½-2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one 15 oz can)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 small garlic cloves, minced or crushed
  • 2 tbls fresh dill, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. The night before you make this dish, plan to soak your quinoa to make it more digestible. Place the quinoa in a non-reactive bowl or jar (preferably glass), and mix it with the warm filtered water and your raw ACV. Allow it to soak for at least 8 hours, and up to 24.
  2. When you're ready to make the salad, drain and rinse your quinoa in a fine sieve, allowing the water to run clear.
  3. Place your rinsed quinoa in a pot with 2 more cups of water and bring it to a boil.
  4. When it's boiling, cover the pot, and turn the heat to low, allowing it to simmer for 12-15 minutes. (These instructions are the same as Kimi's basic quinoa recipe and work for the various brands of quinoa that I've tried).
  5. When the quinoa is done, place it in a bowl to cool. You can leave it on the counter, or put it in the refrigerator.
  6. In the meantime, assemble your dressing. Whisk together the olive oil, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic cloves, fresh dill and salt and pepper.
  7. When the quinoa has cooled, gently mix in the cucumber, red onion and chickpeas.
  8. Pour the dressing over the quinoa mixture (you may not need it all), and mix thoroughly.
  9. This salad is best served at room temperature after preparing it, or lightly chilled. Top with additional dill, feta cheese, olives, or tomatoes if desired!


Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette & 7 Other Nourishing Salad Dressings

Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette, plus seven more tasty, nourishing salad dressings

With the sweet and tangy balsamic, the rich extra virgin olive oil, the pungent garlic and mustard, and the subtle creaminess of coconut milk or cream, this dairy-free salad dressing is a healthy and delicious way to enjoy your greens.

I’m the queen of simple salad dressings because I like to keep my cooking uncomplicated. But if you have a little extra coconut milk, cream or unsweetened coconut yogurt, it’s no trouble at all to add a couple tablespoons to your salad dressing – making it a lovely creamy texture with some added health benefits from the coconut milk too. I’m not really sure why it took me so long to think of it!

As part of our 21 steps to a nourishing diet, I wanted to take the opportunity to share a new dressing and point out how simple and better for you homemade salad dressing is! It’s very hard to find store-bought salad dressing that uses nourishing ingredients, and when you do, they often are pretty expensive. Thankfully salad dressings are one of the easiest things you can make, and they are so delicious.

The other day I sat in front of a green salad with vibrant, nutrient rich baby greens, walnuts, avocado and other delicious additions, all tossed with this dressing. I smiled when I thought of all of the lackluster salads I’ve been served at restaurants. This was so much better. You know you are doing something right when you prefer your own food at home.

When making your own salad dressings,  you are trading out cheap oils for traditional ones, artificial flavors and MSG for the real flavors of herbs, spices, and garlic. You are trading highly processed foods, for gently processed, whole foods. It’s a good trade to make. Here is a list of some other lovely, nourishing salad dressings to choose from.

Other Healthy Salad Dressings: 

Sweet Onion Poppyseed Dressing: This salad dressing is amazing with green salads topped with chicken and fruit. It’s sweetened with honey, and so flavorful!

This PDF is a sample of my cookbook, Fresh: Nourishing Salads for all Seasons. It has my recipe for Leon Salad (a favorite from the book) and two salad dressings, including my Simple Balsamic Dressing (that the below is a creamy version of), and my Everyday Salad Dressing using raw apple cider vinegar.

Kombucha VinaigretteLearn how to make kombucha vinegar and then a simple salad dressing out of it.

Orange Balsamic Dressing: This dressing is perfect for this time of year. I pair it with roasted beets, oranges, greens, and nuts for a lovely light lunch.

Spicy Asian Inspired Dressing: I love the dressing that goes along with this Thai Salad. So good!

Strawberry Salad Dressing: I share a video of my TV segment sharing two salad recipes, with links to my yummy strawberry balsamic dressing.

By the way, my affiliate Vitacost is a great place to pick up organic balsamic vinegar and raw apple cider vinegar.

Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette & 7 Other Nourishing Salad Dressings
Prep time:
Total time:
This is a simple dressing to throw together and serve with a variety of salads. It will keep 2-3 days in the refrigerator.
  • ⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons dijon style mustard
  • ¾ teaspoon unrefined salt
  • 1-3 garlic cloves, peeled, and finely minced or put through a garlic press
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk (full fat), cream, or unsweetened, homemade coconut yogurt
  1. Mix all of the ingredients together by either whisking in a small bowl, or putting in a 2 cup jar, placing the lid on, and shaking. Shake before each use.