How many calories is in a salad with ranch?

Quick Answer

The number of calories in a salad with ranch dressing can vary considerably depending on the specific ingredients and portions. However, as a rough estimate:

  • A side salad with 2 cups of lettuce, 2 tablespoons of ranch dressing, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. has about 150-250 calories.
  • A full entree salad with 4 cups of lettuce, 4 tablespoons of dressing, cheese, meat, etc. often has 500-800 calories.

The type of greens, vegetables, cheese, meat, nuts, and dressing impact the calorie count. Using a light ranch dressing instead of regular ranch can reduce the calories by about 50 calories per 2 tablespoons.

Calories in Salad Greens

The base of lettuce or greens is one of the lowest calorie components of a salad. Here are the calories for 1 cup of some common salad greens:

Type of Greens Calories per 1 Cup
Romaine lettuce 8
Spinach 7
Arugula 5
Mixed greens 10
Kale 8

As you can see, plain undressed salad greens are very low in calories. So the base of lettuce or greens adds minimal calories to a salad.

Calories in Salad Vegetables

Beyond the greens, loading up a salad with low calorie vegetables can pack nutrients without packing on the calories. One cup of these common salad vegetables has 30 calories or less:

Vegetable Calories per 1 Cup
Cucumbers 16
Tomatoes 32
Bell peppers 30
Mushrooms 28
Radishes 19
Sprouts 20
Carrots 30

Loading up on these low calorie vegetables can help provide volume and nutrients without adding too many calories.

Calories in Salad Toppings

Some higher calorie salad toppings like cheese, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit can start to add more calories. Here are the calories for 1/4 cup or 1 ounce of some common salad toppers:

Salad Topping Calories
Cheddar cheese 110
Feta cheese 75
Blue cheese 100
Almonds 163
Walnuts 185
Pecans 200
Croutons 60
Dried cranberries 130
Raisins 115

While small amounts of these calorie-dense toppings can add lots of flavor and crunch, going heavy on the nuts, cheese, seeds, and dried fruit can also make the salad much higher in calories. Sticking to lighter portions or lower calorie substitutes like feta instead of cheddar can help keep the calorie count down.

Calories in Salad Protein

Adding a protein source like meat, fish, eggs, or plant-based proteins can add a hefty amount of calories to a salad. Here are the calories in 3-4 ounces of some common salad proteins:

Protein Calories
Grilled chicken breast 140
Hard boiled egg 80
Tuna 120
Salmon 175
Sliced steak 200
Bacon 150
Tofu 100
Chickpeas 120

While proteins can add important nutrients to a salad, piling on multiple high calorie proteins can also make a salad much higher in calories overall. To keep the calorie count down, stick to lighter portions of protein sources.

Calories in Salad Dressings

The dressing on a salad is often where a good portion of the calories come from. Creamy, oil-based dressings tend to be higher in calories than lighter vinaigrettes. Here are the calories for 2 tablespoons of some popular salad dressings:

Dressing Calories
Ranch 140
Blue cheese 150
Thousand island 145
Caesar 120
Balsamic vinaigrette 70
Italian vinaigrette 60
Olive oil and vinegar 120

As you can see, regular creamy dressings like ranch, blue cheese, Caesar and thousand island have about double the calories of oil-based vinaigrette dressings. Choosing a lighter dressing and using just 1-2 tablespoons per serving can make a big dent in the calorie count of a salad.

Putting it All Together

When you combine all the individual components – greens, veggies, cheeses, proteins and dressing – it gives you a sense of how the calories add up in a salad.

Here’s a breakdown of two sample salads:

Side Salad Calories:

Ingredient Calories
2 cups romaine lettuce 16
1 cup mixed veggies (tomato, cucumber, pepper) 50
2 Tbsp ranch dressing 140
1 oz cheddar cheese 110
1 Tbsp croutons 30
Totals: 346

This typical side salad ends up having around 350 calories total. That’s with a reasonable 2 tablespoons of dressing. Using a more generous 3-4 tablespoons of dressing could add another 100 calories or more.

Entree Salad Calories:

Ingredient Calories
4 cups mixed greens 20
2 cups mixed veggies 100
4 Tbsp Caesar dressing 240
4 oz grilled chicken 280
2 Tbsp parmesan cheese 60
1/4 cup croutons 60
Totals: 760

This heartier chef’s salad comes out to around 760 calories with 4 tablespoons of dressing and 4 ounces of chicken. Skipping the cheese and croutons could reduce it by about 120 calories.

Tips for Lightening Up Salad Calories

Here are some easy ways to cut back on calories in salads:

  • Use lighter dressings like vinegar-based vinaigrettes and limit to 1-2 Tbsp per serving
  • Load up on low calorie veggies rather than cheese, meat and heavier toppings
  • Choose lower calorie protein options like egg, tuna, or tofu
  • Use just a sprinkle of nuts and dried fruit instead of 1/4 cup
  • Skip croutons and replace with a sprinkle of lower calorie seeds like pepitas or sunflower seeds
  • Choose feta or goat cheese instead of full-fat cheese like cheddar or blue cheese
  • Use Greek yogurt-based dressing or mix Greek yogurt with vinegar and spices for a creamy, lower calorie dressing option

With some simple substitutions and smart choices when building your salad, you can enjoy a big, nutritious salad while still minding your calorie intake.

The Calories in Popular Restaurant Salads

If you’re eating out, the calorie count on salads at chain restaurants can vary quite a bit depending on the ingredients. Here are some examples of full meal-sized salads from popular chains and their approximate calorie counts:

Salad Calories
Applebee’s Grilled Chicken Fresco Salad 420
Panera Fuji Apple Chicken Salad 490
Chick-fil-A Grilled Market Salad 270
Cheesecake Factory Chinese Chicken Salad 870
The Cheesecake Factory Caesar Salad 890
California Pizza Chicken Caesar Salad 710
Olive Garden House Salad 220
Ruby Tuesday Garden Bar 460

As you can see, restaurant salads range from around 300-900 calories depending on the toppings and dressing. A salad from a restaurant is not necessarily low calorie, so it’s important to check the nutrition information and order carefully based on your calorie goals.

How to Estimate Calories in a Salad

When a nutrition calculator isn’t available, you can make a rough estimate of a salad’s calories with some simple guidelines:

  • Count about 10 calories per cup of raw salad greens
  • Count 25-50 calories per cup of chopped vegetables
  • Aim for a max of 200 calories of dressings, cheeses, croutons, nuts combined
  • Aim for a max of 300 calories of protein sources like chicken, tuna, eggs, etc.

So for example, an entree salad might look like:

  • 4 cups greens: 40 calories
  • 2 cups chopped veggies: 100 calories
  • 3 oz chicken: 150 calories
  • 2 Tbsp dressing: 120 calories
  • 1 oz cheese: 100 calories
  • 1/4 cup nuts: 150 calories
  • Total: Around 660 calories

This method gives you a ballpark figure so you know if you’re in the 500+ calorie range or closer to 200-300 calories. Underestimating calories in salads is very common, so being able to estimate will help with managing portions and calorie intake.

Low Calorie Salad Inspiration

To get delicious salad inspiration featuring around 400 calories or less, here are some favorite lighter salads to try:

Taco Salad

Romaine lettuce, black beans, corn, pico de gallo, avocado, cilantro, lime juice, optionally topped with ground turkey or crumbled feta cheese.

Mediterranean Salad

Mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, mint, feta cheese.

Cobb Salad

Romaine lettuce, chicken, bacon, hard boiled egg, avocado, tomatoes, blue cheese, balsamic vinaigrette.

Asian Chicken Salad

Shredded napa cabbage, carrots, edamame, bell pepper, grilled chicken, mandarin oranges, sesame ginger dressing.

Spinach Salad

Baby spinach, strawberries, pecans, red onion, poppyseed dressing, optionally topped with grilled chicken or salmon.

Greek Salad

Lettuce mix, cucumbers, tomato, onion, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano.

The possibilities are endless for building nutrient-packed salads that also fit into a calorie-conscious eating plan. Load up on the fresh greens and veggies, go easy on high-fat dressings and calorie-dense toppings, and enjoy delicious and nutritious salads guilt-free!


The calories in a salad can range dramatically based on the specific ingredients and portions used. Dressings, cheeses, nuts, and proteins drive up the calories quickly, while greens and veggies are very low in calories. A good target for a main dish salad is around 400-700 calories, while a side salad should clock in under 350 calories. Being mindful of portions of calorie-dense ingredients like dressing and cheese, and emphasizing low calorie veggies and greens instead, allows you to enjoy salads as part of a healthy diet. With some simple tricks for lightening it up, salad can be a fabulous way to get an abundance of nutrition without the abundance of calories.

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