I love Sweetgreen, but as a college student who only has time to work about six to seven hours a week, I can’t always afford to treat myself every day to a $12 salad. So I came up with the idea of making my own Sweetgreen salad instead. Did I succeed? Let’s find out.

My Sweetgreen Order

Photo courtesy of Olivia Lee

One of my favorite salads to order is a customized Harvest Bowl, omitting the apples and almonds, and substituting the sweet potatoes with butternut squash and balsamic vinaigrette with spicy cashew dressing.

Step 1: The Ingredients

herb, vegetable
Kayla Bernstein

To make this at home, I ran (literally - an entire 1.1 miles) to the Trader Joe’s near campus to pick up all the ingredients I thought I’d need. I also stopped by the farmer’s market in front of the Penn Bookstore to try and copy Sweetgreen’s mission of supporting small and mid-size farmers who are farming sustainably. 

Step 2: The Preparation

cabbage, kale, vegetable, broccoli
Kayla Bernstein

The salad ingredients weren’t too difficult to prepare. I started by washing and chopping up the kale, then roasting the butternut squash and chicken in the oven. While I waited, I also portioned out my goat cheese and heated up some rice in the microwave. So far, so good, I thought. 

But then came the dressing. I still have no clue how Sweetgreen makes their spicy cashew dressing taste so damn good. On top of that, I had just realized that I forgot to pick up cashew butter at Trader Joe’s, so I had to use some leftover peanut butter instead. After looking at Sweetgreen’s dressing ingredients, I tried to find a similar recipe, and decided that this peanut dressing, which was originally meant for a Thai crunch salad, would suffice.

Step 3: Putting It All Together

vegetable, corn, cereal
Kayla Bernstein

The last thing I had to do was assemble everything together, but here’s where it got messy. Normally, Sweetgreen mixes their salads by hand before portioning it into their bowls. Unfortunately, I didn’t have tongs or even a big enough mixing bowl to mix everything myself. Instead, I awkwardly massaged my dressing into the kale using my hands, and then layered the remaining ingredients on top. To be fair, I gave myself an A- for presentation effort.

Step 4: The Tasting

chicken, meat, pepper, rice, vegetable
Kayla Bernstein

The verdict? While the salad was tasty, it definitely tasted much different than the actual Harvest Bowl that Sweetgreen makes. Obviously, using peanut butter instead of cashew butter gave the salad an interesting twist. I wouldn’t say that it tasted bad, but I would have liked to try this recipe again using cashew butter instead.

Step 5: The Literary Analyzation

Another thing about my DIY salad was that it was pretty hard to eat. Since I hadn’t mixed the ingredients before hand, I couldn’t really appreciate all the different flavors being blended into one salad. Lastly, the salad I made was a lot smaller than the real deal. Out of curiosity, I added all the ingredients I had used into MyFitnessPal, and was surprised to see that my salad actually contained more calories than Sweetgreen’s (compared to my customized Harvest Bowl at Sweetgreen, which comes to 570 calories, my copycat version is just a little under 650).

Overall, I wouldn't mind making this salad again in the future. But the real question I have for Sweetgreen is: how much do I have to pay for your spicy cashew dressing recipe?