Chopped Salad – Revisiting A Classic Recipe

Chopped Salad
Chopped salad, ready to be dressed and tossed

Chopped salad is just exactly what it sounds like: a salad whose ingredients have all been cut down to a fairly uniform size, around 1/2″ cubes. It works well as a side dish and it shines as one of the all time great entree salads when you want a lighter meal. It is easy to eat because the diner doesn’t have to take anything apart with a knife, which makes it particularly good for a dinner party.

The classic leaf for a chopped salad is romaine lettuce hearts. You can use some of the dark greens as well, but the ribs provide the structure that keeps the salad in cubes with some airspace, instead of collapsing into a mass of slimy leaves. A fantastic way to cut romaine is to make some lengthwise incisions, leaving the base intact, before cutting across the leaves at 1/2″ intervals. Three of these lengthwise cuts is great for a normal salad, but for a chopped salad try five.

As with any salad, the lettuce must be scrupulously, absolutely dry. If you don’t have a great salad spinner, I highly recommend this one from OXO Good Gripsit works like a champ.

If you go to a restaurant that specialized in chopped salads, you might see it made by putting all the ingredients on a single cutting board and rapidly Benihana-ing them with multiple knives. That makes a good show but isn’t a very practical technique at home. I like to do each ingredient individually for maximum control. Even the chickpeas get a once over though, to create the chopped texture.

Beyond the romaine, you can chose just about any other salad ingredients that play well together. I’ve suggested one grouping below, but feel free to make up your own. I particularly like to include rather large amounts of fresh herbs such as mint.

If it is more convenient, you can make part of this salad several hours in advance. Bell peppers, cucumbers, olives, chickpeas and so forth can all be cubed and refrigerated until gametime. The lettuce can be washed, cut, and spun dry about an hour ahead and put back in the fridge to chill and remove the last bit of moisture in a low humidity environment. Just don’t weight it down with the other ingredients, or god forbid, dress it, until the last minute.

Here’s the version I happened to serve today; don’t hesitate to change it to suit your mood, menu or produce bin.

Chopped Salad
Vegetarian and gluten-free; vegan if you don’t use cheese
Serves 4

  • 2/3 cup cooked chickpeas, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 English cucumber, 1/2″ cubes
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup sweet onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup jarred roasted red pepper, small dice
  • 2 green onions, 1/4″ lengths
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 romaine lettuce hearts, cut as described above
  • 1 handful mint leaves, roughly torn
  • dressing of your choice; this lemon-mustard vinaigrette is a fine choice


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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, April 5th, 2010 in Favorites, Gluten-Free or modifiable, Salads, Vegan or Modifiable.

15 Responses to “Chopped Salad – Revisiting A Classic Recipe”

  1. Reply
    April 5, 2010 at 9:52 am #

    Love this twist on chopped salad. Chickpeas and feta sounds great. As I’m writing, I’m eating a fruit salad with mint. Definitely an under appreciated ingredient!

  2. Reply
    April 5, 2010 at 12:17 pm #

    It really reminds me of Greek and Middle eastern salads. Delicious 🙂

  3. Reply
    April 5, 2010 at 8:03 pm #

    Toss in some halved grape tomatoes and I am so there.

  4. Reply
    April 6, 2010 at 7:42 pm #

    this sounds really good.
    does anyone know any great vegetarian books or recipes for summer.

  5. Reply
    April 6, 2010 at 7:51 pm #

    Very tasty salad indeed!

  6. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    April 6, 2010 at 9:06 pm #

    @rebecca – Thanks! There are a lot of summery recipes in the Salads category.

  7. Reply
    April 6, 2010 at 10:15 pm #

    First time here. Just read about you at Lisa’s blog Love all the ingredients in this salad.

  8. Reply
    April 11, 2010 at 4:57 pm #

    I’ve recently become a chopped salad addict. This one looks great!

  9. Reply
    April 14, 2010 at 7:24 pm #

    Mmmmm. I want to sassy a bite of that! This is all making me realize that I need a salad spinner and the patience to chop.

  10. Reply
    April 2, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

    Thanks for this recipe! Sadly I was looking for just a baseline one to add some… carnivorous items to! But certainly a meat-free one will be a try. I had one at a high-end restaurant and was baffled by how they kept the lettuce soo crisp after being chopped!

  11. Reply
    October 24, 2011 at 9:08 am #

    I had this bookmarked for awhile, finally made it last night including the dressing. Was delicious, thank you!

  12. Reply
    February 28, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    I make a chopped salad every day and lost a ton of weight by doing so. I make a big one at night for dinner and take the remainder to work for lunch. Each bite is tasty and you need very little (if any) dressing. You’ll eat your daily quota of vegetables easily and, because the more variety of vegies you use the more color you’ll have, the healthier the salad will be.

    • Reply
      February 29, 2012 at 8:30 am #

      Wow, you are a true chopped salad believer! I’m with you, I could probably eat one every day.

  13. Reply
    June 22, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    “god forbid, don’t dress it until the last minute”

    Ha! I wouldn’t normally comment on a salad recipe, but your contempt for a poorly prepared one (which can only come from passion for the subject) made this a lot more entertaining 🙂

  14. Reply
    January 10, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    We eat this kind of salad every day. When it’s the main course for dinner, which it often is, we do the following: lots of different vegetables (cucumber, peppers, radish, tomato, lettuce, red cabbage, etc.), finely chopped fresh hot pepper (the green kind, I don’t know what it’s called in English, maybe it’s a fresh jalapeno), pomegranate seeds, green pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and sprouted beans (usually mung because they’re always around). If we have a few extra minutes, we throw in a grain, like cooked bulgur wheat. Dressing is just lemon juice, olive oil, and kosher salt. Just before serving, a drizzle of raw tahini over the top.

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