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What is a Chopped Salad?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A chopped salad is a salad that includes ingredients which have been chopped to be uniform and then either composed or tossed, depending on the style of the salad. Many people associate the concept with American interpretations of Mediterranean cuisine, where salads often include an assortment of fresh chopped vegetables on a bed of greens. Many restaurants offer these salads, and they are also a common offering at salad bars. They are also easy to make at home, as well.

Common ingredients in a chopped salad include onions, bell peppers, olives, carrots, tomatoes, celery, cold meats like grilled chicken, pickled peppers, cooked legumes, pickled beets, greens such as romaine or spinach, and cheeses. Depending on the stylistic choice of the person who makes the salad, all of the ingredients may be chopped to create a very uniform look and texture, or some of the ingredients may be cut up while others are left larger; classically, for example, chopped vegetables can be served on a bed of whole lettuce leaves.

The salad may be garnished with things like shredded or crumbled cheese, fresh herbs, or sprouts. The salad is typically drizzled with dressing before it is served, and it may be tossed to integrate all of the ingredients or left in a composed form, in which case the ingredients may be carefully arrange to create stripes or other patterns of color.

The crucial thing about a chopped salad is that it must contain fresh produce. It may also include preserved ingredients, cold grilled meats, and cheeses, but the bulk of the salad typically consists of fresh fruits and vegetables. The flavor can be adjusted with the addition of things like chopped pears or persimmons to make the salad more complex and interesting, and a wide variety of dressings may be used to bring out the flavors of the ingredients.

The chopped salad is particularly popular in Los Angeles, California, where it is often available at restaurants. These salads are also offered at many chain restaurants, perhaps because the ingredients are easy to prepare ahead of time in large amounts, and people can assemble their own at salad bars. People who want to make their own at home should feel free to use whichever ingredients they like, and should not feel obligated to chop everything. More texture and visual interest can be added by including things like crumbled fried noodles, whole leaves of greens, and entire cherry tomatoes.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon345975 — On Aug 24, 2013

I'd love to try chopping my salad sometime.

By shell4life — On Dec 20, 2012

I always like a bit of meat in my salad. I love those little cubes of ham that you see at salad bars, and I like real bacon bits, as opposed to the imitation kind that taste like burnt rubber!

If I order a grilled chicken salad, the strips of chicken usually come separately. At fast food restaurants, they put the chicken strips in a box and the salad in a plastic container. All of the veggies and the lettuce is chopped up inside the container, and you add some other stuff that has been packaged separately.

The croutons and slivered almonds or other nuts come in their own packages, as does the salad dressing. I believe this is so your salad doesn't get soggy if you have to drive for awhile before you get to eat it.

By OeKc05 — On Dec 19, 2012

I love visiting the salad bars of restaurants. I can build my own chopped salad from pre-sliced ingredients.

There are always shredded carrots, cucumber slices, and strips of bell pepper at my favorite salad bar. My favorite item by far is the baby corn, though. It has been pickled, so it has a lot of flavor, and the whole little cobs are a nice contrast to the sliced and chopped veggies.

By seag47 — On Dec 18, 2012

@summing – By far the best salad knife I've ever used is a ceramic knife. The blades are white and ultra sharp, so you have to be careful while handling them.

They make sharp cuts through everything from raw meat to lettuce. They are great for chopping up hard vegetables like carrots and potatoes.

Also, if you are chopping up a tomato with a ceramic knife, you won't make nearly as big of a mess as you would with a regular knife. The blade glides right through the skin to the flesh, so you aren't mashing it all up.

By feasting — On Dec 18, 2012

@ZsaZsa56 – I love raspberry vinaigrette dressing. It is really versatile, because it is just as good on a chopped tomato salad as it is on a fruit salad.

I first tried it on a salad with vegetables, and I was very impressed. The next time I had some was when I ordered a salad that contained lettuce, blueberries, strawberries, and grilled chicken, as well as sesame seeds and croutons. It brought all the flavors together in perfect harmony.

By summing — On Dec 17, 2012

Can someone recommend a knife to me for making chopped salad? I have an old cooking knife, but it has gotten so old and dull that it cannot hold an edge no matter how often you sharpen it. I feel like every time I make chopped salad I just mash everything up. So I need to buy a new knife. What would you guys recommend that I buy, particularly for cutting up lettuce and veggies?

By ZsaZsa56 — On Dec 17, 2012
What is your guys favorite chopped salad dressing? Personally, I like ranch or French. But then again, I like most salad dressings.

Sometimes I think I should switch it up more often, it is just too easy to get locked into what you know.

By Ivan83 — On Dec 16, 2012

I like to make chopped salad as a quick, after work meal. I will basically chop up anything that I have in my fridge. Peppers, squash, eggplant, it doesn't matter. I will mix it with some light balsamic vinegar and eat it with a piece of crusty bread. It is delicious, filing, and most importantly, healthy.

By Ted41 — On Dec 07, 2012

@eidetic - I was just in the Midwest to visit my grandmother, and I saw a lot of chopped salads on the menu when we went out to eat. This trend really must be everywhere now.

By eidetic — On Dec 07, 2012
I don't live in Los Angeles, but I see chopped salads on the menu at restaurants all the time. In fact, where I live, there's even a chain of restaurants that specialize in making quick chopped salads (think fast food, but way healthier.) And I live on the East coast. So this chopped salad trend must have made its way outwards from California.

I personally think it's great, because I really like to have some healthy options when I go out to eat.

By betterment — On Dec 06, 2012

@LoriCharlie - I usually like to add a sliced avocado to my chopped salads when I make them at home. Nothing tastes better on top of a chopped vegetable salad than a fresh avocado, and also, if you add an avocado you can leave out the meat. Avocados are very filling on their own.

By LoriCharlie — On Dec 05, 2012

I feel like most cold salad recipes are, in fact, recipes for a chopped salad. Most salads include various chopped fresh produce. Even if you're not going to chop the lettuce, most people cut up various kinds of vegetables like onions or tomatoes and add them to the salad.

I also usually add meat and some kind of cheese to my salads (goat cheese is my favorite) but everyone has different preferences.

By christym — On Sep 12, 2010

For salads that have a lot of lettuce in them, it is a great idea to use a salad spinner to make sure that all of the excess water is removed. Lettuce holds a lot of water in it and can end up watering down your salad.

By calabama71 — On Sep 12, 2010

@stormyknight: There is no specific kind of lettuce that must be used. However, most Italian salads use romaine lettuce. I have a recipe for an Italian salad that uses romaine lettuce and iceberg lettuce. They taste really good together.

For this particular salad, you need 1 head iceberg lettuce, 2 heads romaine lettuce, 3 cups spring mix, 4 Roma tomatoes (chopped), 1 ½ cups gorgonzola (crumbled), 1 cup cooked bacon (crumbled), ½ red onion (finely chopped) and 3 avocados (chopped).

Chop all of your lettuce well and add the other ingredients. Toss well and serve.

By StormyKnight — On Sep 12, 2010

I would like to make an Italian chopped salad for some guests this weekend. What kind of lettuce would I use for that?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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