What is it about a chopped salad that's irresistible? If there's one on a restaurant menu, I'll almost always order it — either for the fact that I can scoop up perfectly proportioned bites with every ingredient represented or that they're so pleasingly organized. As for what makes a good one, I have a few ideas.
This isn't one of those salads you can just pile some greens, veggies, and your favorite toppings on a plate and dive in. Chopped salads take work — you have to dice and chop all the components to a relatively uniform shape — but the payoff is worth it, in the form of a hearty and satisfying salad.
While these, like all salads, are easily customizable, there are a few things to know to really make your chopped salad stand out.
5 Tips to Make Your Chopped Salad Even Better
1. Use a mezzaluna or a chopper.
If chopped salads are a regular staple, one of these tools is for you! A mezzaluna is a curved blade that you can roll back and forth across a pile of ingredients to finely chop very quickly. Also, try a chopper tool that pushes a vegetable through a grid so you get little pieces. Of course, a good knife and a little time will do just fine, but if you want speed and uniformity, either of these tools will help.
2. Skip the lettuce.
If you're not really into lettuce, this is the ideal salad to skip it; you won't miss it. In fact, I love chopped salads that skip it altogether, and instead load up on diced veggies, chicken, and maybe some nuts.
3. Use beans.
They are already bite-sized and give a chopped salad a bit of creaminess to contrast the crunchy texture.
4. Don't add too many watery components.
By this I mean tomatoes, soft fruit, or anything else that can be hard to chop small without getting liquid all over everything. Stick to cherry tomatoes, quartered, or, if you have a big, beautiful beefsteak, consider serving the chopped salad over slices of it rather than losing half the flesh trying to chop it into tiny pieces.
5. Always toss it with the dressing.
You want the dressing to perfectly coat every little square and nugget, so that when you scoop up a forkful, you get all the flavors together. Drizzling the dressing over the top just doesn't seem to do the same job.
What are your best tips for making a chopped salad?
This post has been updated - originally published June 2009.
(Image credits: Nealey Dozier; Emma Christensen)