How To Make the Best Classic Cobb Salad

updated Aug 11, 2022
summer
Classic Cobb Salad Recipe

This classic Cobb salad recipe hits that sweet spot of just the right ingredients made in the easiest way possible.

Serves8

Prep15 minutes

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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

A classic Cobb salad is one of my favorite restaurant salads. The sheer number of toppings makes it a hearty dinner even when I’m craving something cool and crisp. Plus, each bite delivers a variety of flavors, from savory bacon to tangy blue cheese to creamy egg.

A very good classic Cobb salad is actually simple to make at home. All you need to do is master a simple vinaigrette and keep a few simple prep steps in mind and you’ll be on your way to your new favorite dinner.

What Is a Cobb Salad?

A Cobb salad is a large chopped salad with multiple ingredients lined up in rows atop a bed of crisp lettuce.

There are quick and scrappy diner versions with chopped deli meats, salty bacon, and hard-boiled eggs, and much more lavish restaurant ones boasting layers upon layers of toppings.

What’s in a Cobb Salad?

Cobb salad is a basic chopped salad defined by its combination of ingredients. Romaine lettuce and watercress serve as a spicy, crunchy base for the remaining elements which add layers of salty, creamy, and vibrant flavors. Cooked chicken breast, blue cheese, hard-cooked eggs, tomato, avocado, and crisp bacon are cut into bite-size pieces and arranged in a row and dressed with red wine vinaigrette.

Although common, rows are optional (I toss this version together before serving) and ingredients can be swapped like in this BBQ chicken cobb salad, but if you want a classic take on a Hollywood favorite, use the ingredients listed below.

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Watercress
  • Cucumber
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Shallot
  • Crumbled blue cheese
  • Cooked chicken breast
  • Bacon
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Avocado

What Makes This the Best Cobb Salad?

This Cobb salad recipe hits the sweet spot: an abundance of fresh ingredients prepped in the easiest way possible. Plus, it’s dressed in the classic red wine vinaigrette that many homemade Cobb salads are missing.

History of the Original Cobb Salad

The Cobb salad was first created by Robert Cobb, owner of the famed Brown Derby Restaurant in Hollywood, where it became a staple menu item. According to various accounts, Cobb tossed the salad together on a whim for a friend and showman, Sid Grauman, who loved it.

Of course like many conversations about food history, there are competing stories. One states that is was actually the chef at the Brown Derby who created the salad and named it after Cobb in his honor. The timeline for creating this now-classic and well-known salad is somewhere between 1920 and 1937. Either way, the salad was a hit and we are still enjoying it decades later.

Cobb salad became notable because it’s delicious, but also because the restaurant where it was created was a part of America’s gilded age of Hollywood. The salad even had a moment in an I Love Lucy episode.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

The Best Order for Preparing a Cobb Salad

If you have leftovers from meal prep — say, cooked chicken or eggs — you should absolutely use them. If you don’t, prepping all the ingredients from scratch won’t take long if you prepare them in the following order:

  1. Cook the chicken. You’ll get started with chicken first, as it takes the longest to cook and cool. Chicken for Cobb salad can be pan-cooked, roasted, poached, or grilled, but it’s never fried. Keep the seasoning simple with just salt and pepper.
  2. Hard-boil the eggs. You only need two hard-cooked eggs for a large Cobb salad, so you can simply cook the eggs in boiling water or hard-cook them in the Instant Pot. Cool the eggs completely before peeling.
  3. Crisp the bacon. Cook the bacon on the stovetop or in the oven until crisp (you can also cook it alongside the chicken if you’re roasting that in the oven, too). Drain the rendered fat and set aside while you mix up the dressing and chop the vegetables.
  4. Make the dressing. A red wine vinaigrette is traditional for Cobb salad — and it couldn’t be easier to make. You’ll simply shake together the ingredients in a jar to combine.
  5. Chop the vegetables and cheese. Classic Cobb salad is built on a base of romaine lettuce and watercress. Make sure both are washed and dried before layering the salad toppings over the greens.
Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

How to Make a Cobb Salad in Advance

This recipe makes enough toppings for eight classic Cobb salads, perfect for feeding a crowd or for meal prepping a week of lunches.

Ensuring the salads stay fresh is really a matter of keeping the salad dry — pack the dressing separately, and leave the avocado off until just before serving. Layering the ingredients as directed below will keep the salad fresh for several days if stored covered in the fridge until ready to eat.

What to Serve with Cobb Salad

Cobb salad is a main meal loaded with vegetables, protein, and even fruit when you consider the tomato. To complement its flavors and round out dinner, serve it with a light soup or simply pair it with a loaf of crusty bread and a vibrant, summery beverage.

Classic Cobb Salad Recipe

This classic Cobb salad recipe hits that sweet spot of just the right ingredients made in the easiest way possible.

Prep time 15 minutes

Serves 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the red wine vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup

    olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons

    red wine vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon

    Dijon mustard

  • 2 cloves

    garlic, minced

  • 1 tablespoon

    dried oregano

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:

  • 10 cups

    chopped romaine lettuce (from about 2 large heads)

  • 1 bunch

    watercress

  • 1

    medium cucumber, halved and thinly sliced

  • 4 ounces

    cherry tomatoes, halved

  • 1

    large shallot, thinly sliced

  • 3 ounces

    crumbled blue cheese (about 3/4 cup)

  • 8 ounces

    cooked chicken breast, diced

  • 6 slices

    bacon, cooked until crisp and chopped

  • 2

    large hard-cooked eggs, peeled and quartered

  • 1

    large avocado, diced

Equipment

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Mixing bowls

  • Whisk or jar

Instructions

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  1. Make the red wine vinaigrette. Whisk 1/2 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper together in a medium bowl. Alternatively, place all the ingredients in a jar, seal, and shake to combine.

  2. Prepare the greens. Wash 10 cups romaine and 1 bunch watercress, then dry very well. Toss together in a large serving bowl.

  3. Top with the remaining ingredients. Top the greens with 1 medium cucumber, 4 ounces of cherry tomatoes, 1 shallot, 3 ounces crumbled blue cheese, 8 ounces of cooked chicken breast, 6 slices cooked bacon, 2 large hard-cooked eggs, and 1 diced avocado. You can arrange them in a pattern or pile them on top, but keep in mind that the salad will be tossed before serving.

  4. Toss the salad and add the dressing. Before dressing the salad, use tongs to toss everything together first. Drizzle in about half of the red wine vinaigrette and toss. Taste and add more dressing as needed.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The red wine vinaigrette can be made several days in advance and refrigerated; rewhisk or shake again before using. The undressed salad can be assembled and refrigerated without the avocado up to 24 hours in advance. Add the avocado before tossing with the dressing.