Pittsburgh Salad with Crispy French Fries

published Mar 12, 2023
Pittsburgh Salad Recipe

Warm, creamy, crispy, deliciously salted French fries served on top of a heaping bowl of veggies.

Serves4

Prep20 minutes

Cook10 minutes to 25 minutes

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Pittsburgh salad with dressing.
Credit: Meleyna Nomura

Pittsburgh is well-known for stuffing french fries inside a hefty sandwich, but one of the lesser-known culinary joys of the Steel City is french fries on a salad. That’s right — warm, creamy, crispy, deliciously salted french fries served on top of a heaping bowl of veggies (and there’s usually a protein too). Fries on a salad might sound unconventional, but they provide a welcomed amount of warmth and sustenance to a salad, elevating it from a light side dish to a dazzling entrée. 

The Pittsburgh salad is filling, refreshing, and wholly unique to the area. It’s widely available at bars and restaurants across western Pennsylvania, and to me it represents all that is great about the blue-collar city. Getting a forkful of french fries with dressing, onion, and pickled peppers is an incredible bite of food that reminds me of home, and I’m happy to be able to share that experience with all of you. 

What’s in a Pittsburgh Salad?

Grilled chicken or steak, french fries, a generous topping of shredded mozzarella or cheddar, and then a dressing on top of a salad are all you need to make this filling and ingenious meal. 

I like to make a speckled, herby ranch dressing, which is the perfect way to make use of the ingredients in your spice cabinet or refrigerator, so feel free to experiment with what’s in your home kitchen. I often find myself using upwards of 10 different dried herbs and spices in my ranch dressing. 

While you may experiment with your own array of preferred salad vegetables, I find that in Pittsburgh, most bar and deli salads come with hard-boiled eggs, tangy pickled pepperoncini, and thinly sliced red onion. In my hometown of New Castle, there’s even a version of the Pittsburgh salad that includes kibbeh, fried balls made with bulgur wheat and ground meat, on top.

Can You Use Frozen French Fries?

Store-bought frozen french fries do all the hard work for you — the spuds already come peeled, cut, soaked to remove their starch, and blanched. I have found that brands like Lamb Weston produce a restaurant-quality french fry that many of my chef friends swear by. This way there’s no need to mess with frying (unless you really want those fresh fries).

Pittsburgh Salad Recipe

Warm, creamy, crispy, deliciously salted French fries served on top of a heaping bowl of veggies.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 10 minutes to 25 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the salad

  • 1 pound

    frozen French fries (about 3/8-inch thick), such as Ore-Ida Golden or Lamb Weston Hand Cut

  • 1

    medium head iceberg lettuce (about 1 1/2 pounds)

  • 2

    hard-boiled eggs

  • 1

    medium roma tomato

  • 1/2

    medium English cucumber (6 to 8 ounces)

  • 4

    jarred peperoncini

  • 1/2

    medium red onion (optional)

  • Vegetable oil, if deep frying

  • Kosher salt

For the ranch dressing

  • 1 clove

    garlic

  • 2 sprigs

    fresh dill

  • 1/2 cup

    mayonnaise

  • 1/2 cup

    buttermilk

  • 1 teaspoon

    paprika

  • 1 teaspoon

    dried parsley

  • 1 teaspoon

    onion powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    celery salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

Instructions

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  1. If you are baking or air frying the French fries, heat the oven or air fryer according to package directions. Meanwhile, prepare the salad and dressing.

Make the salad

  1. Core and cut 1 medium head iceberg lettuce into bite-sized pieces.

  2. Prepare the following, arranging them in separate piles on a large plate as you complete it: Halve 1/2 medium English cucumber lengthwise, then thinly slice crosswise. Cut 1 medium Roma tomato into 8 wedges. Peel and slice 2 hard-boiled eggs into 4 wedges each. Thinly slice 4 jarred pepperoncini. Thinly slice 1/2 medium onion if desired. Refrigerate the plate of toppings and lettuce until ready to serve.

Make the dressing

  1. Finely grate 1 garlic clove. Finely chop 2 fresh dill sprigs until you have 1 tablespoon. Place both in a small bowl

  2. Add 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon dried parsley, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon celery salt, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Whisk until combined. Taste and season with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cook the fries

  1. Fry, bake, or air fry the fries according to package directions. A few minutes before the fries are ready, divide the lettuce between 4 bowls. Top with the cucumber, tomato, eggs, pepperoncini, and onion.

  2. Season the fries lightly with kosher salt. Top the salads with the French fries and drizzle with the ranch dressing.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The eggs can be cooked and the dressing made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated in separate airtight containers.

Storage: Leftover dressing can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.