It’s no exaggeration: Chopped salads can make you healthier and wealthier.
They’re a great way to make use of whatever you’ve got on hand in the kitchen. Throw one together when you are short on time or trying to avoid a trip to the grocery store. Experiment with ingredients to find flavor combinations you like. No recipe is necessary, and cooking is optional.
There’s just one rule: Use a knife — preferably a big chopping knife — to cut ingredients into bite-sized bits that are roughly the same size.
What is chopped salad?
Chopped salads typically have few leafy greens and sometimes none at all. Heavier ingredients — proteins, vegetables, fruit, grains, beans and nuts — play a starring role, making chopped salads substantial, filling and perfect when fresh greens are expensive or out of season.
A tossed salad, by comparison, is lighter and made mostly of greens that have been torn, not cut. Heavier ingredients are bit players.
The trick to making chopped salads is cutting ingredients into pieces of roughly equal size. There’s a reason for this: When each component of your salad is about the same weight, everything tosses together well, giving each serving some of every ingredient.
With tossed salads made mostly of greens, heavy goodies can sink to the bottom of the salad bowl.
Proteins often play a key role in chopped salads. Possibilities include:
- Sliced deli meats, salami, chicken, beef, lamb or pork
- Smoked or cooked fish
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Canned tuna or salmon (drained)
- Tofu: A healthful no-fat source of plant protein. Drain and dry it before chopping. Marinate it if there’s time, or buy tofu that’s seasoned and roasted or barbecued.
- A dollop of hummus
- Shredded, chunked or crumbled cheese: It’s high-fat but high-flavor, so you won’t need much. Consider a bit of crumbled feta or goat cheese, or grate a hard cheese like Parmesan or Asiago.
- Cooked beans: A perfect no-fat, high-nutrition source of protein. Cook beans ahead of time and freeze them in meal-sized portions, or drain canned beans and pat them dry.
While they’re not required, by all means you can use leafy greens in chopped salads. Lettuce, arugula, beet greens, chard and spinach all work well. But don’t stop there.
The heart of your chopped salad is vegetables. Load them on — raw, cooked, roasted or canned. Raw vegetables, especially, supply crunch, sweetness and lots of nutrients. Possibilities include:
- Beets, fennel, squash, pumpkin, carrots and cauliflower
- Canned or frozen peas, freshly hulled peas in season, sugar snap peas, snow peas and corn
- Celery, radishes and peeled broccoli stems
- Olives, artichoke hearts, pickles, hearts of palm, capers and pepperoncini peppers
- Large sweet red, green, orange or yellow peppers and mini peppers
- Tree nuts, peanuts, seeds and croutons add flavor, texture and satisfaction. Nuts and seeds tend to work best lightly toasted. Spread a single layer in a dry frying pan and toast on low heat on the stove top. Or bake them on a cookie sheet in the oven — just watch them closely, as they burn easily.
Tubers and grains
Roasted or boiled tubers like potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams work well in chopped salad. So do cooked grains like rice, amaranth, millet and quinoa. Pasta is another option.
Fresh fruit is a delicious addition. Berries and small chunks of apple, papaya, mango and pear lend bursts of sweetness. Avocados and tomatoes work wonderfully, too.
While no recipe is required to make a chopped salad, these flavor combinations can serve as a starting point if you’re new to chopped salads or inspire you to put your own twist on them:
- Corn, black beans, cilantro, red onion and lime
- Roasted beets, toasted walnuts, goat cheese and orange segments
- Sweet peppers, corn, tomatoes, barbecued chicken, avocado and ranch dressing
- Chicken or shrimp, cucumber, sweet peppers, shredded carrots, cilantro, toasted peanuts, wonton strips and a slightly sweet dressing
- Feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and scallions, Greek olives, oregano, and oil and vinegar
- Raw fennel, apple, chicken, goat cheese, cucumber, tarragon, red onion and romaine
- Fennel, cucumber, pomegranate seeds and pear
Feel free to innovate and invent.
Do you have a favorite salad combo that’s not mentioned here? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.