This colorful, flavor-packed Italian Chopped Salad recipe will win over everyone around the table! Hearty meats, crisp vegetables, plenty of cheese and a zesty homemade Italian dressing combine to form one highly addictive salad! It’s quick and simple to make, and can easily be customized to include your favorite ingredients!
It’s wonderful as a starter, side-dish or can be enjoyed on its own as a lighter main meal! And, it’s perfect at any picnic, potluck or summer barbecue!
Hi, friends! Now that the warmer weather is finally here, I figured it’s the perfect time to share one of my all-time favorite salads!
While I love any (and every) type of salad, chopped salads have a special place in my heart. They are just so incredibly flavorful and super fun to eat! Since all the ingredients are chopped and bite-sized, I love that you get a little bit of everything in each and every bite!
Italian Chopped Salad
This salad is light and fresh, yet hearty and totally satisfying! It’s filled with tasty mix-ins, packed with bold flavors and comes together in a matter of minutes!
This chopped salad is made with a mix of fresh romaine, bitter radicchio, rich salami, creamy cheeses, refreshing vegetables, succulent marinated veggies and sweet basil! Generously drizzled and tossed with a bright, bold and zesty homemade Italian dressing, this salad is well balanced and seriously addictive!
Forget any ideas you have about boring mixed green salads! Build a better salad that doesn’t skimp on flavor with this super simple, totally tasty Chopped Italian Salad!
What is a chopped salad?
A chopped salad is similar to a regular salad, except with a slightly different presentation. In a traditional salad the ingredients are layered. However, in a chopped salad all of the ingredients, including the greens, are chopped and mixed together.
What to put in an Italian chopped salad?
An Italian chopped salad is similar to an antipasto salad. It usually includes a chopped mix of crisp lettuce, radicchio, red onion, cucumber and tomatoes along with an assortment of cured meats such as salami, cheeses and marinated vegetables like roasted red peppers. A chopped Italian salad can also be made vegetarian! Simply substitute the assorted cured meats for umami-rich ingredients, such as sun-dried tomatoes.
You can make a chopped Italian salad as simple or complex as desired! Feel free to swap out ingredients or add whatever you have on hand and love!
Ingredients in an Italian antipasto chopped salad:
- Chopped Lettuce: I like to use a mix of fresh romaine and radicchio for a combination of fresh flavors. However, you can use just one variety of lettuce. Or, try iceberg lettuce in the mix!
- Salami: I prefer to use both Genoa and Soppressata for the most flavor. However, you can use whatever salami you prefer. Or, try pepperoni or prosciutto instead!
- Cheese: A combination of diced provolone and mini mozzarella balls provide the perfect mild and creamy taste!
- Marinated vegetables: Sweet roasted red peppers offer a smoky and sweet flavor that just can’t be beat! While briny kalamata olives provide pops of fruity, almost wine-like flavor!
- Fresh vegetables: I use a mix of fresh cucumber, red onion and cherry tomatoes for juicy, crisp freshness!
- Fresh Herbs: Fresh basil is the most traditional addition. Sweet basil has a subtle peppery flavor that pairs excellently with all the other ingredients in the salad!
Optional ingredients to add to the salad:
- Pepperoncini Peppers: Sweet and mild pickled pepperoncini are commonly found on an Italian antipasto platter. They are mild with a slight sweetness that works well in Italian salads.
- Artichoke Hearts: Jarred marinated artichoke hearts add an instant boost of flavor!
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Rich sun-dried tomatoes are a wonderful way to add flavor and chewy texture!
- Celery: Chopped celery will add extra fresh crunch!
- Green Bell Pepper: Crisp and refreshing green bell peppers add a slightly bitter-sweet freshness.
- Fresh Herbs: Italian parsley and fresh oregano can offer herbaceous flavor!
- Chickpeas: Drained and rinsed chickpeas are a great way to make this salad even heartier!
- Crispy Cooked Bacon: A no-brainer for bacon lovers!
- Eggs: Velvety hard-boiled eggs are a great way to add a healthy dose of protein!
- Croutons: Store-bought or Homemade Croutons are the obvious choice if you are looking for a delicious crunch!
- Tortellini: Cooked and cooled tortellini are a great way to add creamy, cheesy flavor. Or, you can easily turn this salad into an Italian pasta salad by skipping the lettuce altogether and substituting tortellini!
- Beans: Bite-sized beans are the perfect addition! They will give a chopped salad a bit of creaminess to contrast all the crunchy, fresh textures!
- Grains: Cooked and cooled grains, such as Farro or quinoa, are a healthy way to add sustenance and chewy texture!
How do you cut lettuce for a chopped salad?
The best thing about a chopped salad is you are able to get all the flavors of the salad together in just one bite! Plus, chopping a salad helps the dressing mix into the ingredients more evenly.
There are two ways to easily chop lettuce for a salad:
- Mezzaluna: A curved knife, known as a mezzaluna, makes for quick work of chopping ingredients. Simply glide it gently from side to side over your salad greens, keeping the blade on the cutting board at all times.
- Sharp Chef’s Knife: While not as fast, a Chef’s knife is also effective!
- For leafy greens: Roll up a handful of leaves into a log. Start at the left side and use your knife to cut all the way down, through the greens, to the cutting board. Lift the knife and cut again in a parallel line roughly 1-inch from the previous cut. Repeat until you have reached the far-right side and the end of the lettuce. Rotate the board 90 degrees and repeat the cutting process. Tip: For a finer chop, toss the chopped greens on the cutting board, then chop in a grid formation once more.
- Romaine: Slice the head of romaine in half lengthwise to create two long halves of lettuce. Remove the core by making angled cuts to form a triangle around the core. Discard core. With the lettuce cut side down, slice the lettuce again lengthwise into thirds. Rotate the board and chop the lettuce crosswise into bite-sized pieces, starting at the left side and moving towards the right.
Tips for the best fresh chopped salad?
You can easily build the best light and refreshing chopped salad right at home with these easy tips!
- Wash and thoroughly dry greens. Lettuce needs to be crisp and thoroughly dry before preparing a salad. If the greens are not completely dry, the dressing won’t coat properly. The salad spinner is best way to wash and dry lettuce. However, you can also wash lettuce gently in a large bowl. Allow the lettuce to drain well and then arrange the leaves in a single layer on a clean, absorbent kitchen towel or a couple layers of paper towels. Cover the leaves with another towel or paper towels and pat thoroughly dry.
- Use enough dressing. Make sure you add enough dressing to coat every ingredient.
- Toss well. A chopped salad should be mixed thoroughly! Use large serving spoons to gather the ingredients from the bottom of the bowl and lift up and over the top. Repeat and continue tossing until everything is mixed together.
How to make chopped salad at home?
Chopped salads can cost a fortune at restaurants and specialty delis. However, you can save money and easily make your own salad at home! Plus, you can tailor your salad specifically to your own taste!
- Wash and dry the lettuce greens and radicchio. Chop into bite-sized pieces
- Prepare the fresh salad ingredients.
- Prepare the Italian dressing.
- Toss everything together and serve.
How to make chopped Italian salad recipe step by step photos:
What dressing for chopped salad?
Dressing really sets the tone and defines a salad. A chopped salad can use either a rich, cream-based dressing or a lighter, oil-based vinaigrette.
An Italian chopped salad traditionally uses a zesty, oil-based vinaigrette made with a blend of high-quality olive oil, vinegar, fresh lemon, Dijon and numerous herbs or spices.
What is in Italian Salad dressing?
Italian salad dressing is incredibly easy to make at home! This bright, zesty dressing recipe only requires a few minutes plus a handful of ingredients to prepare!
To make Italian dressing, you simply combine extra-virgin olive oil with vinegar and various Italian seasonings. Since oil and vinegar-based dressings, known as vinaigrettes, can separate, make sure you add a teaspoon (or more) of Dijon or honey to prevent the mixture from separating.
Italian salad dressing ingredients:
Combine the following ingredients in bowl or mason jar and whisk or shake well to emulsify. If storing the dressing, you will need to mix or shake again before using as the ingredients may settle.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Red Wine Vinegar
- Fresh Lemon Juice
- Grated Parmesan (or vegan parmesan substitute, such as nutritional yeast)
- Dijon Mustard
- Minced Garlic
- Italian Seasoning
- Salt & Pepper
Gluten-free: To prepare gluten-free dressing, ensure your brand of Dijon is gluten-free.
How long will dressing keep?
Homemade Italian dressing should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Properly stored, it will last for up to 2 weeks. The flavor of the dressing will actually improve overtime as the flavors have time to develop and meld.
Can you make an Italian salad ahead of time?
This salad can easily be made in advance with a few simple modifications!
To make salad ahead of time:
- Tear the lettuce leaves instead of chopping them with a knife. Tearing the lettuce prevents the greens from wilting or bruising as quickly.
- Gather all the salad ingredients except the tomatoes, cucumbers and dressing.
- Add the ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Arrange the ingredients in individual sections so they are separated. Note: While you can prep the tomatoes, cucumbers and dressing in advance, do not add them to the bowl or they will cause the salad to get soggy.
- Cover the bowl with a slightly damp paper towel. Place a sheet of plastic wrap loosely over the top.
- Refrigerate up to 24 hours.
- To serve, add the tomatoes, cucumbers and dressing. Toss to combine. Enjoy!
How to store leftover chopped salad?
To keep the salad fresh, I recommend you store the salad separately from the vinaigrette if possible! Store the salad and dressing in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator. Properly stored, the salad will keep well for up to 4 days.
Leftover salad tip: If you don’t plan to eat all of the salad, dress only what you plan to eat right away!
What to eat with Italian salad?
This salad is hearty enough to have on its own for dinner. However, it’s not so over-the-top that you can’t also enjoy it as a starter or side!
- Dips: Pairing this salad with a heartier dip such as warm goat cheese or spinach artichoke is always a winner!
- Platters: Marinated Italian vegetable platters (crudité) or a platter of various Italian meats and cheeses (charcuterie) would make for a wonderful al fresco dinner!
- Soups: Soup and salad is a classic combination for a reason! Tomato basil soup is my personal favorite pairing!
- Subs: Want to keep things simple? Pair it with a hearty Italian or meatball sub!
- Pizza: Any type of pizza you can image works well with this salad! However, I prefer to keep things a bit lighter with a crispy, thin crust or gluten-free cauliflower crust pizza.
- Pasta: Creamy fettuccine alfredo, simple spaghetti Aglio e Olio, or Bolognese with pappardelle are my favorites!
- Grilled Meats, Chicken or Fish: Anything from a grilled ribeye or chicken breast to a cedar plank salmon! Pro-tip: This Italian dressing can double as a delicious marinade!
This Italian chopped salad is light, yet bold and totally satisfying! Loaded with flavor and fresh ingredients, this salad is totally unforgettable and will give any Italian restaurant a run for its money!
Until next week, friends, cheers – to stellar salads!
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How to make the best chopped Italian salad recipe👇
Italian Chopped Salad recipe
- Mason Jar or Small Bowl (for dressing)
- Large Mixing Bowl (for salad)
- 8 Cups Chopped Lettuce – rinsed, dried & chopped (SEE NOTES)
- 8-10 ounces Salami – diced or sliced into matchsticks (SEE NOTES)
- 5 ounces Provolone – diced
- 5 ounces Mini Mozzarella Balls – drained & cut in half
- 1 (7 ounce) Jar Roasted Red Peppers – drained & sliced (or 1 large red bell peppers, sliced)
- 1 medium Cucumber – cut in half, seeded & sliced (SEE NOTES)
- ½ medium Red Onion – peeled & thinly sliced
- 1 Cup Cherry Tomatoes – cut in half
- ½ Cup Kalamata Olives – pitted & cut in half
- 10 Large Basil Leaves – chiffonade (sliced into thin ribbons)
Optional ingredients: 5-10 Pepperoncini Peppers, 1 (6 ounce) Jar Marinated & Chopped Artichoke Hearts, 1 Cup Chickpeas (drained & rinsed), Shaved or Grated Parmesan
- 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Use a good quality)
- ¼ Cup Red Wine Vinegar
- 1-2 TBS Lemon Juice – freshly squeezed, or more to taste
- 2 TBS Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
- 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
- 1 clove Garlic – minced
- 3/4 tsp Homemade Italian Seasoning (or ½ tsp Dried Oregano)
- ½ tsp Kosher Salt & ¼ tsp Ground Black Pepper
- 1-3 tsp Honey – to taste (OPTIONAL)
- Make the dressing: Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid or a high-powered blender. Shake vigorously or process until fully combined. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Set aside or store in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to develop and merry. NOTE: Dressing will keep in an airtight container the refrigerator for up to a week.
- Make the salad: In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, salami, both cheeses, peppers, cucumbers, red onions, tomatoes and kalamata olives. Add any optional ingredients and gently toss to combine.
- Add dressing: Shake the dressing vigorously. Pour dressing, to taste, over the salad. Use just enough dressing to coat the salad. Gently toss to combine. Taste and add more dressing, dried oregano or salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve: Add the fresh basil to the salad. Gently toss. Serve immediately and enjoy!
- Lettuce: You can use any type of chopped lettuce you prefer. To keep things traditional, use a mix of romaine and radicchio or red leaf. I used 1 Romaine heart + 1 small Radicchio.
- To chop lettuce: Roll up a handful of leaves and thinly slice. Proceed to chop thin slices of lettuce. (See post for full instructions)
- Salami: For the most flavor, use a mix of (4-5 ounces each): Genoa Salami & Sopressata (or other hard) Salami! Pepperoni or Prosciutto also work great too!
- Raw onions: If you do not like the taste of raw onions, you can mellow them in water. Place the sliced onions in a bowl and cover with ice water. Set aside for 10-15 minutes. Drain the onions and pat them thoroughly dry before proceeding with recipe.
- To make in advance: The dressed salad does not keep well. If you would like to make the salad in advance, make the dressing and combine the salad ingredients. Store each separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator. (See post for full instructions.)
- Make it vegan and dairy free: Replace the salami with umami-rich sun-dried tomatoes. Substitute parmesan with parmesan substitute.
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