Chopped Chef Salad with Creamy Sweet Onion Dressing

Making a chopped chef salad in a wooden salad bowl

Chopped Chef Salad with Creamy Sweet Onion Dressing ~  the chef salad is an American institution, and probably the original main course salad. But this epic loaded salad gets even better when you chop everything into yummy little bits, so let’s dig in!

Chopped Chef Salad with blue napkin

Go green tonight with a chopped chef salad!

Pull up a fork for #4 in my Main Course Salad Challenge, where I’m sharing hearty main course salads to inspire you to lighten up dinner once a week this season, and hopefully beyond. Every once in a while, especially during the warmer months, a big salad for dinner just hits the spot. This one is bursting with protein, with a healthy dose of crunch!

chopped chef salad on a wooden table

Here’s a recap of my main course salad recipes so far:

Main course Salad #1 ~ Salmon Cobb Salad

Main Course Salad #2 ~ Middle Eastern Chickpea Salad (balela salad)

Main Course Salad #3 ~ Shrimp Taco Salad

Making a chopped chef salad in a wooden salad bowl

chef salad is all about tradition

I’m going back to basics with this last installment of my main course salad challenge. You know I like to fool around with recipes and put my special tvfgi stamp on them, but sometimes tradition rules, and making a great chef salad is one of those times.

The origins of the chef’s salad are a little murky, nobody knows for sure when or where it was invented, but was on the menu of the Ritz Carlton Restaurant in New York City starting in the 1940s and that’s really where it got its popular start.

Chopped Chef Salad with Creamy Sweet Onion Dressing

The non-negotiables of a great chef salad ~

  • the meat: ham and turkey (or chicken) and bacon (used smoked meats for extra flavor)
  • the cheese: more than one kind, I’m using Swiss and cheddar
  • tomatoes
  • carrots
  • celery
  • cucumber
  • red onion
  • boiled eggs
  • good crunchy lettuce
  • a fabulous creamy dressing
dressing a chopped chef salad

Why chop a chef salad?

  • Chopping all the ingredients in a chef salad accomplishes a few different things. For one, it makes it easier to eat. There’s nothing worse than struggling to get a forkful of an ungainly salad.
  • Chopping everything into similar sized pieces allows you to get a little bit of everything in every bite, so the wonderful flavor combinations in a chef salad can really shine.
  • Remember, chop doesn’t mean shred, julienne, or slice…the even little chunks are critical to the experience of a great chopped chef, so get out your chopping tool (see the box below) for the perfect salad.

tvfgi HIGHLY recommends: the alligator chopping tool

This is THE TOOL of the spring and summer season in my kitchen.  It just beats out the mandoline slicer for most useful FUN tool for salads, salsas, soups, ~ for any recipe where you want evenly chopped ingredients. I guarantee you’ll get oooohs and aaaahs at your next barbecue, potluck, or family picnic when you use the Alligator Chopper.

While you can find less expensive plastic versions of this chopper, I don’t recommend them, I’ve tried them and they don’t hold up at all, especially when you’re chopping dense or hard ingredients. This steel chopper will get you through years of fabulous cooking! 

Sweet onion dressing for a chopped chef salad

This salad comes with the added bonus of a fabulous creamy sweet onion dressing

~ the dressing works really well to jazz up the mild flavors of the salad. It’s a Southern classic from down where sweet onions are a religion. If you can find a sweet Vidalia onion for this recipe, perfect. If not, another sweet variety will do. Sweet onions are milder than regular onions, and so they don’t overpower this dressing the way a regular onion would. Even so, when you pull the top off your blender after making this dressing you’ll get a definite onion-y blast!

I like to make the dressing the day before to let the flavors mellow.

It makes enough to fill a Bon Maman jam jar, about 13 ounces…more than you need, so store the rest in the fridge for your next salad.

chopped chef salad in a wooden salad bowl

Love chopped salads? Me too, and here are some favorites…

colorful chopped chef's salad
3.44 from 50 votes

Chopped Chef Salad

Chopped Chef Salad with Creamy Sweet Onion Dressing ~  the chef salad is an American institution, and probably the original main course salad.  
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Prep Time 40 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Yield 4 servings
Author Sue Moran


creamy Sweet Onion Dressing

  • 1/2 sweet onion such as Vidalia, Maui, or a generic sweet (about 5 ounces) Note: don't use a regular onion for this dressing, it will be too strong.
  • 3 Tbsp apple cider or champagne vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp creamy Dijon mustard
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 cup oil such as grapeseed, olive, walnut

chopped chef salad

  • 5 ounces butter lettuce hearts (or romaine hearts, or iceberg) chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped ham (I used Black Forest)
  • 1/2 cup chopped turkey, I love smoked turkey
  • 1/2 cup chopped bacon
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/2 cup chopped hard boiled eggs, about 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion


for the dressing

  • Remove the peel and cut the onion in large chunks. Add to the container of a high speed blender such as a Vitamix, along with the vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper. Blend until well pureed.
  • Scrape down the sides of the container, and then, while the machine is running, slowly drizzle in the oil through a hole in the top. The dressing will become thick and creamy.
  • Taste to adjust any of the seasonings. Keep refrigerated until needed. Note: this recipe makes more than you'll need for this salad, keep the leftover in the fridge and plan to use within 2 weeks.

for the salad

  • Put the lettuce in a large salad bowl and add each of the other ingredients. If you’d like to do a composed salad you can arrange them attractively in little piles around the lettuce, otherwise just dump them all in.
  • Lightly dress and then toss the salad. Serve more dressing on the side.
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

Make this chopped chef salad your own ~

  • use roast beef or leftover steak
  • Add in extras like olives, roasted peppers, chickpeas, bell peppers, avocado, corn, etc.
  • use Thousand Island or Russian dressing.
  • If you don’t want to chop everything, you can slice the meat and cheese in long thin strips.
e book

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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    August 18, 2022 at 2:29 pm

    What can I serve with this salad as a side ( breads, crackers?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      August 18, 2022 at 6:25 pm

      I think a nice focaccia bread (I have several recipes) would be nice. Other than bread the salad takes care of all the other food groups!

  • Reply
    January 10, 2020 at 5:21 pm

    So sorry you had that experience Patricia.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2020 at 12:40 pm

    3 stars
    I’m concerned about the raw onion being too strong. Comments?

    • Reply
      January 10, 2020 at 12:53 pm

      Feel free to reduce the onion, but remember that sweet onions are very mild compared to regular onions.

  • Reply
    June 27, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    5 stars
    The onion salad dressing caught my eye…so delicious and easy. Thanks so much!

    • Reply
      June 27, 2019 at 5:03 pm

      Glad you liked it Kathleen, it’s a good one to use in other ways, too.

  • Reply
    Karen (Back Road Journal)
    April 2, 2019 at 12:12 pm

    I’m a real salad lover and your main course chef salad would really please me. We went to a new restaurant last week and they had an onion salad dressing that we all loved…now I have a recipe. Thanks.

    • Reply
      April 2, 2019 at 12:20 pm

      I’m so glad Karen ~ I just discovered the onion dressing myself, we really loved it!

  • Reply
    Joyce Gibson
    March 27, 2019 at 8:31 am

    Guess what I’m having for dinner?????
    Thanks, Sue!

    • Reply
      March 27, 2019 at 9:02 am


  • Reply
    John / Kitchen Riffs
    March 27, 2019 at 7:57 am

    Main course salads are so appealing starting around this time of the year. Hard to beat the classic chef salad. I don’t often make chopped salads, but you’re right that the evenly-sized pieces certainly make the salad easier to eat. And getting several different ingredients in each mouthful is pretty appealing. Good post — thanks.

  • Reply
    March 27, 2019 at 4:41 am

    It’s been way too long since I had a salad like this. With bacon and ham and turkey and cheese! Every bite must be fantastic. Love the dressing too – a must try 🙂

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