The Perfect Chopped Salad

colorul and super healthy chopped salad

My Chopped Salad is a healthy meal that doesn’t skimp on anything! With lots of protein and crunchy veggies, this main course salad is as gorgeous as it is delicious.

main course chopped salad with tomato vinaigrette

a great chopped salad is the queen of salads

I think a chopped salad like this is just about as far as you can take a salad and still call it a salad – it’s downright loaded. But it’s definitely healthy, and figure friendly, not to mention fork friendly! You won’t need a centerpiece when you serve this chopped salad, it’s one of the prettiest things you can put on your table.

colorul and super healthy chopped salad

when does a salad become a meal?

When a chopped salad is good and fresh, it’s one of the best meals around. And making it yourself can turn what is sometimes a blah cafeteria staple into a really spectacular meal. The key is to use good fresh ingredients, and lots of them. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of a few shortcuts…I used a rotisserie chicken, canned chickpeas, and a handful of olives from my supermarket’s olive bar to round out my array of chopped goodies. The bacon can crisp and the eggs boil while you are prepping the rest.

protein packed chopped salad

best lettuce for a hearty chopped salad

Sometimes with salads of this type the chopped part looks great and then the lettuce underneath is a bland iceberg, or, worse, a limp spring mix that can’t hold up to the toppings. I found a new organic lettuce blend from Earthbound Farms that I used as my base here. You could also use baby kale, arugula, or romaine lettuce. Anything sturdy will work.

coloirful chopped salad

now for all the goodies!

I went to town with the chopped stuff. Between the chicken, bacon, egg, chickpeas and feta cheese, there’s plenty of protein here to qualify as dinner. The rest is chosen for flavor, color and texture. And the best part is that you can assemble it ahead of time and keep it refrigerated, it won’t wilt.

  • chicken ~ use leftover or rotisserie chicken to make it easy.
  • hard cooked eggs ~ this is my favorite part!
  • chickpeas add extra protein and a lovely soft texture.
  • bacon ~ you can’t have a chopped chef without bacon!
  • feta cheese adds a briny flavor. You might also choose soft goat cheese, or cube up your favorite cheddar or pepper jack.
  • cucumber ~ I love to use the small ones, they have soft skin and hardly any seeds. No need to peel, either.
  • red onion is a must for color and that bite that only onion can provide.
  • tomatoes ~ here I love to use cherry tomatoes because they are good year round, and are never bland or ‘mealy’.
  • olives ~ use your favorite, I love Kalamata’s intensity.
  • corn ~ I grilled an ear of corn on a super hot grill pan and gave it little turns as I chopped my veggies. It adds a nice starchy sweetness and a little bit of charred flavor.
  • bell peppers allow you to really amp up the color in this salad. Red, yellow, and orange are the sweetest.
a super tangy and spicy tomato vinaigrette

a unique salad dressing is key

You know I love my salad dressings, they’re easily as important as the salad itself, and I try to include an interesting one with most salad recipes that I share. This spicy tomato vinaigrette is a new favorite.

let’s make it!

I took a medium ripe tomato and whizzed it up in my small food processor. Then I blended it with some harissa paste, which is a Tunisian spicy red pepper paste (think of it as Middle Eastern ketchup.) It adds a depth of color and flavor, but you can also use regular tomato paste if you don’t like it spicy. Some good sherry vinegar, olive oil, and a hit of salt and pepper is all it needs. It has a beautiful color and striking flavor.

This healthy chopped salad with spicy tomato vinaigrette is hearty enough for a main course

variations on a chopped salad…

You can swap out the elements of this salad according to what you have or like. Black or white beans can replace the garbanzos. Goat cheese can replace feta, green onions can substitute for red onion, etc. Steak or shrimp would be delicious instead of chicken. If you don’t eat bacon, consider some toasted or spiced nuts for that extra crunch.

chopped salad with tomato vinaigrette

this salad is a feast for all the senses

The salad hit the spot, and definitely is not your cafeteria’s chopped salad. I think this would be a great choice to bring to a barbecue or picnic because as salads go, it’s fairly study, and beautifully impressive. I like to serve it as a composed salad and toss table-side. Don’t forget to snap a pic before you toss!

more main course salads

colorul and super healthy chopped salad
4 from 12 votes

Chopped Salad with Spicy Tomato Vinaigrette

Chopped Salad with Spicy Tomato Vinaigrette is a light and healthy meal that doesn't skimp on anything.
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Yield 4 servings
Author Sue Moran


  • 4 big handfuls of your favorite lettuce mix
  • 2 eggs,boiled, peeled and chopped
  • 15 ounce can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
  • 6 strips bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup cubed feta cheese
  • 1 cup chopped cooked rotisserie chicken, more to taste
  • 1 ear of corn, grilled, kernels removed
  • 1 small Persian cucumber thinly sliced
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 handful of Greek olives
  • 1 handful halved small cherry tomatoes
  • a few basil leaves

tomato vinaigrette

  • 1 small to medium ripe red tomato to yield about 1/3 cup puree
  • 1 Tbsp harissa paste
  • 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper to taste


  • Lay the lettuce out onto a wide round salad bowl.
  • Top with all the ingredients, laying out each one in its own section.
  • Scatter the basil leaves over the top.
  • To make the dressing, give the tomato a rough chop and puree it in a small food processor.
  • Whisk in the harissa or tomato paste, the vinegar, and the olive oil until blended. Add the salt and black pepper to taste.

Cook’s notes

  • The salad ingredients are all approximate, use more or less as you like. I like to use a handful of greens for each serving, just as a starting point.
  • If you prefer a non-spicy dressing, substitute tomato paste for the harissa.
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.
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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    July 22, 2021 at 1:01 pm

    Sue, my local grocery doesn’t carry harissa paste but does have harissa seasoning. Could I make a paste with the seasoning and some tomato paste? If so, how much of each? Thanks! Did you use an alligator chopper for the veggies?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      July 22, 2021 at 1:38 pm

      Hey Alicia, you could use a little hot sauce instead, or some red chile flakes to get that kick.

  • Reply
    Ellen Easton
    July 22, 2021 at 12:38 pm

    5 stars
    Stunning photography! Looks good enough to eat.

  • Reply
    April 3, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    5 stars
    My husband and I loved this salad and the dressing. I have only one complaint and it’s my fault. I have a really bad back and all of the prep work nearly killed me even with hubby doing a lot of the chopping. I didn’t see or notice a prep time for this salad. Maybe you could include that in future recipes?

    • Reply
      April 3, 2016 at 1:30 pm

      Good point Tamara, I never thought of that. This isn’t an everyday salad, and you’re right, it takes some chopping — hope your back feels better!

  • Reply
    May 15, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    Your salad looks great but I’m going to make the tomato vinaigrette the next time I have a salad.

    • Reply
      May 16, 2015 at 7:58 am

      The dressing totally MAKES the salad – I could write a whole blog on different salad dressings!

  • Reply
    April 15, 2015 at 7:04 am

    Glad you had a great time in Florida, Sue! What a gorgeous salad and your photos are stunning! I love the sound of the spicy tomato dressing too. We had been eating like fools during all of our celebrations the past two weeks and are need to do salads for a while too. Looking forward to trying this!

    • Reply
      LaVonne Ray
      October 2, 2017 at 1:31 pm

      Please share more salad dressings. I think I would eat more salad if I had better dressings!

      • Reply
        October 2, 2017 at 8:20 pm

        I totally agree with you LaVonee, which is why I usually include a special dressing with most of my salad recipes.

  • Reply
    Thao @ In Good Flavor
    April 13, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    This is a beautiful looking salad! I love salads that are loaded and with lots of protein. I could definitely eat this several times a week without getting tired of it.

  • Reply
    April 13, 2015 at 7:27 am

    more beautiful work from you, sue! my eyes love this and i’m sure my taste receptacles would too. 🙂

  • Reply
    [email protected]'s+Recipes
    April 13, 2015 at 7:11 am

    The salad looks incredibly delicious and beautiful!

  • Reply
    April 12, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    This looks amazing. I am making this for a women’s dinner this week. I cannot wait!

    • Reply
      April 12, 2015 at 2:48 pm

      I hope everybody loves it, Sheila 🙂

      • Reply
        April 16, 2015 at 12:38 pm

        Everyone loved the salad. I made a homemade buttermilk herb dressing and a French vinaigrette to go with it. I will make your dressing next time.

        • Reply
          April 16, 2015 at 12:57 pm

          I’m so glad Sheila, thanks for letting me know. I love buttermilk dressings!

  • Reply
    Kristi @ Inspiration Kitchen
    April 11, 2015 at 9:39 am

    Oh my gosh Sue – this is a GORGEOUS looking salad! I am loving all the bright colors and fantastic ingredients in there. If every salad looked like this, I’d be eating salad a lot more often!

  • Reply
    Laura (Tutti Dolci)
    April 10, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    Wow, Sue! What a gorgeous chopped salad, I love all the colors and that spicy vinaigrette!

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Seasons and Suppers
    April 10, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    Your posts always brighten my day! So colourful and fresh. A beautiful salad and love the spicy tomato vinaigrette.

  • Reply
    April 10, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Wow, that salad looks fantastic! 🙂

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    April 10, 2015 at 11:51 am

    This is the prettiest chopped salad I’ve ever seen. Love everything about it and that dressing sounds wonderful. I have dried harissa spice but no paste – I may have to work with it! So glad you have a good time and enjoyed all those wonderful things that should be enjoyed on vacation. Have a lovely weekend!

  • Reply
    Chris Scheuer
    April 10, 2015 at 11:43 am

    What time is dinner? It looks so fresh and super delicious!

    • Reply
      April 10, 2015 at 11:50 am

      Oh man it was good, Chris!!

  • Reply
    Jessica | A Happy Food Dance
    April 10, 2015 at 11:19 am

    This salad not only sounds amazing, it looks beautiful! I love all the colors – you know it’s a good salad when it has every color in the rainbow. Plus a spicy tomato vinaigrette! I’ve never even heard of that, but it sounds uber delicious! Have a great weekend!

  • Reply
    [email protected]+This+is+How+I+Cook
    April 10, 2015 at 10:46 am

    It is so hard being away from my kids, but it is that much sweeter when we are together. This salad looks phenomenal and I’d like mine with a few onion strings on top!

  • Reply
    April 10, 2015 at 9:51 am

    This salad looks fantastic and incredibly drool worthy!



    • Reply
      April 10, 2015 at 10:02 am

      Thanks Rosa!

  • Reply
    Danae @ Recipe Runner
    April 10, 2015 at 9:01 am

    Now this is a salad! So fresh, colorful, and full of wonderful healthy goodies! That tomato vinaigrette sounds fantastic!

    • Reply
      April 10, 2015 at 10:29 am

      The vinaigrette is really nice, and a change of pace!

  • Reply
    April 10, 2015 at 9:01 am

    Healthy and simple is a great mantra! the salad is perfect, fresh, veggies, plenty of protein and a great dressing – fabulous!

  • Reply
    Alice @ Hip Foodie Mom
    April 10, 2015 at 7:16 am

    Sue, I know how you feel. . my parents are in Texas and my brother and sister are also in different states .. we’re all over the place! but when we do get together, we try to cherish it! Healthy and simple is my mantra for the next few months since I’m training so I absolutely LOVE this salad . . everything you make is so beautiful!

    • Reply
      April 10, 2015 at 7:48 am

      Thanks Alice, I’m so envious of your running – I’m more of a treadmill gal 😉

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