Italian Chopped Salad with Italian Dressing – Bold flavors, bright colors, and an amazing vinaigrette tie this Italian-inspired chopped salad together. You’ll love it! (Gluten free, paleo & vegan friendly)
It’s officially “too hot to cook” weather, so we’ve been eating a LOT of main dish salads lately. I love that main dish salads don’t require a lot on the side–maybe a little fresh fruit, maybe some bread or crackers, and that’s it! This Italian-inspired Chopped Salad is especially great because there is ZERO cooking required. (No grilling chicken, no making croutons… nothing!)
It’s the perfect bright, flavorful dinner that comes together as soon as you can dice everything up. You’re just 15-20 minutes away from this delicious Italian Chopped Salad with my favorite quick Italian Dressing. Here’s how easy it is…
WHAT GOES INTO ITALIAN CHOPPED SALAD?
My Italian-inspired chopped salad is modeled after one I order at a local restaurant. I basically toss all my favorite antipasti/charcuterie ingredients into a bowl with dressing! Here’s what I put in mine:
- LOTS OF GREENS. I like Romaine, or a blend with radicchio, red leaf lettuce, or arugula for some color and bite.
- PEPPERONI AND SALAMI. I prefer uncured (no nitrates), wherever possible. Applegate is a pretty easy brand to find.
- TOMATOES. Chopped heirloom tomatoes are gorgeous and great for summer, otherwise I like grape/cherry tomatoes.
- CUCUMBERS. They’re light and refreshing and balance out some of the heavier ingredients.
- CARROTS. Gorgeous color and just the right crunch! I like mine shredded so they blend right in.
- OLIVES. You can use one kind or a blend. I like Kalamata and green olives, but Castelvetrano or black olives are also great.
- PEPERONCINI. These pickled peppers are bright and lovely mixed into the salad. Buy mild or spicy, depending on your preference. Jeff’s naturals and Divina make great ones without any yellow dye. (I get them at Sprouts, Whole Foods, or Thrive Market)
- RED ONION OR GREEN ONION. A little goes a long way. You can always add more later! I like to take the bite out of red onion by putting the minced onion in a bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes, while I prep the other ingredients.
- CRISPY CHICKPEAS (OR CANNED ONES!). Instead of croutons, I like to add crispy chickpeas to my salad at the end for a bit of crunch. Biena is a common brand you can buy that only uses chickpeas, sunflower oil, and sea salt. Or, you can make your own. Too much fuss? Just drain some canned ones and use those!
- A BRIGHT, FRESH ITALIAN DRESSING. This homemade Italian vinaigrette uses pantry staples, like lemon juice, quality olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and oregano to tie things together. I love Queen Creek Olive Mill olive oils (a dash of their roasted garlic or fresh crush basil is amazing in this!). You can get 10% off your first order with code “onelovelylife”
MAKE IT A MEAL! WHAT TO SERVE WITH ITALIAN CHOPPED SALAD.
This giant salad can definitely be an all-in-one meal, but to round things out, I like serving it with one or two things on the side. Some of our favorites are:
- My Gluten Free Rosemary Focaccia (or any kind if you’re not GF!)
- Crispbread or crackers (Simple Mills makes paleo ones!)
- Fresh watermelon or
- Fresh grapes
I keep the sides pretty light since the (substantial!) salad’s really the star of the show.
FAQ + TIPS FOR THE BEST ITALIAN CHOPPED SALAD:
TIPS FOR SERVING THIS SALAD. If you’re serving Italian Chopped Salad to kids, picky eaters, or people with different dietary restrictions, I recommend serving the components in different bowls (or on a few plates with tongs) to let everyone build their own. Everyone’s still eating the same meal but can build their salad just the way they like it without having to pick anything out. Win for everyone!
MAKE IT VEGAN OR MAKE IT PALEO. This salad is easy to adapt for different dietary needs. It’s naturally gluten and dairy free and can be easily vegan or paleo.
- FOR PALEO: Skip the crispy chickpeas and make sure you choose meats that are compliant with your dietary needs.
- FOR VEGAN: Skip the meats! You can either swap in a can of chickpeas, or simply use the crispy chickpeas and call it a day!
OTHER MIX-IN IDEAS: I love to play around with recipes, and salads are SO easy to experiment with. A few ideas for changing things up with this Italian Chopped Salad:
- EXTRA VEGGIES OR HERBS. This recipe easily welcomes other veggies. Feel free to toss in some chopped kale, roasted or fresh bell peppers, roasted tomatoes instead of fresh, celery, artichoke hearts, cherry peppers, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, different types of olives (Castelvetrano, black, marinated, etc.), or a generous handful of fresh basil. Anything that sounds good or needs to be used up!
- DIFFERENT MEATS. Feel free to experiment here. Try prosciutto, ham, sopresseta, etc. I’m sure some grilled chicken would also be good.
- CHEESE. If you’re not dairy free, you could absolutely toss in come cubed mozzarella (or smoked mozzarella!), or finish this off with some freshly shaved Parmesan.
MORE MAIN DISH SALADS TO LOVE:
- Thai Chopped Salad
- BLT Salad with Homemade Croutons
- Chinese Chicken Salad
- Southwest Taco Salad with Southwest Ranch Dressing
- Lemon Dill Shrimp & Orzo Salad