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This chef salad recipe is one of my favorite salads to make, because it’s naturally low carb and healthy, yet enjoyable for everyone else that might not care about any diet at all. Chef salad ingredients are super simple, and if you need to swap something, that’s easy to do. Much like a taco salad, a classic cobb salad, or a BBQ chicken salad that you can customize, this is a throw-in-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink type of salad.
What Is A Chef Salad?
Chef salad, sometimes called chef’s salad, is an American salad made with deli meat, cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, hard boiled eggs, and greens. Its origin is debated, but some say that Louis Diat, chef at the Ritz Carlton in New York City, came up with it in the 1940s [*].
Some classic chef salad recipes include croutons and are topped with a chef salad dressing that is made with sugar, but this is a healthier version without the sugar or bread.
Chef Salad Ingredients & Substitutions
This section explains what’s in a chef salad, what each ingredient does in the recipe, and substitution options. For measurements, see the recipe card below.
- Lettuce – I prefer to use romaine lettuce, but iceberg lettuce or any other greens will work. Chop right before serving.
- Deli Ham – Chop the ham into bite-sized pieces. (Chopped cooked bacon would also be delicious!) If you don’t eat pork, you can substitute turkey instead.
- Tomatoes – Any small tomatoes, such as cherry or grape tomatoes, work well. Slice these in half. If you only have large ones on hand, you can just chop those up instead.
- Cucumbers – Slice them into quarter moons.
- Cheese – I used a combination of Cheddar and Swiss, but feel free to use any cheeses you like. (Provolone is another common one to use.) Authentic chef salad typically has cheese cut into cubes, but if you don’t have block cheese on hand, you can use shredded as well.
- Hard Boiled Eggs – I recommend this method for perfect boiled eggs, and once cooled, slice them using an egg slicer.
- Thousand Island Dressing – I make mine with homemade sugar-free thousand island dressing, but any kind you like will work. If you’re not a fan of thousand island, ranch dressing, green goddess, honey mustard, or blue cheese dressing are great options. (This salad works best with creamy dressings, but a vinaigrette is also fine if that’s your preference.) If your dressing is a little bland, you can add salt and pepper to taste.
How To Make A Chef Salad
This section shows how to make a chef’s salad, with step-by-step photos and details about the technique, to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Chop. Get all your ingredients sliced and diced, as described above.
- Plate. You can put everything into one large salad bowl, or individual serving bowls.
- Add dressing. Top salad with dressing and toss to coat, or serve the dressing on the side.
Want to change it up? Try these different ways to make this salad:
- Chicken – Omit the deli ham, and add 8 oz of cooked chicken such as shredded chicken, perfectly charred grilled chicken, or juicy baked chicken breast to the salad ingredients for a chicken chef salad.
- Veggies – Try adding sliced or diced avocado, grated carrots, thinly sliced radishes, or chopped celery. You can use up almost any vegetables you have on hand.
- Italian – Make an Italian chef salad by adding 1/4 cup sliced black olives, 1/4 cup diced red onion, 1/4 cup diced pepperoncini peppers, and topping with shaved Parmesan cheese and Italian dressing.
Keep the chef salad ingredients separate from the dressing in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Dressed salad might last up to a day.
More Easy Salad Recipes
If you like this simple salad, you might also like some of these other healthy salad recipes to enjoy as a meal:
Homemade Chef Salad Recipe
Chef Salad (Easy In 15 Minutes!)
An easy homemade chef salad recipe that comes together in 15 minutes! Since chef salad ingredients are simple and customizable, you can make this anytime.
Recipe VideoTap on the image below to watch the video.
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Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
Place chopped lettuce into a large bowl, or divide among serving bowls.
Top with ham, tomatoes, cucumbers, cubed cheeses, and sliced eggs.
Add dressing and toss to coat, or serve dressing on the side of individual bowls.
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Serving size: 2 cups, or 1/6 entire recipe
Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy. Have questions about calculations or why you got a different result? Please see our nutrition policy.
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