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chef with chopped salad

The Secret to a Perfect Chopped Salad

Make salad the star of your meal with tips from OXO Chef in Residence Melissa Ben-Ishay.

4 min read

If the word “salad” conjures up images of wilted lettuce, goopy dressing and stale toppings that are barely an afterthought, it’s time for a rethink. What if salad could be both delicious and nutritious? What if this quintessential side could be a main course? With a little planning and the right ingredients, it can be all those things, says Melissa Ben-Ishay, founder of Baked by Melissa and OXO Chef in Residence. Here are her tips for making salad the star of your dinner table.


Pro Tips for Making Chopped Salad

Making a dinner-worthy salad requires fresh ingredients that are crisp and flavorful. You can store the produce you’ve purchased in advance in an OXO GreenSaver Produce Keeper. These containers feature enhanced carbon filters that absorb ethylene gas and have removable baskets and vents for ideal airflow and humidity.

Greens (and yellows and reds) in hand, the first step is to wash and dry them so they’re clean but not soggy. There’s no better tool for drying lettuce than an OXO Salad Spinner, Ben-Ishay says. The non-slip base makes it easy to use, and once the leaves are dry, you can keep greens crisp until you’re ready to combine with other ingredients by adding ice to the outer bowl and leaving your dry lettuce in the inner bowl.

Next, chop all vegetables and lettuce so they’re all roughly the same size. This makes your salad easier to eat while helping to ensure you’ll get a bit of everything in each bite. Plus, there’s more surface area for dressing to stick to.

kitchen tools needed to make a salad

Speaking of dressing, “If you’re going to make the salad, why would you buy the dressing?” Ben-Ishay inquires. Making it from scratch improves the flavor and allows you to vary it according to your personal taste.

A key part to the perfect dinner salad is what Ben-Ishay calls “inclusions,” or toppings, which she believes should make up close to 50 percent of the salad. Inclusions can be things like croutons, seeds, nuts, and extra veggies like cucumbers.

Once your salad is prepared (directions below), keep it chilled until serving and dress it just before bringing it to the table. If you’re crunched for time, you can make the dressing in advance—Ben-Ishay recommends making extra, which you can store in an OXO Chef’s Squeeze Bottle. You can chop the produce in advance as well: Just make sure to store each item separately. All that’s left is to toss everything together with serving tongs when you’re ready to eat.

When you do serve it up, think outside the box. A fork may be the norm for eating salad, but Ben-Ishay prefers using tortilla chips to scoop up the chopped morsels. This adds extra flavor and crunch to every bite, she says.

mixing bowl with salad alongside mixing bowl with tortilla chips


Add the olive oil to an OXO Non-Stick 12-inch Open Frypan over medium-high heat. Add the tortilla pieces and stir with OXO 9-Inch Tongs With Silicone Heads to coat everything in oil. Season with salt and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the tortillas are golden brown. When the tortilla strips are almost finished, add the garlic powder and transfer to an OXO Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl.
Wash the baby butter lettuce in a salad spinner and add it to a large bowl. Add the cucumber, shallots, and herbs.
In the same pan that you fried the tortilla strips in, add the pumpkin seeds. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes over medium heat, until golden brown. Toss occasionally so they don’t burn.
Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, vinegar, garlic cloves, and dill. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to evenly coat.
Garnish with tortilla strips, toasted pumpkin seeds, and avocado slices.

It only takes a few extra minutes to prepare a meal-worthy chopped salad, minutes you’ll likely find are worth it when you’re enjoying a healthy veggie-forward meal that refuses to be relegated to mere side dish classification. 


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