With its mosaic of components, the classic Cobb Salad is one of the great salads of America. Read on to discover how its wonderful ingredients combine to make a balanced dish with surprises in every bite. Then follow our easy Cobb Salad recipe to create the California classic at home.
Cobb Salad offers so many great things in each bite that it’s difficult to believe it’s a salad.
For sure, the combination of disparate ingredients isn’t as healthy as a simple tomato and lettuce salad. But the tradeoff is worth it for the tasty treat that arrives in every balanced bite – creamy avocado, smokey bacon, pleasingly sheepy roquefort and meaty grilled chicken. This is truly a ‘salad that eats like a meal’.
Born in restaurant kitchens during the early 20th century, the Cobb Salad is a dish where European and American ingredients collide. In other words, it’s the happy place where Senior Avocado and Senhora Tomato meet Monsieur Roquefort and Frau Bacon.
Preparation plays an important role as does the salad’s final assembly and execution. When you make a Cobb Salad, it’s difficult not to enviously think about a cook’s salad or garde manger station on a kitchen line with its range of prepared ingredients set up in neat rows, artfully assembled to create salad magic.
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The Cobb Salad is also one of the linchpins of what has become known as modern California Cuisine. Go to most casual restaurants in the Southwest, check the menu and there it is. And, despite all the ingredients that make this salad unique, the dish is remarkably easy to make in a home kitchen.
Preparing a Cobb Salad requires basic kitchen skills both at the stove and on the cutting board. It also requires list-making skills since this salad has a large number of elements, making it easy leave something out. By the time you reach the final, fun point of assembly, you’ll feel a certain creative satisfaction.
You’ll also create a salad that will wow your guests and make them want more.
What Is Cobb Salad?
At its essence, the Cobb Salad combines chicken, avocado, tomato, crumbled blue cheese (usually roquefort), onions and hard boiled eggs with lettuce dressed with a simple vinaigrette.
Chefs have created slight recipe variations over the years. Some call for thin bacon cooked crispy. Others feature thickly sliced bacon cooked well done. French Laundry Chef Thomas Keller’s recipe contains croutons.
Most chefs serve their Cobb Salads with mural-like strips of ingredients laid over a bed of greens while others present bowls that are already mixed. All chefs cut the vegetables differently depending on their preference and style.
Some Cobb Salad recipe variations add grilled salmon while others replace the blue cheese with feta. Vegetarian and vegan versions substitute bacon with smoked chickpeas or coconut strips while replacing grilled chicken with grilled tofu. We admire these variations but, being omnivores, we obviously prefer the original ingredients.
A mouthful of Cobb Salad is a beautiful thing and, once the elements of the salad are mixed, you never know what you’re going to get with each bite. After traveling the world for a few years, the taste of a Cobb Salad is something that always makes us think of the USA.
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History of the Cobb Salad
Unlike many popular dishes of the world, the Cobb Salad has a definite origin. It was invented at the Hollywood location of the once popular Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles.
While the salad was named after the restaurant’s owner Robert Cobb, we don’t know for sure if it was invented by Cobb himself or by Cobb’s chef. Perhaps Cobb personally prepared the first of his eponymous salads. Then again, maybe his chef prepared it based on either his own or Cobb’s idea. It’s a mystery to everybody who wasn’t in the kitchen on that fateful day.
What we do know is that the Cobb Salad has became a classic American dish. While not on every single restaurant menu, it’s relatively easy to find in all 50 states.
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Cobb Salad Ingredients
Write it down!!
That’s what we said to ourselves after constructing previous versions of our Cobb salad. The salad contains so many ingredients that we invariably forgot the egg or the bacon or the chives until the last minute. Having a list made our third attempt the charm.
These are all of the required ingredients necessary for our recipe:
The way we see it, you have two choices. You can prep some of your ingredients, like the eggs, bacon and even the chicken, either the day before or a couple hours prior to assembly.
Preparing those ingredients the night before makes for a stress-free assembly. The choice is yours. Just remember to refer to your list or our recipe so that you don’t leave anything in the fridge or on the counter.
Hard Boiled Eggs
You can prepare hard boiled eggs up to a week in advance of preparing this recipe.
We like to cook our hard boiled eggs by submerging them in a saucepan with 4 to 6″ of water, bringing the water to a boil, immediately covering and removing the pan from the heat. We then let the eggs sit in hot water in the pan, covered, for precisely 10 minutes.
If you follow this method, be sure to remove the eggs after 10 minutes with a slotted spoon and place them in an ice bath. Once cool, keep them in the refrigerator. If you live in Europe and your eggs are stored warm, refrigerate the raw eggs a few hours before boiling them. This method is foolproof and will result in eggs with beautiful yellow, creamy, cooked yolks and without grey discoloration.
Once you peel your eggs, gently chop them into quarters. You can then set them aside until you’re ready to assemble the salad.
For this recipe, we cut high-quality bacon into slices about 1/4″ thick. We sliced our bacon by hand from a larger piece. Our recipe calls for three thick slices or about 1/3 lb. or 150 grams.
After you slice your bacon, you’ll want to cook it on moderate heat in a sauté pan until the bacon is dark amber, not burnt. Remove the bacon to a paper towel on a dinner plate. Once cool, cut your bacon into 1/2″ squares. Your bacon should render a good amount of fat.
You can use the resulting bacon fat to cook your chicken breast.
Yes – you can cook the chicken breast in the leftover bacon fat. That’s what we do when we prepare this recipe at home.
Either way, you’ll want to brown and cook the chicken breast, flipping it once after about 7 minutes cooked over moderately high heat until the center reaches 165°. We always use an instant read thermometer to measure the chicken’s doneness.
After you let the chicken cool, slice the entire breast in half lengthwise and then slice it on the bias into 1/2″ slices. You can either season the chicken with salt and pepper before cooking it OR season it after slicing the chicken on the board while it’s still warm.
In all honesty, we made a mistake and forgot to season the chicken in these photos before we cooked it. Seasoning it on the board, while it was still warm, enabled us to provide more seasoning coverage and, thus, better tasting chicken.
If you cook your chicken the day before, you can either serve it cold or warm it up before assembling the Cobb Salad.
While the original Cobb Salad used French dressing and some modern recipes use ranch dressing, we prefer using homemade white wine mustard vinaigrette.
We construct our vinaigrette by drizzling and whisking extra virgin olive oil into vinegar until it emulsifies. Once the vinegar and oil are emulsified, we whisk in a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and then add salt and pepper to taste. If you make this same vinaigrette, you’ll want to pour the finished dressing into a small bowl before assembling the salad.
If the vinaigrette separates before assembly, you can whisk it again to recombine the ingredients.
We like to use grape tomatoes which we slice in half. You can alternatively use cherry tomatoes (also sliced in half). Another option is to use a whole tomato cut into bite sized pieces.
We prefer to use red onion based on this varietal’s vivid appearance. However, you can use any onion you like, be it yellow, white or Vidalia. As shown in the photo below, we thinly slice our onions by cutting them in half and slicing them from pole to pole.
You’ll also want to slice your onion as thinly as possible. You could use a mandoline for this purpose but, in our opinion, mandolines are dangerous. If you have the skill and want to take the risk, then go for it. As for us, we use a chef’s knife.
We love roquefort cheese. Nothing else quite matches its sheepy blue laden funk. That being said, it’s not the only cheese that works in our classic Cobb Salad recipe.
You could use one of the excellent blues being produced in the United States like Rogue River from Oregon, Point Reyes from California or Birchrun Blue from Pennsylvania. You may be tempted to try British Stilton; however, the texture may be a little dry.
If you choose an intense Spanish blue like Cabrales, consider reducing the amount of cheese by a third. That cheese is way intense!
We recommend using romaine lettuce as a base for this Cobb Salad recipe but you can be flexible and creative here by using Boston bibb (butter lettuce) or iceberg instead. You can also mix lettuces like red and green leaf or even use spring mix if you’re so inclined.
We wash the dirt from the leaves and place the romaine in a colander for 10 minutes. If you’re obsessed or in a rush, you could use a salad spinner to dry the leaves. Either way, you’ll want to chop or tear the dry leaves into bite sized pieces once they’re dry and then place them into a large bowl before assembling the salad.
You may have some lettuce left over If you use an entire head of romaine. If so, you can store it in a slightly open container and save it for later.
Mindi loves avocado. When Daryl told Mindi he was thinking of making a Cobb Salad, she grew excited at the prospect since the classic Cobb Salad contains avocado. Ok, back to the recipe…
You’ll want to quarter your avocado for this recipe. Start by slicing it in half and then remove the pit. The next step is to slice the halves down the middle from pole to pole. You can then peel the skin off of the avocado quarters.
Once the avocado is quartered and peeled, slice the quarters into 1″ chunks prior to assembly.
The final step (and the most refined) is to garnish your Cobb with finely chopped chives, about a couple millimeters wide, atop your Cobb Salad. You’ll want to chop the chives in advance so that you’re ready to garnish the salad as soon as it’s assembled.
Finely chopping chives is a fun exercise where you’ll hone your knife skills to create neat, tight little rings. It will also make you salad look ‘cheffy’.
How to Make Cobb Salad at Home
Assemble all the ingredients next to your serving bowls. Once you’ve assembled all of the ingredients, this is when the fun begins since you now have the Cobb Salad paint easel.
Place a large bowl next to your serving area. You’ll also want to have all your ingredients in small bowls, visible for assembly.
Pour your salad dressing into the large metal mixing bowl, reserving one tablespoon to marinate your onions. Add more salt and pepper if necessary. Toss the lettuce with the dressing until well coated.
Place the dressed lettuce into your serving bowls. Take the tablespoon of reserved dressing and toss it with the chopped red onion. This step will mellow the burning raw flavor of the onion.
Now comes the artistic part. Begin laying down neat rows of your tomatoes, your eggs, your onions, your bacon, your chicken and your avocado.
Now it’s time for the best part – the eating. As noted above, a beautiful surprise arrives with each and every bite.
As a bonus, assembling a Cobb Salad can be a fun couples activity. You can compete for who has the prettier Cobb Salad. And the best part? There’s no loser in this contest since both Cobb Salads will taste equally good.
Are Cobb Salads Healthy?
Deciding if the Cobb Salad is healthy is not a cut and dried decision.
We’re not going to lie – this tasty salad skews high in terms of both calories and fat compared to other salads. If this is a concern, you can always eat a smaller portion or adjust the ingredients. For example, you could add additional lettuce and tomatoes while going lighter with the blue cheese and bacon.
On the positive side, the Cobb Salad is low in carbs while high in both protein and fiber. It’s also keto-friendly, filled with healthy monounsaturated fats from the avocado and olive oil and, of course, delicious.
Cobb Salad Recipe
- 1 medium head of romaine lettuce, cut or torn into bite sized pieces.
- 3 strips thickly sliced bacon (approximately 5.5 ounces)
- 1 boneless skinless chicken breast
- 2 eggs, hard boiled
- 1 avocado, quartered and sliced
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 1/2 ounces roquefort or other blue cheese, crumbled
- 1.5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the bacon over a medium fire, flipping once, until the bacon is cooked to a dark amber brown. Remove the bacon and place on a paper towel to drain. Reserve the bacon fat in the pan.
- Raise the fire to medium high. Cook and brown the chicken on both sides until the internal temperature reads 165°F.
- While it's still warm, cut the chicken breast in half lengthwise and slice on the bias into 1" strips. Season with salt and pepper making sure all sides of the chicken are seasoned.
- Cut the bacon into 1/4" squares.
- Break the shell on the hard boiled eggs, being careful to keep the eggs whole, and peel both. Cut the Hard Boiled Eggs in quarters.
- Halve the avocado. Remove the pit and then split the avocado halves in two to make quarters. Peel the back of the avocado quarters and slice the quarters into 1 inch strips.
- Wash the lettuce in a large bowl, removing any dirt on the leaves and stems. Drain the lettuce in a colander or, if you choose, dry the lettuce in a salad spinner. Place lettuce in a large bowl.
- Pour the vinegar into a medium mixing bowl.
- Slowly drizzle the olive oil, whisking it into the vinegar to create an emulsion. Once the olive oil and vinegar are mixed, whisk in the mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste and set the dressing aside.
- Place two medium serving bowls at least 8" wide on the counter.
- In a large mixing or salad bowl, mix the greens with all but 1 tablespoon of the dressing until the lettuce is thoroughly dressed. Place generous amounts of lettuce into each bowl. Add salt and pepper if necessary.
- Using the same bowl, dress the onions with the remaining dressing. Set aside for assembly.
- Lay down the tomato, eggs, onion, chicken, blue cheese, bacon and avocado in neat strips over the lettuce.
- Admire, mix and eat.
- You can cook the hard boiled eggs up to one week ahead.
- You can cook the chicken and bacon one day ahead. Keep both in the refrigerator overnight. Heat if desired prior to assembling the salad.
- The recipe can be doubled for four people.
- You can use any kind of blue cheese or use feta instead.
- You can replace the grape tomatoes with a whole tomato cut it into bite-sized pieces.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: April 9, 2021