With its combination of fresh, smoky, tangy, and rich flavors, the Cobb is one of America's most notable salads. It's a flexible dish that accommodates variations well, allowing you to incorporate ingredients you have on hand. Start with our master template for making a Cobb salad, along with some ideas for varying the ingredients.
The Origin of the Cobb Salad
Culinary lore traces the Cobb salad to the Brown Derby restaurants, a chain of venues in Los Angeles. The most famous Brown Derby restaurant was the Hollywood location, which was shaped like a derby hat. The Cobb salad itself is said to have been named for one of its owners, Robert H. Cobb. By some accounts, the salad was created as a way to accommodate leftover ingredients, yet it soon became one of the restaurant's signature dishes.
What's In a Cobb Salad?
Most Cobb salads feature an arrangement of chopped tomatoes, sliced avocados, chopped cooked chicken or turkey, chopped hard-cooked eggs, green onions, crumbled cooked bacon, and crumbled blue cheese served atop a bed of torn iceberg or romaine lettuce. Usually the dressing is a vinaigrette, but you might some Cobbs drizzled with French or Thousand Island. A bitter green, such as watercress or endive, and another cheese, such as cheddar, might also appear in the salad.
The presentation of the Cobb salad is especially striking -- rather than being tossed together, the ingredients are artfully arranged in rows or sections on top of the lettuce.
How to Make a Cobb Salad
This recipe makes four to six main-dish servings.
1. Start with 6 Cups Torn Lettuce
Romaine or iceberg lettuce works well. Six cups of torn lettuce is equivalent to about half of a large head. Wash the lettuce, then pat dry with paper towels or spin dry in a salad spinner. Tear the lettuce into bite-size pieces just before using.
2. Gather and Prep the Other Ingredients
- 1 small head Belgian endive, cored and sliced crosswise. This variety of endive comes in small, slim heads with pale, slightly bitter leaves that become more bitter when exposed to light.
Substitution: Any spicy or bitter green may be used instead of the endive. Try 1 cup torn fresh watercress, arugula, curly endive, escarole, frisee, or radicchio.
- 3 cups diced, cooked and chilled chicken or turkey
Tip: Rotisserie chicken from the deli makes a quick option, as does leftover chicken that you chop or shred. Or chill some smoked chicken from your favorite barbecue take-out spot.
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced (about 1 cup)
- 3 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
- 6 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained on paper towels, and crumbled
Substitution: Use 1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped smoked ham or Canadian bacon instead of the bacon. Or try smoked pulled pork from your favorite barbecue take-out spot.
- 1 to 2 medium avocados, halved, peeled, and cut into wedges
- 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (3 ounces)
Substitution: Though blue cheese is traditional, any cheese can be used instead. Try crumbled feta or shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Gruyere cheese.
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced green onion or chives
3. Assemble on Individual Plates
- Divide the torn lettuce among 4 to 6 plates.
- On top of lettuce arrange the endive, chicken, tomatoes, eggs, bacon, and blue cheese in rows or small segments. Sprinkle with the green onion.
4. Serve with Dressing: Pass your favorite homemade or purchased dressing, such as a vinaigrette or French, Italian, or Thousand Island dressing, at the table. You'll need about 1/2 cup.