While eating out with friends recently at an Italian restaurant, I ordered an Italian chopped salad. Of course, the authentic Italian restaurant had no other option for me than a salad I had to alter. Since I knew where we were eating beforehand, I ordered an Italian chopped salad without meat, cheese or egg (vegan).
Once my salad arrived, I almost laughed out loud. My sad display of a salad was filled with lettuce, chickpeas, cucumber, and red onion. I’m not Italian, but really? Did I mention my poor excuse for a salad was $15.00? Or, I could add chicken and salmon for another $7.00 (ha)!
So, I decided to create an incredible vegan Italian chopped salad recipe, worthy of being served in a restaurant that I would be proud to serve.
WHAT’S IN AN INCREDIBLE ITALIAN CHOPPED SALAD?
First, a chopped salad is “chopped,” so everything is the same size, making it easy to eat, and disperse the dressing evenly.
With that being said, I think a proper Italian Chopped Salad should have the following ingredients:
- Romaine Lettuce
- Roasted Asparagus
- Red Onion
- Grape Tomatoes
- Kalamata Olives
- Pepperchini Peppers
- Roasted Asparagus
- Fresh Parsley
- Fresh Basil
- Grilled Herb Marinated Tofu
- Vegan Parmesan Cheese
- Oil-Free Homemade Dressing
The key to a perfect vegan Italian chopped salad, for instance, is to include a theme of Italian based ingredients, that all work together in harmony.
So, let the chopping begin. In order to get my veggies all the same size, I use my favorite vegetable chopper. Not only does it save time, but it also makes cuts all the vegetables in uniform sizes.
To toss or not to toss? Some people, like my daughter, prefer everything, separated into separate areas in the bowl. (Did I mention I bought her an adult divided plate for Christmas?) While others prefer a tossed salad. Both options, of course, are up to your preference.
I do, though, recommend you do not dress the vegan Italian chopped salad until right before serving. And, if you are food prepping for the week, make sure you keep the dressing separate. No one likes a soggy salad.
WHAT IS RADICCHIO?
Radicchio is a type of chicory, which is often mistaken as small red cabbage.
What does radicchio taste like? When eaten raw, like in this salad, radicchio is spicy and bitter. Because of its bitter taste, radicchio is paired with acidic ingredients to make a salad with balanced flavors. Combined with the right ingredients, radicchio has a pepper taste comparable to arugula. And, let’s not forget how beautiful radicchio is in a salad.
HERB MARINATED TOFU FOR ITALIAN CHOPPED SALAD
Although the grilled marinated tofu is an option, I think its a must. As I have said countless times in other posts, grilled tofu is my favorite! But, as always you have other cooking options, as well as skipping it altogether if you don’t like tofu.
But, before you judge tofu, please make sure you have tried preparing it following these directions and giving this tofu Italian marinade a try: Pressed Tofu for Grilling, Baking, Air-frying or Cooking in a Skillet
Many years ago, before going plant-based, my sister used to make an herb marinade for chicken and salmon. Even though I have changed it to make it oil-free, and used maple syrup instead of sugar, this is her recipe.
Recently, I asked her for the famous herb marinade, so I could change it up to make it healthier. Despite the number of years that have gone by, the recipe she scanned was still on the same flowered paper, handwritten, like I remembered it.
KIM’S HERB MARINADE RECIPE (HEALTHIER TOFU VERSION)
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons dijon mustard
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary
- 1 Tablespoon thyme
HOW TO MAKE AN OIL-FREE VEGAN ITALIAN DRESSING
Subsequently, people seem to struggle with making oil-free dressings. As a general rule, I suggest removing the oil and replacing it with water. Then, replace any other unnecessary ingredients, such as sugar, with a healthier sweetness, and add additional fresh herbs.
- ⅓ cup of water
- ⅓ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 3 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Once, you start experimenting with different combinations, oil-free dressings are easier than you think. But, don’t forget to write them down. Actually, I started this blog, so I could remember what I made because I couldn’t find my written down versions of recipes. My sister, however, is obviously much better-keeping track of her recipes.
SERVING THE VEGAN ITALIAN CHOPPED SALAD
Another suggestion I have for Italian chopped salad is to serve Vegan Parmesan Cheese as a bonus. Also, I add fresh chopped parsley to bring it all together. As I mentioned earlier, the choice of serving the salad tossed or not is up to you.
Not only did I choose to toss my Italian chopped salad, but I also served with some crunchy whole-grain bread. And, just for the record, my vegan Italian chopped salad was WAY BETTER than the one I ate at the authentic Italian restaurant.
Although I made an Italian chopped salad as an entree, you can also serve it as a side dish. Here are some suggestions of entrees to serve it with:
- Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs
- Vegan Lasagna
- Skinny Zucchini Stuffed with Veggies and Tofu Ricotta
- Vegan Italian Wedding Soup
- Vegan Stuffed Sweet Potato
- Veggie Stuffed Shells
- Vegan Meatloaf Meatless Lentils!
- Vegan Crock-Pot Portobello Mushroom Stew
- Creamy Spicy Vegan Sausage Pasta
- Oil-Free Vegan 20 Minute One-Pot Wonder Pasta
- Vegan Eggplant Parmesan