Portillo’s Chopped Salad

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Portillo’s chopped salad is loaded with lettuce, cabbage, tender pasta noodles, veggies, and lots of bacon. A delicious, creamy balsamic dressing coats this salad and gorgonzola cheese gives it the perfect finishing touch!

Overhead image of Portillo's Chopped Salad with serving spoons

Portillo’s Chopped Salad

With locations all over the U.S. (Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin Florida, Arizona, & California), Portillo’s is a popular place to eat! Their chopped salad in particular seems to have taken the internet by storm — probably because it’s been their most popular salad on the menu since 1990. I’ve seen it for years and finally gave it a try.

This salad is the perfect sweet and savory combination of flavors and there is so. much. texture.! This salad has quickly become a family favorite and a great addition to any potluck or BBQ. The original salad is a bit different than my “copycat” ended up, but we like this version even more. The major difference is in the dressing. The original Portillo’s chopped salad has a sweet Italian vinaigrette while this recipe uses my favorite creamy balsamic dressing. It’s my current favorite dressing and I’ve been dying to try it in a pasta salad.

Process shots--images of lettuce & cabbage being prepped, dressing being made, pasta being cooked and drained, all the toppings being added, and dressing being poured over it all

Creamy Balsamic Dressing notes

  • Use a flavorful Greek yogurt — the flavor really matters in this dressing. It lends an incredible creaminess and great dressing flavor. Our absolute favorite yogurt to use in this dressing is Greek Gods® honey vanilla yogurt. (Not sponsored, just a fan). Whatever brand you get, aim for a vanilla flavored yogurt, not just plain. Grab a yogurt you enjoy plain (then you know you’ll love it in this dressing!).
  • Maple syrup adds needed sweetness. This sweetener contributes a much-needed sweetness to counteract the acidity and tartness of the other dressing ingredients. While there is a good amount of maple syrup in the dressing, I’ve found it’s the perfect complement to the savory notes of the dressing and this Portillo’s chopped salad as a whole. Make sure to use pure maple syrup, not pancake syrup!
  • Leftover dressing. The dressing recipe makes a good amount of dressing. Depending on how dressed you like your salads, you may use it all or you could have some leftover. Leftover dressing will stay good, stored in an airtight container in the fridge, for 5-7 days. Use it to top other salads or raw veggies.

Portillo’s Chopped Salad Ingredient Notes

  • Ditalini pasta. This pasta is a small tube-shaped pasta. It’s especially great in this salad because it incorporates so nicely. If you can’t find ditalini, use a different small pasta shape such as orzo, orecchiette, mini pasta shells, or a small elbow macaroni.
  • Salt the pasta water: Since this Portillo’s chopped salad is eaten cold, the pasta can taste bland if not seasoned. Salting the pasta water is the only chance you have to season the actual pasta. I also like to toss the ditalini with a few tablespoons of the dressing to further infuse it with flavor.
  • Gorgonzola cheese. This cheese is a great complement to the lettuce and bacon, but if you aren’t a fan, feel free to leave it out or swap it for another cheese. I give a range for how much to add; simply add to desired personal preference. We typically prefer less cheese since it does have such a strong flavor.
  • Bacon. Again, I give a range for how much to add depending on personal preference. If you’re in a huge hurry, ready-made bacon can be a lifesaver!
  • Lettuce. The original Portillo’s salad combines iceberg, romaine, and red cabbage, but feel free to completely customize the lettuce in this salad. You can use just one, a combo of two, or all three — whichever is easiest and most convenient for you. It is nice to have the different varieties of lettuce to change up the texture throughout the salad.
  • Chicken. The chicken can be left out if you’d rather this Portillo’s chopped salad to be more of a side dish. For a main course dish, I like to add chicken in for extra protein and to make the salad more filling. Any leftover chicken works here — either leftover grilled chicken (from this grilled chicken marinade) or a rotisserie chicken (what I typically use for this salad). 

Up close overhead image of the Portillo's chopped salad

Salad storage

  • Unfortunately this Portillo’s chopped salad doesn’t sit or store well once dressed. The dressing will wilt the lettuce and the bacon becomes soggy.
  • The salad can be made in advance as long as the salad, bacon, cheese, and dressing is stored separately. Combine right before eating and dress only what will be eaten immediately.
  • If you do make the dressing for this Portillo’s chopped salad in advance, don’t be alarmed if it clumps and separates in the fridge (the clumps are the fats (oil) separating and solidifying). To fix this simply shake the dressing together again until smooth (If it’s still clumpy, let it stand at room temperature for 15-20 minutes and then shake again).

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Portillo's Chopped Salad

0 from 0 votes
Portillo's chopped salad is loaded with lettuce, cabbage, tender pasta noodles and plenty of veggies. A delicious, creamy balsamic dressing coats this salad and blue cheese gives it the perfect finishing touch!
Print Recipe

Portillo's Chopped Salad

0 from 0 votes
Portillo's chopped salad is loaded with lettuce, cabbage, tender pasta noodles and plenty of veggies. A delicious, creamy balsamic dressing coats this salad and blue cheese gives it the perfect finishing touch!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 -8 as a side
Calories 253kcal
Cost $7.49

Ingredients

Chopped Salad

  • 1 cup (125g) uncooked Ditalini pasta
  • 1/2 cup (43g) cooked and crumbled bacon (7 slices)
  • 2 cups (230g) rotisserie chicken (or leftover grilled chicken), diced
  • 5 cups (250g) chopped lettuce (I like to use half romaine (2-1/2 cups; 100g) and half iceberg lettuce (2-1/2 cups; 150g )
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (130g) chopped red cabbage
  • 1 cup (150g) cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 cup (80g) thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/4- 1/2 (27-57g) cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese

Creamy Balsamic Dressing

  • 1/2 cup (117g) honey vanilla Greek yogurt (I recommend Greek Gods)
  • 1/4 cup of EACH: balsamic vinegar (54g), pure maple syrup (73g) (not pancake syrup!), olive oil (45g)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH: finely minced garlic, fine sea salt, freshly cracked pepper

Instructions

  • DRESSING: Add all the dressing ingredients into a small blender jar. Blend until combined, creamy, and emulsified. Transfer dressing to a mason jar and store in the fridge until ready to eat. Shake up the dressing in the mason jar before dressing the salad.
  • COOK PASTA: Cook the pasta according to package directions to al dente. Make sure to generously salt the water; this is what will actually season the pasta! I add 1 teaspoon salt to every 4 cups of water. Drain and cool; run under cold water and shake off to dry. When dry, toss with a few tablespoons of the prepared dressing.
  • BACON AND CHICKEN: Cook bacon in a skillet or electric griddle. Remove, let slightly cool, and then coarsely chop. Chop a rotisserie chicken (or leftover grilled chicken) into small bite-sized pieces.
  • SALAD ASSEMBLY: In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, red cabbage, halved or quartered tomatoes, and thinly sliced green onions. Add in the cooled pasta, chopped bacon, and chopped chicken. Add gorgonzola cheese. IF eating all of this salad, add dressing to desired preference (you may not use it all -- See Note 1) and toss to combine. If not, only dress what will be eaten; this salad doesn't sit well with the dressing.
  • SALAD STORAGE: The salad can be made in advance as long as the salad, bacon, cheese, and dressing is stored separately. Combine right before eating.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: The dressing recipe makes a good amount of dressing. Depending on how dressed you like your salads, you may use it all or you could have a good amount leftover. Leftover dressing will stay good, stored in an airtight container in the fridge, for 5-7 days. Use it to top other salads or raw veggies.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 253kcal

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Nutrition facts in Portillo's Chopped Salad

 

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