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How To Make Portillo’s Chopped Salad At Home (& Dazzle Your Family!)

I am not–and never will be–a food blogger.

(I’m guessing you’re not here for the recipes, anyway. So we’re good.)

That said, I do enjoy food, and I am pretty good at making delicious things to eat. Sometimes I will prepare a family favorite for dinner and think, “I should share this on the blog.” Then I think, “But I’m not a food blogger, and the idea of staging the food for the pretty pictures makes me feel a little nauseous,” so I don’t share.

Except just this once.

I happen to have created a family favorite when I started making Portillo’s chopped salad at home, and I think you need to make it, too.

If you’re not local to the Chicago area, you may not know that Portillo’s is an amazing local (well, mostly: they have locations in California, Arizona, and Indiana now) chain most famous for their hot dogs and their Italian Beef sandwiches.

They happen to have an incredible chopped salad, too.

Now you’re caught up.

Nearly a year ago I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner, but I really had a taste for Portillo’s. I ended up compromising, deciding to replicate their salad for the family, and it was a slam dunk. You are going to be amazed at how easy it is.

First of all, it’s already been established that

A) I am not a food blogger


B) I prefer following a recipe over experimentation.

You may already also know that C) the act of researching is a part of my every day life, not only in my job but as a general rule. If I don’t know how to do something, I Google it.

Basically when I decided to copy the Portillo’s chopped salad I went right to their website and looked up the menu because I knew that the ingredients were listed right there in black and white. Indeed. The rest is history.

Shall we?

Start your engines.

Gather your ingredients. You’ll need romaine and iceberg lettuce, green onion, tomatoes, Ditalini pasta, Gorgonzola cheese, chicken breast, and bacon. If you want to stay faithful to Portillo’s “recipe”, you’ll need red cabbage too, but I never add that because I’m lazy.

The biggest secret of this whole thing is to chop everything small. Well, “chopped size”, you know. If you leave the lettuce too big, you don’t get a chopped salad in the end.

So chop your romaine and iceberg lettuces, and chop them good.

Chopped lettuce

This picture only has romaine lettuce in it. I did not take a picture of my iceberg lettuce because I was lazy and didn’t think you needed two lettuce visuals.

Note: Make sure to be careful when using sharp knives! You wouldn’t want to have a horrendous kitchen accident like I had that one time.

I can only give you approximate amounts for each ingredient. You will need enough lettuce to fill your large salad bowl about one-third of the way up once it’s chopped. I know that’s pretty vague, and the fact that I have to be vague in this case probably annoys me as much as it’s annoying you. (I LIKE RECIPES, REMEMBER??)

Chop up one bundle of green onions, give or take.

Chopped green onions

Grab some tomatoes (I use cherry- or grape-sized) and chop those up, too.

Chopped tomatoes

By the way, I didn’t do anything fancy to stage these pictures. I know it’s probably obvious to most of you but I just wanted to say that just in case one of you is thinking, “Wow! She should be a food blogger because these pictures look fantastic.” I’m sorry to disappoint you, lady. Or guy.

OH! I nearly forgot. While you’re chopping stuff, you need to also be cooking your Ditalini pasta. I use about one-third of a box because this is not a PASTA SALAD; it’s a salad that happens to have some pasta in it. The great thing about using one-third of a box is that you’ll have enough pasta to make this salad two more times! Another note: if you cannot find Ditalini pasta at your grocery store you can substitute some other small type of pasta but if you’re a Chicagoan who frequents Portillo’s you will be ticked off at the lack of authenticity you create with a different variety. Or so I’ve heard.

After you cook up your pasta, put it in a strainer and then run cold water over it for a few minutes to cool it off before preparing to add it to everything else.

Ditalini pasta

By the way, you’ll also need to have cooked some chicken and bacon (I use turkey bacon) at some point.

Is it becoming more clear why I’m no food blogger? Don’t answer that.

I use about a half package of bacon (-ish, give or take) and about one to one-and-a-half chicken breasts. Chop!

Chopped chicken and bacon

Add your green onions, tomatoes, pasta, chicken, and (turkey) bacon to the salad bowl that should already be one-third full of your nicely chopped lettuce blend.

Then, pour in one container of Gorgonzola cheese. It’s one of those little round tubs. Don’t ask me how much cheese is in those things. I forgot to look. Sorry.

Gorgonzola cheese

Make sure to wipe your tears of pride and then toss everything gently. Try not to drool right into the bowl. Look! It’s pretty!

Homemade Portillo's chopped salad

I know what you’re thinking. WHAT ABOUT THE DRESSING???

I’ll tell you.

If you’re a Chicagoan (or an Arizonian or a Californian or an Indianaian), you’ll really want to visit your local Portillo’s to pick up a container of their own dressing for their chopped salad.


If you do not live near a Portillo’s or you’re incredibly lazy, you can just buy a bottle of creamy Italian dressing at the grocery store and it will be a decent substitute. But I recommend the real thing if at all possible.

Homemade Portillo's salad with dressing

If you REALLY want to be authentic, serve the salad with Ciabatta bread, too. Your family will accuse you of spoiling them. I promise. Serve this salad to friends and you will be the HIT at the party. (Bring wine, too. Just to be sure.)

I don’t know, maybe I should become a food blogger. What do you think? Wait. Don’t answer that.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Cherise September 3, 2013, 3:15 pm

    Yum! I don’t think I’ve ever had their salad, but it sounds awesome!

    • Melisa Wells September 3, 2013, 3:25 pm

      I cannot EXPRESS how delicious this salad is. And I still buy theirs, but it’s nice to make a big one for the whole family on occasion! πŸ™‚

  • Kari September 3, 2013, 3:25 pm

    I didn’t know they sold their dressing?!?!?!?!?
    This looks amazing!!!
    Can I come over for dinner?

    • Melisa Wells September 3, 2013, 3:26 pm

      Yes but we’re having spaghetti leftovers tonight. πŸ™‚ haha

    • Melisa Wells September 3, 2013, 3:26 pm

      Also, when I buy their dressing I go to their bar/catering counter. They have it over there… (just FYI!)

  • Dawndi September 3, 2013, 4:50 pm

    DEEEELICIOUS! Yum yum yum!

  • Mom24_4evermom September 3, 2013, 7:38 pm

    You’ve never steered me wrong with recipes, I think part time food blogger is totally in your capabilities. Thanks for sharing this one, it looks wonderful! L’shanah Tovah Tikatevu

  • Sylvia Joy September 3, 2013, 8:11 pm

    OK you know I love this salad thanks for the recipe. But where’s the Hot dogs and Italian Beef. You know we like all three especially the dogs and beef for your Dad.
    Grandma W

  • Momo September 4, 2013, 7:52 am

    *kicks self for not just taking the cholesterol pills, already*

    That looks good.

  • Toni September 4, 2013, 12:41 pm

    Looks beautiful, AND yummy! Going to give it a go, XO

  • Patty September 6, 2013, 8:53 am

    It’s 9:50AM and I am drooling over this salad. My lunch is going to be a huge disappointment. I pinned your post so I can make this salad soon. Great recipe thanks for sharing…and the pictures are AWESOME!

  • Liz September 6, 2013, 5:30 pm

    Love this, thanks for sharing it…even if it IS virtually…because, I know you would LOVE to share it in person with everyone…if you could…ish πŸ˜‰

    • Melisa Wells September 7, 2013, 7:51 am

      I hear it tastes REALLY good in New Jersey in November. πŸ™‚

  • Heather Novak September 10, 2013, 9:05 am

    I’ve never been to Portillos, but I bet I will be heading to Aldi’s for cheap gorgonzola and creamy italian dressing and making a version of this TODAY. Even though I already spent my grocery money YESTERDAY. Not sure if I should hug or smack you. Maybe hug you and smack myself? FOOD BLOGGER!!!!!

    • Melisa Wells September 10, 2013, 9:09 am

      haha! Thanks for the laugh! Let me know how you enjoy it. (YOU WILL LOVE IT.)