What Is A Spoon Salad And What's The Point?

Chopped salads have a lot to offer in terms of texture and flavor, but they can be a little challenging to eat with a fork. So-called spoon salads feature an assortment of vegetables so finely diced that the dish is best consumed with a spoon. Although spoon salads certainly aren't new — diced-up food has been around for ages — modern eaters seem to find the concept captivating: A search for "spoon salad" on TikTok returns a bevy of results featuring a variety of delicious recipes, from Greek chickpea salads to playful spins on the classic Caesar.

Although finely chopping vegetables for a salad you can eat with a spoon might seem like a lot of unnecessary work, it's worth the effort when it comes to creating both interesting variations in texture and intensity of flavor. When all of the salad's ingredients are chopped into a virtual mince, the dressing can permeate every little bit of the salad. Many recipes instruct you to marinate the salad vegetables in the dressing for anywhere from 10 minutes to one hour. Some even advocate making spoon salads a day in advance, to allow the ingredients to soak up every bit of flavor in the dressing before it's served. 

Chopped salad's star-studded history

While the term spoon salad might be rather new, this preparation is virtually identical to chopped salads, which have been around for some time. Some credit Jean Leon, the original owner of Beverly Hills-based restaurant La Scala, as the inventor of the chopped salad in the 1950s. La Scala's first chopped salad recipe featured tomatoes and two types of lettuce (romaine and iceberg), as well as mozzarella, salami, and chickpeas in red wine vinaigrette dressing. It's said that the "Leon Salad" was developed to prevent celebrity patrons from staining their fancy clothing, as conventional salads could be challenging to eat. 

It's also possible that the modern spoon salad has roots in Cobb salads, which were originated by Robert H. Cobb at the Brown Derby in Los Angeles in 1937. Like La Scala, the Brown Derby was a preferred hangout for show business movers and shakers, who showed a great affinity for the Cobb salad. The original Cobb salad shared ingredients with Leon's chopped salad, including tomatoes romaine, and iceberg lettuce, and was also dressed with red wine vinaigrette (albeit with the addition of Roquefort cheese). Other ingredients in the classic Cobb included chicken, a hard-boiled egg, chives, bacon, and watercress. Cobb salads made their first appearance in 1937 but failed to meet the true definition of a chopped salad since the lettuce remained intact.

How to prepare a chopped salad at home

Cutting ingredients to the appropriate size is key when replicating a spoon salad in your own kitchen, which entails using the right methods. Dicing is an essential culinary technique that entails cutting foods into small, uniform cubes, and diced veggies should measure about ¼ inch in diameter if you're striving for professional precision. A spoon salad recipe might call for finely chopped vegetables, which is the same as diced in terms of size. For even smaller vegetable pieces, mincing is the way to go, as minced vegetables roughly measure ⅛ inch in diameter. Also, remember that the sharpness of your kitchen knife makes a world of difference when it comes to delicate work. 

While a nice selection of vegetables is crucial to making a tasty spoon salad, most recipes include additional elements to further enhance textures and flavor. Finely chopped almonds and other nuts are a common addition, as their crunchy texture perfectly offsets the softness of the diced vegetables. Toasting nuts and adding them to salad is also recommended for the extra depth of flavor. When it comes to your dressing selection, vinaigrettes are a standard selection, as is oil and vinegar. Many recipes also incorporate some type of cheese for an added bit of flavor. One of the great things about spoon salads is their versatility, so feel free to experiment with ingredient combinations when making your own.