Portillo’s Chopped Salad with Sweet Italian Dressing
Get this knockoff recipe for the famous (and delicious!) Portillo’s chopped salad with sweet Italian dressing. It is amazing!
This salad! I love it so much. I’ve long thought pasta and lettuce salads should be combined somehow and this salad proves me right.
I feel I must disclose that I have never eaten at a real, live Portillo’s restaurant (apparently they are a’plenty in the Illinois area?) but knock-offs of their ever-popular Italian chopped salad abound on the internet and the pretty little salad calls to me every time I see it.
Being that I have about a million other recipes that shout my name, too, I didn’t actually try the famed Portillo’s chopped salad until I saw Christy (a.k.a. The Girl Who Ate Everything) post about it on Instagram. Since I have long loved many of her recipes, her rave reviews put it on the “to-try” list immediately.
Sidenote: sometimes I wonder how I’ll ever try all the recipes that speak to me and find themselves jotted down on random post-it notes and catalogued in my brain and Pinterest (my brain is not as organized as Pinterest, btw). The worry keeps me awake at night. So many recipes, so little time. So.little.time!
And. Moving on.
This chopped salad did not disappoint.
I ate the leftovers for two days and nearly wept on that third day when I excitedly opened the refrigerator for lunch only to remember that I had overeaten the last bit of it the day before. Day = ruined (but quickly remedied by a little handful or three of dark chocolate).
Really, this Portillo’s chopped salad is quite simple. Chopped lettuce, tomatoes, chicken, tomatoes, bacon, Gorgonzola (my love) are tossed with the tender pasta and a tangy, lightly sweet vinaigrette. And the combination is magic.
Perfect for a potluck side dish (you can easily leave out the chicken) or a simple but filling family dinner, this salad has skyrocketed to one of my favorites.
I’ve included some notes below the recipe title – check them out for info about how to store the leftovers and a few optional variations (for those folks that may not adore Gorgonzola cheese like I do – don’t worry, I still love you).
One Year Ago: Peanut Butter Granola
Two Years Ago: Thai Green Curry Meatballs
Three Years Ago: Succulent Grilled Pork Tenderloin
Portillo’s Chopped Salad with Sweet Italian Dressing
Sweet Italian Dressing:
- ⅓ cup white or regular balsamic vinegar
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 teaspoons sugar, honey or maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 8 ounces about 1 cup or so uncooked Ditalini pasta (see note)
- 5 cups chopped lettuce, use what you like: romaine, spring mix, iceberg or a combo
- 1 cup chopped red cabbage (see note)
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes
- 3 green onions, chopped
- ½ – 1 cup cooked and crumbled bacon
- ¼ – ½ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
- 2 cups cooked diced chicken (see note)
- For the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a blender or jar. Process or shake until well-combined. Add additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed. You can make and refrigerate the dressing a week or two in advance.
- In a pot of salted, boiling water, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse quickly with cool water so it doesn’t stick together while it cools. Pour a few tablespoons of the dressing over the pasta and stir lightly. Set aside to cool to room temperature (spreading it into a flatter layer – versus mounded in a bowl – will speed up the cooling process).
- In a large bowl, toss together the lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, and green onions. Add the cooled pasta, bacon, gorgonzola cheese, and chicken.
- To serve, you can toss the salad with the dressing before serving – or, if you anticipate leftovers, add dressing only to the portions of salad served and then store the dressing and salad separately for fabulous leftovers.
Recipe Source: adapted a bit from Christy at The Girl Who Ate Everything
67 Comments on “Portillo’s Chopped Salad with Sweet Italian Dressing”
I am a portillos chop salad fan. This dressing is not exactly the same, but I love it! The best part is making it at home you can add in any favorites. I added black olives and cucumbers. It made enough for a few days
Who we kidding? This dressing recipe is no where near what Portillo’s serves! It was good , but totally different! Portillos is a whitish creamy sweet dressing .
I have made this several times now. I love the dressing and salad. I love that all your salad recipes are tried and true. It’s also fun if you can spill the rest of the ditalini all over.
haha…TINA! I have spilled ditalini making this recipe more times than I can count. Glad I’m not the only one.
The salad dressing is more of an Italian vinaigrette than Portillo’s creamy house dressing. I admit I tried it because you had said you never had the salad before and I was curious how you would make something you’d never tried. =)
I will be eating good for the next few nights so thank you for the recipe. The dressing is good but mine didn’t turn out sweet – it’s very vinegar-y. I used honey – maybe I should have used sugar instead?
I don’t understand why everyone is posting this recipe as a knockoff when they haven’t been to the actual restaurant to even compare. Really disappointed because for those of us looking for an actual knockoff, this isn’t close to the original dressing, which makes a salad.
I had this salad at Portillo’s last year when I was visiting a friend who lives about 1 1/2 hours away. I thought it was awesome but we do not have a Portillo’s in our city. I made this salad today and it is addictive. So good! Thanks for this!
The Portillo salad dressing recipe tastes NOTHING like the original.
Does anyone have another recommendation for a store-bought salad dressing that is similar , I cannot find the Marzettis sweet Italian dressing that everyone is saying to use? Help
Forgot the bacon, but added avocado, so it was still a winner. The touch of sweet in the dressing is the secret ingredient. I don’t see how you can go wrong however you customize this salad. Quick, tasty, filling dinner for the win! Oh, pretty healthful too.
I made the dressing with the olive oil and didn’t love it; I tried subbing in mayonnaise instead and that was bomb for me! I’m typically not a big fan of vinaigrette so probably not the dressing itself but just my preference. I didn’t have enough left for a full meal the next day so I added an avocado and that was divine!
I have eaten at Portillo’s and while the salad ingedients are correct, the dressing is tangy not sweet. I was trying to recall and I want to say there may be a bit of horseradish. It is very distinct. If ever in Illinois, you must try this salad. I wouldn’t want someone to pass on Portillo’s because the dressing is mediocre
I’m sorry the dressing was a miss for you, Ted.
Agreed. To me it’s more of a mustard base. I don’t think this dressing is a true representation of Portillo’s
This Sweet Italian Dressing makes THE BEST marinade for grilled portobello mushrooms I have ever tasted! I omitted the bacon and chicken from the salad, and grilled mushrooms instead. So, so good.
DELICIOUS. Tasty, festive, easy dinner salad. No need to make anything else to go with this dinner! Loved it!
Loved this salad! I used regular balsamic from Costco and it was delicious! Will definitely be making this again.
Time consuming to make, dressing is sweet; but it is yummy!
I made this for a family dinner tonight, but it was a side so I omitted the chicken. My sisters loved it and we all thought the dressing was to.die.for. I also subbed Parmesan for the cheese because I’m a Gorgonzola wimp. All I wanted was a salad with pasta and it hit the spot!
I made this for the family and the sister missionaries last night. It was loved by all. I already had feta so I used that and smoked pulled pork instead of chicken. So delicious. Just had some leftovers for brekfast.
I’m interning in the D.C. area, and I was hoping to find a recipe that reminded me of home, and when I found this, I was so thrilled! It tasted exactly like my favorite salad in the entire world! Thank you for giving me a perfect way to cure my homesickness
Loved this salad dressing! I used a finely chopped kale mix from Trader Joe’s, and probably would have liked it better if I had mixed with some Romaine too. I have half the kale mix and chicken left, so that will give me a chance to try it again.
In Oct, we were in Chicago & had the Portillo’s chopped salad & it was yummy! I was so glad when I saw this on your blog & it tastes just as good as the Portillo salad & so easy to make! Thanks so much for sharing with us!!!
I was craving Portillo’s chopped salad and found this recipe. I followed your recipe to the letter and it’s perfect! Thank you so much for posting the recipe!
Being from Dallas, I have never heard of Portillo’s. But imagine my surprise when I brought this gem of a recipe to a recent Fourth of July gathering and a guest remarked, “This salad I so good! It tastes like a salad from Portillo’s!” I about fell over!
Mel, you did it again! Mel for president! Who’s with me?
Haha! I love it!
Mel, What brand of white balsamic vinegar do you like?
Lately I’ve been buying the one from Trader Joe’s.
Holy Smokes! This is FABULOUS!!!! I don’t know why…..basic lettuce/tomato/cheese/bacon/chicken salad. Is it the addition of the ditalini or the sweet Italian salad dressing? Don’t know, don’t care! Oh, this will be on the menu quite frequently.
What wine would you serve with this salad?
I’m the worst person to ask about this Sallie since I don’t drink wine. Sorry!
What a fabulous salad! My family loved it. Thanks so much.
We had this last night, and loved it! My husband and 2 year old can both be a little skeptical about having salad as a main dish, but they both just kept eating and eating. I especially liked the dressing, it was so flavorful! It was so good that my husband and I ended up finishing it off later that night after our kids went to bed, while watching a movie. It was better than popcorn. Haha
Tried this tonight and LOVED it. We’ve tried four of your recipes for dinner in the past week and loved all of them. I am so totally and completely in love with your recipes! My husband asked tonight, “Is this another one of Mel’s recipes?” Can’t get enough!
Mel! I LOVED this salad 🙂 I ate it for lunch nearly every day this week!!! Thank you for the AMAZING recipes!
Have eaten Portillo’s chopped salad more times than I can count. They are the go-to caterer for nearly every casual social event in the area. Have tried other variations with mixed results, this one was by far the best, my family liked it even better than the original. Did the prep early in the day and stored all ingredients in separate containers, built and tossed the individual salads tableside and everything was so crisp and colorful. Today layered everything into plastic containers for lunches, with a pack of the dressing so they can shake up their salads at lunch. Don’t skimp on the red cabbage, the color is beautiful and adds so much crunch. Another great post, Mel!
So happy to hear this from someone who has had the original and loved it. Thanks, Dorie!
My 7 year old declared this was the best salad he had ever eaten. He loves salad and this made the short list. Thank you for this recipe. Keep them coming. We love them all.
This is why I love your site so much! I too have many, many recipes to make and try . . . you do half the work for me when you post the best of the best:0) Thanks for all you do Mel! I don’t remember if I ever told you, but I ran into the ladies form ourbestbites a few months ago . . . I told them that your site and theirs were my favorites to go to for yummy recipes and they raved about your recipes, said if they needed a good recipe for their family they could always count on you. You are loved!
Thanks for this comment, Lisa. Kate and Sara are so great and I’m honored you love the recipes from here – thanks for letting me know!
Mel’s and OBB are the two best recipe blogs out there! I always check both when I need ideas or a new recipe!
So glad you liked it Mel. I need to try white balsamic vinegar. I love the taste of balsamic but not the look. I seriously could eat this salad all day long. Wish we lived closer!
I’ve never commented before but had to regarding this salad. I made it for dinner tonight and it was a hit. There was just four of us tonight so I have leftovers. I am planning my day tomorrow around when I get to finish off the remaining salad. While kids are at school and husband at work I get to eat the rest,all by myself! Can’t wait!
I made this last night and the whole family loved it! I just moved to Texas from the Chicagoland area and we miss Portillo’s (although I NEVER order a salad from there only Italian Beef!)
Can’t wait to make this salad! I’ve never heard of Portillos (I’m on the west coast). Great combo of ingredients!! I honestly could live on salads like this!!
Love their pasta salad, but their chocolate cake shake is AWESOME!
I had to laugh when I read that you said “So many recipes, so little time”. I am always saying that to my husband. I am like a recipe maniac. I have a recipe software that I try really hard to organize my thousands of recipes in. I spend hours doing this. So many cookbooks, so many bookmarked, and tons on pinterest. Oh how I love pinterest. I will never be able to even get close to making even a small amount of them. It is an obsession, so I can totally relate. Just had to tell you that you gave me a good laugh.
I love that I’m not the only one, Gina!
You must be my twin, Gina! That’s my main phrase in life. So little recipes, so little time…
Love this salad!
I should have proof read that! So MANY recipes, so little time, but you know what i meant. I’d rather cook than just about anything–read a book, shop, get a massage. Ha, ha. Seriously, I need therapy.
Tee-hee, I’m your triplet and this blog is my greatest resource! Thanks Mel!
I have been wanting to make this recipe for a long time, but haven’t gotten around to it. Now that you have “tested” the recipe and it has your stamp of approval, I am going to make it tomorrow!
So excited to try this!!!! There was a Portillos across from the hospital where we worked outside of Chicago and I used to eat this salad all the time! I’ve missed it in the last 10 years that we’ve been in MN. Thanks for the recipe!
I love love love this salad from Portillos! I’ve only eaten there twice (while visiting Camille) but it is so yummy! Might have to invite some peeps over for a BBQ just so I can make this! Thanks Mel!
I didn’t make the salad yet, but I did make the dressing for a cabbage-chicken salad and it is a winner of a dressing – VERY good.
I second the vote for using white balsamic – I think it makes this dressing! In my little corner of northwest Montana we have THREE vinegar/olive oil specialty shops and one of them introduced me to white balsamic a bit over a year ago. I love it in salad dressings as well as adding a little to things like chicken “chili”, i.e. spicy chicken or pork dishes.
I’ve been making and loving the dressing since this post, but finally made the complete salad … minus tomatoes and with small elbow macaroni – VERY good. I’ve never been to a Portillo’s so can’t compare but I was surprised how good the pasta in a “lettuce” salad turned out to be. I love gorgonzola so this was right up my alley – thanks, Mel!
I love lettuce and pasta salad together too! I was just thinking that again yesterday as I happily combined my spinach salad and pasta salad together at the Labor Day BBQ.
I’ve never been to Portillo’s but I think I can just taste this salad! I love salad mixed with pasta. Zoe’s Kitchen has a killer Greek salad that has pasta and potato salad mixed in it along with chicken and a bunch of other good stuff. I’m definitely going to have to try this one!
You are always posting such great recipes Mel! Can’t wait to make this one too! Thanks so much!
one question: is the vinegar/oil ratio correct? i usually do a 1 to 3 amount.
Yep, it’s correct for how I made this recipe – I generally do equal amounts to cut down on the oil a bit. You could add more oil if you like though.
mary louise, I usually use the 1 – 3 ration also …except when I use a balsamic vinegar, especially the white. The reason is that they are more syrup-y than other vinegars – at least mine are. I made the dressing exactly as written and it is fairly thick and not vinegar-y at all.
Always love when you chime in, Liz!
Oh my goodness!! You just made an (overdue) pregnant woman VERY happy!! I live in michigan now but I grew up in Chicago and have placed a LARGE order of this salad (and some Lou Malnati’s pizza) with my family when they come to visit after the baby is born. Now I don’t have to wait!! I’m literally putting my shoes on to go to the store and get what I need to have this ASAP! Thank you so much!
What Deb said! We loved Portillos when we lived in Chicagoland. It’s fun to recreate things we can’t have if we don’t live in the area, so thanks for posting this. Your blog is full of what you speak of – I feel like I will never get through all of the yummy recipes, but I will die trying!!
Best.salad.Ever. I’ve lived in the Chicago area my whole life. Pirtilli’s is an icon of Chicago style food like hot dogs and beef sandwiches but this salad is my favorite thing in their menu! I’ve been making a knock off version for years but I will cheat and buy the dressing they sell by the jar in their restaurants. So excited to make it myself! Love you Mel, we are food soul mates!