Sunday, November 20, 2011

Recipe for American Greek Salad

I'd never get tired of American Greek Salad for a meatless lunch or dinner!

(Republished with new photos and updated recipe, November 2011.)  Here in the U.S. we're just about to head into what can be the most indulgent food week of the entire year.  Although I try to encourage healthier holiday eating with my Low-Glycemic Thanksgiving Recipes, I know this is a time when making good choices can be a challenge.  Personally I think it's okay to splurge a little on a holiday meal, because over the long haul healthy eating is all about balance.  This long-time favorite recipe for American Greek Salad is something I first posted when I was a teacher about to go on summer vacation, but it's also a good choice when you need to balance out some heavier meals.  I recommend this salad at my pick for Meatless Monday this week if you'd like to start the week with something that's tasty and fresh.

It's the addition of lettuce that makes this salad an American Greek Salad.  In fact, when I went to Greece I discovered what I'd always called Greek Salad (with lettuce) didn't really exist there!  Greek Salad in Greece (often called village salad) has cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, Kalamata olives, green pepper, and Feta with a dressing made from olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice and seasoned with a little dried oregano.  I used to be somewhat unenthusiastic about the onion and green bell pepper, but the last few years I've realized that thin slivers of those two vegetables add a lot of flavor to a salad like this.  You can add or subtract ingredients based on what you prefer, but don't leave out the handful of lettuce if you're going to call this American Greek Salad. 

(You can find more meatless recipes by using the label Meatless Monday or checking Vegetarian Recipes in the recipe index.  For Meatless Monday ideas from other bloggers, check Meatless Monday at BlogHer, where I write a weekly feature spotlighting one of the fabulous meatless recipes I find around the web.)

You can make authentic Greek Dressing if you like, but I usually use a small amount of purchased vinaigrette dressing that's kicked up a bit with lemon juice, caper juice, capers, and dried oregano.  Make the dressing first so the flavors can blend.

Two ingredients you must not skip if you're making Greek Salad of any type are Feta cheese and Kalamata olives.  Both of these are strongly flavored, so it doesn't take too much to add a lot of good Greek flavor.

I buy grape tomatoes and baby cucumbers year-round at Costco, so I always have them around to make this salad.  Thinly slice the bell pepper and onions, and cut the tomatoes and cucumbers into bite-sized pieces.

For the lettuce I use about 1 head of Romaine for two salads.  I tear up the salad and wash it in my salad spinner.

Toss the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and green pepper with desired amount of dressing.

Then add the Kalamata olives and Feta cheese and toss again.  Season to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper and enjoy!

American Greek Salad
(Below are the amounts I'd use for two salads.  Adjust the amounts of each ingredient for how many people you are serving and your own preferences.)

Dressing Ingredients:
(I often start with Newman's Own Olive Oil and Vinegar Dressing; choose dressing with not more than 2 grams of sugar per serving for South Beach Diet)
1/4 cup purchased vinaigrette dressing
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 T lemon juice
2 tsp. capers
1 tsp. caper juice
1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Salad Ingredients:
3 cups Romaine lettuce, broken into bite sized pieces, washed and dried
1 cup cucumbers, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup green pepper, cut into thin slivers
1/4 cup red onion, cut into thin slivers
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, cut in half if desired (I like pitted olives for this)
1/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese

Whisk together the purchased vinaigrette, olive oil, lemon juice, caper juice, capers, and dried oregano and let the dressing stand while you prep other ingredients.

Break Romaine lettuce into bite sized pieces and wash well. (I use a salad spinner, but you can wash in a colander and dry with paper towels.) Cut up cucumbers and tomatoes into bite-sized pieces and thinly slice red onion and green pepper.

In large salad bowl toss together lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and green peppers with about 3 tablespoons of dressing.  Add crumbled Feta cheese and olives and toss again.  Season to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper and enjoy.

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About Ingredients:
Personally I have a strong preference for sheeps milk Feta in a salad like this, although truthfully I never met a Feta cheese I didn't like. To me, the sheeps milk Feta is creamier and a little milder. Whatever Feta you buy, try to avoid the pre-crumbled type; it simply does not last in the refrigerator.  If you're lucky enough to have a FoodSaver machine which vacuum packs food in plastic bags, it's perfect for sealing those big blocks of feta, which is something I always have in my fridge.

South Beach Suggestions:
This would be a great main dish salad for the South Beach Diet or any other Low-Glycemic eating plan, although if you're in the early phases of South Beach you might want to use the feta cheese a bit sparingly.  I also like Blue Cheese Dressing on this salad, and I buy a famous brand of blue cheese dressing and mix it half and half with buttermilk to make it more South Beach Diet friendly.

More Tasty Meatless Salads with Feta Cheese:
Spinach Salad Recipe with Marinated Garbanzo Beans and Feta Cheese from Kalyn's Kitchen
Cucumber and Avocado Salad with Lime, Mint, and Feta from Kalyn's Kitchen
Green Bean, Tomato, and Feta Salad Oreganato from Kalyn's Kitchen
Joanne Weir's Cucumber and Feta Salad from David Lebovitz
Zucchini Feta Cheese Chopped Salad Slaw from Family Fresh Cooking
Quinoa Salad with Tomato, Feta, and Parsley from The Perfect Pantry
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More to Chew On:


  1. Blue cheese dressing, huh? Sounds good to me - I'll use anything as an excuse to get more blue cheese in my mouth :)


  2. Kalyn - I had lots and lots of amazingly tasty Greek salad during my trip last week - sans lettuce, of course (though Santorini salad has lettuce:) Your blue cheese dressings sounds delicious - I might try that soon..
    Also - I realised that in Greece feta cheese is usually laid on top as a block, and not crumbled onto the salad, although most cookbooks say so. Go figure..

  3. Oh, the front porch! I am green with envy! Our front deck is (a) completely saturated with rain and (b) prime staging ground for hordes of mosquitoes. I daren't pray for a drought, but it's my secret desire right now!!

  4. Crystal, I'm with you on the blue cheese!

    Pille, very interesting that the Santorini salad had lettuce. I didn't get to go there. I got the name "American Greek Salad" from my favorite Mediterranean restaurant in Salt Lake.

    PatL, my house was built in 1912 and had one of those porches that go all the way across the front of the house. I love my porch, but it's rotting away and needs to be replaced!

  5. To further confuse things, I ordered a "Greek" salad in a restaurant in Tampa FL, and what I got was a lettuce salad that had a scoop of potato salad in the middle, a piece of feta on top and some olives and pickled beets as well.

    Apparently this is a regional thing and hopefully it stays that way.

  6. This is nice... I really like it.

  7. I live in Tampa and our Greek salads are the best in the country. No lie.

    Potato salad
    black olives
    feta cheese
    greek dressing

    Amazingly good and, due to our rich greek heritage here, VERY authentic.
    Tampa, FL

  8. Comments before this one were from 2006 when this recipe was first posted. You will see there is some lack of agreement about what truly constitutes "Greek Salad."

  9. I will continue to consider this a classic! My experience with this salad: A friend whose family still lived in Greece served this at a teacher appreciation dinner! Go figure.

  10. Kalyn, I love how colorful and fresh this is. My kind of salad!

  11. I love American Greek salads! ;-)


  12. I always add sun dried tomatoes to my greek salad.. maybe not as authentic but its delicious!

  13. I see there are a lot of Greek Salad fans, whether or not you add lettuce! I do love the idea of sun-dried tomatoes in this!

  14. I love everything in your salad. I think I could eat this every day in summer when the veggies come out of the garden. I ate my first garden cucumber tonight--just sliced in rice vinegar and salt. Delicious. Even through a few cherry tomatoes in, too. I love summer.

  15. You are right that in most parts of Greece they make the salad the way you describe it. In Cyprus we make the Greek salad or Horiatiki as we call it (village salad) with lettuce, fresh coriander and all the other ingredients of the Greek salad.
    The addition of a blue cheese salad sounds good. I shall give it a try. I would add (this is my personal opinion) what makes a Greek salad is Greek olive oil, Greek oregano, kalamata olives, onion and the combination of certain vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, coriander, etc.

  16. I love it when the summer comes. Time to try new salads. This is an interesting variation. I loooove blue cheese too :)

  17. Maria, thanks. I'm obviously very happy about summer, and looking forward to the wedding. I'll be there!

    jancd, lucky you. I love garden cucumbers!

    Ivy, thanks for clarifying. I hadn't hard of coriander on Greek salad (but of course I'd love it.) I only got to go to Athens, but I want to go back to Greece!

    bestcaesarsalad, it's really good with the blue cheese.

  18. School's out!!!! Yippee!!!
    Great salad!

  19. LOL - Americans and South Africans have more in common that we ever thought! The absolute standard salad on any South African restaurant menu is this exact "Greek" salad. I thought it was a worldwide thing, got to England and discovered it certainly isn't! When I go home for holidays I always gorge on this salad, and grilled haloumi salad (another South African favourite that doesn't really feature here in the UK).

    And can I just say how jealous I am of your summer vacation?? It's the thing I miss most about being a lecturer...

  20. Katie and Jeanne, I have to admit that having the summer off is a pretty great employee benefit!

  21. That's the most favorite salad!!! I like Greek salad!!!

  22. I remember enjoying a really good American Greek Salad with you at a restaurant near your house. This version looks even better.

  23. I could eat this salad every day!

  24. Lesly, thanks. I love it too.

    Dara, I always love the salads at that place. Fun memory!

    Maria, me too! I cut up the onions, cucumbers, and peppers and keep them in the fridge; then I eat salad every day until they're gone!

  25. I love anything with Greek flavors - I think it's because I love that saltiness. This looks fantastic - and a perfect way to feel better after eating too much on Thanksgiving!

  26. Thanks Deborah. That was exactly my thoughts about it!


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