As with many of the best Golden State inventions (I’m talking to you, blue jeans and San Francisco sourdough), the Cobb salad feels right at home in its birthplace of California. And why shouldn’t it? With enough crispy bacon, creamy avocado, and fresh greens to fuel adventures as diverse as scouring for movie locations and catching the perfect waves, this composed yet playful dish nails the California vibe.
Cobb Salad Q&A
Here’s everything you want to know about Cobb salad, including who invented the Cobb salad in California, the Cobb salad’s history, and how to craft the perfect Cobb salad.
Q: Who invented the Cobb salad?
A: Like many other inventions, there is some debate regarding the details of who invented Cobb salad, but one thing is for certain: Hollywood’s Brown Derby Restaurant had something to do with it. Whether owner Robert Howard Cobb himself was the Cobb salad inventor or whether the restaurant’s head chef should get the credit, the world may never know.
Q: What is the history of Cobb salad?
A: As the most common version of the story goes, Robert Howard Cobb started the Brown Derby Restaurant with Herbert Somborn in 1926. Known at the time as “The Little Hat,” this eatery was literally shaped like a brown derby hat and was opened in the hopes of bringing super-fresh, high-quality food to Southern California during a time when it was sorely lacking.
Working late one night in 1937 and entertaining some of his famous friends, Cobb went into the kitchen to scrounge up some leftovers for their midnight snack. After finding some lettuce, blue cheese, chicken, tomatoes, and scraps of bacon, he assembled the concoction and brought it out. The dish was so warmly received that one of these friends, Sid Grauman—of the iconic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (now known as the TCL Chinese Theatre)—came back the very next day and ordered the “Cobb salad.” The salad was added to the restaurant’s menu and was chopped and assembled in front of the guests, making it a must-try experience. The dish was a hit from then on.
There are other versions of the story, though. Some claim that the restaurant’s head chef actually added the dish to the menu, while others tout that a dental procedure led Cobb to chop the ingredients into small pieces and create the dish we know today.
However the Cobb salad came about, we’re glad the Golden State’s fresh ingredients made it onto our plates in such an interesting and delectable way. Although the original Brown Derby closed in 1985, the legacy of the Cobb salad lives on.
Q: What are the key ingredients in a Cobb salad?
A: Iceberg and romaine lettuces, avocado, tomatoes, chicken breast, hard-boiled eggs, bacon, Roquefort cheese, and the classic Cobb salad dressing are the dish’s staples, though many recipes take creative liberties.
Q: How do you make a Cobb salad for a party?
A: The Cobb salad was made for large groups. While there is nothing wrong with a single serving of this deliciously filling dish, the stunning plating and simple assembly make it the ideal no-fuss party food—you’ll even be able to please guests on the keto diet with a bacon- and cheese-forward keto Cobb salad.
Cobb Salad Recipe
If you’re looking for a Cobb salad recipe, you’re in luck: We’ve assembled a 12-person Cobb salad recipe we think the California inventor himself would be proud of.
Cobb Salad Dressing
Similar to the origins of the salad itself, the original Cobb salad dressing recipe is hotly debated. While many recipes claim that the original included egg yolks, some stick to oils, and others incorporate red wine vinegar into the mix. No matter which way you lean, this dressing is sure to please. (To make your Cobb salad keto-approved, make sure to watch the proportions of fat and carbs, and of course, nix the sugar in the dressing.)
Cobb Salad Dressing Ingredients
- 2 cups olive oil
- 1 lemon, juiced
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (or 1 teaspoon dry mustard)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
Cobb Salad Ingredients
- 1 head iceberg lettuce, finely chopped
- 1 bunch watercress, finely chopped
- 1 head romaine lettuce, finely chopped
- ½ cup tomatoes, finely chopped
- 2 avocados, thinly sliced
- 2 chicken breasts, cooked and finely diced
- 4 hard-boiled eggs, finely diced
- 8 slices of bacon, cooked and finely chopped
- 4 ounces grated Roquefort cheese (or crumbled blue cheese—we won’t tell)
- Combine the ingredients for the dressing and set aside.
- Mix greens together in a bowl or place them across a platter.
- Arrange the produce and proteins in lines across the greens to create an aesthetically pleasing dish.
- Drizzle the homemade dressing over the top of the Cobb salad when you’re ready to serve it, or allow guests to add it themselves.
What’s your favorite thing about Cobb salads? Let us know your tips and tricks in the comments below.