Winter cobb salad is a cozy twist on a beloved classic. Juicy apples, nutty pecans, hearty chicken, sweet roasted butternut squash and more get tossed together with a warm maple bacon vinaigrette for a salad that’s easy to make but fancy enough for company.
Winter time…or kind of more like spring? I don’t know even know anymore. The weather is a constant enigma. On one hand, the practical convenience of a February day where the mercury rises to a balmy 60 degrees is quite nice. On the other, more apocalyptic hand…the earth is f*cked? Fun world issues to discuss with my as yet unborn child, right? But I guess while I try to cut back on my single use plastics (omg, what will I possibly do with gallon zip top freezer bags????) I’ll also contemplate foods that still feel like winter, while firmly having a foot in spring.
Winter Cobb Salad
This “winter” cobb salad does just that. It’s hearty, comforting, and downright cozy in its ingredient list, but when you really get down to it, a salad still makes you feel kind of light and fresh, and well…springy. This is one that really rides the line between seasons, and does it with a bit of panache if I do say so myself. Eddie and I have definitely enjoyed it during a cozy dinner for two, but it’s also a great centerpiece at your next brunch party. Seriously, it’s a looker, with bacon AND cheese…what’s not to love?
So typically a cobb has chicken, blue cheese, eggs, avocado, bacon, tomatoes, lettuce, and some sort of zingy dressing. But since I’ve never been one to exactly conform to traditional standards, things have gotten a little…twisty.
- Chicken – Well some things have to remain the same. One, the chicken turns this from a beautiful side or starter into the main event. Best part? You can (and totally should) just use leftover chicken for this. Rotisserie counter here I come!
- Cheddar cheese – I’m preggers. I can’t have blue cheese (according to some corners of the internet). Also cheddar goes great with all the other yummy winter flavors we’ve got going on here, like…
- Pecans – I’m nuts for nuts, at least in salads. They add a healthy crunch, some added protein, and in the case of pecans, a deeply rich toasty flavor. But you could also sub in your favorite nut if you’d prefer.
- Apples – I like something crisp and tart for this (and just in general). Pink lady, Gala, or Grannysmith would all work well.
- Butternut squash – This is a great answer to the “what to do with all that leftover squash” question that I know you’ve been contemplating. Acorn squash would also be excellent here.
- Lettuce – Any kind you like (or for me is on sale) is grand.
- Dried cranberries – I always have these juicy little jewels in my pantry. They add a great jammy sweetness to any salad.
- Bacon – Because some things are too good to skip or swap out. Plus you’ll need the extra bacon fat for your vinaigrette.
How to Make Your Best Ever Cobb Salad
Of course you can just toss all these ingredients together, but the beauty of a cobb is really in how pretty it looks all arranged. I like to pick a big platter, spread out a big bed of lettuce, and then group ingredients in little piles. When it’s time to serve, just let people pick and choose their favorite parts and serve dressing on the side for drizzling.
- The cooking parts: If you don’t happen to have already roasted squash and previously pulled chicken hanging out in the fridge, no worries. Preheat an oven to 400°F and throw some slices of squash on a rimmed baking sheet. Grab another sheet pan and pop a couple pieces of bone in chicken (thighs or breasts are both fine here) on it. Drizzle a good amount of olive oil over both squash and chicken and season both pans generously with salt and pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes, or until chicken is cooked and squash is soft and brown at the edges. Once chicken is cool, shred or chop into bite sized pieces.
- The bacon part: Cook some bacon. Drain it and crumble into bite sized pieces. Save 1/4 cup of the bacon fat and try not to eat all the bacon while you’re constructing the rest of the salad (or maybe make extra).
- The dressing: Combine the reserved bacon fat (still hot or at least warm is best) with salt, pepper, maple syrup, red wine vinegar and a little mustard in a jar. Put the lid on (tightly) and shake until well combined.
- The assembly: Get a large platter out and lay a generous bed of leafy mixed greens on it. Then arrange piles of all your goodies in whatever way looks beautiful to you – for me the more is more better school of thought definitely comes into play here.
- The serving: Build your perfect plate from the beautiful platter and drizzle with a generous amount of hot bacon dressing. Then dig in!
Tips for Making a Cobb Salad
Best tip I can give you is not to stress – it’s just a salad. But here are some more actionable ones as well if you’re into that kind of thing.
- Rotisserie chicken was MADE for this salad. Costco makes a great one, but if you don’t like what’s on offer at your grocery store then feel free to roast up your own.
- For crispy bacon take it low and slow. You need time for all that fat to render out and crispity crunchity without actually burning, so let the heat ride at a steady medium or even medium low and you’ll be rewarded with super crisp bacon.
- Cut the cheese – You know what I hate cleaning? The cheese grater. Alas, sometimes it cannot be avoided, but for this particular dish I love a good chunk o’ cheese, so no need to grate (unless you want to).
- Substitutions and Add Ons – If you absolutely must have egg in your cobb salad I’m not mad about it. Or if you’re more in a gouda mood than cheddar, have at it! Some other swap out options? Pears for apples, brie for cheddar, roasted parsnips for squash, or massaged, marinated kale for lettuce.
- Make sure your bacon fat is hot (or at least warm) before making the dressing. And if you’d rather not deal with all that, just sub in olive oil.
Well, it’s really a full meal in and of itself, but around here we like it with a side of crusty bread and maybe a bowl of hot soup. This lightened up broccoli cheddar version would be lovely. If you’re going the brunch route then this would look mighty fine on the table next to a hearty frittata or savory dutch baby pancake.Print
Winter Cobb Salad
Winter cobb salad is a cozy twist on a beloved classic. Juicy apples, nutty pecans, hearty chicken, sweet roasted butternut squash and more are drizzled with a hot bacon dressing that makes this salad over the top delicious.
- Prep Time: 15 Minutes
- Cook Time: 15 Minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 6 Servings 1x
- Category: Salad
- Cuisine: American
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 C reserved bacon grease (keep warm)
3 T red wine vinegar
1 T maple syrup
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
10 cups mixed greens
3 cups cooked chicken, shredded
2 cups roasted butternut squash
1 large apple, sliced thin
4 ounces cheddar cheese, diced
2/3 C pecan halves, toasted
2/3 C dried cranberries
Make the dressing by whisking together the reserved bacon grease with red wine vinegar, maple syrup, dijon mustard, kosher salt and black pepper until well combined. Season to taste and set aside.
Assemble your salad by laying a bed of lettuce down on a large serving platter and arranging ingredients on top.
Drizzle with dressing and serve immediately.
Rotisserie chicken works well for this, but if you’d like to roast your own, place 2 pieces of bone in chicken (thighs or breasts) on a rimmed baking sheet (lined with foil for easy cleanup). Drizzle with olive oil and season generously on both sides with salt and pepper. Roast in a preheated 400°F oven for 40 minutes or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160°F for breasts or 170°F for thighs. Let cool and shred or chop. Chicken can be roasted and pulls up to two days in advance and stored in the fridge.
To roast butternut squash, peel and slice into 1/2 inch slices. Lay on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a preheated 400°F oven for 30-40 minutes or until squash is soft and starting to brown at the edges. Let cool before serving.
Bacon fat will solidify at room temperature or below, so make this while the bacon fat is still hot. If you’d prefer you can just swap it for olive oil.
You can assemble the entire salad (except for the bacon and bacon fat dressing) a few hours ahead of time. Just make sure to cover the entire platter with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Keywords: winter cobb salad, hot bacon dressing, brunch salad, dinner party salad