Crunchy, light, bright, and ultra-fresh. This French-inspired bistro salad is an absolute star as a side for nearly any dinner. Tender greens, fresh herbs, pickled onions, and a delicate vinaigrette on top.


Pickled Onions

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup white or red plonk vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • a pinch of salt and sugar

Bistro Salad

  • 1 romaine heart, stem removed and chopped
  • half a head of butter lettuce, stem removed, gently torn
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced tarragon
  • 1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped or torn
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives, minced


  • 1/2 cup canola oil (see notes)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (more to taste)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard or mayo – the purpose of this is to emulsify the dressing


Pickled Onions: Place the onions in a jar; fill the jar about a third of the way with vinegar, then fill to the top of the onions with water. Add salt and sugar, shake, and keep in the fridge for a few hours or a few days. (I’d suggest 30 minutes minimum if you’re short on time.)

Vinaigrette: Shake all dressing ingredients in a jar. It should be pleasantly bright and mellow – remember we’ll be adding a bunch of onions and herbs to the salad, so it’s okay for this dressing to be pretty chill. Keep this in the fridge if making ahead.

Salad: Prep all your salad greens – chop the romaine and the herbs, and gently tear the lettuce leaves into bite sized pieces.

Toss: Just before serving, toss greens, herbs, pickled onions, and dressing together – starting with about half of the dressing that’s in the jar, and adding more as necessary.

Serve: Taste and adjust; add salt and pepper to taste. It’s tender, bright, a little puckery, and so fresh. I love it.

What Makes This a Bistro Salad?

To my knowledge, this is generally what I understand to be a French Bistro Salad – or a simple green salad that is served in cafes and bistros around France. Liz brought this as the salad for our French dinner club night! And none of us are French, so we’re just doing our best out here to learn and borrow some French sophistication which is why I’m not necessarily going to call this a “French Bistro Salad” in matter we are way off the mark.

In general, I just like to think of this as a lightly dressed pile of greens that mentally takes you to a much fancier place (BISTRO LIFE!) and complements almost any dish on any plate. If you have more context on French Bistro Salads in general, feel free to pop your thoughts into the comments.

What Else Could You Add To This Salad?

If you’re feeling extra, a couple ideas that seem really solid:

  • toasted nuts like walnuts
  • goat cheese crumbles
  • shaved Parmesan cheese
  • golden crispies (really, just an excuse to make a big batch of these)
  • thinly shaved vegetables or fruits – squash, cucumber, apples

Do You Have To Use Canola Oil?

No, you don’t. The reason it’s used here is because it’s a neutral-flavored oil. But I will say, I have made this with olive oil and it’s delicious. My understanding is that part of the key to a French bistro salad is a very light dressing that doesn’t overpower the greens, and of the two versions I made, I definitely preferred the canola oil dressing – the olive oil comes on a bit strong. But personally, I’m not too precious of a cook so I say any kind of oil (where you like the flavor of the oil) could work! Just remember that everything here is pretty delicate (the chives, the lettuce, the dill, etc.) so you don’t want any one thing to really take over the salad.

How Long Does This Keep?

Not long, especially after you mix it. Those leaves start to get soggy pretty quickly, so I would recommend tossing the salad up within 5-15 minutes of serving. The elements will all keep individually for several days in the fridge, so keep them separate in the fridge and you’ll be good to go!

How Great Is Liz?

VERY GREAT! She is my salad-famous friend, the one we always go to for ideas on making vegetables great. Thanks, Liz!

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