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What is the difference between Cobb salad and chef salad?

Both Cobb salad and chef salad are well-known salad varieties that have been popular menu items at restaurants and delis for decades. While there are some similarities between the two, there are also distinct differences when it comes to ingredients, presentation, and origins.

Quick Answers

Here are some quick answers to common questions about Cobb and chef salads:

  • A Cobb salad typically contains lettuce, tomato, bacon, chicken, hard-boiled egg, avocado, blue cheese, and dressing.
  • A chef salad usually contains lettuce, deli meats like turkey/ham, cheese, hard-boiled egg, and vegetables like tomato, cucumber, etc.
  • Cobb salad was invented in the 1930s by Bob Cobb, owner of The Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood. Chef salad origins are less clear.
  • Cobb salads are assembled with ingredients layered row-by-row. Chef salads mix everything together.
  • Both salads are nutritionally well-rounded, with protein, veggies, carbs, and fat. Cobb has more cheese/bacon while chef has more deli meat.


The ingredients are one of the biggest differences between Cobb and chef salads. Here’s a comparison:

Cobb Salad Chef Salad
Romaine or iceberg lettuce Romaine lettuce
Diced chicken breast Sliced turkey and/or ham
Bacon Swiss, Cheddar, or American cheese
Blue cheese Hard-boiled egg
Tomato Tomato
Avocado Cucumbers
Hard-boiled egg Carrots
Chives Croutons or crackers

While both salads contain staple ingredients like lettuce, tomato, and egg, the Cobb has bacon, avocado, and blue cheese while the chef swaps in deli meat and more cheese. The Cobb also occasionally contains chives.

Presentation Style

Another major difference between the two salads is the presentation and plating.

  • Cobb Salad: Ingredients are arranged row by row in parallel strips along the length of the plate. This showcases each ingredient individually.
  • Chef Salad: Ingredients are tossed together in a big bowl and then placed on a plate. This combines flavors together.

The Cobb salad’s separated arrangement makes an artistic visual statement. In contrast, the chef salad’s mix-and-match approach is more rustic and humble.


Cobb and chef salads also differ in their origins:

  • Cobb Salad: Created by Bob Cobb, owner of The Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood. He whipped it up as a midnight snack using leftovers in the 1930s.
  • Chef Salad: Less definitive history. Some attribute it to Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York in the late 1800s or early 1900s. Other accounts trace it to various chef-named salad recipes in the 1920s-1940s.

So the Cobb salad has a verified founder and birthplace, while the chef salad has a messier path with no definitive inventor or origin story.


Both Cobb and chef salads can provide a nutritious combination of protein, healthy fats, carbs, and vegetables. Here’s a nutritional comparison:

Nutrition Facts Cobb Salad (1 serving) Chef Salad (1 serving)
Calories 392 312
Fat 28g 18g
Carbohydrates 12g 15g
Protein 27g 21g
Sodium 811mg 1264mg

The Cobb delivers more calories, fat, and protein from all the bacon and avocado. The chef has slightly more carbs and a lot more sodium from the deli meats and cheese. Both make filling main-dish meals.


Pricewise, Cobb salads tend to cost a bit more than chef salads at most restaurants.

  • A Cobb salad averages $12-$14 at most table-service chains like Cheesecake Factory, CPK, Red Lobster, etc.
  • A chef salad averages $9-$12 at the same places.

Factors like the bacon, avocado, and blue cheese drive up the price of the Cobb. The widely available ingredients of the chef keep it on the budget-friendly end for restaurants.


Both salads appear frequently on menus, but Cobb may have a slight edge in modern popularity.

  • Cobb salad often ranks as one of the most popular salads in surveys and articles.
  • It’s considered a classic, iconic salad on par with Caesar salad.
  • Chef salad has been around longer, but isn’t seen as quite as trendy nowadays.

The Cobb salad likely wins out for its photogenic layered presentation and inclusion of current food trends like avocado and bacon.


Both salads can be modified and tweaked in many ways:

  • Cobb: Can substitute turkey for chicken, crumbled blue cheese instead of cubes, balsamic dressing, etc.
  • Chef: Can add grilled chicken or different veggies like bell peppers. Can use vinaigrette instead of creamy dressing.

So while both salads have somewhat “classic” forms, there’s room for creativity and customization to suit individual tastes.

Ease of Assembly

When it comes to putting the salads together, the chef salad holds a slight edge in simplicity.

  • Cobb: Arranging rows of ingredients neatly takes more effort and time.
  • Chef: Just tossing everything in a bowl is faster and easier.

For restaurants and food service, chef salad requires less meticulous plating. But the orderliness of the Cobb makes for a prettier presentation.


To summarize the key differences:

  • The Cobb salad features rows of ingredients like chicken, bacon, avocado, and blue cheese.
  • The chef salad mixes together turkey, ham, cheese, eggs, and vegetables.
  • Cobb has a known origin in 1930s Hollywood while chef salad has ambiguous origins.
  • Nutritionally, Cobb has more fat and protein while chef is higher in sodium.
  • Cobb salad costs a bit more and may be trendier with modern diners.
  • Both can be modified in creative ways.

Overall, the Cobb is considered the more upscale, photogenic option while the chef is the more economical, casual choice. But foodies agree both deliver classic, satisfying flavors in every bite.