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25th Mar 2024

Is the rising trend in chopped salad a symptom of the cost-of-living crisis?

Fiona Frawley

chopped salad chopped food

Strap in, kids.

Here in Dublin at least, food trends are usually a reflection of the times we live in. Post-recession in the 2010s, we got adventurous with burritos, brunch and every possible flavour donut. During the pandemic while many of us spent more time at home, the slow cookers were out from 10am each morning and everyone and their granny lovingly cared for sourdough starters. So far this year we’ve seen comforting, reliable foods like carbonara and soup of any iteration reigning supreme on menus and in home kitchens, indicating that in a world of political, financial and environmental uncertainty, we’re not looking to take risks when it comes to our food. We’re looking for dishes that make us feel okay, with as few surprises involved as possible.

If you follow cooking pages like Mob and Budget Bytes, you may have noticed an influx of videos depicting green leaves, grilled chicken and whatever other seasonal fillings you’re having yourself spread out on a wooden board and being chopped within an inch of their lives, with a finished product that’s invariably more appealing than its non-chopped counterparts.

The allure of the chopped salad is multi-faceted. From a technical standpoint, the cutting of all ingredients into a uniform size and tossing them together means you’ll be able to taste everything in each bite. The act of excessive chopping transforms a meal you may have made a million times before into something shiny and new, meaning you can be excited about dinner again without having to fork out for any new ingredients. And, crucially, if you’re a fussy eater, you feel like you’re trying something new without having to take any real risk. You’re having all the dependable, fail-safe flavours you’ve come to know and love – they’re just presented in a way that allows you to feel adventurous. Chopped salads give, as one commenter on a Mob recipe video suggested, “toddler-only-eats-ketchup-on-rice energy”.

Indeed, the comments section of any chopped salad video is a good place to go if you’re looking for a bitta online outrage, with cooking pages going as far as trolling those affronted by posting a chopped pancake platter for Pancake Tuesday. Followers urge creators to “stop with the pre-masticated food”, threatening that they are “one chopped salad away from unfollowing”. Like any popular trend, chopped cuisine has a dedicated cohort of haters gunning for its demise – but more who can’t get enough.

Alongside chopped salads, chopped sandwiches and wraps have been doing the rounds on TikTok (when I say “doing the rounds” I mean garnering an average of ten million views per video), and you may have noticed the recent addition of a chopped cheese pop-up outside Drury Street’s Bootleg. For those not in the know, a chopped cheese is a New York bodega delicacy which sees burger patty, classic American cheese, pickles and all the other traditional cheeseburger innards vigorously mixed and chopped, and served up in a pillowy hot dog bun. The pop-up was in situ for one week only but garnered a huge amount of interest, prompting us to question why everyone is so obsessed with chopped food.


If you ask me, the sudden fixation upon chopped foods in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis is no coincidence. Last month, findings from research agency Amárach indicated that the finances of just under 40 per cent of Irish people have worsened over the last 12 months, and that many of us feel gloomy about our financial prospects despite the fact that the country is technically doing well economically.

According to Amárach’s research, 71 per cent of people have reduced the number of times they eat out or order takeaways. 62 per cent of people say they have switched to a cheaper grocery retailer, and 68 per cent said they were treating themselves less, with a similar percentage socialising less often in a bid to better manage their household finances.

With many Irish households curtailing the amount they spend on the weekly shop, the importance of cost-effective, nourishing, filling recipes intensifies, and chopped salads fit the bill. There’s nothing exotic or costly in there – just your standard leafy greens, a pulse or grain of some sort, a bit of chicken or tinned fish and that’s your lot. You don’t have to seek out specialist, expensive fillings. Everything in the salad is so vigorously chopped up that really, it wouldn’t matter what’s in there. Everything’s a salad filling when it’s sliced to obliteration, meaning you can reach into your cupboard and lob anything nearing its best-by date into the mix. It’s a bit like a millennial coddle, without the threatening un-browned breakfast meat.

What’s more, a chopped salad still manages to feel like an exciting dinner. Sure, we might be scrimping now, but we’re the generation of tasting menus, small plates and seasonal herbs tweezed onto amuse-bouche – we still want to feel alive, god damn-it. We’ve gotten an appetite for great food thanks to the influx of well-travelled Irish chefs returning home to set up restaurants here, and we can’t go back to sad sliced ham sandwiches now; even if our bank accounts demand it. Luckily, a chopped salad commands you to spin and slice your ingredients like you’re Carmy Berzatto, and the end result is far more enticing than a few wilting leaves and a spoonful of tuna plopped meekly on a plate. There’s nothing more depressing than a week-before-payday dinner, grim and lifeless in comparison to the cavern of treasures waiting to be feasted upon on Just Eat. Chopped salad manages to be everything, everywhere, all at once – glamorous, exciting and Instagrammable, without breaking the bank.

Alongside a recipe for “The viral chopped Italian salad sandwich”, Good Morning America writes: “the components of the trend fit the bill for everything we’ve seen that makes a recipe soar to viral status on TikTok: quick and easy to make, mostly ingredients you likely already have at home, minimal or zero cooking required, and of course, visually appealing.” While Mob followers curse the act of excessive chopping and beg chefluencers to stop, it looks like the trend isn’t dying down any time soon. If anything, it’s exactly what we need right now.


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