I adore salads of all kinds—leafy and grain-based and everything in between. If you asked me to pick a favorite, I’d have an impossible time. The many factors I'd consider send my brain into a tailspin: What’s in season? What ingredients am I obsessed with at the moment? What are my mood and appetite on that given day?
But ask me to name my most essential salad—the one I turn to repeatedly, and couldn't possibly live without—and I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment.
"Fattoush!" I’d answer, emphatically. It's my go-to, and I believe it belongs in every cook’s repertoire.
A staple of Middle Eastern cuisines, fattoush is a chopped salad of tomato and crispy pita bread. Many versions include Persian cucumbers, romaine, and fresh herbs tossed in a simple vinaigrette. Also common: a generous dusting of sumac, which lends its unmistakable lemony tartness and dark red hue. The textures, flavors, and colors all work so well together.
Come peak summer, I’ll swoop up the ripest, juiciest tomatoes I can find and make it on repeat. But as much as fattoush dazzles in its classic form, it brilliantly morphs into exactly what I'm craving in the moment, practically begs for improvisation.
Take this spunky springtime version I can’t stop making. It features radish and roasted asparagus in place of tomatoes and cucumbers. Rather than crunchy romaine, it calls in even crispier chickpeas, which I like to season with za’atar and roast alongside the pita on the same sheet pan. (Crispy pita is a weakness of mine, so I always go heavy on it.) I add dill too, since I love its soft, frilly edges and bold flavor.
Yogurt sauce swirled with more za’atar stands in as the dressing—its rich creaminess the perfect balancing act to all of the delightfully crunchy elements. I like to drizzle it over the salad rather than tossing it in, to get the greatest contrast in texture, flavor, and color.
That’s the beauty of fattoush. Know its basic formula (vegetables + crispy pita + herbs + dressing), and you’ll be able to riff to your heart’s content.
Even the preparation is flexible. Keep your vegetables raw (per tradition), roast them in the oven at high heat (per my springy rendition), or head to the grill. With a fine-mesh grill bag or tray, even this crispy chickpea number could be made over an open flame. A smoke-kissed fattoush? Yes, please!
Heading into the summer, here are some of the endless variations to consider.
- Grilled zucchini + slivered sweet peppers
- Apricots + cucumbers
- Grilled eggplant + peaches (a spin on this caprese)
- Slow-roasted tomatoes + kale
- Sauteed sweet corn + avocado
The bottom line? With this formula for fattoush in your back pocket, you’ll always be a few steps away from a crazy delicious, meal-worthy salad—one that’s just right for the season and your cravings. Want to double-up on the crispy pita croutons? Go right ahead. I like your style.