baby wedge salad with avocado and pickled onions

Merely three weeks ago, I lamented the mediocrity and afterthought-ness of most meatless entrees, so often cobbled together from sides of other dishes. Because I love a plot twist, it seems only right that this week I tell you about my favorite salad which happens to be — you guessed it — cobbled from the sides of other dishes. I used to order it from a taco place in our neighborhood before they changed the recipe, and even though I knew it was just the most filler-y lettuce, the pickled onions, sliced radishes, pepitas, and crumbled cotija they’d use to garnish their other offerings, masquerading as a salad, I did not care. Sometimes it works. Here, it sings. It’s absolutely perfect: crunchy, bright, creamy, and inhalable.

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At home, I definitely zhuzh it more (a word I just learned, to my delight, how to spell) — I like to warm the pepitas in oil until they get more crisp and fragrant. I add avocado, which I also did at home when we’d order it. Sometimes I get cute and cut the iceberg lettuce into little wedges. I measure the toppings with my heart, but there are measurements below that will also work. I don’t know about you, but I could, and might try, to eat this once a week forever.

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Fun stuff!

Want to buy a signed cookbook as a gift for yourself or someone else? In advance of Mother’s Day, you will be able to order signed cookbook(s) from two different beloved NYC bookstores that ship nationwide. Details:

* Books Are Magic: Order signed and personalized [i.e. “To [name]” and/or “Happy Mother’s Day!” or “Happy Mother’s Day, [name!”] copies of any of my three cookbooks. You can have these shipped to you or can pick them up at one of the two store locations in Brooklyn. Ordering deadline: 4/22.

* Strand Bookstore: Order a signed copy [no personalizing this round] Iof my most recent cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Keepers. You can have it shipped to you or can pick it up at their store near Union Square. While the ordering deadline is Mother’s Day (5/14), if you’d like it to arrive somewhere by Mother’s Day, The Strand recommends that you order by 4/26.

Events: While book tour events have otherwise slowed down, I will be in New Jersey at the Montclair Literary Festival on Saturday, May 6th.



6 months ago: Focaccia Onion Board and Apple and Cheddar Crisp Salad
2 year ago: Winter Squash and Spinach Pasta Bake
3 years ago: Skillet Turkey Chili
4 year ago: Chicken Curry
5 years ago: Even More Perfect Apple Pie
6 years ago: Quick Pasta and Chickpeas and Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
7 years ago: Garlic Wine and Butter Steamed Clams, Baked Alaska, Indian-Spiced Cauliflower Soup and Skillet-Baked Pasta with Five Cheeses
8 years ago: My Old-School Baked Ziti and Cannoli Pound Cake
9 years ago: Better Chicken Pot Pies and Better Chocolate Babka
10 years ago: Miso Sweet Potato and Broccoli Bowl and Purple Plum Torte
11 years ago: Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
12 years ago: Apple Pie Cookies
13 years ago: Mushroom Lasagna
14 years ago: Quiche Lorraine and Breakfast Apple Granola Crisp
15 years ago: Majestic and Moist Honey Cake, Best Challah (Egg Bread), and Mom’s Apple Cake
16 years ago: Peter Reinhart’s Bagels and Peanut Butter Brownies
17 years ago: Lemon Cake

baby wedge with avocado salad-9

Baby Wedge Salad with Avocado and Pickled Onions

  • Servings: This is not for me to decide
  • Source: Smitten Kitchen
  • Print

  • 3 tablespoons (45 grams) red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) water
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar or honey
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup (35 grams) pepitas
  • 3 tablespoons (40 grams) olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small (3/4 to 1 pound) head of iceberg
  • 1 medium avocado, chopped in chunks
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) crumbled cotija cheese
  • 2 radishes, thinly sliced then cut into matchsticks

Pickle your onions: Combine red wine vinegar, water, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and sugar or honey in a jar. Add onion and shake to combine. You can let this pickle and soften in the fridge for 1 hour and up to 5 days, but it’s not bad at all in 10 to 15 minutes. To hurry the pickling along, you can actually microwave this (lid off, obviously) for about 20 seconds, and then let it hang out in the fridge until you’re ready.

Crisp your pepitas: Combine pepitas with 3 tablespoons olive oil in a small skillet and warm over medium heat. Let pepitas sizzle in oil for 1 to 2 minutes but keep a close eye on them; raw ones may be able to handle more time but already toasted ones will need less to get one shade darker. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper and let cool for few minutes before using.

Assemble your salad: Cut your iceberg into halves, then each half into 4 wedges. Cut the wedges down into smaller triangles, keeping the little pyramids intact as best you can for the baby wedge appearance. Transfer them to your serving plate. Scatter iceberg with avocado, then spoon pepitas and their oil over everything. Scatter with rings of pickled onion, and spoon the vinegar brine left behind over the lettuce. Garnish with cotija cheese and radishes. Season the whole platter with salt and pepper and eat right away.

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65 comments on baby wedge salad with avocado and pickled onions

  1. Kat

    I, too am a girl who may or may not eat most (all) of an ostensibly multi-serving salad myself. I can’t wait to try this one!

  2. Bentley

    We have been replacing white onion with pickled red onion in our weekly guacamole for several years now and my husband just asked me this week where I picked up the pickled part because it totally *makes* the dip. Where else than from the only lady I know who is possibly more pickle obsessed than my own family?

  3. Iceberg lover

    I’ve always felt that avocado (any fatty thing really) needs to be paired with something starchy like tortilla chips or toast. Otherwise it just roils around it my stomach. Just me? My wife likes avocado and lettuce salad but just the thought of it makes me a little nauseous.

  4. Susan

    OMG, I’m fangirling over the fact that two of my favorite authors (you are one, of course) work with Books Are Magic bookstore!!!
    Also, this salad looks amazing. ;-)

  5. Lauren

    This is the most yummy looking thing I’ve seen on this site for a few weeks…feeling the urge for “spring” food- but this ticks all the boxes for year-round enjoyment- and ( bless you…) so EASY!!! Will do it tomorrow ( no avocados in the house) and the bacon idea has me thinking that way too!

  6. Lisa

    So the only “dressing” is the tiny bit of vinegar not soaked up by the onions? Planning to make this soon, but it sounds really dry.

  7. Lucy

    This looks just delicious! Deb, I am a pretty new follower (I saw your site just a few months ago) but I love Smitten Kitchen and your cookbooks!! ❤️

  8. Chris

    Made this tonight, so good. Even dad the iceberg hater liked it. It was not really enough oil for 4 small side salads, but I loved the flavoring the pepitas added. I could absolutely have eaten that for dinner.

  9. Viola Mah

    Scrolling this recipe on my phone and it included an mattress ad titled “the truth about side sleepers” and 100% thought that’s what you named this recipe

  10. Jess

    I thought this looked like a beautiful and interesting salad. It was ok. I think it would have been better if the red onions had truly pickled – 4 hours was not enough time and this was not enough liquid. Deb’s other recipe on this site is much better. But it was fun to try something new as a side dish – thank you.

  11. Nancy

    Made it last night for dinner, half recipe for two and already can’t wait for a repeat tonight! We’re are raw onion sensitive, so I did the pickling the day before and they were delicious. I did not have cotija cheese and subbed feta. The pepitas took it over the top.

  12. Grace

    This reminds me of a favorite salad from Comal Next Door in Berkeley- their version has an amazing cilantro lime vinaigrette and strips of roasted green chiles. If you have the time and inclination, I totally recommend adding roasted chiles!

  13. Rachael

    This is delightfully similar to the Iceberg Wedge salad at Alouette in Toronto, which uses a puffed rice in addition to the pepitas. Excited to try this!

  14. Elissa

    Didn’t have cotija so I used feta. Didn’t have radishes so skipped them. Used shallots because I didn’t have onions. Regardless – this salad was outstanding. Crunchy, salty, creamy, pickle-y. Thanks – this one is going to stay in the rotation!

    1. Celia C

      I’m trying to limit food waste. I always have feta and was hesitant about buying another cheese that might go green before I can get to it again. Thanks for the feta endorsement.

      1. Leah

        @ Celia C: Cotija is a cheese that actually handles freezing! I had 1/2 a wheel of it in my freezer so I grated what I needed for the salad. Doesn’t need to thaw first.

    2. Kara

      Exactly my predicament, and using vegan feta crumbles, to boot. The shallots are heating on the stove now, and I can’t wait to dig in. Thanks!

  15. KarenJ

    I have to say I was both intrigued and sceptical about this salad. Iceberg lettuce is so 70’s? and so few ingredients. But I liked the simplicity of it – no fussing with dressing! – so I gave it a try. WOW!! So fresh and so tasty. My husband said he could eat it every day and I absolutely agree. This is a keeper for sure

  16. Janie

    I made this and it was delicious! The onions could use more liquid though. Otherwise it was delicious and will definitely make again,

  17. A Spiegel

    Excellent salad with great textures and contrasting bites. Definitely for rotation. It’s easy to make, too—just remember to start red onions an hour beforehand.

  18. Linda

    So Delicious and very difficult to stop eating! My husband loved it too and when I went back to check the serving size, we laughed! Thanks for another scrumptious recipe!

  19. Always on the lookout for new recipes for lunch, and this recipe was tried out today. Loved how quickly it came together using ingredients that I always have on hand. Okay, coming clean, didn’t have iceberg so I did use romaine hearts which were perfect for cradling the seeds, pickled onions and cheese. I also added some Fishwife Smoked Tuna for added protein. Definitely will make this again and again.

  20. Missy

    Wow! So good! Made it exactly as called for (with maybe a touch heavy hand of Cotija). It was the star of dinner, and that dinner included gorgeous rib eye steaks, home made Mac and cheese and fresh Spring asparagus. Just a really fab salad. Next time I’m going to double the pickling juice for the onions. We all wanted more for the dressing. Thanks Deb!

  21. Cassandra

    Delicious and fun. Two of us shared the platter. Perfect as written but when doubled, it lost a little of it’s magic. I had too much lettuce, I think. I like it best when the onions have been pickling for a few days.

  22. Sina

    This was wonderful!
    I couldn’t find cotija, so I used some Manchego cheese I had in the fridge. And instead of the radishes I went for pears, which is a whole other flavour, but somehow worked very well. Will try again with radishes for sure.

  23. Kara

    This is my new favorite salad! I subbed cotija with feta because that is what I had. I loved the taste of the vinegar from the onions mixed with oil for dressing. Next time I nought add some shrimp to make it a main course salad. Loved it also I think iceberg is having a long overdue moment

  24. Noelle

    This is so delicious! I subbed romaine for iceberg and had to skip the Cotija cheese since I’m currently not able to eat dairy, but it was still excellent. Thank you! I agree with the previous comment that this would pair well with shrimp – I think I will try that next time to make it more of a full meal.

  25. Nettie Croy

    This was such a delicious salad! It’s healthy and so easy! I’ve been following you for so many years and your recipes never disappoint!

  26. Karen Kostka

    This was a surprisingly delicious salad. Made it as written with one sub. Used pistachios because I didn’t have pepitas. I was concerned about the “dressing” but it all came together beautifully.

  27. Jody

    Highlight of our dinner!
    Served with a grilled chicken breast marinated with lemon, basil, garlic and dill.
    But…..the salad!
    Everyone raved!
    No cotija…but my crumbled blue was perfect.
    Thank you Deb. You make my life better!

  28. Julia McFadden

    Oddly I haven’t found radishes in grocery stores here in CT for months. So, subbed romaine for iceberg, feta for cotija, and thinly julienned red pepper for the radishes (and put them in the pickling brine with the onions).
    I microwaved the onions in the brine as Deb suggested, then popped the bowl in the freezer until ready to assemble. Worked well for me. Delicious.
    Will try adding tuna or shrimp as others suggested.

  29. Juliana S-L

    We made this last week and – it hurts my soul to write this – it was a miss! I love 100% of the recipes Deb creates, and this just didn’t work for us. It was *super* bitter. Maybe my husband did something wrong or accidentally used a wrong ingredient? Or maybe our iceberg was just a bitter batch? Either way, I am hoping I can try this again and have it be redeemed, given how everyone else loves it.

  30. LauraD

    Me: I’ll imagine that the weather is typically summer-ey in the Northeast and give this a whirl. How bad could it be? At least it will be easy!

    It is not bad. It’s actually great. I added a little cayenne for zazz to the pepitas. It was a quick dinner treat and I can’t wait to make it again. Surprisingly complex in flavor yet shockingly good in its simplicity.

  31. Recently, my sister prepared a salad quite similar to this, only she used lettuce as the foundation and grilled a flank steak marinated in the same balsamic vinegar as the dressing (but no nuts), in case you were craving something meatier. As Deb pointed out, this is just the beginning, and you can’t go wrong with grilled peaches.

  32. Jennie

    So good. I have never understood the appeal of pepitas–until I made this salad. They were so good! My onions pickled for about an hour and would have been less oniony if they’d sat for longer, but that’s my only complaint, and it’s one of time management on my part. Really an excellent salad! Thanks so much Deb!