This healthy Muffuletta Olive Salad recipe is a twist on the Muffuletta sandwich New Orleans. It incorporates all of the deliciousness of the sandwich into a healthy salad – the saltiness of the olives, the muffuletta bread, the cold cuts and the cheese – with fewer calories. (Updated April 16th, 2023)
What is a muffuletta sandwich New Orleans?
A muffuletta is a deli sandwich made on round Italian bread with sesame seeds, topped with fresh olive salad. The texture of the bread is a cross between focaccia and ciabatta. Originally this sandwich was created in by Sicilian immigrants in New Orleans in the French Quarter.
I just love a good muffuletta sandwich. There’s something so comforting and yummy about the saltiness of the olives, the bread, the cold cuts and the cheese all toasted and melted together. Unfortunately that also means a ton of calories! This picture was from the Olive Pit during my trip to Corning, California last year to the Olive Harvest.
How to skinnize a Muffuletta sandwich and turn it into a delicious “panzanella type” salad.
One way to negate some of those calories and points of that delicious sandwich is to turn it into a olive salad. This muffuletta olive salad recipe does just that!
How to make this healthier than the sandwich version:
- Start with spring mix as the base for the salad.
- Use more pickled Italian vegetables (giardiniera ) in the olive salad than you would on a sandwich. This adds bulk without the calories and fills you up. You can use hot or mild giardiniera .
- Use less olive oil in the olive salad, and more “juice” from the olives and pickled vegetables.
- Instead of using all salami meats – capocollo ham, genoa salami and mortadella for the cold cuts, use cooked chicken thighs/breasts, and a small amount of capocollo ham for flavor.
- Use a small amount of smoked mozzarella – to give it more flavor without all of the calories.
- Instead of using 2 slices of bread for each sandwich, use a small amount of focaccia. Cut the bread into small cubes and toss with the salad. The bread cubes soak up the juice in the olive salad. Delicious!
Will this salad keep for a few days?
You can definitely keep the olive salad part refrigerated for a few days. The best way to do this is to make up the olive salad ahead of time and then put together the Muffuletta Olive Salad with the olive salad part, fresh lettuce/spring mix and remaining ingredients when you’re ready to serve it.
How to make Muffuletta Olive Salad in pictures:
Gather your ingredients. For this part of the olive salad, it’s basically jarred and canned ingredients. You can find giardiniera (pickled Italian Vegetables) near the olive section of your grocery store or I buy it in a large jar on Amazon.
Make up the olive salad at least an hour ahead of time. You can keep it in the refrigerator for a few days. There’s no separate “dressing,” for the salad to make as the juice from the olives, vegetables, as well as the red wine vinegar, herbs and garlic all serve as the dressing.
Combine all the olive salad ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to put the Muffuletta Salad together.
When ready, arrange the spring mix in a large bowl, or do individual bowls. Top with olive salad mixture, chicken, capocollo ham, grated mozzarella and the focaccia bread cubes.
Learn more about the Olive Harvest in California
Muffuletta Olive Salad Recipe
For the olive salad mixture:
- 1/2 c. pimento-stuffed olives chopped, plus 1 T. juice from jar
- 1/2 c. black olives Pearls, chopped
- 1 c. giardiniera pickled Italian vegetables, can be hot or mild plus 2 T. of juice from jar
- 1/4 c. roasted red peppers in water, not oil, drained and chopped
- 1/2 c. Kalamata olives - pitted and chopped
- 2 T. capers plus 1 T. juice from the jar
- 2-4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 1/4 c. red onion finely chopped
- 1 T. red wine vinegar
- 1 T. fresh oregano finely chopped
- 1 T. fresh thyme finely chopped
- pinch of crushed red pepper or to taste
- pinch of kosher salt to taste
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil use a quality oil, it really matters for this recipe
For the Muffuletta Salad:
- about 6-8 c. Spring mix or mixed greens
- 4 oz cooked chicken breasts or thighs cut into cubes
- 4-5 slices thin capocollo ham or prosciutto
- 2 oz smoked mozzarella shredded/grated; or part-skim mozzarella grated
- 8 oz focaccia bread or ciabatta bread cut into small cubes
- Combine the ingredients for the olive salad. Allow to sit at least an hour or overnight is fine (up to 3 days).
- In a large bowl: combine spring mix, olive salad, chicken, capocolla, shredded mozzarella. (Or do individual bowls with about 1-2 c. spring mix, 3/4 c. olive salad, 1 oz. cooked chicken, 1 slice of capocollo, 1/2 oz. mozzarella, 1/2 oz focaccia).
- Add focaccia cubes or ciabatta cubes and toss. Serve immediately.