French Bistro Salad (aka Simple Green Salad)

This post looks like I am just giving you a recipe for lettuce, right?

Well, I am not.  I am giving you a recipe for the quintessential French bistro salad, and it is from none other than the famous (and simply incredible) Ms. Julia Child herself.

Since arriving in France, I can confirm that they don’t indulge in a lot of vegetables during their main meals, or at least this has been my experience at the restaurants I’ve visited. However, most main plates are accompanied by a small green salad. But this isn’t just any green salad, this is the FRENCH green salad.  It is dressed with the most perfect dressing, one that is light, yet flavourful and definitely not overpowering.  I always yearn for more (and end up stealing CH’s off his plate).

So, I have been on the hunt for a recipe for this dressing since I arrived in France and tasted my first bistro salad.  I’ve probably tried about 5 or 6 recipes, and bought 3 types of oil.  None of them have matched the bistro salads I’ve had. One afternoon, I was working away on some school stuff and I decided that I wanted to watch a food show, to get inspired (and to hear some English!).  I clicked onto Hulu and up came 6 Julia Child episodes.  I decided it was fate, given that these were French recipes, but in English.  So, away went the books and I spent the afternoon enthralled with Julia Child & Jacques Pepin and all of their antics and recipes.  The very last episode I watched was their “Salad” episode and what was their first recipe…yupp, none other than a simple French green salad.  Julia Child described it as “one of the best things” and I couldn’t agree more.  I watched the segment 3 times, just to make sure I got the ingredients correct and I tried to measure out by eye how much of each ingredient she was using, since she doesn’t state it explicitly.  I ran immediately to my kitchen and made this salad (having just picked up a head of green lettuce that morning).

I sat down and was immediately overjoyed.  This was it – this was the salad I had been yearning for.  So simple, so quick, but so special.  You may have to play with the quantities of the ingredients a bit, depending on your mustard, olive oil and the acidity of your lemon juice, but keep adjusting until it suits your taste buds.

So, if you are looking for a simple salad to accompany a flavourful main dish or just a taste of France – this salad is it.  Also, do yourself a favour and watch a few Julia Child episodes, she is truly amazing.  Her salad episode (on Hulu) can be found here.

Enjoy a taste of France!

(and yes, I brought my MAFC with me to France!)

Simple Green Salad

Yield: 4 side salads or 2 main course servings
Prep Time:  5 minutes
Cook Time:  n/a


  • 1 head of green lettuce (butter or green leaf)
  • 1 or 2 green onions (scallions), diced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 of a lemon, juiced
  • S&P (be generous with the pepper)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons good quality olive oil


Wash your lettuce and dry thoroughly (using a salad spinner).  Tip – Jacques Pepin explicitly states that a salad should be cold, but not too cold.  Therefore, wash your lettuce and dry it, and then prepare your dressing as your lettuce sits.

For the dressing.

In a small bowl, combine the mustard, lemon juice and S&P and whisk well to combine.  Slowly, add the olive oil and whisk until smooth and well incorporated.  That’s it.

Place the salad in a large bowl and top with dressing immediately before serving.


Recipe From Julia Childs & Jacques Pepin



Filed under French, Healthy, Mains, Salads, Side Dishes, Vegetarian and Vegan

16 responses to “French Bistro Salad (aka Simple Green Salad)

  1. Claire

    This sounds lovely. Do the scallions go into the dressing or do you toss the scallions in with the lettuce and then add the dressing?

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  4. Don Welch

    Just saw an old rerun of Jacques & Julia on PBS. This was the first f several salads they showcased. It was the simplest and most appealing.

  5. Scott Bateman

    whats the page # you found the recipe on?

    • Hi Scott – you’ll note in my description above that I actually got the recipe by watching episodes of Julia Childs on Hulu – the book was just a prop to make the salad prettier ;)! Enjoy!

  6. I’ve made this several times, thank you! I’m planning to make it for a large group. Can I make it ahead of time and keep it out of the fridge (like 8-10 hours)? Thank you!

    • Hi Lisa,
      I see no issue keeping the dressing at room temperature for several hours. I would avoid dressing the salad though, as it will go limp and mushy – I’d just make batches as needed. So glad you enjoy it!

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  8. I fell in love with a salad like this in Edinburgh, Scotland years ago in a little French restaurant. I never forgot about this dish. I found this post about a year ago to my great delight. My husband goes for the fancy salad, but this is exactly the type I like the most.

  9. Michael Dreher

    I had a salad like this at a French restaurant years ago in Edinburgh, Scotland. I never forget an absolutely delicious dish like this. I finally stumbled across recipe several months ago to my delight. My husband prefers a fancy salad but this one is perfect for me.

  10. Barbara

    I want to double the recipe for 8 side salads. Do I double the dressing ingredients?

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