How to make the 81st Deli TikTok Salad +2023


Cleveland, OH isn’t exactly known for its food scene, but a salad has managed to draw people from all across the US to flock to the city’s East Side to visit the 81st Deli. The family-run establishment is home to an unassuming chicken salad that now goes by the name “TikTok Salad.” on the menu due to its popularity on the app. Co-owner and creator of the salad, Wael Herbawi, has only been on TikTok since August a video he posted the same month a family friend eating the salad was enough to catapult his business into internet fame. “You better come here and get one of these,” says his girlfriend Tanisha Godfrey in the video. Herbawi, filming, asks what she’s eating and where she got it from, to which Godfrey simply (and iconicly) replies, “It’s a chicken salad. 81st Deli.”

Herbawi never expected the salad to go viral, in fact he says he only created it because he wanted to add a healthier option to the deli’s menu. The humble inspiration behind it was none other than his own mother’s recipe. “I grew up with it,” Herbawi tells POPSUGAR. “My mom made chicken salads for a healthy dinner. The salads were quite large since we’re a family of eight, including kids and parents.” His mother’s influence on 81st Deli’s signature salad, says Herbawi, has made its rise in popularity all the more significant. “My mother is the best cook I know. I would always look forward to her cooking – and still do to this day -” he adds.

Herbawi’s mom clearly taught him well, because all over TikTok you’ll now see locals and out-of-towners visiting the 81st Deli just to get a taste of the salad. Some customers have even traveled from places as far-flung as Detroit and Miami just to try it, and the consensus across the board is overwhelmingly positive: It’s worth the long line and plane travel in between. Those who haven’t had the opportunity to make their way to the 81st Deli in the meantime are left with an insatiable craving. “What I would give to go to the 81st Deli right now. That’s all I think about all day.” says a TikToker. “If the salad is good, but no 81st St. Deli Chicken Salad is good,” another complains.

What exactly makes this salad so delicious? “The main ingredient it’s made of is love,” is Herbawi’s candid response. Love, plus a house dressing whose recipe Herbawi wants to keep in the family. He is only willing to reveal that it contains olive oil, lemon juice and a “special seasoning” whose main ingredient is a Palestinian-grown spice. The details are a trade secret and only Herbawi and his mother, who taught him the recipe, know them.

The salad’s mix-ins are less mysterious. In the viral TikTok, Godfrey mentions grilled chicken, pickles, banana peppers, peppers, cherry tomatoes and onions before the video cuts, but Herbawi later revealed it also includes pickles, hard-boiled egg, cheese and croutons over a bed of spring romaine lettuce mix, spinach and kale. Gathering these ingredients is easy enough if you want to re-make the salad, but to get close to 81st Deli’s, the dressing and chicken marinade are key. “My tip is that you shouldn’t do without fresh herbs and aromas,” Herbawi dishes up. “Have fun too and add whatever you like to your salads.”

Based on Herbawi’s vague description of the dressing’s “special seasoning,” perhaps the safest bet is za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend often used in Palestinian cuisine. The other two dressing ingredients Herbawi readily divulges — olive oil and lemon juice — only make a vinaigrette, but as you’ll see across the many TikToks, the dressing is creamy and opaque. The addition of Greek yogurt seems to achieve this effectively. The marinade is much more difficult to figure out since Herbawi is even more closed-minded about its ingredients. But to follow the Palestinian flavor profile, I would recommend a blend of sumac, olive oil and paprika, with parsley as the fresh herb element.

It’s hard to tell just how much flavor is in Herbawi’s salad from the footage alone, but it has layers upon layers. That’s probably why Herbawi, despite making the salad practically non-stop for the new barrage of daily customers, still hasn’t lost his appetite for it. “I probably eat the salad a few times a week,” he admits. “I try to add new things to change it. It’s always going to be something I enjoy eating.” As the salad’s creator, he may be biased, but Herbawi’s comment is no exaggeration. The acidity of the pickled ingredients is perfectly balanced by the freshness of the tomato and spring mixture, and the cucumber and peppers provide a rich crunch. The hard-boiled eggs and croutons make it extra hearty, and the savory but rich dressing brings it all together. The result is a hearty salad that always fills you up. It’s easy to see why people can’t stop eating and talking about it. Only by visiting the 81st Deli can you experience this famous salad in all its glory. But if you need something to hold on to in the meantime, this copycat recipe will have to do. To learn how to do it step by step, read on.









How to make the 81st Deli TikTok Salad


  1. 1 (5 oz.) package spring mix
    1 skinless chicken breast
    1 hard-boiled egg
    ⅓ cup pickles
    ⅓ cup cherry tomatoes
    ¼ cup pickled jalapenos
    ¼ cup banana peppers
    ¼ cup red onion
    ⅓ cup green peppers
    ¼ cup pickles
    ¼ cup black olives
    ½ cup shredded cheddar and mozzarella cheese
    ⅓ cup croutons
  1. For the marinade:
    4 tablespoons olive oil
    1 tablespoon sumac
    1 tablespoon of parsley
    1 teaspoon light brown sugar
    1 teaspoon of paprika
    ½ teaspoon salt
  1. For the dressing:
    ½ cup olive oil
    ¼ cup lemon juice
    ½ cup Greek yogurt
    ½ tablespoon za’atar
    ½ tsp salt


  1. Mix the ingredients for the marinade and brush the chicken with it.
  2. Grill the chicken until well browned, then cut into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Prepare the dressing by tossing together the olive oil, lemon juice, za’atar, and Greek yogurt and set aside.
  4. Place the spring mix in a large salad bowl.
  5. Slice the onions, hard-boiled eggs, and pickles before adding them to the salad bowl along with the remaining mixtures.
  6. Sprinkle with grated cheese and croutons and drizzle generously with dressing.
  7. Toss together and enjoy with a plastic fork for added authenticity.

Image Credit: POPSUGAR Photography / Kalea Martin

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