There’s not a funeral, baby shower or church potluck in the south that doesn’t have a traditional seven layer salad gracing its table. Usually made by a 70-something named Mable, it’s a beautiful and delicious side dish with its own unique dressing you won’t want to miss.
Seven layer salad goes with monogrammed Pyrex dishes like peanut butter and jelly.
That means it’s a potluck specialty–and for good reason–because it’s delicious. The trick is to make yours in a tall glass bowl or even a trifle dish so that everyone can see the layers.
What’s in a seven layer salad?
That is the most glorious part because really you can make it with any vegetables you have on hand. I find this version to be the most “authentic” and sticks to:
-hard boiled eggs
-bacon, and dressing.
I saw a version that had cauliflower rice in it a while back. Ha! I dare you to serve that to a southern man and see how they like it.
‘Ain’t no cauliflower rice in this version (though I have seen several versions that have cauliflower florets in them).
You can add different ingredients to your own seven layer salad version if you would like to, but be careful how much you stray.
Making your seven layer salad in advance
Because the ingredients in this version are pretty durable (as in, not delicate) you can easily make this salad one to two days in advance and “seal” the vegetables in with the dressing layer on top, cover it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it. I made mine two days ahead and then served it and it was just as crispy as when I made it.
How to mix your seven layer salad for serving
The answer to that is, you don’t. In some places, the whole bowl might be tossed before serving but that’s scandalous in my neck of the woods.
We use a spoon with a very long handle and encourage people to dig deep, get a little of everything in one scoop and mix it on their plates.
Since the dressing is on the top, they’ll get enough to mix with their veggies. It works, I promise!
And speaking of the dressing, it’s a mix of mayonnaise, sour cream and sugar but don’t panic–it’s not sweet. It’s sort of amazing what that little bit of sugar does in there. Magic, I tell ya.
If you’d like to be even more inspired, check out this list of other creative seven layer salads.
I used a 3 1/2 quart glass bowl here, but feel free to use any size bowl you choose and scale the recipe up or down. These measurements will just be a starting place. This version feeds about 8, maybe 10 people depending–so adjust as necessary for your crowd.
Traditional Seven Layer Salad
- 3/4 head iceberg lettuce outer leaves and core removed
- 1 cup frozen peas thawed
- 4 hard boiled eggs chopped
- 3/4 cup chopped green onions
- 2 medium tomatoes diced bite size pieces
- 6 slices bacon cooked crisp and crumbled
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup mayonnaise like Duke's or Hellmann's
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- salt and pepper for sprinkling
- In a 3 1/2 quart glass bowl or trifle dish (make sure it's at least that large), chop the lettuce in to bite size pieces and add it to the bottom of the bowl in an even layer.
- Add a pinch of salt and pepper over the lettuce.
- Add the peas, eggs, onions, tomatoes, bacon and cheese, layering them closer to the edges of the bowl if you choose. Add another sprinkle of salt and pepper then set aside.
- In a medium bowl, mix the mayonnaise, sour cream and sugar. Stir well and spread over the top of the salad "sealing" it all the way to the edge of the bowl. Sprinkle with a bit of cheese or bacon before serving, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to two days.