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Wilted Lettuce Salad

I asked a reader what wilted lettuce salad was and she said “Oh…I think I’ve had some of that before. You mean floppy lettuce that was too old to be served and we ate it anyway?” I laughed. Poor girl is from the West Coast, bless her heart.

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a bowl of finished wilted lettuce salad on a table with a fork

One member of the class of hot salads, this recipe is common in the Appalachian regions of the US but probably originated with the Romans–versions of it have been found in literature dating back to the 1300’s.

The concept is often backwards of what people assume: Crisp, cold lettuce is doused with a hot vinaigrette dressing and it softens under the heat of it creating a “wilted” but not floppy. And it is truly divine.

A perfect blend of tangy and sweet. Not oily or greasy like you might think, and a great balance to your next meal.

Best lettuces for wilted lettuce salad

You’ll need a lettuce that will actually soften, for this to work best. Romaine and Iceberg are too firm. Instead, try:

  • Butter
  • Bibb
  • Living lettuces (the kind in the plastic case with the roots still attached)
  • Mixed greens
  • Baby spinach

What does wilted lettuce dressing taste like?

It’s the “dressing” which I have to think came about as desperate country cooks tried to find ways to use cheap ingredients to make something taste good. This is proof that it can be done.

The dressing will almost remind you of coleslaw’s sweet and tangy mix–add the crumbled bacon to the top and a hard boiled egg and it’s just fantastic.

How to make wilted lettuce salad

Cook the bacon and drain away some grease but leave a 1/4 cup in the skillet. Add the water, vinegar, sugar and green onions and cook just until the sugar dissolves. Add salt and pepper.

a skillet with wilted lettuce dressing ingredients in it

Pour the dressing hot from the skillet over the lettuces and stir to combine. They will begin to soften immediately.

a skillet pouring dressing over a bowl of lettuce

Add bacon and hard boiled egg on top and serve warm.

a finished bowl of wilted lettuce with bacon and green onions on top

Can wilted lettuce salad be made ahead?

The dressing could be made ahead and reheated later if you needed to but it wouldn’t work to mix the salad and the dressing and let it get cold. Mix this salad right before serving.

a bowl of finished wilted lettuce salad

What to serve with wilted lettuce salad

I love to balance a recipe like this that’s tangy and tart with something a bit richer. Try these great additions to round out your meal:

a bowl of finished wilted lettuce salad

Wilted Lettuce Salad

A southern classic, wilted lettuce salad was the way grandmothers used to make do with what they had but the combination of bacon grease (yes that's what I said), vinegar, and sugar makes the most divine dressing served warm over greens. 
Prep Time 6 minutes
Cook Time 2 minutes
Total Time 8 minutes
Servings 6 -8
Author Rachel Ballard


  • 5 slices of bacon cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 1/4 cup bacon drippings you can get rid of the rest of it
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 2 green onion tops sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 6-8 cups torn lettuce pieces (I use mixed greens but anything will work except Romaine)
  • 1 hard boiled egg diced


  • Once you have cooked your bacon and drained all but 1/4 cup bacon drippings from your skillet, return the pan to low heat and add the vinegar, water, sugar, green onions, salt and pepper and stir to dissolve the sugar--about 1 minute.
  • Heat the dressing until very warm but not boiling and turn off the heat.
  • Pour the dressing over your lettuce and toss well.
  • Add the bacon and crumbled egg and serve warm.


Calories: 204kcal
Tried this recipe?Tag us on Instagram @feastandfarm and hashtag it #feastandfarm
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American

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  1. 5 stars
    Love wilted lettuce. My grandmother’s family all made this. They added sour cream which gave it some consistency. I don’t recall that they ever added hard boiled eggs but I think that really adds to the salad. They always used fresh leaf lettuce from the garden which transfers to a softer salad. I am going to try a firmer leaf lettuce next time. It will be so fun to plan my next family dinner, get together around wilted lettuce and introduce it to my grandchildren.

  2. 5 stars
    Pretty much the way my 1st generation American Slovak Mother made this when I was growing up. The only thing is, we never added a hard boiled egg to it. This is also a very Central and Eastern European way to make a lettuce salad. You will find versions of this all the way from Germany east through the Ukraine. Mom would grow Oak Leaf Lettuce and she’s pick a bunch of it and we’d feast on this at many a supper during the summer. Something comforting about a good homemade meatloaf, Mom’s toasted rice, corn on the cob and wilted lettuce salad. Finish it off with a good peach cobbler or just-warm blueberry pie for dessert, topped off with a scoop of a good vanilla ice cream on either one. Feast for a King!

  3. 5 stars
    This recipe is such a comfort food for me… And, as a kid growing up in central Florida my mother (who is Originally from GA) would make this. I would smell the bacon cooking & I automatically knew what she was making. And to me as a child of 9yrs old thought that it was such a delicately. I wasn’t 100% sure how to make it & I came across your recipe & it’s almost just like the version she would make for us. What awesome memeories I to cherish… Thanks so much!

  4. Glad to have found this recipe. Couldn’t find my grandmother’s. West Coast, PNW person here as well. It’s a thing here, but it’s an old school recipe. Thank you for sharing! Can’t wait to eat!

  5. Thank you. Exact recipe I was hoping to find. We had it the whole time I was growing up, during gardening season. I am, by the way from the west coast. Pacific Northwest actually. Not just a southern thing.

    1. I don’t know Vickie! Every way I’ve ever had it was with a boiled egg but I bet there were women out there who cooked their eggs in the bacon grease. Do what you like! –Rachel

    2. Vickie – Nope, my great grandma whisked an egg in the dressing sort of as an emulsifier, gives the dressing a bit more body and silkiness.

    3. Yes, I remember it that way too and have made it that way but 40 years ago!!! Trying to make it tonight, don’t remember exactly how it was done, don’t want egg to curdle!!!

    4. @sharon,
      yes,you wisk the eggs(2) together then wisk them into the dressing mixture and cook for 2 minutes. Be sure to wisk the dressing the entire time so the eggs don’t turn into scrambled eggs!!

  6. Loved this when I was a kid. My mom only made it in the spring as she always used dandelion greens which she said would get bitter in the summer.

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About the Author

Rachel Ballard, RN, BSN brings more than 20 years of professional nursing expertise to Feast and Farm. With a love for nutrient dense foods that support wellness, she works to distill complex health information and current trends into recipes that fuel the best version of yourself. Read more about Rachel here.