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Wilted Lettuce Salad With Warm Bacon Dressing

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This classic recipe for wilted lettuce with bacon is the perfect way to eat leaf lettuce from the garden. The warm bacon dressing is a little sweet, tangy and savory all at once. It’s the perfect mix.

small plate piled high with wilted lettuce salad with big chunks of bacon and hard boiled egg mixed in.

Have you ever had a Southern wilted lettuce salad? It was always one of my favorite salads growing up, but I got out of the habit of making them.

When MiMi gave me a bunch of fresh leaf lettuce from the garden I knew I had to dig out the recipe and bring it back. It has always been a favorite of mine and I could easily make a meal of it.

There is just something about the slightly sweet and really simple salad that draws me in. Of course the bacon doesn’t hurt!

It always feels a little strange pouring the hot dressing over the salad. Wilting leaves is usually the enemy of salads, not the intent, but whoever came up with this one knew what they were doing!

leaf lettuce in salad spinner.

I can’t help but wonder if the first version of this salad was a mistake though. A hurried cook realized they ran out of oil and used hot bacon grease perhaps?

Then after a bite they were hooked?! Who knows? No matter the origin, it’s a tasty creation.

My husband was quite pleased with it as well. He isn’t a huge salad fan and normally only eats them loaded with toppings.

But this classic wilted lettuce salad recipe won him over in spite himself. Every time I make it, he is surprised how much he likes it.

I think most recipes have you include the onions raw. I am not a huge fan of raw onions, so I like to cook them until they are just translucent in the bacon grease and just stir them in as part of the dressing.

It takes the edge off of them and makes them more enjoyable for me.

You could also use green onions instead of white onions. That would give you an mild onion flavor without having to cook or soak them

Luckily I just got a bunch more fresh lettuce from our CSA box, so there is more wilted lettuce in our future. That is the beauty of this time of year, there is plenty of delicious fresh produce.

Bowl of lettuce topped with hard boiled eggs and warm bacon dressing ready to be tossed.

Did you come here looking for ways to revive wilted lettuce?

Obviously you see by now, this recipe uses a hot bacon dressing to slightly wilt greens. The result is delicious.

The wilting action is part of what earned this salad nicknames such as killed lettuce or kilt lettuce salad. The hot bacon kills the crisp crunch of fresh lettuce.

You can use that same dressing on slightly wilted greens if you would like. Or, to try to revive wimpy greens, you can try soaking them in ice water for fifteen or twenty minutes.

If your lettuce is slimy, go ahead and toss it. It isn’t worth wasting more ingredients on greens that are already too far gone.

Plate of wilted lettuce salad in front of large bowl of salad.

Can I make southern wilted lettuce salad ahead of time?

Like most salads, this wilted lettuce, or killed lettuce, salad is best made when you are ready to eat it. It is best when the bacon grease is still warm and the lettuce is just a little wilted and not too wimpy.

More Great Recipes

Some of our other favorite simple side salads using fresh garden produce are caprese quinoa salad and creamy dill cucumber salad. What are your favorite fresh garden sides?

If you are a big bacon fan, you may like maple brown sugar bacon too. The candied bacon is great on its own or crumbled over salads.

For an easy entrée to serve with your salad, try making Maid Rites. They are super simple sandwiches that come together quickly and they are a Midwestern classic.

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a review in the recipe card.

small plate piled high with wilted lettuce salad with big chunks of bacon and hard boiled egg mixed in.

Wilted Lettuce Salad With Warm Bacon Dressing

Servings: 8 Servings
Author: Carlee
This vintage recipe for wilted lettuce with bacon is the perfect way to eat leaf lettuce from the garden. The warm bacon dressing is a little sweet, tangy and savory all at once. It’s the perfect mix!
4.93 from 55 ratings
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • 6 slices bacon
  • 8 cups leaf lettuce
  • 1 small sweet onion
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons ketchup optional
  • 2 hard boiled eggs


  • Thoroughly wash and dry lettuce leaves, use your salad spinner if you have one. Then place in a large salad bowl.
    8 cups leaf lettuce
  • In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Remove the slices of bacon to cool on a paper towel, but leave the warm bacon grease in the pan.
    6 slices bacon
  • Thinly slice onion and cook in the bacon fat over low heat until it begins to soften.
    1 small sweet onion
  • Carefully stir in the vinegar, salt and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add ketchup if you’d like (we like it both ways!)
    ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt, 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar, 2 Tablespoons ketchup
  • Chop or crumble bacon and dice the hard boiled eggs and place in serving bowl with lettuce.
    2 hard boiled eggs
  • Pour warm bacon dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately.



Serving: 1servingCalories: 121kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 6gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 78mgSodium: 344mgFiber: 1gSugar: 10g

Nutritional Disclaimer

“Cooking With Carlee” is not a dietitian or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories and other nutritional values can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.

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This recipe was originally shared on Cooking With Carlee in 2018.

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4.93 from 55 votes (49 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating


Friday 7th of June 2024

We have so much homegrown lettuce, three different varieties. My And I love this recipe! Simple, easy, delicious. And I love the indicators that show how to do half the recipe or twice the recipe. Very helpful!


Friday 7th of June 2024

Isn't it good? Thank you!


Wednesday 20th of March 2024

My Mom made this a lot because we had a garden and my grandfather raised hogs. Our parents and grandfather also worked in the cotton mills of Gastonia, NC so money was tight. We all loved this and even though my husband (his mama spoiled him) eats very few vegetables, I make it for me!!!! Thank you for all the great recipes that bring back memories!!


Wednesday 20th of March 2024

I love that so much! I make it for me too, though my husband and son do enjoy it as well.


Sunday 17th of March 2024

I grew up on this salad and love it! I’ve never used catsup and have used iceberg lettuce which gives it some extra crunch.


Sunday 17th of March 2024

I should make it with iceberg lettuce. Then I could have it year round, and not just when we have lettuce in the garden!

Terri F

Tuesday 5th of March 2024

I love the way that this recipe is written (ingredients listed under each instructional step) … thank you


Tuesday 5th of March 2024

I am happy it was helpful!

Linda Blackerby

Wednesday 6th of July 2022

My dad used to make this for dinner sometimes on Saturday night. My mom usually did the cooking so this was a nice change. He never used catsup or boiled eggs in it but everything else plus some sweet cherry tomatoes from our garden. This brought back memories. It was always so good.


Wednesday 6th of July 2022

I love that! It is still one of my favorites.