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Wilted Lettuce Salad With Warm Bacon Dressing

Thanks for sharing!

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

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!
4.92 from 50 ratings
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Salads
Cuisine American
Servings 8 Servings
Calories 121 kcal


  • 6 slices bacon
  • 8 cups leaf lettuce
  • 1 small sweet onion
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 Tablespoons sugar
  • Optional: 2 Tablespoons ketchup
  • 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 sugar, Optional: 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
Tried this recipe?Mention @carleecooks or tag #cookingwcarlee!
 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.

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

Thanks for sharing!

Recipe Rating

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.

Mary S

Wednesday 1st of June 2022

We loved this salad. I made it with the ketchup, and used red onions, because that is what I had. Used our home grown lettuce and eggs. I did take some of the bacon fat out but not much. I will make it again soon. Thanks for the recipe.


Wednesday 1st of June 2022

I am so glad you liked it! Homegrown lettuce and eggs made it extra tasty, I'm sure!

Rena Zimmerman

Wednesday 12th of January 2022

We always had this in the summer when we had a garden. The difference is MOM sliced up green onions, radishes, but no sugar. Mom passed away in 1989 and I have never been able to get the bacon grease to vinegar ratio right. But ill sure try this one! We had a pot of pinto beans and cornbread. Everyone had buttermilk except me. Yuck! The lettuce never went to waste because I are all the leftovers. Thank you!


Thursday 26th of January 2023

@Rena Zimmerman, I have this same issue, but as luck would have it, I was diagnosed with a disorder called Interstitial Cystitis (a painful condition effecting the bladder wall and connective soft tissue) and contrary to the information I've been told, certain vinegars cause me to have very painful flare-ups, despite the theory that the acidity in vinegars turn alkaline when injested. After an extensive commitment to discovering and documenting which foods/ingredients I can safely eat and which I need to avoid, I thought I was going to have to give up all my favorite homemade vinegar based salad dressings. Fortunately, in my search to not have to accept this outcome, I discovered a way to perfectly balance bacon grease and vinegar for salad dressing. I don't know how or why it works, but it's been the only method that has allowed me to keep making homemade vinegar based dressings. I substitute half the amount called for of red/white/balsamic vinegar with ACV instead (balsamic I'll sub half with Braggs Liquid Aminos) combine with the bacon grease or oil, add a pinch of COARSE SEA SALT and WISK FAST and THUROUGHLY (like the way eggs are beaten to make perfect, fluffy scrambled eggs.) The coarse sea salt actually allows grease/oil to actually combine with vinegar (and even water) and KEEPS them from seperating! I don't understand the science behind it, but it works. Coarse sea salt enables oil/grease based ingredients to thuroughly combine with water/vinegar and helps keep them from seperating. (I add a pinch to DIY room sprays made with essential oils and water too, which keeps the oil from seperating and clogging the spray nozzle.) But seriously, whisking in a pinch of sea salt and/or substituting half the vinegar with ACV makes all my homemade oil and vinegar dressing ratios come out perfect every time, and helps them stay combined.


Wednesday 12th of January 2022

I hope this helps you get that right ratio. Pinto beans and cornbread sounds perfect with it. I think I'd have to pass on the buttermilk as well, but I don't know if I've ever tried it on its own. I love food memories like this, thank you for sharing.

Henrietta Schaefer

Thursday 2nd of December 2021

We wilt celery cabbage with bacon, vinegar and pepper. NO SUGAR

Rena Zimmerman

Wednesday 12th of January 2022

@Henrietta Schaefer, my mom fried cabbage in bacon grease.


Thursday 2nd of December 2021

That sounds delicious too!

Andrea Nine

Friday 11th of June 2021

My mom used to make a wilted lettuce salad with lettuce straight from our garden. Now I want one as it’s been years. Oh gotta have the bacon. So yummy. Have a great weekend.


Friday 11th of June 2021

It makes that freshly picked leaf lettuce so good, doesn't it?!