Southern Killed Lettuce Recipe

Killed lettuce in a white bowl

The Spruce Eats / Diana Rattray

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 4 mins
Total: 19 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
19 Calories
1g Fat
2g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 19
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 2%
Cholesterol 2mg 1%
Sodium 44mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 2%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 1mg 6%
Calcium 8mg 1%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 68mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

You might be looking at this recipe name with curiosity, wondering why would you want to kill lettuce. This is basically a recipe for a wilted green salad, made by combining lettuce, rendered pork fat (typically bacon), and onions.

This killed (or kilt) lettuce has its origins in the Appalachian mountains and it's usually made with freshly picked garden-fresh ingredients, ideally, including greens from the garden and spring onions or even ramps, which are like a wild leek. Lettuce/greens will wilt, thus the "killed" effect. In the Appalachian region, the lettuce of preference is what's known as branch lettuce, or watercress, which grows wild in North-facing creek beds in early spring. For ease of preparation, this recipe uses basic lettuce or bagged salad greens. You can add chopped bacon, crushed red pepper, or a dash of hot sauce (Texas Pete is a favorite), to make it lively.

For a traditional mountain supper, include killed lettuce alongside any of the following: pintos, fried potatoes (aka home fries), cornbread, biscuits, chow-chow, and buttermilk.


  • 1 package lettuce, or spinach, or salad greens

  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons bacon drippings

  • 3 slices cooked bacon, diced, optional

  • Crushed red pepper flakes, optional

  • Hot sauce, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Wash greens thoroughly. Set aside in a colander to drain, then pat dry with dry dish towel or paper towels; put them in a serving bowl.

  3. Put the sliced onion and bacon drippings in a small skillet. Place the skillet over medium heat and cook the onion until it is softened.

  4. Pour the onions and hot bacon grease over the greens; toss to coat the greens thoroughly.

  5. Add cooked diced bacon, crushed red pepper flakes, or hot sauce, as desired. 


Save any leftover bacon grease from cooking by storing in a covered glass jar in the refrigerator.

Recipe Variations

  • Use Italian dressing in place of the grease, which will impart a very different taste, but it's still tasty.
  • You can use watercress, spinach, or arugula in the recipe. Dandelion greens, which are more bitter, would also taste great here.
  • Hard-boiled eggs are very good in this salad, as are sliced radishes, if you're looking to boost its content.
  • Instead of pouring the bacon great right over the greens, you can make a dressing with the bacon fat along with vinegar, water, sugar, and plenty of freshly cracked black pepper.

How to Store Southern Killed Lettuce

This type of salad is best eaten right after it's made, as it doesn't typically keep very well in the refrigerator beyond another day. It's already wilted, and so the refrigerator will hasten its wilting even further if it's kept much longer than overnight.