Southern Wilted Lettuce Salad With Hot Bacon Dressing

Wilted lettuce salad with hot bacon dressing

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 7 mins
Total: 17 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
32 Calories
1g Fat
4g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 32
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 2%
Cholesterol 3mg 1%
Sodium 102mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 4g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Protein 2g
Calcium 22mg 2%
*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.)

This wilted lettuce is also known as "killed lettuce" or "kilt lettuce" because the greens soften under the hot, tangy dressing. You might have fond memories of this famous Southern salad, or perhaps it's brand new to you.

It may seem like a curious idea to intentionally wilt lettuce for a salad with a warm dressing, but a wilted lettuce salad is a lovely way to use fresh-from-the-garden spring lettuce and green onions. Iceberg and romaine lettuces are very sturdy and will keep some of their crunch, but you can use any kind of green you like, from more bitter ones such as spinach and dandelion to sweeter choices like red or green leaf lettuces.

A dressing made with warm bacon drippings wilts the lettuce and gives the salad its fabulous flavor along with sugar and apple cider vinegar. You can omit the sugar or reduce it if you prefer a less sweet dressing, or double the bacon drippings and vinegar for a saucier salad. You can fry the bacon as directed or bake it; you'll use the drippings and the bacon itself in the salad.

Because the dressing wilts the greens, this salad is really best the day it's made. If you somehow end up with leftovers, set aside some of the lettuce and the dressing and leave it undressed, storing the greens in the fridge and reheating the dressing before serving. Enjoy this wilted lettuce recipe with freshly baked cornbread or cornbread muffins.

Ingredients

  • For the Salad:
  • 8 cups shredded lettuce (iceberg or romaine)
  • 3 to 4 green onions (chopped)
  • Kosher salt (to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 5 strips bacon
  • For the Dressing:
  • 2 tablespoons bacon drippings (melted)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for wilted lettuce salad
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  2. Combine the shredded lettuce and chopped green onions in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

    Combine shredded lettuce and seasonings in a bowl
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  3. In a cast-iron or other frying pan, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until the desired doneness.

    Bacon cooking in a cast-iron pan
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  4. Remove the bacon to paper towels to drain and reserve 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings.

    Bacon draining on a paper towel on a plate
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  5. Combine the bacon drippings, vinegar, and sugar in a saucepan and heat until it boils.

    Bacon grease, vinegar, and sugar combined in a saucepan
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  6. Pour over the shredded lettuce mixture. Toss to mix. Crumble the bacon and add it on top. Serve at once.

    Wilted lettuce salad with bacon
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 

Tips

  • You can use leftover bacon grease to make this dressing. Reheat it in a pan until it liquifies, add the other dressing ingredients, and simmer.

Recipe Variations

  • Replace the lettuce with spinach.
  • Add bits of diced browned ham.
  • Omit the sugar for a less sweet dressing.
  • Add a garnish of sliced hard-boiled eggs to the salad or top with one fried egg per serving.
  • Add thinly sliced fresh spring radishes.
  • Replace the green onions with about 3 tablespoons of chopped sweet onions.

Where Did Wilted Lettuce Come From?

Wilted lettuce salad likely came from Eastern Europe, since there are versions of the salad in Poland and other countries. The dish traveled to America with immigrants, with Southerners putting their own spin on wilted lettuce.

Can I Cook Lettuce?

Because of its crisp, delicate texture, lettuce is commonly eaten raw in salads and other dishes. However, lettuce is perfectly safe to cook and eat as well. Heartier varieties like romaine take well to a quick trip on the grill, and adding chopped lettuce to a stir-fry or sauté is a good way to use up excess greens. Note that the veggie is mostly water and will shrink in size considerably when fully cooked.