A Spicy Perspective

Southern Wilted Lettuce

Classic Wilted Lettuce Salad Recipe(Killed Lettuce) – Simple greens are coated in a warm bacon dressing for a delicious southern side dish that’s ready in just 15 minutes.

top view two plates with wilted lettuce salad with a form and salad bowl in the background

Southern Wilted Lettuce

If you haven’t heard of it before, let-tuce introduce you to Southern Wilted Lettuce Salad!

This old-school salad is a popular way to use up excess end-of-season garden greens. Now, the lettuce should not be slimy or deteriorating. But once the leaves are no longer super vibrant with that fresh crunch, instead of immediately throwing them in the garbage you can quickly whip up a yummy salad. This is a way to create less waste and a super-easy side dish recipe – now you know that’s a winner!

Here in the south it is often called “killed lettuce” because the greens are tossed with warm bacon grease, so they are wilted down a bit. (If you’re really southern you will pronounce it kilt lettuce.) The entire recipe only takes about 15 minutes to make and is great to pair with nearly any southern or classic comfort food.

Wait… Bacon grease on a salad? Yup! If you have trouble getting your family to eat salad, killed lettuce is a great way to entice them.

fork taking a bite of killed lettuce salad

Ingredients You Need

  • Chopped lettuce iceberg, romaine, or a combination of classic garden greens
  • Thick-cut baconchopped
  • Scallionschopped
  • Apple cider vinegarthe pop of acid intensifies the smoky, savory bacon flavor
  • Granulated sugarbrings together the tangy and salty ingredients
  • Spicessalt, ground black pepper, cayenne
bundles of romaine, scallions, and bacon in the background all on a white background

How to Make Wilted Lettuce Salad

First, set out a large salad bowl and a large skillet. Place the chopped lettuce in the salad bowl. 

chopped romaine in a large white bowl

Set the skillet on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the chopped bacon and cook until brown and crispy.

skillet with chopped cooked bacon

Once the bacon is crisp, stir in the scallions, vinegar, sugar, salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Turn off the heat; you want to scallions to get warm but not really cook.

Get the Complete (Printable) Southern Wilted Lettuce Salad Recipe Below. Enjoy!

skillet with cooked chopped bacon and sliced green onions

Pour the hot bacon mixture over the lettuce.

Pro Tip: This recipe makes slightly wilted greens. If you would like them to be more wilted, toss the lettuce with the bacon in the hot skillet. The heat from the skillet will cook the lettuce down a bit more, so that it is more like sautéed spinach or swiss chard.

pouring the hot bacon and grease with scallions into the bowl with chopped romaine

Toss to coat so the smoky, savory dressing is evenly distributed. The lettuce leaves will wilt and become terrifically soft and flavorful once the warm dressing is mixed in.

Serve immediately while warm.

top view salad bowl with chopped romaine lettuce and warm bacon dressing

Serving Suggestions

Serve killed lettuce salad as a side with your favorite southern main dishes!

It’s a delicious healthy-ish side to enjoy with Southern Shrimp and Grits, Grilled Ham Steaks, or Nashville Hot Chicken.

Or have a meal of entirely side dishes, and make this wilted lettuce salad the star. Pair with other sides like Fried Green Tomatoes, Tomato Pie, Potato Salad, and/or Jalapeno Cornbread for a light(er) dinner spread.

side view killed lettuce salad on a white and teal plate

Frequently Asked Questions

What other greens can I use to make this wilted lettuce recipe?

Wilted lettuce salad is great with many different lettuces! Try this recipe with kale, spinach, bib lettuce, red lettuce, or other fairy soft varieties. However, really tough and hearty types of greens like chard and collards don’t wilt quite so easily. They will need to be placed in the skillet.

How can I make wilted lettuce salad without pork bacon?

Feel free to swap traditional bacon with turkey bacon or your favorite vegan plant-based bacon alternative. But since these don’t yield much fat to make the dressing, you need to add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet just before stirring in the chopped green onions and seasonings.

Can killed lettuce be made ahead?

Yes and no. You can prep the components so that you have the chopped lettuce and bacon grease dressing in separate containers for a day or so… But don’t add the warm bacon dressing until you’re ready to serve. When ready to enjoy, heat the dressing up in the microwave or on the stovetop for just a few seconds until warm. Then immediately pour over the greens, toss and serve!

top side view of wilted lettuce salad with chopped bacon on a white and teal plate and fork on the side

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Southern Wilted Lettuce Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
15 minute wilted lettuce (Killed Lettuce) salad recipe features simple greens coated in a savory warm bacon dressing for a delish southern side dish.
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Set out a large salad bowl and a large skillet. Place the chopped lettuce in the salad bowl.
  • Set the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped bacon and cook until brown and crispy. Once the bacon is crisp, stir in the scallions, vinegar, sugar, salt, black pepper, and cayenne.
  • Pour the hot bacon mixture over the lettuce and toss to coat. Serve warm.

Notes

You can prep the components so that you have the chopped lettuce and bacon grease dressing in separate containers for a day or so… But don’t add the warm bacon dressing until you’re ready to serve. When ready to enjoy, heat the dressing up in the microwave or on the stovetop for just a few seconds until warm. Then immediately pour over the greens, toss and serve!

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup, Calories: 174kcal, Carbohydrates: 6g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 14g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 24mg, Sodium: 343mg, Potassium: 259mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 4956IU, Vitamin C: 5mg, Calcium: 33mg, Iron: 1mg
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Southern
Author: Sommer Collier

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7 comments on “Southern Wilted Lettuce”

  1. I had never had this before but tried it out. We loved it! So healthy and tasty. Thank you!

  2. Fantastic recipe! Have and will continue to make often. A huge hit in my house!

  3. This is the perfect recipe! I can use up ‘old’ lettuce and with all that bacon-y goodness, I can actually get my husband to eat a salad! Delish!

  4. This Southern wilted lettuce recipe is awesome! Can’t go wrong with lettuce and bacon! haha. I am tempted to add tomato and then put it inside to slices of bread, for a BLT!

  5. Such an amazing recipe!! Everyone at my house loved this!

  6. Many years ago, I spent the summer with my elderly cousin who lived in Florida. I can’t begin to tell you how many times she made this wilted lettuce for lunch. Back then, it amazed me as to how simple this was to make and how incredibly tasty. I had all but forgotten about it and now, I can’t wait to make it in her memory.

  7. This is something I never thought would be good, but this salad is one of my best and most favorite salads!