We’re kicking it old school today with a Southern favorite that was a staple at our summer gatherings growing up: 7 Layer Salad.
A stunner when it comes to presentation, traditional 7 layer salad is made with lettuce (usually iceberg lettuce), peas, tomatoes, bacon, a sweet mayo-based dressing, cheddar cheese, and hard boiled eggs.
- Layer salad is not tossed.
- Instead, guests use long tongs to reach down through the salad from the top and grab some of every layer.
- A salad you stack in a great big trifle bowl might sound odd, but at a hot summer potluck, it hits the spot.
If you grew up in the Midwest, seeing a “salad” that contains more bacon, eggs, cheese, and mayo than actual greens probably won’t surprise you (right this way to Healthy Potato Salad, Ramen Salad, and Shrimp Pasta Salad if you please).
If you’re a longtime lover of layer salad, I know you’ll appreciate the fresh take I have on it here.
- I swapped the iceberg for more flavorful and nutritious romaine.
- I added extra veggies for color and crunch.
- The usually bland dressing is amped up with Parmesan and garlic.
For those who appreciate their salads on the lighter/more healthy side, you’ll love my version too.
- Instead of mayo (or Miracle Whip) and sugar in the dressing, I used Greek yogurt and honey.
- I cut down on the bacon a little. The original calls for a full pound, which (trust me, I never thought I’d say this) really was too much. It disrupted the harmony of the other ingredients.
- For cheese, this recipe opts for an extra sharp cheddar. You can get away with less but still have the full-on taste effect.
How to Make 7 Layer Salad
You’ll find different versions of classic 7 layer salads online.
Even “traditional” sources for a layered salad recipe (Kraft, Betty Crocker, Pioneer Woman) don’t entirely agree.
The below is based on the version my family ate growing up at picnics.
Use it as a starting point and feel free to swap in other vegetables for the layers.
You can even have variations with more than 7 layers if you please!
- For example, you can do a 7 layer salad with cauliflower florets for more nutrition and crunch (swap it for the peas to reduce the carbs).
- For additional creaminess, a layer of diced avocado would not be remiss.
- Even more layer ideas: broccoli, celery, cucumber, corn, red bell peppers. Use what you love!
- Romaine. Crisp, cool, and sturdy, romaine is the ideal choice for this salad. Its texture can stand up to the hefty load of other ingredients and won’t become soggy as quickly.
- Bacon. Crispy, smoky bacon is a must-have component of this salad. Bacon also helps make this salad more filling. You also can swap the bacon for diced ham for a similar effect.
See Baked Bacon in the Oven and Air Fryer Bacon for easy methods to cook perfect, crispy bacon.
- Hard Boiled Eggs. A creamy complement to the crispy bacon. The eggs add rich flavor, protein, and healthy fats. (You can use my Instant Pot Boiled Eggs recipe to easily make them!)
- Red Onion. Soaking the red onion in water first removes its harshness, leaving just a hint of bite. You can also swap green onions, no need to soak.
- Tomatoes. Juicy cherry tomatoes add a wonderful sweetness to the salad and taste fantastic with the eggs and bacon.
- Frozen Peas. An easy way to add more veggies. While not everyone loves green peas in salad, here they work.
- Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese. The bold, cheesy flavor of extra sharp cheddar doesn’t get lost amongst the other ingredients.
- Greek Yogurt Dressing. A simple mix of nonfat Greek yogurt, Parmesan, honey (my swap for white sugar), apple cider vinegar, salt, and garlic powder. It’s creamy, cheesy, tangy, salty, and a little sweet.
- Cook and crumble the bacon. Soak the red onion, then pat it dry. Hard boil the eggs, then peel and chop them.
- Stir the dressing ingredients together.
- Add the romaine to a serving bowl.
- Top the chopped lettuce with tomatoes and onions.
- Sprinkle on the peas and eggs.
- Spread the dressing over the top, finishing with shredded cheese and bacon. Chill for at least 1 hour.
- Serve using salad tongs and ENJOY!
- To Store. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate leftover salad for up to 2 days.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day in advance, hard boil the eggs, cook the bacon, and soak/chop the red onion. You can also chop the tomatoes and romaine and shred the cheddar cheese. Refrigerate each ingredient until you’re ready to finish the recipe.
What to Serve with 7 Layer Salad
Italian Turkey Burgers
Grilled Chicken Tenders
Air Fryer Chicken Wings
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Trifle Dish. Perfect for serving this 7 layer salad.
- Salad Tongs. The ideal way to serve this salad.
- Measuring Spoons. These stack together nicely, making for easy, neat storage.
Layer on the love!
Frequently Asked Questions
I think the best dish for a 7 layer salad is a trifle bowl (like this one). If you don’t own a trifle bowl, any large, flat-bottomed clear glass bowl (like this fun option) will work fine.
To speed up the prep time for this salad, you can purchase hard boiled eggs from the grocery store.
Turn leftovers into a hearty meal by adding cooked, cooled whole wheat pasta noodles or shredded chicken (use my Crockpot Shredded Chicken, Instant Pot Chicken, Air Fryer Chicken Breast, Baked Chicken Breast, or How to Cook Shredded Chicken).
7 Layer Salad
For the Salad:
- 8 ounces center-cut bacon
- 4 large eggs
- 2/3 cup chopped red onion
- 8 cups chopped romaine lettuce from about 2 romaine hearts (12 ounces chopped romaine)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas thawed
- 2/3 cup freshly shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese use yellow cheddar for the most color contrast
For the Dressing:
- 1 1/4 cups nonfat plain Greek yogurt use low fat or whole for a more decadent salad
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Cook and crumble or chop the bacon (see Baked Bacon in the Oven and Air Fryer Bacon for easy methods). Place the red onion in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit 5 to 10 minutes, then drain and pat dry.
- Hard boil the eggs: Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. With a slotted spoon, gently lower the eggs into the boiling water. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle, steady simmer. Let the eggs simmer at this low, gentle boil for 8 minutes for slightly jammy yolks (or cook up to 9 minutes for fully set yolks). In the meantime, prepare a large ice bath. Use the slotted spoon to carefully transfer the eggs to the ice bath. Gently crack the shells with the back of the spoon, then return them to the water (this makes them easier to peel). Peel and chop.
- Prepare the dressing: in a medium bowl, stir together the Greek yogurt, Parmesan, honey, vinegar, salt, and garlic powder. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
- Place the romaine in the bottom of a LARGE, flat, clear serving bowl—you want to be able to see the layers and spread them evenly; a trifle bowl works well if you have one.
- Next, build the salad layers, spreading each evenly. Start with the tomatoes and red onions.
- Add the peas and eggs.
- Spread the dressing evenly over the top. Layer on the cheese, then the bacon. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or overnight).
- To serve, use long salad tongs or a similar long spoon that will allow you to reach down through the layers. Make sure each serving has a little of everything.
- TIP: Depending upon the size of your serving bowl, you may need to adjust the quantities of each layer. Use your judgment and have fun with it.
- TO STORE: Cover and refrigerate leftover 7 layer salad for up to 2 days. Any unused dressing may be stored for 2-3 days in the fridge in an airtight container or mason jar.
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How long can you keep the dressing in case you don’t use it all?
Hi Carol, it should last about 2-3 days in the refrigerator. Hope you enjoy it!
This salad has been a family favorite forever, and we are loving this healthier version. Plus, it looks so nice on a buffet. Almost too pretty to eat!
Hi Marie! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Hi. I just made you salad at 6PM tonight. It looks delish. Thank for the recipe. I have a question. It made a mistake and I thought the picnic I was going to was tomorrow but it’s Monday. Do you think it will last until Monday at 1PM? Or do we just eat it tomorrow?
Hi Amy! Just seeing this message, how did it turn out for you?
I did a mixture of romaine and Ice burg then red onion then peas, I put the dressing on top of the peas so when they scoop they get the dressing, hard boiled egg sliced in ovals to cover the dressing, cheese on top of eggs and finally bacon on top of the cheese
Thanks for the feedback William!
I loved this salad! It’s very easy, just some prep time needed. A party favorite for sure!
Hi Courtney! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!