We’re kicking it old school today with a Southern favorite that was a staple at our gatherings growing up: 7 Layer Salad. Made with lettuce, peas, tomatoes, bacon, a sweet mayo-based dressing, cheddar cheese, and hard-boiled eggs all layered together, it stars at any potluck or holiday.
Why You’ll Love This Classic Salad Recipe
- Stunner. When it comes to presentation, traditional 7 layer salad is a show-stealer. Every beautiful layer stands out.
- Fun and Different. Layer salad is not tossed; guests use long tongs to reach down through the salad from the top and grab some of every layer. It’s unexpected and delightful.
- Cool and Refreshing. A salad you stack in a great big trifle bowl might sound odd, but with that cool lettuce and creamy dressing, at a hot summer potluck or a feast, it hits the spot.
- Make-Ahead Friendly. 7 layer salad can be made the night before, so it’s ideal for entertaining.
- Retro (in a Good Way). 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). It’s a nostalgic throwback that hits the spot!
About This 7 Layer Salad Recipe
Seven-layer salad is a popular potluck and picnic dish, thanks to its visually appealing layers, varied flavors and textures, and its crowd-pleasing ingredients (cheese, bacon, and eggs, anyone?).
What constitutes each of the seven layers varies.
In fact, even “traditional” sources for a layered salad recipe (Kraft, Betty Crocker, Pioneer Woman) don’t entirely agree.
The below is based on the 7 layer salad my family had at potlucks growing up.
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 lettuce 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
- 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.
- Hard Boiled Eggs. A creamy complement to the crispy bacon. The eggs add rich flavor, protein, and healthy fats.
- 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 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.
- Get Ready. Cook the bacon, hard-boil the eggs, and soak the red onion.
- Make the Dressing. It will be thick and creamy.
- Layer the Greens. They make the fresh base.
- Add Some Color. Tomatoes and red onions add a pretty stripe.
- Layer the Peas and Eggs. It’s lookin’ purty!
- Smear the Dressing Over the Top. It will be a thick layer.
- Add the Good Stuff. Bacon and shredded cheese.
- Chill. For at least 1 hour. Then 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
- Burgers. Turkey Burgers or Salmon Burgers taste delish alongside this crisp, creamy salad.
- Grilled Chicken. The char of Grilled Chicken Breast or Grilled Chicken Thighs are a delightful pairing.
- Fried Chicken. Baked Fried Chicken or Air Fryer Fried Chicken Breast give this meal a Southern feel.
- More Sides. Round out your potluck with Chicken Pasta Salad and Fruit Salad.
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.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Play Around. Use this recipe as a starting point and feel free to swap in other vegetables (or do more than 7 layers!). For example, you can do a 7 layer salad with cauliflower florets, broccoli, celery, cucumber, corn, red bell peppers, or even avocado!
- Get that Bacon Crispy. You want it to add some nice crunch. See Baked Bacon in the Oven and Air Fryer Bacon for easy methods to cook perfect, crispy bacon.
- Don’t Skip the Eggs and Bacon. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t recommend making this a vegan or vegetarian 7 layer salad, as the bacon and hard boiled eggs are really what make the salad taste its best.
- Get Ahead. This salad is easy, but it has a lot of components. Save yourself some stress and hard boil the eggs the day before. (Recommended method: Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs.)
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
- 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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Frequently Asked Questions
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).
Personally, I think ranch dressing on its own would be too thin for a seven layer salad, which needs a dressing thick enough to stand as its own layer without dripping into the leaves. If you’d like a ranch version, use this Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip for the dressing, or stir a tablespoon or two from a packet of ranch seasoning into Greek yogurt or sour cream and use it as the dressing.