This traditional 7 layer salad has been popular for generations! A staple of barbecues, potlucks and church suppers this easy to make salad features layers of tasty veggies topped off with a mayonnaise based dressing. This elegant side dish will be a hit at any gathering.
This traditional side dish is one that has stood the test of time! It has been popular since the 1940s and is still a family favorite today.
Bring 7 layer salad to your next family holiday party and your grandmother or great aunt will recognize it right away! It brings back memories and yet it isn’t outdated, because salad never goes out of style.
Feed a Crowd
This is the perfect recipe to make for a barbecue or potluck. It is a salad that encompasses all of the best characteristics of a party side dish because it is
- simple to make
- designed to be a make ahead dish
- looks impressive
- goes with everything
And as an extra bonus it is also somewhat healthy, since it includes lots of tasty vegetables. When you need to feed a crowd you can’t go wrong bringing a traditional 7 layer salad.
Colorful Layers in a 7 Layer Salad
At its most basic this dish is really just a salad that is arranged in layers. Prep for the dish is mostly washing and chopping the vegetables.
Here are the seven layers I use in my salad, in order from bottom to top.
- Lettuce – Iceberg lettuce or romaine lettuce are a great choice. You want the lettuce to stay crisp so a more delicate leaf lettuce won’t work as well.
- Hard boiled eggs – The eggs add protein and flavor to the salad. And if you arrange them up against the sides of the bowl they add some nice visual interest to the side dish.
- Bacon – The bacon adds crunch to the salad. For a 7 layer salad the bacon needs to be very crispy. Making air fryer bacon is a great way to quickly and easily get the crispy bacon needed for this recipe.
- Tomatoes – I prefer to use cherry or grape tomatoes cut in half for this recipe. If you are using full size tomatoes drain them after slicing them so that they drip and make the lettuce soggy.
- Onion – Red onion is the best choice because it is not as strong and pungent as yellow or white onions.
- Peas – A layer of peas adds some bright green color and texture to the salad. Canned peas don’t look as good and tend to be mushy, so use frozen or fresh peas.
- Cheese – I like to use a nice aged cheddar cheese. The yellow color of the cheese adds to the vibrant color. But any kind of cheese will be delicious!
Dressing for 7 Layer Salad
Once the salad is layered the dish is sealed off with a layer of dressing. The dressing is a combination of mayonnaise and sour cream with just a little bit of sugar.
The amount of sugar in the dressing is small, but don’t be tempted to leave it out because it adds a lot to the flavor.
Bowl for 7 Layer Salad
Ideally this salad is best in a glass bowl with straight sides so that you can show off pretty layers. A large trifle bowl works great if you have one.
You can also make the salad is smaller bowls or wide mouth mason jars. This is especially nice if you are making modifying the recipe to have some that are vegan or leave out a vegetable one member of the family is allergic to.
How to Make 7 Layer Salad
1. Prepare the Ingredients
Wash, dry and chop the lettuce. All the vegetables for this salad, but especially the lettuce, needs to be really, really dry, so use a salad spinner to get most of the water out or blot well with paper towels.
The amount of lettuce you use in this recipe will vary depending on how big your bowl is. If you have a large bowl add extra lettuce to the bottom so the salad fills most of the bowl.
Slice the hard boiled eggs and the bacon. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and dice the onions into small pieces.
Thaw the frozen peas before using them. You can quickly thaw them by putting them in a colander and running them under hot water for a couple minutes. Just make sure you dry them off after thawing.
2. Layer the Ingredients
The order of the layers is important in this recipe! Start by filling the bottom of the trifle bowl with lettuce.
The lettuce is the least hearty layer and the one that will be most affected by moisture. So the order of the layers is designed to keep the lettuce from getting soggy.
The second layer is the hard boiled eggs. If you have a straight sided bowl push some of eggs up against the sides to make a distinctive presentation.
The third layer is the bacon. The bacon will stay crispier if it is kept well away from the dressing. Save a little bit of bacon to sprinkle on the top when the salad is served.
The fourth layer is the cherry tomatoes. Similar to the eggs it is nice to push some cut tomatoes onto the sides of the bowl.
Put the skin side of the tomatoes down, towards the lettuce so they don’t drip juice onto the lettuce.The fifth layer is the red onion, which is just sprinkled all over the top.
The sixth layer is the peas and the seventh layer is the shredded cheese. The peas and cheese combine to make it difficult for the dressing to drip down to the bottom of the bowl.
3. Add the Dressing
In a medium bowl whisk the mayonnaise, sour cream and sugar until it is thick and creamy. Spread the dressing over top of the layers, spreading it all the way to the edges of the bowl.
Cover the 7 layer salad tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4-6 hours before serving.
How to Serve
When you are ready to serve the salad sprinkle the top with extra cheese, extra bacon and green onions. Extra peas also make a nice garnish on top of the salad.
Use a long handled serving spoon to serve the salad so you can get all the way down to the bottom of the bowl and get something from each layer. You can also toss the salad to make it easier to serve, but I prefer not to.
How to Store
This salad keeps for about 24-48 hours after it is made, but once it is served and the layers are mixed together it doesn’t keep as well. The lettuce will start to get brown fairly quickly. So once it is served eat it within 24 hours.
There are lots and lots of ways to modify this salad by changing up what is included in the layers. And if you add a couple layers and end up with a 9 layer salad no one will complain!
Just keep in mind that more fragile ingredients should be kept away from the dressing so they stay fresh and crispy when arranging new vegetables in layers. Here are some suggestions for other vegetable layers:
- bell peppers
- grated carrots
- sliced radish
And you can make this more of a main dish salad by adding another layer of cooked meat such as
- diced ham
- shredded chicken
- peeled shrimp
- Make this recipe even easier by buying precooked bacon or eggs that are already hard boiled.
- If you are in a hurry you can use ranch dressing instead of making a homemade dressing. It won’t taste quite the same, but it will be good!
- 1/2 head lettuce (6-8 cups), chopped
- 6 hard boiled eggs
- 8 slices bacon, cooked
- 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup red onion
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 2 cups aged cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 slices bacon, cooked
- 4 green onions, chopped
- 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- Wash, dry and chop all the vegetables. Make sure the lettuce is very dry so use a salad spinner or pat it dry with paper towels. Peel and slice the hard boiled eggs and roughly dice the bacon. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and finely dice the red onion.
- Use a large glass bowl with straight sides, like a trifle dish, for this salad for the best presentation. Fill the bottom of the bowl with the lettuce.
- Add the eggs to the bowl, pressing some against the glass to add visual interest.
- Put the bacon on top of the egg layer. Reserve some bacon for garnishing the salad if desired.
- Add the cherry tomatoes next. Push some of the tomatoes against the sides of the glass if desired. Keep the cherry tomatoes skin side down so they don't drip juice onto the lettuce.
- Add a layer of red onion.
- Place the peas on top of the onions.
- Cover the peas with a thick layer of cheese. Reserve some cheese for garnishing the salad if desired.
- In a medium bowl whisk the mayonnaise, sour cream and sugar until smooth. Spread this dressing over the top of the salad, going all the way to the edges of the bowl.
- Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours to overnight before serving.
- When you are ready to serve garnish the salad with more bacon, cheese and green onions.
Serving and Storing
Use a long handled spoon to serve the salad so you can get all the layers in one spoonful.
This salad keeps up to 2 days before serving, but once it is mixed and served it doesn't keep as well. Use within 24 hours of first serving.
You might need to adjust the quantitites of the ingredients based on the size of the bowl you are using.
There are many other vegetables you could substitute in this salad. In general keep more fragile vegetables away from the dressing so that they stay fresh. Some examples of vegetables that could be used are celery, grated carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, avocado and artichokes.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 334Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 160mgSodium: 516mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 16g
Nutrition facts are estimates.