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Seven Layer Salad

June 15, 2010

by Elizabeth

I love rediscovering family recipes. My mom has been making this salad since the early seventies, when she got the recipe from a friend’s mother. It’s a perfect summer salad to serve with a grilled entree – crisp and cool with plenty of ranch dressing, a true Texas favorite. You can make it ahead of time and let it sit while everyone socializes outside, plus it looks really pretty (which is clearly an important prerequisite for salad). It’s best served in a glass trifle bowl so all the layers are equally dispersed. If you’re really lucky, your mom will give you one when you move into your first apartment so you can be a good hostess and make a perfect layered salad too.

The sad thing is, seven layer salad seems to have fallen out of culinary style, but I don’t really see a good reason why. Through my vigorous (online) research, I found that it is generally agreed that seven layered salad can have varied ingredients, but the three necessities are peas, cheese, and mayonnaise. Personally, I’m really glad my mom’s recipe uses mayonnaise as part of the ranch dressing and not as a stand alone ingredient (gew. gag. disgusting. do people really put mayo on salad?)

I updated the recipe a bit, using real crumbled bacon instead of jarred bacon bits, and replacing canned water chesnuts with almonds. Of course the cheese should be freshly grated and the dressing must be homemade. I promise, even ranch made from a packet is infinitely better than bottled. Feel free to use this recipe as a template and switch up ingredients. I think an Italian version with romaine, pancetta, hearts of palm or artichoke hearts, and Parmesan or asiago would be wonderful (although I might break with the mayo rule for this version).

Seven Layer Salad
Adapted from Mom

5 cups spinach
5 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
1 cup cooked, crumbled bacon
3/4 cup toasted almond slivers
1 cup peas (fresh or defrosted frozen)
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack
1 package ranch dressing mix
1 cup mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk or buttermilk

In a clear glass trifle or salad bowl, layer ingredients starting with spinach on the bottom and ending with the cheese on the top.

In a small bowl, mix the mayo, sour cream and milk. Add the dressing mix, and thin with more milk if desired (I like this dressing pretty thick). Pour at least half on top of the salad. (You can use the rest for dip or save for later.)

Because the dressing only comes in contact with the cheese, the salad won’t get soggy if you make it several hours ahead. Just before serving, toss all ingredients together. Serves 10.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 15, 2010 10:14 am

    I love it. It looks so beautiful. I would use this as the centerpiece. Delicious! Thanks for sharing.

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