What Is Wilted Lettuce?

Franklin Jeffrey

When many people think of lettuce dishes, the image that comes to mind is that of a cold tossed salad. To some, wilted lettuce is just greens that have been left in the refrigerator too long. Wilted lettuce, however, is actually a hot dressing poured over lettuce pieces. Precise recipes vary, but the basic ingredients include bacon, vinegar and green onions. Some cooks purchase a fresh head of lettuce to prepare the dish, but others choose to prepare it to use up lettuce that has lost some of its crispness but has not yet reached the stage where it is necessary to throw it out.

Hard boiled eggs, which can be served with wilted lettuce.
Hard boiled eggs, which can be served with wilted lettuce.

To make wilted lettuce, fry four or five strips of bacon in a large skillet; remove the bacon when done, crumble and set aside. Add two tablespoons of vinegar and salt and pepper as desired to the bacon drippings; some cooks add a spoon or two of brown or granulated sugar as well. Allow the mixture to continue to cook, stirring frequently, while preparing lettuce.

Granulated sugar, which can be used to make wilted lettuce.
Granulated sugar, which can be used to make wilted lettuce.

Tear or chop the lettuce into bite-sized pieces and place in a serving bowl. Slice three to six green onions, including their tops, very thin, add crumbled bacon and toss with the lettuce. Pour the dressing over the greens and toss. Serve the wilted lettuce dish while warm.

A spicier, lower fat alternative recipe for wilted lettuce eliminates the bacon. To prepare this lettuce dish, saute three or four finely minced garlic cloves in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a deep skillet. Add the chopped lettuce and sprinkle with salt, if desired. Continue to saute the mixture until the lettuce is properly wilted, then remove from the skillet, drain and serve warm. This recipe is particularly suitable for lettuce that has lost its crispness but has not yet began to mold or form a slimy coating.

Some cooks like to top wilted lettuce with sliced hard-boiled eggs or cherry tomatoes. Sliced olives or mushrooms are also possible additions, either as toppings or mixed into the greens. The dish is occasionally sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese.

Precut salad mixes may be used in place of lettuce if so desired. Typically, these mixes contain other vegetables, such as carrots or radishes, in addition to iceberg or romaine lettuce. Because precut lettuce loses its body faster than an intact head, some cooks salvage leftover mixes by making wilted lettuce. The additional vegetables, however, may not make this a desirable substitute for all.

Hot dressing poured over fresh lettuce creates wilted lettuce.
Hot dressing poured over fresh lettuce creates wilted lettuce.

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Discussion Comments


@feasting – Wilted lettuce is so delicious. You can toss cooked meat in with it and make it more of a light meal than a side salad, too.

I love adding either boiled or grilled shrimp to the wilted lettuce. The bacon flavor coats the shrimp and takes it to a whole new level.

The green onions really add some kick, too. This recipe is a winner in my book, and I love making it in summertime when the ingredients are more in season and fresher.


I like the lower fat garlic and olive oil version of wilted lettuce. In this recipe, you actually saute the lettuce instead of just pouring the dressing over it later. The garlic really adds flavor and nutrition to it, and I don't miss the bacon at all.


This sounds amazing! I guess the vinegar is what makes the stuff like a dressing.

Bacon tastes so good in a salad. Brown sugar adds to its goodness, so I can actually see this dressing tasting like something a restaurant might make.

A salad of lettuce and boiled eggs with wilted lettuce dressing would be something I would pay to eat. I'm getting hungry just reading about it!


I never knew that wilted lettuce was anything more than limp lettuce leaves! I suppose they call this dressing wilted lettuce because it is hot, so it wilts the lettuce when poured over it.

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