Overnight Layered Lettuce Salad
Do you know how to determine if a recipe is worth trying? Some version of it appears in almost every church cookbook you can find. This is one of those recipes. Why? It is easy to make and uses simple ingredients, it can be made in advance and it hits all the flavor profiles (sweet and savory, crunchy and smooth, rich and healthy). As mason jar salads dominate my Pinterest feed, I just had to share this Layered Lettuce Salad with some ideas for variations to keep it interesting!
the basic layered lettuce salad
It just doesn’t get any easier than pulling a salad out of the refrigerator that you assembled the previous night. Even the ingredients are common and easy to find year-round: iceberg lettuce, carrots, frozen peas, green onions, bacon, shredded cheddar cheese and, if you like, nuts. On many occasions, I will choose romaine over iceberg but for this particular salad, I prefer iceberg.
The single-most important key to success with this salad is making sure the lettuce is dry before assembling. It needs to be washed well and the cold water keeps it crisp; however, if it is not dried well, the water will continue to drain and collect in the bottom of the pan. This will add too much moisture to the salad while it rests overnight and make it very messy to serve. Salad spinners help remove a lot of the excess water but I still drain the lettuce on paper towels while chopping the other ingredients.
The 9″x13″ glass pan is the standard vessel for this recipe. It is perfect for potlucks, buffets and larger group meals. When I prepare for a smaller family dinner, I like to reduce the number of dishes that have to be passed. I also like to find ways to “decorate” the table with the food itself. That is how I came up with this idea.
These are half-pint, wide-mouth canning jars. Instead of putting all the ingredients in one pan, they are divided evenly among 12 jars but assembled in the same way. The lids and rings are used to cover the salad while it is in the refrigerator. For this dinner, I added a few sprouts and nestled a deviled egg on top. It’s inviting and convenient and it never hurts to have a few extras in the refrigerator in case someone wants seconds!
Even if a sit-down dinner doesn’t fit into your schedule, these jars are the perfect solution for lunch boxes, ball games, picnics and dinner served in shifts.
variations on the original
Be creative with this recipe. My mind is full of variations to try …
- add crumbled or sliced hard boiled eggs
- slices of fresh radish and/or celery
- substitute ranch dressing and a little Tabasco for the salad dressing/mayonnaise and add crumbled blue cheese for a hot wing side dish
- greek yogurt and feta cheese with some cucumber, tomato and red onion
My only advice on substitutions is to think about the consistency of the ingredients. Veggies like cucumber and tomato have a lot of moisture which may result in the “soggy” texture described earlier in this post. I would add these right before serving just to avoid this problem.
Ready to give it a try?
Overnight Layered Lettuce Salad
- 1 head iceberg lettuce
- 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots divided
- 1 1/2 cups frozen peas divided
- 1 1/2 cups diced green onion divided
- 1-1 1/2 cups salad dressing or mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup crumbled cooked bacon
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or sunflower seeds optional
- Remove core from the head of iceberg lettuce and discard. Chop the lettuce into small pieces (about 1"). Wash well in cold water and drain very well on paper towels. Excess moisture on the lettuce will result in a very sloppy salad.
- When lettuce is well-drained, place it all in a 9"x13" glass pan or distribute evenly in individual serving cups.
- Sprinkle 1 cup of the shredded carrots evenly over the lettuce.
- Sprinkle 1 cup of the onions and 1 cup of the peas evenly over the carrots and lettuce. Note that the peas do not need to be defrosted.
- Starting with 1 cup, drop tablespoons of the salad dressing or mayonnaise on top of the salad. Use a knife or spatula to gently spread it out, making an even layer over the salad. Use additional salad dressing or mayonnaise if needed.
- Sprinkle the sugar and black pepper over the top.
- Evenly distribute the remaining carrots, peas and onions, as well as the cheese and bacon, on top of the sugar/pepper layer.
- Cover with plastic wrap (or canning lids if using jars) and refrigerate at least two hours or overnight.
- Before serving, sprinkle the toasted pine nuts or sunflower seeds over the top.