Grandma’s Wilted Lettuce Recipe – Old Fashioned Wilted Lettuce

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Grandma’s Wilted Lettuce Recipe is the perfect summer side dish to take you back to your childhood. Old Fashioned Wilted Lettuce has a hot bacon dressing made with bacon grease, vinegar and sugar.

Grandma's Wilted Lettuce Recipe is the perfect summer side dish to take you back to your childhood. Old Fashioned Wilted Lettuce has a hot bacon dressing made with bacon grease, vinegar and sugar. 

Grandma’s Wilted Lettuce Recipe

If there’s one aroma that I associate with my Grandma during the summer months, it would be that of wilted lettuce. It’s the particular aroma that arises when the vinegar hits the hot pan, and the the tanginess combined with the sweetness of the sugar gets up in your nose. It actually almost burns my nose.

It’s at this very moment, every single time, that I think fondly of her.

I love her and miss her so much. It almost makes me a bit weepy as I’m standing over the stove stirring my wilted lettuce dressing. At least, I can blame it on the vinegar if anyone walks in and finds me crying.

Grandma's Wilted Lettuce Recipe is the perfect summer side dish to take you back to your childhood. Old Fashioned Wilted Lettuce has a hot bacon dressing made with bacon grease, vinegar and sugar. 

Old Fashioned Wilted Lettuce

Just in case you didn’t grow up eating wilted lettuce like I did, let me explain.

Wilted Lettuce is an old fashioned dish, often considered German or Pennsylvania Dutch in origin. It consists of a hot dressing made quickly out of bacon grease, sugar and vinegar. The hot bacon dressing gets tossed over leaf lettuce where it lightly wilts down from the heat of the dressing.

Depending on how you were raised, Wilted Lettuce salad sometimes includes bacon chopped up in pieces and/or hard boiled eggs.

My Grandma was a purist. She rarely put the bacon bits in the salad; for her, I imagine, it was just a great use of bacon grease. She never, ever, ever wasted anything.

That’s what happens when your family loses its farm during the Great Depression. That’s something that you never get over, and frugal becomes your normal; at least this is what happened with my Grandma.

Grandma's Wilted Lettuce Recipe is the perfect summer side dish to take you back to your childhood. Old Fashioned Wilted Lettuce has a hot bacon dressing made with bacon grease, vinegar and sugar. 

Wilted Lettuce Salad with Bacon

The dressing is the perfect melody of tangy from the vinegar and sweet from the sugar. And then, bacon drippings always packs a punch of flavor.

It should be noted that this salad must be eaten right away. As the lettuce sits in the hot bacon dressing, it continues to wilt and wilt and wilt to the point of no return.

Be sure to use only the amount of lettuce that you’ll eat at that meal.

Grandma's Wilted Lettuce Recipe is the perfect summer side dish to take you back to your childhood. Old Fashioned Wilted Lettuce has a hot bacon dressing made with bacon grease, vinegar and sugar. 

Ingredient List for Grandma’s Wilted Lettuce

  • Bacon Grease
  • Bacon (optional)
  • Sugar
  • White Vinegar
  • Head of Leaf Lettuce (washed and dried in a colander or salad spinner)
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Grandma's Wilted Lettuce Recipe is the perfect summer side dish to take you back to your childhood. Old Fashioned Wilted Lettuce has a hot bacon dressing made with bacon grease, vinegar and sugar. 

How to Make Wilted Lettuce with Bacon Grease

Step By Step Instructions

  1. Chop up bacon into bite-sized pieces; fry in a large skillet until crispy. Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the bacon grease in the pan.  (This step can be omitted if you are starting with reserved bacon grease. In that case, add bacon grease to the skillet, and heat over medium heat.)
  2. Add sugar, and immediately whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat.
  3. Pour in white vinegar to the sugar mixture, stirring the entire time. Be careful, it will send up a flume of vinegar steam that gets in your nose.
  4. Pour the warm dressing over chopped lettuce, toss it to lightly wilt.
  5. Add in crumbled bacon pieces (optional), and eat immediately.

For the full ingredient amounts and recipe steps for Wilted Lettuce Salad with Bacon Grease, scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of this post. 

Grandma's Wilted Lettuce Recipe is the perfect summer side dish to take you back to your childhood. Old Fashioned Wilted Lettuce has a hot bacon dressing made with bacon grease, vinegar and sugar. 

Recipe FAQs

  • Fried bacon pieces are optional if you’d rather use reserved bacon grease from breakfast.  This is what my Grandma did.
  • Start with approximately 4 Tablespoons bacon grease.
  • Only use as much lettuce as you’ll eat in one meal; wilted lettuce does not save.  The lettuce gets too wilted and becomes inedible.
  • Hard boiled eggs are a great addition to old fashioned wilted lettuce salad.  Or, sauté onions in the bacon grease for added flavor.
  • I’ve seen this classic recipe with hard-boiled eggs added too.
  • Try using leaf lettuce from the farmers’ market in the summer. It works perfectly for Grandma’s Wilted Lettuce with bacon.
  • This recipe is super fast to make. Make it after all your other food is done cooking to ensure it is perfectly wilted, not soggy!
  • Visit our Amazon Store for our favorite pantry and kitchen items.
Grandma's Wilted Lettuce Recipe is the perfect summer side dish to take you back to your childhood. Old Fashioned Wilted Lettuce has a hot bacon dressing made with bacon grease, vinegar and sugar. 

Recipe Variations

  • Use different lettuces such as romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce or spinach.
  • Add hard boiled eggs.
  • Omit the bacon, using olive oil in place of the bacon drippings.
  • Green onions are a delicious additions.
  • Use apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar.

Grandma’s Best Garden Recipes

Old Fashioned Stewed Tomatoes 

Old Fashioned Stewed Tomatoes are a treat for your taste buds.  Garden tomatoes are cooked slowly with onions, green peppers and butter to form a rich sauce which is soaked up with chunks of bread.  Sweet stewed tomatoes is the perfect accompaniment for any summer meal.

Grandma’s Rhubarb Pie

Grandma's Rhubarb Pie is rustic but so delicious.

Easy Pan Fried Zucchini 

Follow these easy instructions for how to fry zucchini slices.

Old Fashioned Pickled Beets 

Try Grandma's Old Fashioned Pickled Beets Recipe.  This is a small batch pickled beets recipe made for the refrigerator.  Make these once, and they are sure to be in your summer rotation of garden vegetable recipes.

Simple Sour Cream Cucumbers 

Easy Salad Recipes

Salads are a great side dish, but we love when a few extra ingredients are added to make salads the main course. Here are some of our favorite easy salad recipes:

Grandma's Wilted Lettuce Recipe is the perfect summer side dish to take you back to your childhood. Old Fashioned Wilted Lettuce has a hot bacon dressing made with bacon grease, vinegar and sugar. 
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5 from 5 votes

Grandma’s Wilted Lettuce Recipe – Old Fashioned Wilted Lettuce

Grandma's Wilted Lettuce Recipe is the perfect summer side dish to take you back to your childhood. Old Fashioned Wilted Lettuce has a hot bacon dressing made with bacon grease, vinegar and sugar. 
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time10 minutes
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: german wilted lettuce, grandma’s wilted lettuce, old fashioned wilted lettuce, wilted lettuce with bacon, wilted lettuce with bacon grease
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 67kcal
Author: Barbara

Ingredients

  • 4 – 6 slices bacon (see instructions or notes)
  • 2 Tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 4 – 6 cups leaf lettuce

Instructions

  • Chop bacon in small pieces, crisp up in a skillet. Remove bacon onto paper towel-lined plate, leaving bacon grease in pan. (If you want to start with reserved bacon grease, add 4 tablespoons bacon grease to a skillet, and heat).
    Grandma's Wilted Lettuce Recipe is the perfect summer side dish to take you back to your childhood. Old Fashioned Wilted Lettuce has a hot bacon dressing made with bacon grease, vinegar and sugar. 
  • Add sugar to the hot bacon grease, whisking until dissolved.
    Grandma's Wilted Lettuce Recipe is the perfect summer side dish to take you back to your childhood. Old Fashioned Wilted Lettuce has a hot bacon dressing made with bacon grease, vinegar and sugar. 
  • Turn off heat; add vinegar and whisk immediately. Be careful of the flume of vinegar steam that arises from the pan.
    Grandma's Wilted Lettuce Recipe is the perfect summer side dish to take you back to your childhood. Old Fashioned Wilted Lettuce has a hot bacon dressing made with bacon grease, vinegar and sugar. 
  • Pour over leaf lettuce in a bowl, tossing until coated and lightly wilted.
    Grandma's Wilted Lettuce Recipe is the perfect summer side dish to take you back to your childhood. Old Fashioned Wilted Lettuce has a hot bacon dressing made with bacon grease, vinegar and sugar. 
  • If desired, stir in fried bacon pieces. Season with salt and pepper.
    Grandma's Wilted Lettuce Recipe is the perfect summer side dish to take you back to your childhood. Old Fashioned Wilted Lettuce has a hot bacon dressing made with bacon grease, vinegar and sugar. 

Notes

  • Fried bacon pieces are optional if you’d rather use reserved bacon grease from breakfast. This is what my Grandma did. 
  • Start with approximately 4 tablespoons bacon grease.
  • Only use as much lettuce as you’ll eat in one meal; wilted lettuce does not save.  The lettuce gets too wilted and becomes inedible. 
  • Hard boiled eggs are a great addition to old fashioned wilted lettuce salad.  Or, sauté onions in the bacon grease for added flavor. 
  • Try using leaf lettuce from the farmers’ market in the summer. It works perfectly for Grandma’s Wilted Lettuce with bacon. 
  • This recipe is super fast to make. Make it after all your other food is done cooking to ensure it is perfectly wilted, not soggy!
  • Love easy side dishes? Try Soy Cucumber Salad.
  • The carb counts, calorie counts and nutritional information below is auto-calculated and can vary depending on the products used. These should not be used for specific dietary needs.

Nutrition

Calories: 67kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 8mg | Sodium: 142mg | Potassium: 93mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 2101IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 11mg | Iron: 0.4mg
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Grandma's Wilted Lettuce Recipe is the perfect summer side dish to take you back to your childhood. Old Fashioned Wilted Lettuce has a hot bacon dressing made with bacon grease, vinegar and sugar. 

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12 Comments

    1. I seem to recall my late mom used some mashed potatos mixed with the vinegar, sugar and fat. She never really shared how she made anything and I miss some of her dishes.

  1. With the lettuce and bacon bits I always added chopped up scallions (green onions) cut up in 1/4″ lengths. in the garden the things we had to much of was green lettuce and green onions. Absolutely yummy.

    1. This was on the dinner table every single day of summer at my grandparents house she grew tons of leaf lettuce! I now have a bunch of leaf lettuce in my garden and this wilted salad came to mind thanks for posting! I don’t think my grandma put the bacon on either but I do!
      This is definitely one of those recipes where you could add all kinds of things! I prefer cider vinegar myself its not as potent as the white and a dash of salt and pepper really make the sweet/tart sauce pop! Btw spinach works well too!

  2. Wow, I forgot about this recipe recipe! My mom and aunt made this often when there was bacon and lettuce to use up. It popped in to my head today as I was thinking about menu items for the next few days. My husband needs to be on a soft diet for awhile, but is yearning for fresh greens and veggies. This will be a great side. Love the idea of adding scallions. Have some of those that need to be used up! Mom always added the crumbled bacon to the lettuce. So excited to make this tissue weekend!

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