This beautiful, fresh salad will wow your family and friends before it even hits their plates! With tons of texture and literally layers of flavor, my version of this eye-catching classic will be your new favorite crowd pleaser and inspire you to create your own spin on the 7 Layer Salad.

  Seven Layer Salad

When I’m in a restaurant, I often find myself distracted by all the beautiful dishes being delivered to the anxious, hungry diners around me. “That looks so good! I’ll have what she’s having!”

Presentation truly is everything. We’ve all had that “eating-with-your-eyes” experience that made you pause for a moment (or an Instagram photo) to appreciate an artfully plated dish.

The plating disasters can be equally entertaining (see www.cakewrecks.com), but as a general rule we want the dishes we’re serving to look as good as they taste. My 7 Layer Salad will not disappoint!

I suspect there was some nefarious motivation behind creating this dish.

After all, the original Seven Layer Salad recipe (or at least the oldest ones I’ve found) include every five-year-old’s nemesis – green peas. Maybe I can dazzle the kids with something pretty to look at and get them to eat a few vegetables!

I suspect the real reason it was invented, though, was to elevate the classic green salad to something more visually appealing and interesting to serve on an average weeknight. It’s obviously more tasty too – it’s served in a trifle dish, and everything that’s spooned out of one of those is gonna make you want seconds!

My mom used to bring this salad to summer BBQs, picnics, and church potlucks.

It’s a perfect light and cool side for just about anything on the grill. And, because of the way this salad comes together, it’s perfect for feeding large groups.

It’s also fabulously convenient because, unlike most green salads that get soggy and wilted when they sit for too long, this 7 Layer Salad can be made up to 24 hours ahead of time.

For those not familiar with the recipe, a traditional Seven Layer Salad starts with a base of salad greens – usually iceberg or Romaine.

What follows is a combination of “layered” vegetables like cucumbers and tomatoes (as well as the obligatory green peas) all topped with a generous layer of salad dressing and a sprinkling of cheese and bacon. The key is presenting the dish in a clear bowl or trifle dish so you can see the beautiful colors climbing their way to the top.

In the Kraft 7 Layer Salad, which is the simplest recipe I found, green peas are the main player in the chopped vegetable layers, along with a simple “dressing” of Kraft Real Mayo (don’t worry, my Seven Layer Salad Miracle Whip support group readers – you can substitute).

Though other recipes tend to grow into an 8 or 10 or even 12 Layer Salad category, they do get more creative, incorporating less traditional vegetables, more protein, and a simple but multi-ingredient dressing.  The 7 Layer Salad Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond includes in her cookbook, adds spinach to the bottom layer (pulling one over on those picky eaters of hers, I suppose) and a generous amount of protein-packed boiled eggs. Her dressing includes some fresh dill which adds a unique flavor to the dish.

My own take on 7 Layer Salad uses a spring mix (pre-washed/bagged salad here is a great time-saver) which immediately bumps up the texture and flavor.

I also recommend using grape tomatoes instead of the larger hot-house varieties because the smaller tomatoes tend to hold their shape (and their juice) a little better, yielding an end-product that’s a little fresher.

I often substitute chopped cauliflower for the carrots in my salad, which gives it a great crunch and incorporates a very popular super food. A win win!

My dressing is a little richer and mayonnaise-heavy than other recipes with an equal mayo-to-sour cream ratio and uses just a touch of sugar to balance the acidity of those ingredients. If you substitute Miracle Whip for the Mayo, I suggest you omit the sugar. Miracle Whip is already on the sweet side.

It also includes shredded Parmesan cheese. While I still marry the more-common cheddar cheese with bacon to top off the salad, the Parmesan-infused dressing adds a nutty, salty quality to the dressing that, along with the eggs and bacon, really makes it hearty enough for a complete meal.

The next time you’re considering a salad for dinner or you want to wow your friends or co-workers with a beautiful potluck dish, give my 7 Layer Salad recipe a try. What new and fun ingredients will YOU be adding to yours?

Seven Layer Salad

RECIPE NOTES:

Eggs: Boiled eggs are a great snack, and many people keep them on hand for a little protein boost. There are lots of thoughts on cooking (and peeling) the perfectly boiled egg though – old vs. fresh, cold water vs. hot water, or just saying a little prayer before you start the peeling process.

Have you ever tried steaming your eggs instead? It’s equally simple and produces a lovely, light, and tender result every time. Simply put your eggs, in a steamer insert, over boiling water. Then cover and cook 6 – 12 minutes, depending on whether you like them soft or hard. For use in this Seven Layer Salad, deviled eggs, or other cold-serving options, plunge them immediately into an ice bath for about 15 minutes before peeling.

If you’re looking for an even more convienent option, you can buy a bag of already boiled and peeled eggs in the deli section of some markets. There always available at my local Trader Joes market.

Lighten things up: So, I realize this is a salad, and some of you may be wondering why we add the extra fat and calories to an otherwise light dish. Because this recipe is so incredibly versatile, it’s just as easy to make a great calorie-conscious alternative.

For example, chopped turkey is used to replace the bacon in the 7 Layer Salad Southern Living offers on its website. The Seven Layer Salad Recipe Paula Deen features on one of her television shows replaces all the dairy ingredients – mayonnaise, sour cream, and cheese – with low-fat versions. Turkey bacon would also be a great substitute here.

Onions: This salad is made several hours ahead of time, and sometimes chopped onions can start to take over the flavors in the dish.

I like to chop the onions, then rinse them under cold water for a few seconds and drain them very well before adding that layer. The onions will still retain their crunch and heat without becoming overpowering.

You can also try sliced green onions as a milder alternative.

Can you dip it?: Yes, yes you can. To make 7 Layer Salad Dip, stir together all the ingredients, minus the lettuce/greens, and serve it with Romaine or Radicchio cups, or even some crudite. Low-carb but still oh, so good!