7 Layer Salad

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This 7 Layer Salad is the ultimate picnic salad! It’s not often you find a make ahead salad, but this is the one! With seven layers of crunchy lettuce, veggies, cheese, and bacon and a classic creamy dressing, this layer salad keeps for days and is perfect for summer potlucks and BBQs.

Old Fashioned 7 Layer Salad

Giant bowl of 7 layer salad.

Growing up I had a dramatic aversion to peas. If my parents forced me to eat them, I would hold my nose and put on an entire performance in two acts of chewing and swallowing the peas.

And yet, somehow, I devoured this 7 layer salad at every single church potluck. I’m sure this caused my parents to exchange many a knowing “can you even believe this?” glance, but I completely embraced my own cognitive dissonance.

Peas by themselves? Trash. Garbage. Basically poison.

Peas loaded in a 7 layer salad? Heavenly. Sweet. Part of a balanced diet.

Now that I’m a mature, boring adult, I’ve learned to love peas in all their forms (even Green Pea Soup!), but I still credit this 7 Layer Salad for opening the door to this delightful veggie.

What is a 7 Layer Salad?

7 layer salad topped with shredded cheddar cheese.

A classic 7 layer salad is a big salad layered in a bowl with iceberg lettuce, various veggies, shredded cheddar cheese, and a creamy mayo-based dressing. The layers vary slightly from recipe to recipe, but the basics remain the same.

Of course, I believe our additions (crunchy celery, sweet juicy cherry tomatoes, chopped bacon, and hard boiled eggs) are the “right” ones, but there are many delicious ways to make a layered salad.

The key is to layer the ingredients and “seal” the top with a creamy dressing, so the salad keeps, without getting soggy, for days. It’s the perfect side dish for cookout favorites like Italian Dressing Chicken, Grilled Steak Kabobs, Spicy Grilled Turkey Breast, and Ranch Burgers.

Ingredients & Substitutions

  • Lettuce- We love a classic crisp and crunchy iceberg, but feel free to substitute romaine or use a blend of iceberg, spinach, and romaine.
  • Peas– These are a MUST for 7 Layer Salads, in my opinion. I just love the springy pop of sweetness they bring. We always use frozen peas, which need to be thawed and drained, but not cooked.
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Celery– Celery is completely underrated for salads. It adds such a nice crunch!
  • Hard boiled eggs- Why not add some protein and make this salad a MEAL?
  • Bacon- This balances out the sweet dressing with some extra savory action.
  • Cheese- We use freshly shredded sharp cheddar for this salad.

Here are some other options you might want to experiment with:

  • Red onion– Don’t use more than a cup of red onion, so it doesn’t overwhelm the other flavors.
  • Finely chopped cauliflower or broccoli
  • Cucumber- This can be a nice substitute for celery, if you prefer.

7 Layer Salad Dressing

You’re not going to believe how simple this salad dressing is. Ready? It’s mayonnaise and sugar.

I know, I know, but before you freak out, it’s really really good, and it’s what gives a 7 Layer Salad its signature creamy and just slightly sweet flavor. I like to add some fresh cracked pepper, but the classic dressing it literally just mayo and sugar.

How to Make 7 Layer Salad

Step 1: In a large bowl, layer the lettuce, peas, tomatoes, celery, eggs, and bacon.

Step 2: Whisk together the mayonnaise and sugar. Season with salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Spread the mayonnaise on top, then finish with the shredded cheddar cheese. Chill at least 2 hours.

Make Ahead and Storage Instructions

  • 7 Layer Salad is designed to be made ahead of time. The dressing should be chilled for at least two hours, but it can easily be stored overnight. I think it’s even better the second day!
  • Store the salad, covered in saran wrap, until you’re ready to serve.
  • I recommend serving the salad with a big scoop straight down to the bottom, rather than mixing all the ingredients together. This allows the leftovers to stay crisp and not get soggy.
Two wood salad servers scooping into a 7 layer salad.

What to serve layered salad in?

When I was growing up, this salad usually showed up in a 9 x 13 inch glass dish. This will work well, but it looks extra pretty in a large bowl.

The one you see pictured here is a simple glass mixing bowl, but a large trifle bowl would look fantastic. Just make sure to pick something with at least a 12 cup capacity. 14-16 cups is even better!

How to keep salad from getting soggy

Make sure to start with produce that has been washed and dried. We like to use iceberg because it tends to hold up well and not wilt easily.

The mayo dressing is the other key to keeping the salad nice and crisp. Because the dressing is thick, it doesn’t sink down into the other ingredients, making them moist and wilty.

Wooden spoon scooping out 7 layer salad.

More Picnic Side Dish Favorites

Looking for more side dishes to add to your summer potluck rotation? Try these!

  • Black Bean and Corn Salad– One of the most versatile summer sides, this salad/salsa is great alongside grilled meats, as a topping for tacos, or on its own.
  • Corn Souffle– A classic that’s not just good for the holidays! I love serving this sweet corn side dish in the summers.
  • Southwest Pasta Salad– Another great make ahead side dish option that’s finished with a creamy, zesty cilantro dressing.
  • Spinach Dip in a Bread Bowl– A cool, creamy spinach dip, perfect for dunking veggies, bread, or crackers!
  • Cucumber Tomato Salad– The simplest veggie salad made with garden fresh cucumbers and tomato in a simple vinaigrette.
  • Panko Mac and Cheese– What’s a cookout without a creamy baked mac and cheese? We love this one topped with crunchy panko breadcrumbs.
Giant bowl of 7 layer salad.

7 Layer Salad

7 Layer Salad is an old fashioned make ahead salad that's perfect for cookouts, BBQs, and picnics. With layers of lettuce, peas, hard boiled eggs, bacon, and a creamy dressing, this delicious salad keeps for several days!
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Prep Time: 20 minutes
2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 667kcal


  • 1 ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper (to taste)
  • 1 small head iceberg lettuce (chopped)
  • 1 12 oz package frozen peas (thawed)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 4 hard boiled eggs (chopped)
  • 1 lb. bacon (cooked and crumbled)
  • 1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese


  • In a bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the mayonnaise and sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate while you prepare the rest of the salad.
  • In a large bowl, layer the lettuce, peas, tomatoes, celery, hard boiled eggs, and bacon. If you want to see all the layers.
  • Spread the mayonnaise mixture over the bacon. Top with the shredded cheddar. Refrigerate the salad at least two hours or overnight.


  • To serve the salad, we recommend scooping from top to bottom to get all the layers without mixing the whole salad together. Leftover salad will keep longer if the dressing is kept separate from the layers.
  • The salad can be layered in a 9 x 13 inch glass dish or a large bowl, like a trifle bowl. Just make sure to pick something with at least a 12 cup capacity. 14-16 cups is even better!
Course Salads, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword 7 layer salad, old fashioned 7 layer salad


Calories: 667kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 59g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 20g | Monounsaturated Fat: 18g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 167mg | Sodium: 793mg | Potassium: 536mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1423IU | Vitamin C: 34mg | Calcium: 203mg | Iron: 2mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Leave a review, Mention @NeighborFoodie, or tag #neighborfoodies!

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