If you grew up in the 70's or 80's, you have probably seen or had a layered salad, maybe you've made them! If so, then you know just how delicious they are! This type of salad is sometimes called seven-layer salad, pea salad or 24 hour salad, but I think overnight layered salad fits it best.
You can customize the ingredients and make as few or as many layers as you like. This is one of those salads that is fun to make and is great for, family gatherings, parties or pot luck dinners because you make it 1-2 days ahead of time. It's beautiful and delicious! The secret is the dressing, so definitely don't skip that!
Frequently Asked Questions
It really depends on who you ask, because everyone makes it differently. However, the main components that I think are a must are: iceberg lettuce, onions (usually green onions or red onion), tomatoes, peas, cheese, hard boiled eggs, and, of course, the dressing.
You can make the layered salad up 1-2 days before you want to serve it and as long as you put the dressing on top to seal in the vegetables, it will be perfectly fine. Once you serve it, the leftovers will last 2-3 days in the fridge. It's important to use dry ingredients, the drier they are, the longer your salad will last. I also recommend covering the salad with plastic wrap to prevent as much exposure to air as possible.
Yes, you can use any size bowl you like and make your salad as small or as large as you like. Just adjust the ingredient amounts accordingly. The ratio of vegetables to salad dressing is the most important part if you ask me, so make sure you have a nice layer of dressing to mix in with all the vegetables once served. If you want individual servings of layered salad for lunches, see the section below where I go over that.
Ingredients & Substitutions
While there are plenty of different dressings you could use, I really recommend using the one in this recipe because it goes perfectly with the salad and everyone loves it. You can skip the sugar or use a sugar substitute, but the mayonnaise, sour cream, and ranch seasoning are key. The extra dill is completely up to you.
I use a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning mix to make things easy, but you can absolutely make up your own seasoning mix. You want about 2 Tablespoons of a dry ranch seasoning. Here is a recipe from the Pioneer Woman: Ranch Seasoning Mix
You can use any kind of lettuce you like, but the firm, crunchy texture of iceberg or romaine is preferred. Sometimes I mix the two or use iceberg and another type of lettuce, it all depends on what I have on hand. The important thing is that the lettuce is washed and dried well. If your lettuce is wet, your salad will be wet and watered down when you go to serve it.
You can use any kind of onions you like, I prefer the green onions because they are very mild and give a great flavor to the layered salad. You could also dice up some red onion or even a sweet white onion or skip the onions.
You don't have to use tomatoes if you don't want to. I have made it with and without and although I love the color the tomatoes add, they are a wetter ingredient and the salad doesn't last as long when I add them in. If you do want to use them, I suggest using cherry tomatoes quartered and letting the juice drain out as much as possible before adding them to the salad because no one likes soggy salads!
These are totally optional. If you want to use carrots, I recommend shredding them for the best texture. I finely dice the celery and absolutely love the crunch and flavor, but many people use diced green pepper instead.
I use frozen green peas that I allow to thaw in the fridge, give them a quick rinse and let them drain until I'm ready to use them. You can steam them for a short period of time, but honestly you don't have to. The peas are blanched before freezing and that is enough cook time for them the be perfect in a salad.
If you want to use fresh peas, blanch them first and then drain and chill.
I like to use cucumbers in my salad, but they are totally optional. I don't peel them, but you can.
You can use any kind of shredded cheese you like. My mom used a combination of Swiss cheese and cheddar. You could use some Parmesan cheese mixed with another cheese you like. My preference is to keep it simple and use a sharp cheddar cheese.
You can include other vegetables, meats, or anything you like in your layered salad. Just keep the ingredients on the dry side. I love adding hard boiled eggs that are chopped up or pickled beets that are well drained. Some other ingredients that would be amazing in this salad are:
- bacon bits or cooked & crumbed bacon
- diced ham
- sunflower seeds
- water chestnuts
- red peppers
- cooked chickpeas
- anything else you love in salads!
How to Make a Layered Salad in a Jar
The process is going to be the same whether you make a large salad or single serving size salads for lunches. Prep all of your fresh vegetables and make sure they are as dry as they can be. Chop everything so that they are in bite size pieces.
Make sure your jar or other container is clean and dry. Layer the lettuce on the bottom, followed by the rest of the ingredients. I usually like to have twice as much lettuce as I do of any other layer. This gives a good ratio of ingredients. You can press down the salad in the jar if the layers are getting too close to the top. Cover with the dressing and put the lid on. If you are adding crispy bacon, I recommend taking those separately and adding them to your salad just before serving to maintain the crunch. The cheese can go on before the dressing (under the peas) or you can bring it separately. Store the mason jars in the fridge and they will last several days.
To serve, I suggest dumping it out into a bowl to eat, but if you have a big enough jar and can mix everything around inside, you can eat it right out of the jar.
How to Make Overnight Layered Salad
I always use a clear glass bowl to make the salad, but honestly you can make it in anything. If you need a huge amount of salad for large gatherings, like enough to feed 20 plus people, then I would use a disposable aluminum pan and forgo the beautiful presentation because everyone will still love this salad even if they can't see the layers!
A large trifle bowl works perfectly because it has straight sides, but I've made it in a large glass mixing bowl before and it's still beautiful. The bowl I used in the video was purchased on Amazon and here is the link: Anchor bowl with lid.
Dressing: In a medium size mixing bowl mix mayonnaise, sour cream, sugar, dill, and ranch seasoning packet until you have a creamy dressing. I usually use a whisk to make sure it is well blended. Set aside if you are making the salad now or refrigerate (covered) until needed.
Vegetables: I like to have prep bowls for each ingredient and get them ready before I layer the salad, but you can certainly prep the vegetables and immediately layer them.
- Lettuce: Wash, dry, and chop a medium head of iceberg lettuce.
- Carrots: Peel and shred 4 carrots.
- Celery & Green Onions: wash, dry and chop into ¼" dice.
- Black Olives: Drain a 3.8 ounce can of sliced black olives.
- Cherry Tomatoes: Wash and cut the cherry tomatoes into quarters, let the juice drain off.
- Cucumbers: washed and chopped into ¼" pieces
- Frozen Peas: Thawed, rinsed and drained.
You can use a food processor to chop your vegetables or chop them by hand like I do. The important thing is that they are all in small pieces and as dry as they can be.
Other Ingredients: The prep will depend on what you are using. Just remember to keep the ingredients as dry as possible.
- 4 large eggs, hard boiled and chopped
- 4 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 2 cups cheese, shredded
Here is a quick video of me prepping the ingredients
Layer lettuce on the bottom and make this layer twice as thick as each of the other layers for the best ratio of lettuce to other ingredients.
Layer all the ingredients in the following order.
- Shredded Carrots
- Celery & Green Onions
- Black Olives
- Chopped Eggs
- Chopped Tomatoes
- Chopped Cucumbers
If your ingredients are higher in the bowl and you are worried about running out of room, simply press them down some and continue layering.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. While you can put the final touches on the salad and serve it immediately, it will be even better the next day! The overnight refrigeration (4 hours minimum) allows all the flavors in the dressing to combine and makes it extra delicious!
Put the shredded cheese on top of the salad and sprinkle the crumbled bacon on top. Now, you are ready to serve your overnight layered salad!
I'll warn you now, the first scoop is messy! Use a long handled spoon and dig down in the bowl to try to pull up a good serving of all the layers and place it on a plate or bowl for serving. The remaining servings are much easier to get out.
This is one of my favorite salad recipes and brings back so many wonderful childhood memories. The chopped lettuce and crunchy vegetables with the most delicious dressing is simply perfect. Give it a try and I bet it will become a family favorite!
Overnight Layered Salad Recipe
- 1½ cups mayonnaise
- ¾ cup sour cream
- ½-1 teaspoon dried dill ½-1 Tablespoon fresh dill
- 1½ Tablespoons white sugar or sugar substitute
- 1 packet Ranch Seasoning Mix 1 ounce packet (about 2 Tablespoons)
- 1 head iceberg lettuce medium size head
- 4 carrots
- 4 green onions
- 4 stalks celery
- ¾ cup black olives, sliced 3.8 ounce can, drained
- 4 Large eggs hard boiled
- 8 ounces cherry tomatoes
- 1 cucumber about 1¼ cups
- 12 ounces frozen peas about 1 cup
- 2 cups cheese shredded
- 4 strips bacon cooked and crumbled
- Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a medium size bowl. Refrigerate if not using within 90 minutes.
Prepping the Ingredients
- Wash, dry, and chop the lettuce. Wash, peel, and shred the carrots. Wash, dry, and chop the celery and green onions into ¼" pieces. Chop the cherry tomatoes into quarters and let drain. Chop the cucumbers into ¼" pieces.
- Cook the eggs to hard boiled stage. Chill in ice bath, peel and chop.
- Thaw the peas, rinse, and drain.
- Drain the canned olives.
- Cook the bacon, let cool and then crumble into pieces (can be done the next day).
- Shred the Cheese if needed (can be done the next day).
Assembling the Salad
- In your glass bowl or container, layer the lettuce on the bottom. Make this layer twice as thick as the other layers. Then layer the remaining ingredients in this order; carrots, green onions & celery, black olives, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, dressing. If the layers are getting too tall and you don't have room for your dressing, you can press them down to make room.
- Spread the dressing over the top of the peas. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight. You can top and serve immediately, but it's better to let it sit overnight.
Final Touches & Serving
- Just before serving, remove the plastic wrap and top with the shredded cheese and bacon crumbles.
- Using a long handled spoon, dish out one portion of the salad into a bowl or on a plate. The first scoop is always the messiest, but it gets much easier after that. Eat & Enjoy!
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
She published her first cookbook in the Fall of 2018 and is very interested in writing several more.
Louise is also the creator of an online Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooking Course with over 100 instructional step-by-step videos. People absolutely rave about the course and all the value they have received from it.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can. Get more Information about Louise & contact information
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Made this for the 1st time, my guess were amazed and so was I so fabulous couldn't stop eating and had it for leftovers the next day. Not only is it a beautiful work of art to look at but so delicious, all the ingredients meld well to a fabulous finish!
Definitely added this to my repertoire of salad recipes!
Thank you Louise 👍
I'm so happy to hear this! My mom has made this salad since I was young and it's my favorite!
Just made this today. 5 star rating because I know coming from Louise it will be great. I halved the ingredients since it is just us two. I added some sunflower seeds and those bacon flavored chips (I know, but I like the crunch). I will still add bacon to the top along with the cheese. I also added a layer of blue cheese crumbles. Can't wait until tomorrow to see what hubby says.
This is so delicious and pretty. It is a really good way to get people wanting salad!! I have added diced ham layer so it is a complete meal and a very healthy one as well. I try to remove a portion for myself so other can do it more easily.
That's exactly what I do! Once the first portion is removed, the rest is easy to get out.