Classic loaded wedge salad is stacked with texture and flavor

Is there anything more satisfying than a well-constructed salad? I’m talking about a towering wedge of crunchy iceberg lettuce topped with a tangy yet creamy homemade blue cheese dressing and juicy chunks of ripe, diced tomato and crunchy bacon bits.

The salad, which is popular on steakhouse and gastropub menus, is thought to have originated in the early 1900s, just a few years after the first cultivar of iceberg lettuce was developed in California.

Some say it was named “iceberg” because it looked like that when transported on crushed ice; others say it was named after the ice-white color of its inner leaves and crunchy texture.

One early version of what cookbook author Marion Harris Neil dubbed “Lettuce Salad with Roquefort Dressing” appeared in “Salads, Sandwiches, and Chafing Dish Recipes” in 1916, and by the mid 1920s, with bottled salad dressing mass-produced by companies like Kraft, the crispy, crunchy salad was gaining popularity.

The salty, incredibly satisfying bacon bits on top didn’t appear until the 1950s, and some recipes include blue cheese crumbles with the dressing. Serious Eats’ “fully loaded” recipe includes diced red onion soaked in vinegar for a bright and tangy finishing note.

A wedge iceberg salad isn’t particularly healthy because its leaves are less nutritionally dense than other lettuces (it’s 96% water), and the bacon and blue cheese dressing — made here with mayonnaise, sour cream, and buttermilk — is high in fat. However, it is well worth the occasional splurge.

Don’t skip quick-pickling the red onion in vinegar to make it less pungent, and salt the tomato before piling it on top of the salad to draw out any excess water. Dice both, along with the bacon, into small pieces so that each cool and creamy bite has a taste of all three. The crunchy finish is enhanced by bread crumbs cooked in rendered bacon fat until brown and crispy.

Because I had a yellow tomato on hand, I used it, but red is more traditional. Any leftover dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Loaded Wedge Salad

4 servings


2 small diced tomatoes (approximately 8 ounces total)

Kosher salt is kosher salt.

1 small minced red onion

For onion soaking, use white wine vinegar.

4 oz. bacon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 oz (approximately 1/2 cup) fresh bread crumbs

ground black pepper, freshly ground

1 head iceberg lettuce, discarded outer leaves, quartered through core so that each quarter stays together

garnished with minced chives

For the dressing:

mild blue cheese, 2 oz.

1 mayonnaise cup

1 cup soured cream

1 cup of buttermilk

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

ground black pepper, freshly ground

(Optional) kosher salt


Make the dressing: Whisk blue cheese in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk in the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, and lemon juice until the dressing is smooth and slightly lumpy. If desired, season with pepper and salt. Set aside while making the salad.

Cook bacon in a small skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisped, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain using a slotted spoon. In the skillet, you should have about 2 tablespoons rendered fat.

Cook, stirring frequently, until the bread crumbs are browned and crisp, 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain and season liberally with salt and pepper.

Place iceberg wedges on plates and drizzle with blue cheese dressing (you will have more dressing than you need). Sprinkle quick-pickled onions, drained tomatoes (discard any extracted liquid), crumbled bacon, toasted bread crumbs, and chives over salads. Serve.

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