Eight Layer Salad

Photo of bowl of eight layer saladFollowing the dodo bird, presentation salads have wandered down the road to extinction. For the gelatin based creations I will mostly agree that this is a good thing, although a recent tryst with panna cotta made me re-consider my general reticence towards gelatin based goods. This has been a stupid prejudice, because gelatin is actually fairly cool and magical, I will now admit.

But showpiece, nearly sculptural salads have been in the fashion holding area, patiently awaiting their re-emergence. And while cleverly plated salads have never died, the cleverly assembled salads seem to be trapped in the era of the first color cookbooks. Ah, but they are around. This example is merely a layered salad, frosted generously with a creamy dressing.

photo of chicken and bacon for eight layer saladI dragged it, kicking and screaming from the vaults because I needed to make a “birthday cake” for my non-sweet-eating mother a few years ago. It is layered and festive looking. You can stick a candle in the top. Bingo! Consider it a vertical Cobb salad with a kicky dressing, or a lovely tribute presented on a special occasion. The absolute beauty of it is found in the fact that you are supposed to make it 24 hours in advance. Although it is not strictly necessary, wouldn’t you agree that it is always an appreciated option? Also, the prep, while simple, is time-consuming. This is in no way a last minute affair.

photo of dressing ingredients for eight layer saladThe lettuce is Romaine, hardy enough to sit a day with the rest of the ingredients and remain crunchy and fresh. It is heavy on the proteins, with eggs, bacon and chopped chicken. And one of the layers is frozen peas which are perfectly cool and defrosted on day two. This is where you will need to modify if you are serving it in the near-term. Nobody wants a bite full of frozen peas. I really like this subtle horseradish dressing. It is sweet and it has a little kick to it. But, I suppose any thick dressing would work. Blue cheese comes to mind.

You will need a large glass straight-sided bowl for this. The pictured trifle bowl is ideal, and I bought this one at Wal-Mart for a song. And, you must go behind the scene just before serving, transfer the layered salad into a giant mixing bowl to toss it, and then return it to it’s lovely glass serving bowl. Don’t try to toss it in the glass bowl. The contents are packed in and there is no avoiding overflow and chaos if you try. I have tested this theory for you, believe me.

photo of ingredients for eight layer salad

Eight Layer Salad
Recipe type: Salad
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
Once you have the ingredients assembled, this is a breeze to put together. It is also a great "bring with" salad.
  • 1¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish (not the root, the bottled creamy sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 2-3 heads Romaine lettuce, rinsed, dried, and cut into ½" chunks
  • 16 ounces frozen petite sweet peas
  • 1 pound bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
  • 5 hard-boiled eggs, chilled and chopped
  • 1½ pounds cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped
  • ½ medium red onion sliced, or equivalent volume sliced green onions
  • 8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
  1. Layer half the lettuce into the bottom of a flat sided glass container. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
  2. Spread the eggs on top of the lettuce and lightly season with salt and pepper.
  3. Spread the frozen green peas on top of the eggs.
  4. Spread the remaining romaine lettuce on top of the peas. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
  5. Spread the chicken on top of the lettuce.
  6. Spread the bacon on top of the chicken.
  7. Spread the onion on top of the bacon.
  8. Spread the cheese on top of the onion.
  9. Spread the dressing on top of the cheese as though you were layering a cake.
  10. Sprinkle a few onion pieces on top for garnish.
  11. Cover with plastic wrap and place the salad in the refrigerator overnight.

photos of how to assemble eight layer saladJust before putting out the bowl for presentation, sprinkle a little paprika on the top for color. And, just before serving, remove the bowl to the kitchen to toss the salad in a larger container. Replace the salad in the bowl to serve.

photo of finished eight layer saladNotes:

Prepared horseradish can be found in the deli and in the condiment aisle at the grocery store.

This can not only be made in advance, but you can prep all of the individual ingredients in plastic bags and take them in a cooler to your destination if you are traveling. Then you can assemble a rather brilliant salad on the run.

Finally, this amount of dressing is rather generous. If you like a lightly dressed salad, consider holding back a little on the “icing” and adding more, if needed, when you toss the salad.



  1. Barbi Norton says

    R D told me that I need to try this salad, that it is delicious! It certainly looks that way, and I will be trying this for our next family get together.

  2. Courtney says

    I like the fact that you make this salad ahead. My mom and I are already discussing making this when we are together next week. I made your refridgerator bread today and can not wait to try it tomorrow. It was super easy to prepare.

  3. says

    Great recipe Kelly! We did a very similar one when I was serving on the Wichita Falls Jr League CB committee. (That was when you were eating baby food) We did not do the chicken and I think it’s a great addition!

  4. says

    That is my mom’s all time favorite salad! She loves putting it together for parties! Your photos are beautiful :)

  5. Kelly says

    I went to peek at your site Rachel, and I’m still giggling. Thanks for the morning laugh.

  6. says

    I’m not a salad person but that looks amazing. The process of layering the fresh veggies is almost like an art! Thanks for the beautiful and useful photos – I think I may make this simple but gorgeous-looking recipe when I have guests over :)

  7. says

    Love it! My mom has been making this salad all my life, but minus the chicken, horseradish and lettuce (at least I don’t remember any lettuce), and with the addition of water chestnuts. Always loved it and can’t wait till the next time she makes it!

  8. Shelly says

    Reminds me of an 11 layer salad my mom makes. It is an old Cuisinart recipe with all veggies. Beautiful and delicious! I will give this one a try.

  9. says

    I just ate lunch today at Aunt Karen’s (I am Karen Merten’s niece) and she made this salad for me – it was WONDERFUL! Loved it – and am loving reading your blog!

  10. Kelly says

    Hi Stephanie! So nice to make your acquaintance. Karen has sent some great recipes (and people) my way. Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad the salad was a hit. I wish I had been there for some of the vanilla cake. You just reminded me, it is time for me to order some vanilla. I keep forgetting over and over again. Please visit often. So far everyone I’ve met who is connected in any way to Doug and Courtney has been a barrel of fun.

  11. Els Uitendaal vuijsters says

    Made this salad and it was DELICIOUS…
    It also looked so very pretty,just like your beautiful pictures.
    Here in the Netherlands they do not make salads like this so it was great fun to see everyone being so happy with it.
    Thank you so much for sharing it! My 4th of july & my Birthday turned out perfect!

  12. Kelly says

    Oh, Els, you made my day. I’m so glad it turned out nicely for you. I’m glad you had a happy birthday! Hartelijk gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag! Did I get that right? (Please do tell me because I’ll take it down if I just said “go jump in the lake” in Dutch.) Thanks, Els.

  13. Julie M says

    My mother has made this for many years….without chicken. I would argue that there is not a need for the chicken. A nice switch, but not a need at all. It is a nice dish without.


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