Appalachian Food

Kill Lettuce

how to make kill lettuce

Ever heard of Kill Lettuce? It’s a traditional Appalachian way of using fresh leaf lettuce from the garden-or even branch lettuce that grows wild along the creek/branch banks. I’ve also heard folks call the dish Wilted Lettuce, Wilted Lettuce Salad or other variations of ‘killed’-like Kilt Lettuce but around my house Granny and Pap always called it Kill Lettuce.

Just like different families call the dish by different names-it’s also cooked a little different by folks too. Today I’ll share 2 of the most common recipes with you. Both recipes are the same in regards too serving-Kill Lettuce should be served immediately after making.

First up-the way Granny taught me: Begin by picking and washing your leaves of lettuce-making sure to dry off as much water as possible. Sometimes I wash mine early in the morning and leave it drying on a towel on the counter.

Next-cut up several green onions and mix with torn lettuce in a bowl-adding salt and pepper to taste.

Pour hot bacon or salt pork (Pap and Granny call it streaked meat) grease over the lettuce onion mixture. Be prepared for lots of hissing and popping when the grease hits the lettuce. Stir thoroughly and serve quickly. It doesn’t take much grease-only a couple of tablespoons-depending on the amount of lettuce you use.

Miss Cindy’s family made Kill Lettuce by a different recipe-but one that is also common throughout Appalachia:

I learned from Dad how to make wilted/killed lettuce.

Cook a few slices of bacon and crumble it in a bowl on top of the torn lettuce and cut green onions (cut onions including the tops). Add salt and pepper. Heat the remaining bacon grease and pour it on the greens then add vinegar or lemon juice to the hot pan and swirl it then pour it on the greens. Toss the bowl contents to mix and eat immediately…with cornbread. The lettuce is so fragile that it doesn’t take much grease to wilt it and the lemon/vinegar is hot so it helps to wilt it as well.

appalachian supper

Above you can see a traditional Appalachian meal: Pinto beans, cornbread, streaked meat (salt pork), soupy potatoes, fresh radishes, and kill lettuce.

Have you had kill lettuce? Did you like it? Or do you think the whole thing sounds like a mess that no one should eat?



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  • Reply
    April 21, 2013 at 11:38 am

    Interesting you should bring up the hetriage recipes concept. Molly O’Neill just put out a cookbook/story book called One Big Table. She traveled all over the country collecting stories of families and the recipes that go along with them. Great stuff. Similar to what you were thinking. Haven’t seen one that’s just focused on the South.

  • Reply
    October 25, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    I Love in MY Momma An Daddy taught me how to make it with the vinager, i made it for some friens in california when we were stationed in san diego county. they were skeptic at first but ended up liking it. i also an regular onin instead of green onion. I love it.its worth the mess an hassal.

  • Reply
    Kris Hicks
    May 23, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Both my grandmother’s make this all the time, and I have learned as well although i’m allergic to onions so I prefer just the lettuce with grease over it. 🙂 I could eat a whole pan full, I love it and corn bread. 🙂

  • Reply
    Willie Boy
    August 22, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    maw used to make this…we called it just lettuce and onions. Sure was good with beans, taters, corn bread and pork of any kind . Gonna have to try making it myself

  • Reply
    Ray Richardson
    June 28, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Lordy,Lordy,I am starvin and want
    go home to the mountains.Actually
    want the home fries with mine
    See yall in heaven

  • Reply
    Kim Campbell
    May 30, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Actually, that whole meal looks really good!!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Guess I should have read this post first before I commented about the ‘wilted lettuce.’ 🙂
    Oh well, at least I know now. xxoo

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 13, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Tipper, that is a fine looking plate of supper. I like the wilted lettuce and I’ve always been a fan of Pinto Beans and streaked meat. I was shocked to learn that a lot of folks buy canned beans instead of cooking dried beans. Like the lettuce and cooked greens I’ve eaten dried beans all my life.
    My grand dad finished every meal with cornbread and molasses!

  • Reply
    Farm Chick Paula
    May 13, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Yummm- this made my mouth water, Tipper. I haven’t had kilt lettuce since my mammaw passed away… I need to try my hand at making it! (I know it won’t be as good as hers though…)

  • Reply
    May 13, 2010 at 9:13 am

    I have seen this before, a long time ago.
    I don’t remember eating it though. I’m not a fan of wilted looking lettuce.

  • Reply
    May 13, 2010 at 5:47 am

    You made me hungry agaiin, Tipper. LOL. Love wilted lettuce. We put a bit of sugar in it.
    Nice turkey Chatter. Way to go, girl.
    Y’all take care. T

  • Reply
    May 12, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Wilted lettuce salad is definitely not a mess to miss. I grew up with this and wilted spinach salad as well. It seemed it had something to do with slightly less than perfect lettuce or spinach? Not bad just not perfect. Often my mom would “fancy” it up with sliced egg or pickled julienned beets on the side or both artistically arranged.

  • Reply
    May 12, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    My mother also fed us kids on “Wilted Lettuce” salad from the family garden. She used the bacon grease and sizzled meat, with vinegar, and sugar combination and we all loved it. Somehow this recipe made it out to Oregon where I grew up. It’s probably been 50 years since I’ve had it. It’s time to find some home-grown lettuce. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    May 12, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Wilted lettuce (with hot vinegar) is a MUST for summer! That and new potatoes cooked with fresh green beans and bacon is the epitome of summer eating!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    May 12, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    I never heard it called Kill Lettuce, but I always enjoyed Wilted Lettuce. The one I remember was much like your Granny taught you.

  • Reply
    May 12, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Tipper we always called it Wilted lettuce and I loved it!
    That plate of food looks yummy. Also looks like something I grew up eating.
    I would love to have me some wilted lettuce right now. Yum!

  • Reply
    May 12, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    I haven’t had it in years! I’ve always heard it called wilted lettuce. I always had it with the bacon crumbled up in it, too.
    Your meal looks delicious~I love pinto beans!

  • Reply
    May 12, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    When I was a kid we ate wilted lettuce with garlic and used apple cider vinegar to give it some wonderful tang. We would use either home grown black simpson seeded lettuce provided by my Grandpa or iceberg lettuce; just depended on the season.

  • Reply
    May 12, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    I haven’t had it in a long time. When I grew up in Oklahoma, we had the dish frequently in the spring and summer. Poke greens were a spring dish also. Your pictures make me hungry…Will have to make it again..

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    May 12, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Tipper: You have such interesting traditions and foods from the mountains. I’ve never heard of this and just use the lettuce in salad or soups.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    May 12, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Good food and what is any meal without cornbread? Or, maybe I should ask, Is there any time that cornbread doesn’t fit? Mom and my older sisters made wilted lettuce, same way, leaf lettuce, onions, vinegar, salt and pepper, bacon, grease from the bacon wilting the greens. Lordy, the pictures would make anybody hungry.

  • Reply
    May 12, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Why does reading your blog always make me so hungry? 🙂 Mmmmmmmm. Wilted lettuce I’ve heard of but I don’t think I’ve ever eaten it.

  • Reply
    May 12, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    hey tip, long time huh…we called it a “wilted” lettuce salad but i like the kill lettuce. our garden is not in, it snowed ove 4″ wet heavy inches on the 8th?!! looks like it might make it to 60 today! we have some of our plants starting on the window sill and hopefully before they get too big will be able to put in the ground. your garden is beautiful. hoping for more sunny days this year.

  • Reply
    May 12, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    We always called it “lettuce and onions”. My daddy was the one usually in charge of gathering up the veggies and fixing them in one of the smaller iron skillets. He heated up the grease and dumped them in, after they wilted a bit he added apple cider vinegar, salt and a touch of sugar. Then dumped them all out in a bowl.
    I still can’t make them as good as he did. I even planted a garden specifically for that very treat.
    Thanks for the info – I had never heard it called kilt lettuce before and I am right smack in the middle of the Appalachain Mountains.

  • Reply
    May 12, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Ethel-soupy potatoes are jus tpotatoes boiled in water-with salt, pepper, and butter-until they’re soupy : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
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  • Reply
    May 12, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Your dad’s kill lettuce sounds tasty! I’ve only ever seen this sort of thing done with spinach, which I don’t have enough room for in my garden. I have plenty of lettuce out there already and will be picking up some bacon on my run into town this afternoon! Thanks for sharing! Is there a recipe for the soupy potatoes?

  • Reply
    May 12, 2010 at 11:03 am

    every time i read your blog, memories come falling into my head. Pinto beans were a staple in KY, nary a meal without them. at the 3 room grade school I attendded, many days all we had for lunch was pintos and cornbread and milk. yum. Kilt lettuce I have heard of but not eaten. i might just make some and try it. also mother put bacon grease in everything from beans and peas and anything she cooked. one lady that made killer bisucits brushed the tops with bacon grease before she baked them i am getting fatter as i type. love this post today

  • Reply
    Kenneth M. Roper
    May 12, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Hey Tipper, Great radio selection.
    Your lettuce fixens are just the same as I was raised with.My mama
    didn’t use vinegar in this but it
    sure is good with beans and taters
    huh? Congradulations Chatter, you’re a real mountain girl and we
    like it that way. Got my first buck before I was a teenager, so I
    know how proud you and the deer hunter must be. a friend, Ken

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    May 12, 2010 at 10:14 am

    I’ve used a similar recipe with a little vinegar for branch lettuce or dandelion greens. Pretty yummy. But generally I prefer my lettuce raw and crisp with olive oil and vinegar.

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    May 12, 2010 at 10:05 am

    my husband loves this dish, although here we call it wilted lettuce, and some people just call it lettuce because I guess they think that’s the only way to eat it! It’s delicious, but…bacon grease. Oh well, as you say, it only tales a little bit.

  • Reply
    May 12, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Thanks–now I’m starving for it, and my lettuce is just now peeping through! Can’t wait until its big enough. I make mine just like your original recipe.

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    May 12, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Yum! I havent had kilt lettuce since I was at home. My mom made hers with fatback grease and added the vinegar and sugar. She also beat up an egg and put in it, kinda emulsified it. I dont ‘know how she kept the egg from cooking but it didnt’. I’ve never seen a recipe for it call for an egg. Hmm, now you got me wanted some with a hunk a cornbread.
    Congratulations, Chatter!!! Nice gobbler. Have you ever heard of making a turkey call out of the wingbones? My husband learned how, think he found the instructions on the internet. He’s made several. If you still have them would be a nice momento of your first gobbler.

  • Reply
    Julie Curtis
    May 12, 2010 at 6:51 am

    I’ve never heard that term, but I do remember my Granny fixing something similar.

  • Reply
    Donna W
    May 12, 2010 at 6:49 am

    In Missouri we call it wilted lettuce; I make it with vinegar and sugar added to the bacon grease.

  • Reply
    Nancy M.
    May 11, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Cool! I’ve never heard of it!

  • Reply
    May 11, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    Hi Tipper, I grew up eating “Wilted” Lettuce. My mother made it like your grandmother made it. I love love love it—even to this day.

  • Reply
    May 11, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    My Daddy loved Kilt lettuce. Grandma would fry up some bacon and take it out of the cast iron skillet. Then she would throw some cut up green onions in the hot bacon grease and cook them until they were soft. Then she dumped the lettuce right in the skillet, turned it off, and added vinegar. She put it in a bowl and topped it with crumbled bacon. Yum! I want some for supper right now!

  • Reply
    May 11, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Here is the recipe in our family cookbook for wilted lettuce: Large bowl of leaf lettuce, 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup oil, 1/4 cup of sugar (or adjust to taste), chopped green onions. Put lettuce and onions in bowl. Stir together dressing ingred. and bring to boil. Pour over lettuce and stir. In the old days I’m sure they probably used bacon grease instead of the oil, though.I never liked it myself, but other family members love it.

  • Reply
    Heather Rojo
    May 11, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Up here in New Hampshire and Maine we search the creek banks for fiddleheads of ferns this time of the year. They are cooked very similar to your recipe. I look forward to this every spring. We’re part of Appalachia, too.

  • Reply
    May 11, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    Hi Tipper, Kill lettuce was a favorite of my Pap Paw. There were many other greens he hunted and ate..On his trips to the fields and the woods, he would point out what we were to cut and we younguns would get down and cut it for him.He carried circus peanuts in his pocket as a treat so we would not let him bend over as they might fall out and get wet. Heaven forbid..LOL SANDI.

  • Reply
    May 11, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    In my part of the world , we never eat lettuce cooked!! We combine it in salads with rocket and other greens, we add some onion rings, feta cheese, black olives and oregano, olive oil and vinegar.

  • Reply
    May 11, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Up here in Western Pa. we use the same recipe over young dandelion greens.

  • Reply
    Just Jackie
    May 11, 2010 at 10:13 am

    We grew up on kilt lettuce. Never saw a head of lettuce until I was 12. We always made ours with bacon, vinegar, sugar, salt and a lot of pepper. I add onions now. My brother insists I make this for him every time we get together. I made it the other night when you brought over dinner. It tasted soooo good. My mom would always drink the left over vinegar. We made fun of her. But maybe she was on to something. Now that vinegar is good for so many things that ail you. She was healthy as a horse, never got arthritis. She said she owed to all the vinegar she had. LOL

  • Reply
    John Dilbeck
    May 11, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Good morning, Tipper.
    I’ve never eaten kill (killed or wilted) lettuce before, but this looks very much the same as how Mom would cook wilted poke, collards, and other dark green leaves.
    When making poke salad, she’d also add sliced boiled eggs.
    Pop always called salt pork “streak a lean” (streak of lean?) and I didn’t know it by any other name until I was an adult. He preferred it to bacon when cooking/wilting greens, but he loved his bacon for breakfast.
    I don’t much like the dark green leaves for a meal, but when wilted properly, even I enjoyed poke salad. Served with pinto beans, corn bread, potatoes, and whatever was fresh from the garden, it would make a yummy evening meal, no matter whether you called it dinner or supper. (grin)
    I don’t know if I’ll try kill lettuce, but I might.
    All the best,

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