Appalachia Appalachian Food

Killed Lettuce

killed salad, kilt salad noun A salad made by pouring boiling grease over lettuce or other greens. Same as wilted salad.

~Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


Each Spring The Deer Hunter and I look forward to the first kill lettuce of the season. Various names are used for the traditional Appalachian dish: killed lettuce, kilt lettuce, wilted lettuce, lettuce and onions, lettuce, killed salad.

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 to serving. Kill Lettuce should be served immediately after making.

The dish uses fresh leaf lettuce from the garden-or even branch lettuce that grows wild along the creek and branch banks.

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 and serve quickly. It doesn’t take much grease-a little bit goes a long way. I’ve found hot olive oil works well too.


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.


Our favorite way to eat kill lettuce is with cornbread and soup beans (pinto beans). The other day we had it with hamburgers-it was pretty good that way too-actually it ain’t bad with a piece of light bread.

Ever kill your lettuce?



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  • Reply
    Debra Phillips
    September 24, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    We would have fried taters and cornbread and mybe a roasten ear. Wheww I miss my Mawmaw.

  • Reply
    Donna Dickerson
    August 22, 2021 at 12:02 pm

    My first ever bowl of wilted lettuce was made by my Aunt Millie in Southern Illinois. Mom and dad, with three kids in the back seat, drove many times from the Panhandle of Florida to Jacksonville, Illinois. It took two days to get there, but when we did, Aunt Millie set us up in her basement, and always had a good homemade meal ready. Which, one I remember most included the bowl of wilted lettuce. She, of course, waited until we arrived to prepare it, and I watched her every move, with mouth watering. It has been a very long time since I had a bowl, but not for long. Your post made my mouth water again for her cooking. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply
    Bill hoots
    January 29, 2021 at 8:57 pm

    I love wilted lettuce. It was made as I grew up with green onions, leaf lettuce from my dads garden crumpled bacon and bacon or fatback grease. I make it today, we love it still. A twist I have started doing is taking a head of Romain on the grill basted with bacon grease.

  • Reply
    March 11, 2019 at 3:33 pm

    We called this wilted lettuce growing up , but it was truly one of my favorite things to eat….( one) mind ya haha.

  • Reply
    April 16, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    In our family my dad liked your wilted lettuce recipe, but my mom and I liked wilted lettuce with bacon gravy. So both had to be made. The gravy recipe called for frying the bacon til crispy. Remove the bacon, crumble and set aside. Then make a gravy from the grease by adding flour and at the end, sour cream. Add white vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the leaf lettuce and chopped onion and toss lightly with the reserved crumbled bacon. How delicious!

  • Reply
    Eldonna Ashley
    May 11, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    I love this dish, my husband’s mom and my grandma made it best. Both used onions and vinegar with the grease. So very good.
    The best thing about your post for me today was your mention of light bread. I have used that term all my life and still do to this very day. When I say light bread I invariably have to explain it.
    I grew up in the southern part of my state. It was settled much earlier than the northern portion of the state. Down home has a definite Appilachian culture, here the culture is primarily German and very different.

  • Reply
    susie alhoun
    April 16, 2016 at 8:12 am

    I fix mine with bacon grease put vinegar in with grease get really hot then put milk in with vinegar and grease makes hot buttermilk dressing pour hot mixture over lettuce onions and bacon bits my favorite!!!!

  • Reply
    April 4, 2016 at 7:30 am

    Tipper Thank you for mentioning the wilted lettuce. I haven,t had any in several years because my wufe says that is too much grease . my mom used to use wild lettuce & onions to make it . I am going to look for some wild lettuce & make me some.

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    May 14, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    I absolutely love this salad! My mom would use red leaf or curly leaf lettuce and green onions. She would fry the bacon remove it from the pan , add vinegar and swirl it around in the bacon grease then pour the hot mixture over the lettuce and onions and top with the crumbled bacon. Mmmm-Mmmm I could eat the bowl full! Of course I didn’t but, I sure do love that salad!!! My dad was born a raised in Unaka and Copper Creek, they ate this too.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    May 13, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    I have never heard it called this, but funny enough I knew exactly what you were talking about. We do this with spinich leaves too. Love it

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    May 13, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    I have to concur with Jim Casada, my favorite is kilt Branch Lettuce with Ramps and the Bacon crumbled on top. I also like the same dish with Water Cress substituted for the Branch Lettuce. I usually make a meal just on the Kilt Lettuce and a chunk of Cornbread chased with a glass of Sweet Milk. This is my favorite Spring Tonic. Once Ramps have wilted I will settle for Leaf Lettuce and Green Onions as a substitute but it’s similar to having a Hamburger after enjoying a perfect Steak when compared to the Branch Lettuce and Ramps Recipe.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    May 13, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    Jackie–Branch lettuce is not, at least in the parlance I know, water cress. Both do have a hint of peppery taste or bite, but branch lettuce (I’ve also heard it called bear lettuce) is properly called saxifrage. It grows along and in branches and even larger streams. There used to be a wonderful lot of it at Collins Creek right where the picnic ground is located (alongside Highway 441 on the Oconaluftee River).
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Shelia Nelson
    May 13, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Gosh, I love kilt lettuce. It’s been many years since I’ve eaten any. My folks call it streaked meat too…pronounced “stree-kid”.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    May 13, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    and Cee…Oh my, killed lettuce recipes comeing out of the woodwork…Now then, I’m going to have to add dry mustard and brown sugar to one of my kilt lettuce fixin’s…sounds good…I love brown sugar on anythin’…
    thanks Tipper, and Cee for another recipe too…

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    May 13, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    and Jim….The ramp recipe I remember was whole ramps cleaned of course…wilted in bacon grease and beaten eggs thown in to scramble up with the ramps…
    Cooking takes some of the stink away from the ramps…Always pal around with like animals when it’s yore ramp eatin’ day!…
    Mom’s family wilted creases with the spring lettuce…
    If your not in the mountains you just have to depend on that pretty green lettuce variety pack sown early in the Spring…
    Thanks Tipper,
    and Jim

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    May 13, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    Spring salat is what we called this dish in Choestoe; but the way we made it (either from wild greens or cultivated greens), fresh green onions, root and top both, and hot bacon grease and crumbled crisp-fried bacon–with cooked dry beans and cornbread! The “salat” was like a spring tonic: good for whatever ailed you from the long winter without greens!

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes
    May 13, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    We called it wilted lettuce in our house. I haven’t had any in 30 years or so since I left home. Mom and Granny always used the first lettuce out of the garden. It was so good. As kids we thought the sizzle was something!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    May 13, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    I love killed lettuce and onions or
    ramps with a little hot streaked lean
    grease. And I like polk salat with
    scrambled eggs. It’s a Spring cleaning!
    You have done made me hungry and am
    making plans for a mess of polk to go
    with a couple of Rainbows for supper.

  • Reply
    May 13, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Thinking about Mama shredding that lettuce–I think the skill of chopping, shredding while holding the food in one hand & cutting with the other is getting to be a lost art. Seems that most of the young people I know get out the cutting board. I can get a lot chopped the old fashioned way while they’re getting out the board!!

  • Reply
    May 13, 2014 at 10:49 am

    We called it “lettuce ‘n onions”. We all loved it & Mama would make a huge bowl of it. She would use fatback grease or bacon grease on it. She let the grease get hot enough to start smoking a little. The lettuce was already bruised a little from being shredded. She would squeeze a big bunch of lettuce in one hand & shred it, gradually pushing it into the knife. It calls for hot buttered corn bread. My SIL likes radishes cut up in hers but I never did. We do like the fried meat crumbled up in it. My husband will not even taste this as he is an onion hater but my son & I try to have at least one bowlful every spring.

  • Reply
    james gentry
    May 13, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Tipper, we had this every year when I was growing up and it was the highlight of the spring. Mom and Granny searched the fields for “wild lettuce”, similar to dandelion greens, but more tender. They also picked bags of watercress and served it this way, but my favorite was the fresh leaf lettuce Dad had sown in the early garden. We always had ours with cornbread, and mom used streaked meat. My sister still makes this for me every year.

  • Reply
    May 13, 2014 at 9:52 am

    I’ve never had lettuce that way, but my dad used to eat dandelion that way. That tasted pretty good as I remember from childhood. Interesting recipes worth sharing and trying.

  • Reply
    Patti Tappel
    May 13, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Killed lettuce, I love that name. I wish my Dad was still around, he was the king of witled lettuce and he would of loved that title.
    We add a little sugar to it when we wilt ours.
    You need to get yourself a salad spinner. Wal-mart even has them. They are awesome drying the lettuce, and no damp tea towel either!
    See you all in 46 days!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    May 13, 2014 at 8:57 am

    I love kilt lettuce…I didn’t call it that until I met the betterhalf, we called it wilted lettuce most of the time at home.
    I remember the first time I saw it in the iron skillet. Ewwwwweee!
    Dad had stirred it up after rendoring out some streaked meat! He crumbled some of the steaked meat on it like one does bacon bits! Stirred it and brought it to the table hot and steamy. You are right on, we had pinto’s and cornbread, too…plus a plate of fresh pulled green onions and if we had any, some sliced tomatoes. I tried it, but found out not to “hesitate, dottle and pick around with your food, for it is best really hot…It tasted too cold and greasy the first time I tasted it so it ’bout ruint me frum eatin’ it til a few years later! Now, I’m the first to load my plate with the stuff. I use fresh fried bacon drippin’s and crumble the bacon in the pan before adding the greens…I just may try Cindys recipe with the vinegar or lemon…that probably cuts a little of the greasy taste!
    I invested in me a big salad spinner a few years ago…Yes, it does take a few minutes longer to put the lettuce greens in there and spin, but they dry in a few seconds…Dressing sticks like glue to them however…LOL I have also used my spinner to wash my greens, just put the water in, greens, spin a few times, pour the water off, repeat and rinse same way and then spin dry!
    Wonder if it would be OK to eat kilt lettuce for breakfast?
    Thanks for the memories…
    PS..Did you plant your Gypsys, Tipper?
    Shame the mild gypsy isn’t ready when the spring lettuce is ready!
    They would add a good crunch!

  • Reply
    C. Ron Perry, Sr.
    May 13, 2014 at 8:50 am

    My Grandmother,mother all of her sisters would make it. Haven’t had any for over 20 years. Think that I will invite myself down from Maryland to have lunch with you and your family.

  • Reply
    May 13, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Mom always called it lettuce and onions, but would say killed lettuce when she described how it was prepared. It was always killed with bacon grease and eaten with soup beans, taters and a pone of cornbread. I loved it then and still do.
    Mom always “looked” every leaf from front to back before she washed and cut it. Sometimes that would take forever, as she always picked a dishpan full for her big family of lettuce lovers.

  • Reply
    May 13, 2014 at 8:41 am

    I add crumbled bacon, vinegar, dry mustard and brown sugar to the grease before I pour it on the lettuce. That and cornbread is all I need for a meal!

  • Reply
    May 13, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Tipper you are making me hungry this morning. I love wilted salad! We make it like you do in your recipe. I also love it made using tender spinach greens or mustard greens. The mustard greens give the salad a peppery flavor that I love. I like to eat it with fried hot water cornbread and with a big cold glass of ice tea.

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    May 13, 2014 at 8:10 am

    Mother and Dad like this and it has been quite a while since I have heard killed Lettuce.Makes me wish we had a garden. Thanks Tipper for keeping the old saying still to prick our ears when we hear them.

  • Reply
    May 13, 2014 at 7:51 am

    One of my favorite dishes. If you don’t hear that sizzle it means you need to heat the grease longer. It makes any meal better, but great with beans and cornbread. I always waited with anticipation for the first leaf lettuce. Then I learned from an older friend to cut up iceberg lettuce with onions and then wilt it with hot bacon grease….wonderful when the snow is flying.
    I’ve got mustard greens doing well in the garden. That is another great Appalachian dish fried in bacon grease.

  • Reply
    May 13, 2014 at 7:42 am

    My husband’s family called it “Wildered Salad”!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    May 13, 2014 at 7:29 am

    Tipper–I’ve certainly eaten kilt lettuce; it was a staple on boyhood backcountry trout fishing trips.
    You are a bit late when it comes to branch lettuce (saxifrage). It is in its prime the first half of April.
    To my way of thinking the best kilt lettuce salad involves branch lettuce, ramps, hot bacon grease, and the bacon bits as well. Accordingly, I’m not sure I would totally agree with you that the two recipes you offer are the most common ones. In the part of the mountains where I grew up and in the time period of my youth, any thoughts of kilt salad involved ramps and branch lettuce as the KEY ingredients. You don’t mention ramps but rest assured that a few generations back they were an integral part of kilt lettuce feasts. I know that in some quarters that remains the case today (and you didn’t have to grow them–nature took care of it for you).
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Carolyn Hunt
    May 13, 2014 at 7:27 am

    PS today would have been my dear granny Hall’s 117th birthday.

  • Reply
    Carolyn Hunt
    May 13, 2014 at 7:24 am

    My granny called it kilt salad. She would pick something she called wild lettuce and a few other wild weed things.
    She used fatback grease. She would make “hoecake” to be eaten with it.
    I can’t remember what plants she picked but I remember I loved kilt salad.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 13, 2014 at 7:24 am

    I ate wilted lettuce growing up but not much now. I think the vinegar/lemon juice is necessary to balance the grease otherwise my stomach would not be happy. And it’s got to have fresh hot cornbread to go with it.
    My goodness, Tipper, you are making me hungry.

  • Reply
    May 13, 2014 at 7:15 am

    You mentioned ‘branch lettuce’. Is that the same plant that we called water cress? My mother used to prepare water cress this way any time Dad was gone hunting for a couple of days. He refused to eat any greens except poke salad because, “I’m not a cow so I don’t eat grass.”

  • Reply
    Rebel Dunn
    May 13, 2014 at 7:13 am

    We used to eat spring creases or watercress the same way.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 13, 2014 at 7:10 am

    My parents fixed theirs like you but they called it scaulded lettuce. I wouldn’t eat any of it then and still don’t. I ain’t much of a green eater, especially cooked. I do love green onions. I dip them in a little pile of salt and eat them like a lollipop. If you see me with a piece of cornbread in one hand,a green onion in the other and a glass of buttermilk on the table, you’re looking at a happy man.

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    May 13, 2014 at 5:37 am

    One of my favorites! We always boiled apple cider vinegar and streaked meat grease together and poured it over the lettuce. We also added chopped greed onions. We called it wilted lettuce. My nusband’s family called it kilt lettuce.

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