A close up of a plate of chicken and noodles and vegetables in Seven-layer salad
Recipes » Southern Classics » Southern Hostess Seven-Layer Salad

Southern Hostess Seven-Layer Salad

Behold this kitchen masterpiece that is the Southern Seven-Layer Salad. A true potluck classic, every Southern hostess has her own winning ingredient combination!

The best part about this overnight salad is that you can make it your own, and substitute ingredients that you love.

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For additional main dish salad inspiration, check out my recipes for

Sweet Potato & Steak Salad with Carolina Mustard Vinaigrette

‘Everything Bagel’ Chicken Tenders Salad

Easy Kale Salad with Roasted Butternut & Strawberries

and if you enjoy a good Greek salad, shake up a batch of Copycat Zoe’s Greek Salad Dressing to enjoy!

This is an EASY seven layer salad geared toward feeding a crowd.

This is ‘the Queen of all make-ahead recipes’ for classic Southern food. A Seven-Layer Salad or Layered Overnight Salad, is something every Southern hostess has in her cache of potluck dishes because they are perfect for large gatherings. Consider crispy layers of baby gem lettuce, al dente pasta shells, sweet red and Vidalia onion, sweet green peas, and hard-boiled eggs, all topped with a pungent dressing, some shredded cheddar cheese, and smoky bacon.

Layered salads have been around since long about the 1950’s when it was said that this salad gave all salads a bad name, largely due in part to the original ingredient assembly. That would be because the traditional seven-layer salad is covered with a coating of mayonnaise and sometimes sour cream and includes both eggs and bacon. Originating in the South, there are today as many variations of this dish as a clever hostess has inventiveness.

I am keeping the peas but swapping some of the vegies for pasta shells for some substance. Everything gets put together in advance, chilled, then finished just before serving with dressing, shredded cheese, and bacon bits if you like. It is a beautiful salad, and one that most of us from a certain generation are all too familiar with.

A close up of a plate of chicken and noodles and vegetables in Seven-layer salad

A super easy salad that is made ahead of time, transports well, and almost everyone goes in for seconds.

When I was a kid, most of our family gatherings included Jell-O molds of some kind or another, Ambrosia, and a couple of 7-layer salads. No two were ever alike. I felt like my Aunts had silent competitions over whose was better. They gauged this by which trifle bowl was getting the most action as the buffet table. It was silly to me because I found the very idea of eating this salad unappealing. It probably had everything to do with the peas. Hey, I am being honest. Sorry Aunt Estelle…

A seven layer salad in a trifle bowl

Why seven layers? Heck, why not eight?

Fast forward to me in charge. Well, of my salad ingredients, that is. I was watching an episode of The Pioneer Woman where Ree effortlessly threw together a layer salad with everything from purple cabbage to hard cooked eggs to red onion. It looked like an advertisement for Southern living Magazine it was so perfect. But what it really was more than anything else, was APPEALING. I remember going back to read through Ree’s salad recipes, her layer salads to be precise. Her suggesting that if I did not want to use mayonnaise, I could swap it out for something with equal acidity and balance. Same went for the veggies. And if I wanted to add extra of any one ingredient, that was okay. Heck, I could add a supplementary layer if I wanted and nobody could challenge me. Layer salad recipes are about the components that MY FAMILY enjoys eating, then arranging them in a fun and attractive way. They really anchor a buffet table because they are just so pretty.

That said, there are four layers that I consider to be this salads ‘classic ingredients.’ The lettuce, sweet green peas, hard-boiled eggs, and the tangy dressing traditionally made with mayonnaise and sugar. I did not have tomatoes the day I decided to put this together. Since it would just be us, I knew that would not really matter, so I gathered everything and started a big pot of water on the stove for my pasta shells. In lieu of bacon, I used chopped fresh turkey and counted that as a layer. My family is not crazy over the mayo sugar dressing, so we use a prepared dressing everybody enjoys. Either a tangy cole slaw dressing or sometimes Ranch. I actually happen to have a mini trifle bowl that I was fortunate enough to score at an estate sale for $1, so my plan was to make a smaller version of this classic and make it a meal with the addition of the non-traditional pasta and turkey. This dish always was and still is, a real homerun with my family.

top of a Salad

A close up of a plate of chicken and noodles and vegetables in Seven-layer salad

Southern Hostess Seven-Layer Salad

Jenny from Not Entirely Average
Behold this kitchen masterpiece that is the Southern Seven-Layer salad. A potluck classic of sorts, and every Southern hostess has her winning ingredient combination!
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Servings: 10 servings
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Chilling Time 1 d
Total Time 1 d 35 mins
Course Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 10 servings
Calories 408 kcal


  • Glass Trifle Bowl or Wide Glass Salad Bowl
  • Salad Tongs or Salad Spoons


Ingredients for Southern Hostess Seven-Layer Salad

  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked small shell pasta
  • 1 tablespoon quality olive oil I am using Thea Greek olive oil
  • 3 cups shredded lettuce
  • 4 large hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
  • 3 cups cooked diced turkey or chicken, chilled
  • 2 cups frozen baby green peas
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped mixed red and sweet onion
  • 1 1/2 cups prepared salad dressing of your choice
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese


The Method

  • Cook pasta according to package directions until tender. Drain and drizzle with olive oil to keep from sticking. Set Aside to cool.
  • Place lettuce in clear glass serving bowl or trifle dish; top with cooled pasta.
  • Spread chopped eggs over pasta and season with salt and pepper.
  • Layer on the diced turkey (or chicken), the peas, and the red and sweet chopped onion.

** if making ahead to transport, you may end at this step, cover the salad with plastic and refrigerate until ready to use. Just before serving (see below steps for completion)

  • Using a rubber spatula if necessary, spread dressing on top and sprinkle cheese all over.
  • Serve well chilled with warm buttermilk biscuits with butter and honey.


Serving: 1servingsCalories: 408kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 20gFat: 27gSaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 127mgSodium: 680mgPotassium: 479mgFiber: 3gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 5721IUVitamin C: 27mgCalcium: 143mgIron: 2mg
Keyword 7 layer, barbecue side dish, chicken, pot luck, salad, seven layer, turkey
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