The wedge salad is a steakhouse classic. Follow our wedge salad recipe for a path toward iceberg lettuce bliss. We even show you how to create a great yogurt blue cheese dressing that eliminates the need to waste an entire carton of buttermilk.
Iceberg lettuce, blue cheese dressing and bacon bits. Are these trite salad ingredients? We think not.
In fact, these humble classic ingredients come together to create the wedge – a salad that we consider to be the most refreshingly decadent of them all. It’s a steakhouse classic. It’s the course that screams “Hey, I’m sorta eating something healthy here.”
But the wedge salad is more than a bonus course. It’s a work of genius where chilled, crunchy iceberg lettuce meets the creamy twang of blue cheese dressing before it’s topped with chewy, slightly crunchy bacon bits and delicate chives.
This salad is a daring American dish, born in the country’s vast farm fields and ideal for its citizens’ milky palettes. It’s also an easy salad to execute at home if you don’t overthink the wedge salad recipe.
Discover more of the world’s best salads.
What Is a Wedge Salad?
The classic wedge salad is a quarter of a head of iceberg lettuce (hence the wedge) topped with blue cheese dressing, bacon bits and chives. That’s the salad in its simplest form.
Some chefs choose to create extra dimensions of flavor and texture by adding ingredients like cherry tomatoes and croutons. Others have moved the salad’s base ingredient away from iceberg to other greens like curly lettuce and baby romaine.
We don’t add any bonus bits in our wedge salad recipe. We instead celebrate the classic American dish as it was meant to be eaten with iceberg lettuce in the starring role.
Discover more classic American dishes.
History of the Wedge Salad
As with most food histories, the wedge salad’s origin is mysterious and most likely dates back thousands of years. Historians claim to trace variations back to the Egyptians, the Romans and the Greeks.
This history is plausible considering that lettuce grows easily in temperate climates. Plus, the variety of lettuces is prolific. Cabbage, broccoli and even asparagus are forms of the lettuce plant.
It’s believed that iceberg lettuce gained its name because of the way it floated on pools of ice and the cold water used to keep it fresh. But we don’t really know exactly where the iceberg wedge salad originated. However, we’ve noticed that the salad has wedged its way on to practically every steakhouse menu from sea to shining sea.
Chicago Tribune restaurant critic Nick Kindelsperger noticed too. He “glanced at the menus of the 32 most popular steakhouses in Chicago (according to Google and Yelp), and they all had a wedge salad.” Michael Jordan’s was the one exception to his observation since that steakhouse had taken the dish off of its ever rotating menu.
When you think about it, this prevalence makes perfect sense…
If you’re eating a steak or some other decadent dinner, would you rather dig into a giant steak or lobster after picking at a salad of dietitian-approved bean sprouts and kale or would you rather eat a salad topped with hedonistic blue cheese and bacon? The answer is obvious.
Our Favorite Wedge Salads
We like simple wedge salads based on both history and tradition.
Daryl remembers his father ordering a classic wedge (what he, at the time, called hearts of lettuce) salad. That salad arrived unadorned – without cherry tomatoes or croutons. It was just a hunk of lettuce topped with blue cheese dressing and bacon bits. So that’s how me make our wedge salads today.
We’ve endeavored to keep our recipe simple, bypassing buttermilk used in most wedge dressings and substituting it with a combination of yogurt and milk. Not only does this substitution allow us to adjust the dressing to our desired consistency, but it also lets us repurpose both the yogurt and the milk instead of dumping the unused dairy products into the sink.
Wedge Salad Ingredients
These are all of the required ingredients necessary in our recipe:
Some doctors criticize iceberg lettuce for being non-nutrient dense. They clearly missed the memo that this crunchy, refreshing lettuce varietal is an ideal foil for fatty blue cheese dressing and bacon bits.
Iceberg lettuce is available practically everywhere. We can even buy iceberg lettuce at local chain grocery stores in Lisbon.
It’s important to discard the outer shriveling leaves before quartering your head o’ lettuce. You’ll also want to cut the woody end of the core from the wedge before serving.
While many wedge salad recipes call for crisp crumbled bacon, we like the pleasing chew and occasional light crunch that thick chunks of bacon bring to the wedge salad party. This is no surprise since we prefer eating thick bacon that’s cooked but not burnt.
We cook our bacon in the oven at a medium temperature in order to cook the bacon evenly.
Cook the bacon over parchment paper on a baking sheet for easy cleaning.
Is Roquefort the king of blue cheeses? We think so.
No other cheese provides the unique biting sheepiness along with that classic blue penicillium twang of the French classic. It’s the kind of blue cheese to eat when you’re living large. It’s also the blue cheese we add to our wedge salads.
You could substitute a big-time cheese like Rogue River Blue if you can’t find Roquefort. You could also use Stilton or Gorgonzola though the flavors won’t have the same impact.
Buy a wedge of Roquefort from Amazon if you can’t find our favorite blue cheese at your local market.
Sure, we could use buttermilk to create dressing for this salad . But, let’s face it, using plain greek yogurt is so much easier. We came to this realization after being initially frustrated that we couldn’t find buttermilk in Lisbon. It’s available in Northern European countries like Denmark but not in Portugal.
Don’t throw out the extra yogurt. Instead, add honey or jam to create a tasty breakfast the next morning.
Sour Cream/Creme Fraiche
Lest we forget, this IS a steakhouse-inspired recipe. Adding a little cultured cream adds the luxurious mouthfeel that makes its dressing sing.
A couple tablespoons of mayonnaise binds the dressing together. If you’re like us, you already have a jar in your pantry.
Finely chopped chives give our wedge salad that cheffy look that never fails to impress.
You can chop your chives fine or into one-inch batons. Either way, chives provide a wonderful grassy/oniony finish to the salad.
Sharpen your chef’s knife to achieve great chive results.
Many wedge recipes add vinegar to create bright acid flavors. This is not one of those recipes.
Yogurt provides enough acid that adding vinegar to the dressing would be overkill. We instead choose to ramp the up the acidity with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice. This zing completes the dressing’s flavor picture, providing just the right note of acidity with no vinegar added.
Add about a tablespoon of lemon juice or more if necessary.
Cherry Tomatoes (Optional)
We don’t add tomatoes to our wedge salads. Daryl is a purist and his childhood memories of the wedge salad include no tomatoes.
Feel free to add 4 to 6 halved cherry tomatoes to your salad If you don’t share Daryl’s memories or sentiments.
How to Make a Wedge Salad at Home
The wedge salad may be one of the easiest salads to prepare at home. However, you’ll need to do some advance work starting with the bacon.
Cooking the Bacon
Start with a whole slab of bacon and cut your bacon into 1/4-inch cubes.
Once you cut the cubes, place them in the oven at 350°F/175°C for about 15 minutes (or about 13 minutes in a convection oven.)
We cook the bacon cubes at a medium temperature to keep it from burning.
Keep an eye on the bacon until it’s brown. You don’t want it to burn.
Making the Dressing
Our recipe uses milk to give the dressing viscosity. Add the milk in small amounts until the dressing reaches your desired thickness.
Be careful not to add too much milk. You want the dressing to be just thick enough that the ingredients stick and stand up on top the wedge without falling.
Composing the Salad
One head of lettuce will feed four people (with a little dressing left over).
When you’re ready to compose the wedge salad, start by peeling the ugly outer layer from the head of lettuce.
Cut your Iceberg into four equal wedges. Trim and discard the root end from each wedge.
Place each wedge round-side down on a plate of your choosing.
Dole out the salad dressing using a tablespoon.
The final step is to garnish the salad with bacon bits and chopped chives.
Wedge Salad FAQs
Wedge salads look as good as they taste. They’re great starters whether you’re eating a decadent steak or another main dish.
The wedge salad’s ingredients include iceberg lettuce, bacon, roquefort cheese, Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, black pepper, lemon and salt. Tomatoes are an optional add-on.
The wedge salad’s history is a mystery.
No, the wedge salad isn’t healthy. It is, however, delicious.
You need to use a knife and fork when you eat a wedge salad. Start by cutting into the wedge and keep cutting until you eat your last bite.
Wedge Salad Recipe
- 1 head iceberg lettuce peeled of outer leaves
- 4 teaspoons bacon bits (1/2 pound whole slab bacon)
- 1 teaspoon chopped chives
- 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
- 2 ounces roquefort cheese
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice or more to taste
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
Bacon Bit Preparation
- Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C
- Cut bacon into 1/4″ cubes
- Place raw bacon bits on a parchment-lined half sheet pan
- Cook the bacon in a conventional oven for approximately 13 minutes (or approximately 15 minutes in a convection oven) until the bacon turns brown.
- Place cooked bacon on a paper towel lined plate to drain.
- Add yogurt, sour cream and mayonnaise to a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.
- Mash roquefort cheese into small bits. Add to the mixing bowl and mix until the cheese is incorporated.
- Drizzle in milk until a thick yet viscous consistency is reached.
- Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
- Cut iceberg lettuce into quarter wedges.
- Cut the root end from each wedge.
- Place the wedges on medium-sized plates.
- Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of dressing on top of each wedge.
- Finish the salad by sprinkling bacon bits and chopped chives on top of each wedge.
- You can add cherry tomatoes and/or croutons to the wedge salad.
- You can substitute another strong blue cheese like Roque River, Stilton or Gorgonzola, albeit to a lesser effect.
- You can store any extra dressing in the refrigerator.
- You can store any extra bacon bits in the pantry. Be sure to store them in a container with a perforated cover.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: October 23, 2022