Can a salad ever be spectacular? When it's tossed in Hot Bacon Dressing, the answer is yes, absolutely. This warm vinaigrette uses a bit of melted bacon fat, so it's perfect for spinach, kale, and other hearty, leafy greens. It's also amazing drizzled over Brussels sprouts or fresh string beans.
Homemade croutons soak up this dressing like crazy, so you can enjoy every bacon-y bite. For a steakhouse inspired dinner, serve a warm bacon vinaigrette salad with a couple Kansas City strips dusted with Montreal Steak Seasoning. It's always easier to eat more salad when you make the dressing yourself. Find for your new favorite in my collection of homemade salad dressings.
If you're on the hunt for a salad to impress dinner guests or simply wow your family, you've definitely come to the right recipe. Hot bacon vinaigrette does all that and more. It's sweet, salty, smoky, and loaded with so much bacon that it's hard to resist. The rich warm vinaigrette coats every leaf and gently wilts the salad.
That means that you should choose a sturdier type of leafy green, such as spinach, kale, baby chard, radicchio, or endive. The more bitter, the better! The sweet dressing will balance all the flavors out, and you'll get a gold star for eating your greens.
And most importantly, plan ahead and buy more lettuce than you think you need. Because a) everyone will clean their plates and ask for seconds, and b) the salad shrinks just a little when it is tossed in the bacon fat dressing.
Then go ahead and doll your salad up with croutons, dried cranberries, hard-boiled or soft-boiled eggs, toasted walnuts, roasted pumpkin seeds, roasted sweet potato cubes, or crumbles of ripe blue cheese.
Making Hot Bacon Dressing for two, or twenty? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
Hot bacon dressing ingredients:
- Bacon. Whatever kind of bacon you happen to have on hand: thick cut, maple cured, no-sugar added. If you have to buy it, go for thick-cut!
- Olive oil. Depending on how much fat melts off the bacon in the pan, you might need to add a little olive oil to the dressing to get the proportions of the vinaigrette just right. But then again, you might not.
- Red onion. Minced shallots or any kind of chopped onion give an extra bit of bite to the dressing, which is pretty delicious.
- Sugar. Note to cooks at home: the dressing is certainly on the sweet side, because it's an old family recipe. If that’s too much for you, start with just a small amount, taste it, and add a little more if needed. Also, some cooks add a dollop of wholegrain mustard to balance out the sweetness.
- Vinegar. White vinegar works, but so does almost any vinegar: apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, or balsamic vinegar. You can use lemon juice, if you're avoiding vinegar.
- Salt and freshly ground pepper. Don't skip this. With this salad, a little salt and pepper really matters!
How to make the warm bacon dressing:
- Because this dressing is at its most spectacular when still warm, make sure you have your other salad ingredients prepped and ready to go.
- First, chop the bacon into very small pieces, then cook it in a skillet over medium heat. You want the bacon fairly crispy. When crisp, use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon onto a plate lined with a couple layers of paper towels, so most of the fat can stay in the skillet.
- Next, measure out the bacon grease by pouring it into a liquid measuring cup. For one recipe, you need 1/4 cup bacon fat to make the dressing. If you have more than 1/4 cup, discard the extra or save it for another batch. If there isn't enough, top it off with olive oil until you hit the 1/4 cup line on the cup.
- Return the bacon grease back into the skillet and heat over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the chopped red onion, white vinegar, sugar, and some salt and pepper.
- Then cook the dressing until the onion is soft and the sugar is dissolved—close to 3 minutes. Remove the dressing from the heat.
- When you're ready to toss the salad, pour the warm vinaigrette over the greens and add the cooked bacon back in.
Enjoy this dressing on:
Just as bacon goes well with just about everything on earth, so does bacon dressing.
- Spinach. Old-fashioned Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing is a match made in heaven.
- Brussels sprouts. Roasted or shredded raw, it's up to you.
- Potatoes. The Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch folks make a dressing with warm bacon that's similar to a German-style hot potato salad dressing. It uses flour and eggs and quite a bit of simmering on the stove. Chances are this version would taste fantastic drizzled over boiled new potatoes for an easy side dish.
- Green beans. Oven roasted green beans or just a pile of freshly blanched beans would be a great way to use a bacon vinaigrette.
Low-sugar, Whole30, or keto friendly Hot Bacon Dressing:
It's true: warm bacon dressing has a lot of sugar. But there are clever workarounds if you’re limiting your carbs, following a specific diet, or just trying to eat less sugar in general.
- Use a keto-friendly sugar substitute. Monkfruit powder, stevia, or Swerve.
- Go natural. Make the salad dressing with honey, agave nectar, date sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, or date paste.
- Roasted sweet potato. Whole30 followers love their sweet potatoes! Leftover cubes of roasted sweet potato can add sweetness without processed sugar.
Tips for making Hot Bacon Dressing:
- Use the skillet. Using the oven to cook larger amounts of bacon is more efficient, yes. However, because the bacon grease is collected and returned to the pan, it makes more sense to just do it all in one skillet. Less clean up!
- Make ahead. The dressing is the best when made right when you need it, but if that's impossible, store the vinaigrette (without the crispy bacon) in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid and re-warm by placing the jar in a pan with hot tap water to gradually reheat. The bacon should be stored separately. When you're ready to serve, reheat the bacon between two layers of paper towels in the microwave.
- Using small amounts of bacon. A handy way to store bacon for future recipes that just need a little bit of bacon is to divide it into plastic baggies with 2 or 3 pieces in each bag. When you need it for Slow Cooker Black Beans or Slow Cooker Pasta and Bean Soup, for example, you're good to go. Place the divided bacon in one larger freezer bag and store it in the freezer. By the way, frozen bacon cuts like a dream. Don't wait for it to thaw; it's actually easier to cut when firm.
- Choosing the right salad greens. Look for sturdy greens that can hold their shape. Think spinach, frissée, endive, kale, radicchio, or dandelion greens.
- Make extra. As the greens get tossed in the warm dressing, they shrink down somewhat. If you are planning a dinner party, keep some extra lettuce on hand just in case.
Hot Bacon Dressing Recipe
- 16 ounces bacon finely chopped
- Olive oil as needed
- 1 red onion minced
- 1/2 cup sugar or less to taste, see notes
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 16 ounces Salad greens for serving
- In a large skillet over medium heat, fry bacon until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.
- Pour rendered bacon fat into a measuring cup. Pour off all but 1/4 cup, or add olive oil to reach 1/4 cup. Return fat to skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.
- Add onion, sugar, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste (I like 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper). Cook until onion is softened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
- In a very large bowl, add salad greens. Immediately pour over warm bacon dressing and toss to wilt. Portion the salad onto individual plates if desired and garnish with bacon.