Easy make-ahead Southern Cornbread Salad is layer after layer of pure old-fashioned goodness with chunks of cornbread surrounded by romaine lettuce, fresh tomatoes, ham, bell pepper, onion, celery, and, of course, shredded cheese.
Topped with bacon and a herby ranch dressing, cornbread salad not only makes a beautiful presentation but it’s also perfect for a neighborhood potluck or just a fun dinner with friends.
Like my Southern Cucumber and Tomato Salad, you will love the fact that cornbread salad can be made ahead and only gets better with time. It’s also versatile; you can make substitutions and fill it with your family’s favorite ingredients.
Cornbread salad can also be served layered, tossed, as a main dish salad, a side salad, or even in individual mason jars for a day at the beach or a picnic.
The origin of this quirky, colorful, and flavorful salad isn’t clear, but a quick search on the internet reveals that almost every Southern state has a version.
For example, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas, and Kentucky all tout their own versions of cornbread salad, and there is even an Amish version.
Here’s what’s in it:
- Cornbread – you can purchase it premade, use a Jiffy mix, or you can do what I do and use leftover cornbread, made from either my Easy Traditional Cornbread recipe or my gluten-free Old-Fashioned Cornbread recipe.
- Romaine lettuce – this mild-tasting, sturdy lettuce holds up well in this salad and stays crisp and flavorful.
- Ham – adds protein, a little saltiness, and loads of flavor. You can use any ham you like including deli-ham or leftover smoked ham.
- Bell pepper – adds its crisp, sweet flavor and beautiful color to the mix. You can use green, yellow, orange, or red bell peppers.
- Tomatoes – lend their sweet juicy tomatoey deliciousness to this salad, and if you are lucky enough to have fresh summer tomatoes, that’s a bonus!
- Red onion – adds both color and flavor, but if you are onion averse, feel free to leave it out.
- Celery – adds more color, a nice crunch, and a fresh taste.
- Scallions or green onions – add a mild oniony flavor, and I usually use them as a topping.
- Bacon – the king of toppings adds its characteristic sweet, smoky taste and is the icing on the cake.
- Ranch dressing – I like to use dry ranch mix and mix it with buttermilk and mayonnaise to make my cornbread salad dressing. Of course, you can also purchase your favorite bottled dressing too. If using a purchased dressing, I think the dressings you find in the refrigerated section of the produce department have the freshest flavor.
Here’s how to make it:
- To make the cornbread salad dressing, add the dry ranch dressing mix, buttermilk, and mayonnaise to a small bowl. Stir to combine and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.
- To assemble the salad, add half of the cornbread to a clear glass trifle dish about 8-inches wide and five inches tall and spread out evenly.
- Top with half of the romaine lettuce.
- Sprinkle half of the ham evenly over the lettuce.
- Add half of the tomato.
- Add half of the bell pepper, half of the onion, and half of the celery.
- Top with half of the shredded cheese.
- Spoon half of the dressing evenly over the cheese.
- Repeat all of the layers, starting with the cornbread and finishing with the remaining dressing. Finally, spread the dressing out to completely cover the salad.
- Top with the crumbled bacon and scallions.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least eight hours or up to 24 hours before serving.
Frequently asked questions:
It’s is a matter of personal preference. I have used sweet cornbread made with a Jiffy mix and regular cornbread, and although both are good, I prefer traditional cornbread, which has not been sweetened.
However, lots of folks love and use sweetened cornbread, so it’s up to you!
I like and use the dry ranch dressing. However, any purchased or homemade dressing your family likes works too. But be sure to substitute a thick creamy dressing. Vinergerettes or thin dressings will not work.
The easiest way to seed your tomato is to cut it in half, cut the core out, and squeeze out all the juice, seeds, and gelatinous material and discard it. Then it’s ready to chop. If you don’t seed your tomato first, your salad will be watery.
For the best results, make it at least eight hours before you plan to serve it to allow the flavors to meld together. It’s like the classic Southern Seven Layer Salad; it’s even better if you can wait 24 hours.
Leftovers should be stored tightly covered in your refrigerator. Cornbread salad is best 24 hours after it’s made. After that, it starts heading downhill. It will still taste fine for a day or two after that but won’t look quite as good as it did initially.
Because this salad contains all of the major food groups, I usually serve it by itself for lunch or a light dinner.
Remember I told you cornbread salad is versatile? The variations are endless; here are a few ideas for substitutions and add-ins.
- Substitute cooked turkey or shrimp for the ham.
- Add in pinto or black beans, chopped jalapeno, cucumbers, chopped jicama, sliced radishes, edamame, frozen English peas, or frozen corn.
- Substitute Monterey Jack, Swiss, or a Mexican or Italian Blend for the cheddar cheese.
- Add dill or sweet pickles and some recipes even advocate adding a bit of sweet pickle juice.
- Substitute iceberg lettuce for the romaine.
- You can use any color of bell pepper you like in this recipe.
- This salad lends itself to layering and looks beautiful in a clear trifle dish. However, many folks toss everything in a bowl and mix it all up before serving.
More main-dish salad recipes:
Main dish salads like this one make the perfect light one-dish meal. If you like this recipe, you might also enjoy these blog favorites:
- Roasted Shrimp Pasta Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
- Shrimp Caesar Salad with Homemade Dressing
- Wild Rice Chicken Salad
- Beef Taco Salad with Avocado Lime Dressing
- Shrimp Cobb Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing
★ If you make this recipe, please leave a comment and give it a star rating. I would love to know how you liked it!
Thank you so much for visiting Grits and Pinecones; I hope you come back soon!
Cornbread Salad Recipe
- Clear glass trifle dish
Cornbread Salad Dressing
- 1 ounce dry ranch dressing or dip mix
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 4 cups prepared cornbread cut into bite-size cubes
- 4 cups shredded romaine lettuce about two medium-size heads, or 10 ounces
- 2 cups chopped ham
- 1 large bell pepper seeded and chopped
- 1 large tomato seeded and chopped
- ½ cup red onion minced
- ½ cup celery diced
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 4 slices bacon cooked and crumbled
- 2 scallions diced
- Add the dry ranch dressing mix, buttermilk, and mayonnaise to a small bowl. Stir to combine and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.
- Add half of the cornbread to a clear glass trifle dish about 8-inches wide and five inches tall and spread out evenly.
- Top with half of the romaine lettuce.
- Sprinkle half of the ham evenly over the lettuce, top with half of the bell pepper, half of the tomato, half of the onion, half of the celery, and finish with half of the cheese.
- Spoon half of the dressing evenly over the cheese. Repeat all of the layers, starting with the cornbread and finishing with the remaining dressing. Then, spread the dressing out to completely cover the salad.
- Top with the crumbled bacon and scallions.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least eight hours or up to 24 hours.
I’m 78 yr old and I just found you while looking again for a similar Southern potato salad recipe like my Mom made. Well, sorry it took so long but I found it and it’s in the frig now, it tasted so good and brought back memories. You are a beautiful lady and I liked your smile right away, could have knocked my over with a feather when I read you are in Tallahassee, Greetings from Thomasville. I love to cook and I knock your socks off with a great recipe, but the truth is I cannot boil water without a recipe. Sad but true. I’ve bought dressing at Thanksgiving from a wonderful cook for years, I’m trying yours tomorrow, in preparation, it reads like Granny’s nothing in it I can’t pronounce Will post my results. Thanks so much for sharing all of your wonderful dishes. B Gibson
Thanks so much, Bobby! I am so glad you like the potato salad and hope you like the dressing. I love Thomasville and come up there often to buy peas from Lewis Produce and eat Johah’s fried shrimp!
All the best,