Big Little Recipes

This BLT Salad Is Even Better Than the Sandwich

July  2, 2019

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst—we don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we’re taking a classic sandwich and turning it into a new-classic salad.

Americans eat BLTs all year round (rewind back to winter, 20-something years ago, and you’ll find me eating one at a Johnny Rockets in a mall, French fries and Oreo milkshake alongside). But they’re best in the summer, when tomatoes are red, juicy, and sweet as peaches.

And the tomatoes are important. Over at Serious Eats, J. Kenji López-Alt argues that the BLT is a “tomato sandwich, seasoned with bacon,” which I respectfully (but wholeheartedly!) disagree with: The bacon, tomato, and lettuce are children, equally loved by their parents, bread and mayo. Though I do agree with Kenji’s overall message, that if a sandwich only has five ingredients, every one should count.

This Big Little Recipe doesn’t change the ingredient list. It’s still bread, bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, and mayo. Which is to say: It’s still a BLT. Except, instead of making a sandwich, we’re making a salad.

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Top Comment:
“I have a very good friend who invited me over to have one of her bacon & tomato sandwiches from the tomatoes she was growing in her window. She lived on the 7th floor and her tomatoes had full sun and were red and juicy. But, she marinated them first in Italian dressing for a while before putting them on mayonnaise slathered thick sourdough bread, lots of bacon and crisp romaine. ”
— Adrienne B.

A very simple, very summery, very repeat-worthy salad.

You may not find it at Johnny Rockets, but you will find it on my table, again and again, between now and September. Here’s how to do it:


Whole-wheat? Multigrain? No-knead? All work. I opt for sourdough, which has a tangy flavor, but isn’t so overpowering that you get distracted. Instead of slicing the bread, we’ll tear it into chunks and hunks, then turn those into croutons. I love how torn croutons are misshapen; not only do the ragged edges crisp up better, but they’re less likely to, ow, poke the roof of your mouth. While I often bake croutons in the oven, in this case, we’re skipping the prospect of another dirty dish and using the same pan where we cook the...


What’s the best way to cook bacon? Our writer Ella Quittner has a lot of thoughts (and, based on the 466-and-counting comments, apparently so do you). The cheat sheet for this recipe: Cook the bacon in a cast-iron skillet, starting with a cold pan to encourage the fat to render evenly. As Ella noted, this method yields unparalleled flavor. And while the strips may crisp up more in some places, I like that contrast between crunchy and chewy.

Are we going to make a sandwich or a salad? What's the difference? Photo by Ty Mecham


Kale, arugula, mustard greens, and other big-personality lettuces are not invited. (Don’t worry, they have plenty of other places to go.) Here, we want a lettuce variety that’s mild in flavor, so you can share your attention with everyone else. I opted for butterhead lettuce (either Bibb or Boston), which is, as you might guess, buttery in texture and taste. I adore its ruffly, tender contrast to the crispy croutons and crunchy bacon. But if you’re craving something sturdier, try roughly chopped iceberg.


You’d never find a cherry tomato on a BLT sandwich, but you know what? We’re not making a sandwich. I use cherry tomatoes in salads all the time because they thrive under pressure. Take a super-ripe heirloom, cut it into chunks, toss it around on your plate, and the juices get everywhere. A cherry tomato, meanwhile, is more composed and less likely to sog-out your salad as you eat. You could pick any color or even a mix, but I opt for yellow (so pretty). Some of the tomatoes get halved and tossed in with the lettuce. Meanwhile, the rest get combined with the...


In a classic BLT, the mayo gets smeared on the bread, holding the sandwich together. In our case, we need a vinaigrette to dress the salad. The components of a vinaigrette are: oil and vinegar. So, something fatty and something acidic. We already have something fatty with the mayo, but what about acidic? We could bring in any vinegar or even lemon. But vinegar and lemon aren’t in a BLT. Which leaves us with what else? Tomatoes. Already in our ingredient list and acidic, to boot. If you blitz these up with mayo in a blender or food processor for long enough, you end up with a silky-smooth, bright-yellow dressing that tastes like the end of a BLT, when the mayo and tomato juice are blending together and dripping down your wrists. And what’s better than that?

What are your rules for a perfect BLT? Tell us in the comments!
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Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles on the fly, baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in November 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


SuperWittySmitty July 18, 2019
Why yellow cherry tomatoes? These aren't available at my local greengrocer, despite the fact that it's the middle of the summer. Red cherry tomatoes will taste just as good and eliminate an unnecessary complication.
Emma L. July 19, 2019
Hey there! You can use any color cherry tomato you like. I prefer the yellow ones in this salad because I think they're pretty—but whatever you can find will work great.
Miriam July 7, 2019
Have a BLT salad recipe from the series Great Meals in Minutes (though they never say how many minutes) and it uses two shredded cheeses-Parmesan and Jarlsberg instead of mayo. It lends a surprising creamy texture that's better than mayo.
Adrienne B. July 7, 2019
I have a very good friend who invited me over to have one of her bacon & tomato sandwiches from the tomatoes she was growing in her window. She lived on the 7th floor and her tomatoes had full sun and were red and juicy. But, she marinated them first in Italian dressing for a while before putting them on mayonnaise slathered thick sourdough bread, lots of bacon and crisp romaine.
Kay C. July 7, 2019
Sliced on the sandwich, avo dressing on the salad.
Gale M. July 7, 2019
I make a BLT salad all the time. In addition to the usual suspects, I add sliced black olives for brininess, and chunks of avocado for creaminess. I make a thousand island dressing that is an easier version of a tomato-mayo concoction. Yum!
Lori D. August 13, 2019
I'd love to try your dressing...never have found a thousand island I love yet.
Gale M. August 13, 2019
Very simple recipe: catsup, Best Foods mayo, rice vinegar, salt, onion salt, pepper, minced garlic, chopped cornichons (or sweet pickle relish!), Worcestershire, and a bit of horseradish. Sorry, I don’t measure anything, but begin with relatively equal parts of catsup and mayo.