99. Salads (Hold the Veggies, Please)

15 Jun

Cranberry salad by Unsophisticook.
Click for recipe.

When I lived in LA, I witnessed a whole heap of salad eating going on. Here in the Pacific Northwest, folks happily munch on greens of any variety, as long as they’re organically grown less than two miles from their home (Ok, maybe it’s 50, but who’s counting? Locavores, that’s who!). But I daresay there’s no place in the country–perhaps even the planet–where folks eat more salad per capita than the South. Now before y’all start to challenge my completely made up statistics, let me explain: When I say “salad,” I don’t mean a bowl of veggies lightly drizzled with dressing, perhaps topped with a sprinkling of walnuts or cranberries. Oh no. I’m referring to Southern-style salad, which hardly ever features any vegetable as the main ingredient.

So what IS in Southern salad? Well, there are two main categories: sweet or savory. Cool Whip features prominently in the former and mayonnaise in the latter.

Sweet salads include, but are not limited to: fruit salad, pistachio salad, cranberry salad, strawberry salad, blueberry salad (noticing a theme here?), and ambrosia and Waldorf salads (for the fancy people).

Many of the above salads also feature Jello (or Jello Instant Pudding) as a main ingredient. In fact, I think the rule is that as long as you add one other ingredient to Jello, you can call it a salad. The varieties of congealed salad are too many to list, but here are a few I found in my trusty Bell’s Best community cookbook: Apricot Jello Salad, Coca-Cola Salad, Lemon-Lime Congealed Salad, and Miss Dora Sills’ Golden Glow Salad (which involves lemon Jello, pineapples, and carrots. Yum?).

Pistachio salad by Country Door.
Click for recipe.

I should mention that the outlier of the bunch is Waldorf salad, which contains both fruit and mayonnaise. But don’t blame Southerners for that bizarre pairing. It came straight out of the hotel formerly known as the Waldorf Hotel (now Waldorf-Astoria) in New York City. I should also mention that my sister-in-law Karen taught me to make an AH. MAZE. ING. fruit dip using only a pack of cream cheese and a jar of marshmallow creme. Ok, so that’s not technically a salad, but close enough.

In the savory salad category, you’ll find Southern staples like chicken salad, tuna salad (usually referred to as “tuna fish”), potato salad, egg salad, and macaroni salad. This is where you’ll find the occasional vegetable such as celery, green onions, or pickles. Mostly, though, the recipes break down like this: Put a large portion of salad’s namesake ingredient in bowl, add large portion of mayonnaise, stir, and serve. If you’d like to read more about chicken salad, check out what Southern women want by my blog pal, reelingintheyears.

Chicken salad–Hey, who added the lettuce?

I’ll leave y’all with the recipe for one of my all-time favorite salads (also courtesy of my sister-in-law Karen). You might think it sounds more like a casserole than a salad, but it’s CALLED salad, which is good enough for me.

Hot Chicken Salad
2 cups chicken (cooked and cut up)
1 can water chestnuts
1 can pimentos, chopped
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup almonds
2 T lemon juice
1/4 t celery salt
1/8 t pepper
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 can french-fried onion rings

Mix all ingredients together except cheese and onion rings. Mix cheese and onion rings together and place on top of mixture. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

What are your favorite “salads”?

21 Responses to “99. Salads (Hold the Veggies, Please)”

  1. Kim's Sister June 15, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    Our new step-mom made Coca-cola salad at Thanksgiving this year (sorry you had to miss it, it was interesting)…and to my surprise I think she used actual Coke…not like my mother-in-law who, god rest her soul, would have tried to substitute Diet Coke (or more likely Diet Pepsi) to the recipe. 🙂

    Hot Chicken Salad and Green Bean Bundles are what I think lead to Shawn marrying me…thanks Karen!

    • Kim Holloway June 15, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

      hmm…what is in a coca-cola salad, besides the obvious?

  2. Tori Nelson June 15, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    Love it! No lettuce for me. My mom makes a corn salad that is SO good!

    • Kim Holloway June 15, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

      recipe, please!

  3. mama peanut June 15, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    “Black bean trash” with a blend of beans, corn, and chili’s, etc…or good ol’ fashioned potato salad. I’d eat it with everything.

    • Kim Holloway June 15, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

      What is it about Southern folks that makes us name foods “trash”? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve eaten my share of tasty “trash,” but why?

  4. Drina Turner June 15, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

    Any salad with french fried onion rings is a winner in my book of vegetables. 🙂

    • reelingintheyears.wordpress.com June 15, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

      So much fun, and YUM. So funny about no veggies and agree about leaving off the lettuce–get that stuff outta there! I wished they’d spiked the tomato aspic with vodka at our dry family reunions growing up…
      Thanks, Kim!

    • Kim Holloway June 15, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

      Drina, You might enjoy the “fried cobb salad” at this place in my hometown called “Up the Creek.” It’s a heap of deep-fried vegetables atop a thin layer of lettuce. With dressing, of course!

      Reeling, I personally would steer clear of aspic of any variety, vodka or not…

  5. dessertfortwo June 15, 2011 at 4:27 pm #

    I never realize these things until you say them. This is probably why when I tell people to bring salads to my outdoor grilling parties (not to be confused with a barbecue), they literally bring bags of greens, dried cranberries and sliced almonds. Delicious, but just not what I wanted.

    Another great post 🙂

    • Kim Holloway June 16, 2011 at 12:57 am #

      Love it! I’m going to have to do a post about how “BBQ” does not mean what people here think it means…

      I’ve assimilated enough to know “salad” should include leafy greens of some sort, but now I’m thinking it would be amusing to show up at a so-called BBQ bearing a pistachio salad. Hey, at least it’s green. An unnatural shade of green, but still.

  6. Joe June 15, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    Shrimp salad is the best followed closely by good SOUTHERN potato salad. However, I must say that I had not seen salad made with jello since the 1960’s (when it apparently was all the rage with women all across America who read Good Housekeeping) until I moved to Utah 12 years ago. It is still alive and well and served here at Mormon events or so I’m told. As an “outsider” I”ve only seen it at a couple of local buffets. One of the most popular selling collectible pins during the winter Olympics in Salt Lake was the green jello salad pin. It was the only one that I bought because I found in hilarious… and I still do. Well, I would If I could remember where I put it.

    • Kim Holloway June 16, 2011 at 1:04 am #

      I haven’t encountered Jello in Seattle at all, except for one time when someone brought a batch of red Jello molded in the shape of a brain to one of my book club brunches. We were discussing “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”

  7. ssanderson June 16, 2011 at 2:14 am #

    Got a laugh from the ‘No Veggies…” That’s great! My mom used to make the Coca Cola Salad, and it was always a treat….lots of little crunchy walnut pieces in it. Also, there is nothing like a really good Southern Potato Salad!

    • Kim Holloway June 20, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

      Thanks! I guess I’m going to have to track down some coca cola salad one of these days…

  8. MaryR June 17, 2011 at 8:58 am #

    “green Jello” is indeed popular here! I remember as a kid in Oklahoma my grandmother made a cheesecake like “salad” for several church functions- I guess it was officially a salad due to the cherry and whipped cream. I personally like pea salad- but it consists of vegetables so I guess it doesn’t count!

    • Kim Holloway June 20, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

      I like the idea of a cheesecake-like salad. Especially one with whipped cream. Yum!

  9. Todd Pack June 17, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    You know what I like? Salad bars with chocolate pudding. “Do y’all have balsamic vinaigrette? No? OK, then I’ll have a dollop of Jello pudding, but on the side.”

    • Kim Holloway June 20, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

      LOL!! I also love the Chinese buffets that feature French fries, mozzarella sticks, and, of course, pudding. Or sometimes Jello.

  10. Monica April 22, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    When moving from Mississippi in the 70’s, mom ensured her Coca Cola salad recipe was packed. Yes, it includes one can of Coke as well as two varieties of Jello, black cherries, cream cheese, etc… It’s a wonderful Southern UN-salad. I’ve only made it a handful of times since moving to Kansas City 30+ years ago. I don’t think Northerners or Midwesterners understand Jello salads.


  1. Rerun 68: Funeral Food–Love in a Casserole Dish | stuff southern people like - July 10, 2013

    […] vegetables, that’s great. But a salad probably isn’t your best bet. No, not even a congealed “salad.” Especially if the recently departed had been hospitalized for any length of time before their […]

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