Wilted Watercress Salad with Bacon Dressing

SaladQuick and EasyGluten-FreeWatercress

Simple wilted watercress salad with fresh peppery watercress and a hot bacon apple cider dressing.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Old fashioned watercress is getting harder to come by, at least around here in Sacramento. Whole Foods carries watercress, but the leaves are too tender, and lack the bite of what I grew up eating. This is my mother’s recipe for a wilted watercress salad with a warm, sweet and sour bacon dressing. It requires the sturdy watercress variety which can hold up to both the heat and the flavor of the dressing. I love this salad. It’s like a wilted spinach salad, only less wilted, and more peppery. In my father’s and my opinion, it really must be made with bacon fat and crumbled bacon. You can substitute olive oil, but it’s really not the same.


Wilted Watercress Salad with Bacon Dressing Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6.


  • 2 bunches watercress (Try to get mature watercress as shown in the photo, not the baby watercress that Whole Foods carries. It will hold up better to the hot dressing.)
  • 3-4 slices bacon
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • A pinch of ground mustard
  • A pinch of paprika (sweet)



1 Rinse thoroughly the watercress, removing old leaves and thick stems. Set aside in a serving bowl.

2 Heat a small stick-free pan on medium heat and cook the bacon until done, several minutes on each side. Remove the bacon from the pan and put on a paper towel. Keep the bacon fat in the pan.

3 Add the cider vinegar and sugar to the bacon fat. Stir to dissolve. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, add a pinch of ground mustard and a pinch of paprika. Taste and adjust seasoning. This is a sweet-sour dressing, so if it is too acidic, add a bit more sugar, if too sweet, add a bit more vinegar.

4 Bring the dressing to a simmer. Pour over the watercress. Crumble the bacon over the top. Toss and serve.

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Showing 4 of 12 Comments / Reviews

  • At Home with Kim Vallee

    Watercress is my favorite green. I crave for the true taste – not the washed out flavor version. Like Alice, I buy mine year long at an Asian Fruit and Vegetable store.

    I often eat mine with slices of red peppers and anchovies with the classic Dijon mustard French dressing.

  • JMarie

    I bought a pound of swiss chard for $1 from a gardener with no clue what I would do with it. I ended up trying this recipe, and it was *wonderful*! Unfortunately, my boyfriend is super sensitive to both bitter and vinegar flavors, so he couldn’t eat it. I didn’t think the bitter or vinegar flavors were pronounced at all, though; it was a very nice blend of flavors. I can’t wait to make this for my dad!

  • Annie

    Just found a creek full of watercress and pulled me a mess for dinner tonight. Had it in the creek on our East Tennesssee Farm and always had wilted watercress in the spring until it bloomed. Found your recipe using google to remind me of how Mother fixed it. Very similar to the one you wrote. Can’t wait until tonight. Actually can’t imagine having to buy watercress.

  • Jose Martinez

    We like it like with Olive Oil and salt. That’s all. Not too much oil cause will washout the salt. Just clean the watercress in very salty water. Put a lot of salt on the water to rinse the watercress. Rinse it only once. Taste leaves to make sure it is fairly salty. Then add the olive oil, a bit of olive oil will go a long way. Avoid too much olive oil, it will washout the salt.

    Good luck.

  • MeltingWok

    Hi Elise,
    Usually I’d cook watercress soup with figs, wolfberries & chinese dried longan. I’ll definitely try this watercress salad, very refreshing indeed :)

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Wilted Watercress Salad with Bacon Dressing