Watercress salad is one of our favorite family salads. We serve it with a warm, sweet and sour bacon dressing that perfectly complements the peppery watercress greens.
I love this watercress salad! It's like a wilted spinach salad, only less wilted, and more peppery.
This watercress salad requires the sturdy watercress variety which can hold up to both the heat and the flavor of the dressing. This type of watercress is thicker, crunchier, and stronger flavored than the tender watercress grown hydroponically. It's only in season a few months of the year (early spring) so if you see it at the market, buy it!
Bacon or no bacon?
In our family's opinion, the watercress salad really must be made with bacon fat and crumbled bacon. You can substitute olive oil, but it's just not the same.
Watercress Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing
- 2 bunches watercress (Try to get mature watercress as shown in the photo, not the hydroponic 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)
Prep the watercress:
Rinse thoroughly the watercress, removing old leaves and thick stems. Set aside in a serving bowl.
Cook the bacon:
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.
Make the dressing:
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.
Pour hot dressing over watercress:
Bring the dressing to a simmer. Pour over the watercress. Crumble the bacon over the top. Toss and serve.