This Classic Southern Tomato Salad Starts With a Sleeve of Saltines

It might not be pretty, but it's still got our hearts.

Tomato Cracker Salad
Photo: Courtesy Stacey Little of Southern Bite

Tomatoes might not be the only deliciously special produce to come into season during summertime, but they could definitely win the popularity vote. A bright, juicy, perfectly ripe tomato is hard to upstage, and Southerners love to dress it up any way that they can muster—baked into a tomato pie, layered into a tomato sandwich, stewed into tomato gravy (yes, it's a thing), and thrown into an infinite number of salads.

As it turns out, one of the most beloved tomato salads of all time also happens to be the ugliest, and it's been coming out of Southern kitchens for generations. It's time we gave tomato cracker salad the appreciation it deserves.

What Is Tomato Cracker Salad?

With an ingredient list so short that you'll always have everything on hand, tomato cracker salad has long been a favorite old-fashioned side dish for Southerners to serve up at Sunday lunch, outdoor cookouts, and any seasonal meal in need of a dose of fresh summer tomatoes. It sometimes gets teased for being a mayo-based salad that contains crunchy crackers as one of its main components, but the joke's on those people, because it's downright tasty once you give it a try. It's also one of those classic recipes that doesn't need to be written down, because it's just that easy and every family has its own rendition.

How To Make Tomato Cracker Salad

For starters, it only calls for fresh tomatoes, crackers (preferably Saltines or "soda crackers"), mayonnaise, salt, and pepper. You simply cut up the tomatoes, crush the crackers, and combine with a hearty spoonful of mayonnaise, as well as salt and pepper. When all mixed up in a bowl, tomato cracker salad isn't the most aesthetically pleasing thing to look at. However, much like a prize hog at the July county fair, it doesn't need to be pretty to be a winner. While every Southerner might know this recipe to be slightly different, there are certain tips that can help make the best of tomato cracker salad.

First, you can place the tomatoes on a paper towel for 5 or 10 minutes to get rid of a little bit of extra moisture before incorporating with the crackers, since you'll want to keep those crunchy for as long as possible. Second, while the tomatoes are laying flat on the towel, sprinkle with salt to season beforehand. Lastly, tomato cracker salad is best served immediately to keep the crackers from getting soggy, so keep that in mind before combining all the ingredients. (If traveling to a cookout, take the prepped ingredients separately to combine on the spot.)

The Nostalgia of Tomato Cracker Salad

"For as long as I can remember, my mom put this Tomato Cracker Salad on the table as soon as the summer tomatoes started producing well. I can still see the cut-glass bowl filled with the salad sitting on her freshly pressed Battenburg lace tablecloth," says Stacey Little of Southern Bite food blog. Check out his recipe for Tomato Cracker Salad here.

Anyone who wants to talk badly about this classic Southern salad can take it to grandma. She'll have a few words for them. If you need to work your way up to the mayonnaise-laden version, start with our modern take on Heirloom Tomato Salad with cracker crumbs on top. As long as those tomatoes are fresh!

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