Classic Southern BLT

Juicy tomato, crispy lettuce, smoky bacon, and a garlicky mayo spread. What more could you ask for from a sandwich?

southern blt stacked on top of each other
Photo: Monica Farber/Southern Living
Hands On Time:
35 mins
Total Time:
35 mins
Yield:
1 serves

A well-made Southern BLT is an instrument of grace. When summer is doing her best to melt us into puddles, along comes this absurdly flavorful sandwich full of juicy, ripe tomatoes, tender lettuce, and salty, smoky bacon to remind us that the bounty of summer is worth living on the surface of the sun for four months of the year. While there are many delicious summer tomato recipes in our repertoire, this is one of our favorites due to its ease and simple goodness.

If you're just looking for the facts and want to get down to the business of making this sandwich, by all means, hit the "Skip to Recipe" button and start cooking. But if you're new to BLTs (that's bacon, lettuce, and tomato just in case!) or you don't understand what all the fuss is about, sit tight for a minute and let me tell you all the reasons why this humble sandwich has a hold on our hearts.

How to Make a BLT

A BLT is so easy to make—simply fry the bacon, stir together the sauce, and assemble the sandwich. Follow these easy steps to build the perfect sandwich, and don't miss our tips and suggestions below for taking your BLT to a whole new level.

Step 1: Cook the Bacon

Add the 4 slices of bacon to the skillet of your choice (we recommend cast iron). Turn the heat to medium, and let the bacon cook until it's golden brown, crispy, and just the way you like it—about 5 to 7 minutes. Use tongs or a fork to flip the slices occasionally to encourage even browning. Place the cooked bacon on a paper towel–lined plated to drain and cool while you mix the mayo.

Four slices of bacon cooking until crispy in a black cast iron skillet.
Monica Farber/Southern Living

PRO TIP: If the bacon sticks to the pan, add a splash of water to loosen the browned bits.

Step 2: Mix Up the Mayo

To make the super-fast garlicky mayonnaise sauce, spoon 2 tablespoons of mayo into a small bowl. Peel a small clove a garlic, then use a microplane grater or the small holes of a box grater to finely grate the garlic (or smash the clove and mince it into oblivion). Add the garlic to the mayonnaise, along with a generous pinch of black pepper, then stir it all together until smooth.

A small white bowl of mayonnaise, garlic, and pepper being stirred with a small spoon.
Monica Farber/Southern Living

PRO TIP: If you're a mayo lover, you might want to double this recipe.

Step 3: Start Building the BLT

After you've toasted the sliced bread for your BLT, spread the mayonnaise mixture on both sides of the bread. Not only does this add flavor, but it also serves as the "glue" that helps hold all of the delicious BLT components in place.

Spreading garlicky mayonnaise over a perfectly toasted slice of bread.
Monica Farber/Southern Living

Step 4: Add the Lettuce & Tomatoes

Next, lay a leaf or two of lettuce on one slice of mayo-topped bread. This lettuce will serve as a moisture barrier, so it's important to add it first. Once the lettuce is in place, add the tomato slices. Feel free to add as many as you like, but be sure to do one thing—season both sides of the tomato with salt and pepper for the best flavor.

Placing green, leafy lettuce on a piece of toasted bread spread with mayonnaise.
Monica Farber/Southern Living

Step 5: Finally—Add the Bacon

Oh yeah—it's bacon time! If you're a purist, place those beautiful, golden-crisp slices on top of the tomatoes, taking care to make sure the bacon is spaced evenly. This will guarantee that every single bite of your BLT has plenty of bacon goodness.

Slices of crispy bacon placed on top of tomatoes.
Monica Farber/Southern Living

PRO TIP: Crumble the bacon, and sprinkle it over the tomatoes. It's not as pretty, but it's pretty darn delicious!

Step 6: The Big Finish

Place the other piece of mayo-slathered bread on top of the bacon (mayo-side down, of course). Using a serrated knife, gently cut the sandwich using a sawing motion. Whether you cut it into 2 rectangles, 4 squares, or two triangles is totally up to you. Also up to you: a pile of your favorite chips, and least 2 of your favorite pickles on the side.

It's All About the Ingredients

The beauty of a BLT is that the ingredient list is short—basically just bacon, lettuce, tomato, bread, and mayonnaise. But when you're working with just a few ingredients, you need to make sure each one is the best it can possibly be.

All of the ingredients needed to make a BLT: crispy bacon, leafy green lettuce, ripe tomatoes, toasted bread, and a garlicky mayonnaise sauce.
Monica Farber/Southern Living

Top-Tier Tomatoes

Just like you "shouldn't" but can wear white after Labor Day, you can but shouldn't eat BLTs outside the summer months, when tomatoes are at their best. Summer tomatoes are an intoxicating melange of sweet, savory, and juicy, saturated with flavor from peel to core. If you aren't able to grow your own (here's how!) hit up your local farmers' market or farm stand. If the grocery store is your best option, look for tomatoes that are locally grown for the best flavor.

Bring on the Bacon

Everybody pretends that tomatoes are their favorite part of a BLT, but we all secretly love bacon the best, right? These days, there are a plethora of options: thin-cut, thick-cut, center-cut, applewood-smoked, peppered, uncured, you name it! While you can cook a big batch of bacon in the oven or a small amount in the microwave, cooking it in a cast-iron skillet (like the recipe below) is the best way to achieve crispy-tender perfection.

Lettuce Help You

Just because this green stuff plays a supporting role doesn't mean it's not important. Lettuce not only adds a soft textural contrast to the bacon and bread, it also can serve as a moisture barrier to keep those deliciously juicy tomatoes from soaking into the bread too quickly. Big, leafy greens like romaine, Bibb, or green leaf lettuce are great for BLTs for this reason. If you're looking for a little more flavor, try some peppery arugula instead.

Bread Basics

There are two schools of thought when it comes to the best bread for BLTs—Team White Bread and Team "Good" Bread. Our long-time friend Sheri Castle makes a strong case for store-bought sandwich bread, but who could turn warm slices of homemade buttermilk bread. Or, you can meet in the middle and stop by your favorite local bakery for a loaf of sourdough or whole-grain bread. No matter which bread you choose, we recommend toasting it to yield a sturdy BLT.

5 Ways to Level Up Your BLT

Add Avocado

BLTs were "invented" before avocados were available in nearly every supermarket. That being said, we are in full and total support of adding sliced or mashed avocado to any BLT. Add it to the bottom piece of bread to minimize slipping.

Double Decker

Because sometimes one layer isn't enough, double the mayo, bacon, and tomato and add a slice of bread the middle, like a good club sandwich.

Pimiento Cheese, Please

This Southern spread improves everything it touches. While there are plenty of delicious store-bought brands out there, this easy pimiento cheese recipe is one of our favorites.

Try Fried Green Tomatoes

Yes, it's an extra step, but you got the skillet out to fry bacon, so why not whip up these fried green tomatoes too? Talk about a flavor explosion!

Make Your Own Mayo

Homemade mayonnaise seems like a quaint, lost Southern art, but it's so incredibly easy. Tomato season only comes once a year, so why not treat yourself by whipping up a batch and making this BLT the best it can possibly be? You won't regret it.

Editorial contributions by Josh Miller.

Ingredients

  • 4 strips of bacon

  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise

  • Grated garlic to taste

  • Pinch of black pepper

  • 2 slices lightly toasted white sandwich bread

  • 1 large green leaf lettuce leaf (or Bibb, romaine, or iceberg)

  • About 2 1/4-inch-thick beefsteak tomato slices

  • Kosher salt

  • Pepper

Directions

  1. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until golden and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels, and drain. Stir together mayonnaise, grated garlic to taste, and a pinch of black pepper in a small bowl. Spread evenly on bread slices. Top 1 slice of bread with lettuce leaf, breaking to fit if necessary, and tomato slices. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and pepper. Top with bacon and remaining bread slice. Slice sandwich in half before serving.

Related Articles