18 Types of Lettuce and the Best Ways to Eat Each One

Esther Sung, Joe Sevier

Grouped under a larger category of salad greens, these vegetables are most often served raw, dressed and tossed with other salad ingredients. Whether you're using them raw or cooked, though, different types of lettuce can add quite a bit of texture and flavor to whatever you're making. If you do plan on cooking them, be sure to make it a quick sauté or wilting; anything else will cause the delicate greens to lose their unique characteristics. Remember, also, to wash them thoroughly, especially before eating them raw.

For clarification's sake, types of lettuces can be generally placed in one of four categories: looseleaf, butterhead, crisphead, and romaine. A prime example of a crisphead is iceberg lettuce: its round head is made up of tightly packed, crunchy leaves. Butterheads are also round, but the leaves are more loose and have a smoother texture than those of their crisphead cousins. The elongated leaves of romaine and its thick white rib are its outstanding physical characteristics. As the name states, looseleaf lettuces are loosely gathered, growing as a rosette, enabling the grower to just remove the leaves rather than harvest the entire plant.

Not too long ago, some of these greens were deemed fancy or hard-to-find, but they have made their way into the mainstream and can now be found at local grocery stores and farmers markets. Many of these salad greens are also easy to grow yourself; for seeds and seedlings, consult your local gardening supply shop or an online source such as Burpee.

Want to get to know each type of salad green? Here are the characteristics of a variety of popular types of lettuce:

1. Arugula

<h1 class="title">Puff Pastry Herbed Goat Cheese and Arugula</h1> <div class="caption"> <a href="https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/how-to-make-a-super-easy-spring-vegetable-tart-article?mbid=synd_yahoo_rss" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Puff Pastry Tart with Herbed Cheese and Arugula" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Puff Pastry Tart with Herbed Cheese and Arugula</a> </div> <cite class="credit">Photo by Chelsea Kyle, food styling by Katherine Sacks</cite>

Puff Pastry Herbed Goat Cheese and Arugula

Photo by Chelsea Kyle, food styling by Katherine Sacks

Alternate names/varieties: Rocket, Italian cress, Mediterranean rocket, rugola, rugula, roquette, rucola

Characteristics: Originating from the Mediterranean, this green tastes earthy and slightly tart with a bold, peppery kick. The shape of an arugula leaf is similar to oakleaf lettuce, with rounded edges that undulate from broad to slight. The edges of baby arugula aren't as defined.

How to use it: Arugula can be eaten raw, in bold-flavored salads; wilted into pasta; cooked into a gratin; or blended into a pesto-like spread.

Pasta with Sausage and Arugula

Anna Stockwell

Bon Appétit

Spring Greens and Leek Gratin

David Tamarkin

Arugula and Fava-Bean Crostini

Kay Chun

Gourmet

2. Butterhead lettuce

<h1 class="title">Butterhead Lettuce</h1> <cite class="credit">Photo by Shutterstock</cite>

Butterhead Lettuce

Photo by Shutterstock

Alternate names/varieties: Butter lettuce, Boston, bibb (limestone), Mignonette, Buttercrunch lettuce

Characteristics: A type of head lettuce, the leaves of Boston and bibb lettuces are soft. And as this variety's name implies, the texture of a butter lettuce is indeed smooth like butter. Bibb is the more expensive of the two and is often sold in a plastic container to protect the delicate leaves.

How to use it: The tender leaves of butter lettuce work best in delicate salads, but their broad, flexible leaves can also be used as a wrap.

Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Christina Chaey

Bon Appétit

Bibb Lettuce, Chicken, and Cherry Salad With Creamy Horseradish Dressing

Anna Stockwell

3. Coral lettuce

<h1 class="title">Breakfast Sandwiches with Chile-Fennel Sausage Patties</h1> <div class="caption"> <a href="https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/breakfast-sandwiches-with-chile-fennel-sausage-patties?mbid=synd_yahoo_rss" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Breakfast Sandwiches With Chile-Fennel Sausage Patties" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Breakfast Sandwiches With Chile-Fennel Sausage Patties</a> </div> <cite class="credit">Photo by Dennis Prescott</cite>

Breakfast Sandwiches with Chile-Fennel Sausage Patties

Photo by Dennis Prescott

Alternate names/varieties: Lollo Rosso, Lollo Bionda

Characteristics: Coral is a looseleaf variety and can be bright green, deep red, or speckled. The sturdy, crisp leaves have tight, frilly curls and a mild flavor.

How to use it: The tight curls of coral lettuce are adept at trapping dressing. The crisp but tender variety also makes a great sandwich or burger lettuce.

California Veggie Sandwich

Chris Morocco

Bon Appétit

4. Cress

<h1 class="title">Watercress Salad With Warm Mustard Dressing</h1> <div class="caption"> <a href="https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/watercress-salad-with-warm-mustard-dressing?mbid=synd_yahoo_rss" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Watercress Salad With Warm Mustard Dressing" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Watercress Salad With Warm Mustard Dressing</a> </div> <cite class="credit">Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Prop Styling by Alex Brannian, Food Styling by Ali Nardi</cite>

Watercress Salad With Warm Mustard Dressing

Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Prop Styling by Alex Brannian, Food Styling by Ali Nardi

Alternate names/varieties: Watercress, upland cress, curly cress, land cress

Characteristics: A peppery taste is characteristic of all varieties. Sold in bunches, mature watercress has a tough, fibrous stem and small green leaves (the stems of baby watercress are generally more tender). Be sure to wash all forms of cress thoroughly, since they often grow in sandy ground.

How to use it: Cress has a bold flavor, but delicate texture. Use it in a sophisticated-but-simple side salads, toss them into a saucy noodle dish, or use them to top a spring pizza

Watercress and Persimmon Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

Lillian Chou

Grilled Halloumi with Watercress

Chris Morocco

Bon Appétit

5. Endive

<h1 class="title">A Guide to Cooking Chicories- Belgian Endive</h1> <cite class="credit">Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Olivia Mack Anderson</cite>

A Guide to Cooking Chicories- Belgian Endive

Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Olivia Mack Anderson

Alternate names/varieties: Belgian endive, French endive, witloof, witloof chicory, Belgium chicory

Characteristics: Endive is a type of chicory. The unique oval shape, soft, satiny texture, and slight bitterness all mean it's a great addition to any salad. It's scooplike shape makes for edible servers, perfect for small appetizers.

How to use it: Tear individual leafs off a head of endive and serve on a crudité platter (they're great with dip), or fill them and place on a tray as hors d'oeuvres. You can also serve the leaves whole, or sliced in salad.

Endive, Romaine, and Orange Salad for Two

Anna Stockwell

Endive with Tart Apple Dressing and Blue Cheese

Bon Appétit Flora Bar, NYC

Grand Aioli

Anna Stockwell

6. Escarole

<h1 class="title">A Guide to Cooking Chicories- Escarole</h1> <cite class="credit">Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Olivia Mack Anderson</cite>

A Guide to Cooking Chicories- Escarole

Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Olivia Mack Anderson

Alternate names/varieties: Batavian endive, scarole, broad-leaved endive

Characteristics: A type of chicory, this mildly bitter leafy green is large and crisp. Escarole is often used in soups and paired with beans, reflecting its popularity in Italian cuisine.

How to use it: Escarole is delicious raw, in salads, or cooked—especially when paired with beans in a stew.

Escarole with Italian Sausage and White Beans

Bon Appétit

Hot Honey Pork Chops with Escarole and White Beans

Anna Stockwell

Wilted Escarole Salad

Wilted Escarole Salad
Wilted Escarole Salad
Amanda Hesser

Bon Appétit

7. Frisée

<h1 class="title">A Guide to Cooking Chicories- Frisee</h1> <cite class="credit">Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Olivia Mack Anderson</cite>

A Guide to Cooking Chicories- Frisee

Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Olivia Mack Anderson

Alternate names: Curly endive, chicory endive, curly chicory

Characteristics: These curled leaves tinged with yellow and green are slightly bitter in taste, have a crunchy stem, and add a lot of texture. Their pale green, white, and yellow coloring is a result of the producer shielding them from light during the growing process. Frisée is closely related to escarole.

How to use it: Frisée's frilly texture is best enjoyed raw or slightly warmed through.

Frisée and Carrot Ribbon Salad with Za'atar-Lemon Vinaigrette

Mindy Fox

Seared Duck Breasts with Blood Oranges

Claire Saffitz

Bon Appétit

8. Iceberg lettuce

<h1 class="title">Little Wedge Salad with Sour Cream Dressing</h1> <div class="caption"> <a href="https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/little-wedge-salad-with-sour-cream-dressing?mbid=synd_yahoo_rss" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Little Wedge Salad With Sour Cream Dressing" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Little Wedge Salad With Sour Cream Dressing</a> </div> <cite class="credit">Photo by Alex Lau, Prop Styling by Kalen Kaminski, Food Styling by Rebecca Jurkevich</cite>

Little Wedge Salad with Sour Cream Dressing

Photo by Alex Lau, Prop Styling by Kalen Kaminski, Food Styling by Rebecca Jurkevich

Alternate names/varieties: Crisphead, Reine de Glace, Igloo lettuce

Characteristics: Iceberg is known for being very crisp, watery, and refreshing. It forms in basketball-sized heads, with large, tightly packed, pale-green leaves.

How to use it: Iceberg lettuce is the gold-standard for a chopped salad or wedge salad. It's also adds satisfying crisp, cool texture when shredded and stuffed into tacos, subs, and fried fish sandwiches

Iceberg Salad with Italian Dressing

Chris Morocco

Bon Appétit

Grilled Bacon BLTs

Deb Perelman

Bon Appétit

9. Little Gem lettuce

<h1 class="title">Little Gem Wedge Salad with Tahini Ranch</h1> <div class="caption"> <a href="https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/little-gem-wedge-salad-with-tahini-ranch?mbid=synd_yahoo_rss" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Little Gem Wedge Salad With Tahini Ranch" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Little Gem Wedge Salad With Tahini Ranch</a> </div> <cite class="credit">Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson, Prop Styling by Kalen Kaminski, Food Styling by Rebecca Jurkevich</cite>

Little Gem Wedge Salad with Tahini Ranch

Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson, Prop Styling by Kalen Kaminski, Food Styling by Rebecca Jurkevich

Alternate names: Sucrine, Sugar Cos, baby gem

Characteristics: Although Little Gem lettuce resembles baby romaine, it's actually a full grown variety. The leaves are crisp, sweet, and sturdy.

How to use it: Its small stature means the leaves are ready to be tossed whole into a salad. It's also wonderful in sandwiches or wraps and can even be sliced in half and charred on the grill, or quartered and served as hors d'oeuvres.

Little Gem Salad with Buttermilk Chaas

Little Gem Salad With Buttermilk Chaas
Little Gem Salad With Buttermilk Chaas
Tailor, Nashville, TN

Bon Appétit

Green Bean and Tuna Salad with Basil Dressing

Anna Stockwell

10. Looseleaf lettuce

<h1 class="title">Greenleaf Lettuce</h1> <cite class="credit">Photo by Shutterstock</cite>

Greenleaf Lettuce

Photo by Shutterstock

Alternate name/varieties: Batavia lettuce, leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, Redina

Characteristics: They have a mild flavor and are very pliable, despite the crunchy stem. Their uneven ruffled surfaces add layers of texture to salads. 

How to use it: Looseleaf lettuce can go wherever you want it to go. Because the leaves are so large, it's best to tear them up into bite-size pieces for salad. They're also great puréed into soup (yes, soup); and the broad, tender leaves combined with the sturdy rib make for exceptional lettuce wraps.

Green Leaf Lettuce, Pomegranate, and Almond Salad

Green Leaf Lettuce, Pomegranate, and Almond Salad
Green Leaf Lettuce, Pomegranate, and Almond Salad

Gourmet

Classic Smashed Cheeseburger

Rhoda Boone
Matt Duckor

11. Mâche

Alternate names: Field salad, lamb's lettuce, corn salad, field lettuce, fetticus

Characteristics: Sometimes sold with its soil still attached, this salad green imparts a mild and slightly sweet flavor to a salad. Because of the small size of the leaves, trying to create a whole salad with a base of mâche can be expensive. Its leaves are also very delicate and will bruise easily, so handle with care.

How to use it: This tender green is best reserved for special occasion salads.

Mâche Salad with Blood Oranges, Pistachios, and Pomegranate

Mâche Salad with Blood Oranges, Pistachios, and Pomegranate
Mâche Salad with Blood Oranges, Pistachios, and Pomegranate

Bon Appétit

Mâche Salad with Creole Vinaigrette

Gourmet

12. Mesclun

<cite class="credit">Photo by Chelsea Kyle, food styling by Katherine Sacks</cite>
Photo by Chelsea Kyle, food styling by Katherine Sacks

Alternate names: Mixed baby lettuce, spring mix

Characteristics: Mesclun is not a specific type of lettuce, but rather a loose mix of tender baby lettuce leaves. The mix might contain any number of lettuce varieties, as well as baby spinach or other baby greens.

How to use it: Pre-packaged mesclun mixes can be hit-or-miss; so if you're looking for a variety, it might be best to choose a few different types on this list and mix them together once you're home.

Everyday Greens Salad

Molly Baz

Bon Appétit

Baby Greens, Pear, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Salad

Bon Appétit Hot and Hot Fish Club, Birmingham, AL

13. Oakleaf lettuce

<h1 class="title">Oakleaf Lettuce</h1> <cite class="credit">Photo by Shutterstock</cite>

Oakleaf Lettuce

Photo by Shutterstock

Alternate name: Oak leaf

Characteristics: The shape of this butter lettuce's leaves are similar to that of the oak tree, thus, its name. From a distance, one could mistake it for red leaf and green looseleaf lettuce, but a closer look will reveal differences in shape and texture: this type of lettuce has leaves that are a little shorter and more squat, and the tops of their leaves have a softer texture than their red leaf and green leaf counterparts. 

How to use it: This delicate, tender lettuce acts a great bed for other ingredients and won't compete with other flavors.

Escarole, Fennel, and Oak-Leaf Salad

Escarole, Fennel, and Oak-Leaf Salad
Escarole, Fennel, and Oak-Leaf Salad

Gourmet

Wilted Greens Soup with Crème Fraîche

Abra Berens

Bon Appétit

14. Radicchio

<h1 class="title">A Guide to Cooking Chicories- Chioggia Radicchio</h1> <cite class="credit">Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Olivia Mack Anderson</cite>

A Guide to Cooking Chicories- Chioggia Radicchio

Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Olivia Mack Anderson

Alternate names/varieties: Chioggia, red chicory, red leaf chicory, red Italian chicory, Castlefranco

Characteristics: Pronounced "rah-dick-ee-yo," you can find this deep-red-purple vegetable sold either as a compact round head, as pictured above, or shaped like its relative, endive. The bright coloring makes it stand out. 

How to use it: For lovers of bitter lettuce, this essential chicory is crisp and velvety when eaten raw. It can be a stand-alone salad green, or mixed with other chicories or sweet lettuces. When cooked, the red-purple hue turns brown and what was once bitter becomes sweet.

Radicchio Salad with Sour Cream Ranch

Chris Morocco

Bon Appétit

Seared Radicchio and Roasted Beets

Angela Dimayuga

Bon Appétit

15. Romaine lettuce

<h1 class="title">Romaine Salad with Rye Crisps and Lemon-Pecorine Vinaigrette</h1> <div class="caption"> <a href="https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/romaine-salad-with-rye-crisps-and-lemon-pecorino-vinaigrette?mbid=synd_yahoo_rss" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Romaine Salad With Rye Crisps and Lemon-Pecorino Vinaigrette" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Romaine Salad With Rye Crisps and Lemon-Pecorino Vinaigrette</a> </div> <cite class="credit">Photo by Johnny Miller</cite>

Romaine Salad with Rye Crisps and Lemon-Pecorine Vinaigrette

Photo by Johnny Miller

Alternate name: Cos lettuce

Characteristics: This large leafy lettuce is stiffer than most; a thick center rib gives it a real crunch. The rib also gives this lettuce a slight bitter taste. This is the lettuce originally used when the Caesar salad was created.

How to use it: Call on romaine whenever you want superior crunch from your greens or a sturdy variety that can stand up to the grill.

Caesar Salad

Sue Li
Chris Morocco

Bon Appétit

Grilled Lettuces with Crème Fraîche and Avocado

Grilled Lettuces with Crème Fraîche and Avocado
Grilled Lettuces with Crème Fraîche and Avocado
Carlo Mirarchi

Bon Appétit

16. Speckled lettuce

<h1 class="title">EP_06192015_SpeckledLakeTroutRomaine_003_6x4.jpg</h1> <cite class="credit">Photo by Chelsea Kyle, food styling by Katherine Sacks</cite>

EP_06192015_SpeckledLakeTroutRomaine_003_6x4.jpg

Photo by Chelsea Kyle, food styling by Katherine Sacks

Alternate Name: Speckled trout lettuce, Thorburn's orchid lettuce

Characteristics: Many varieties on this list, including romaine, looseleaf, and butterhead could all come with a speckled pattern on its leaves. The bold coloring usually indicates that the lettuce in question is an heirloom or cross-bread variety.

How to use it: Keep these leaves whole or tear them into large pieces and toss in a salad that shows off their unique appearance.

17. Stem lettuce

<h1 class="title">Celtuce</h1> <cite class="credit">Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Rhoda Boone</cite>

Celtuce

Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Rhoda Boone

Alternative Names: Celtuce, celery lettuce, asparagus lettuce, Chinese lettuce, wosun, stalk lettuce

Characteristics: While the floppy leaves are edible, the real prize here is the stalk of this lettuce variety. The leaves can be bitter, like escarole, but the stalk, which should be peeled, has a nutty, cucumber-like flavor.

How to use it: The leaves can be eaten like any other lettuce variety: raw or wilted into soups. The stalks can be sliced thin and eaten raw or added to a stir-fry, grilled, or cooked any way you might prepare asparagus or broccoli stems (such as in a frittata).

18. Other salad greens

<h1 class="title">EP_06192015_redsorrel_2_6x4.jpg</h1> <cite class="credit">Photo by Chelsea Kyle, food styling by Katherine Sacks</cite>

EP_06192015_redsorrel_2_6x4.jpg

Photo by Chelsea Kyle, food styling by Katherine Sacks

Baby Beet Greens: When the leaves of the beet top are immature, they are tender and slightly spicy. The purplish-red veins are visually striking and can dress up any salad. When wilted, the veins become brighter in color and a little bit sweeter.

Mizuna (aka Japanese greens, spider mustard, xue cai, kyona, potherb mustard, and California Peppergrass): This Japanese mustard green is typically sold as part of a premade salad mix but can be purchased loose at the farmers market or specialty shop. Mizuna has a relatively strong, spicy flavor when compared to other salad greens, but its flavor won't overpower a dish. The small jagged edges that make mizuna look like miniature oak leaves add a lot of texture.

Stir-Fried Bok Choy and Mizuna with Tofu

Stir-Fried Bok Choy and Mizuna with Tofu
Stir-Fried Bok Choy and Mizuna with Tofu
Melissa Clark

Bon Appétit

Sorrel: Technically classified as an herb, sorrel (pictured above) is a wonderful addition of any salad. The bright green leaves are tart and quite lemony. They may have a bright red rib with a web of red veins shooting out to the sides.

Spinach and Sorrel Spanakopita

Spinach and Sorrel Spanakopita
Spinach and Sorrel Spanakopita
Kemp Minifie

Tatsoi (aka tat soi, spoon cabbage, rosette bok choy): The small, rounded leaves of this salad green have a mild, mustardlike flavor. The texture is similar to that of baby spinach, and one can be swapped for the other. Baby tatsoi is usually sold loose, but when mature, tatsoi can be purchased whole, in the shape of a rosette, and it is often cooked intact in stir-fries. Like mizuna, tatsoi is often available only at the farmers market or specialty gourmet shops.

Spring Greens with Quick-Pickled Vegetables

Spring Greens with Quick-Pickled Vegetables
Spring Greens with Quick-Pickled Vegetables
Bon Appétit Test Kitchen

Bon Appétit

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