In Defense of Iceberg Lettuce

Sarah McColl
Editor in Chief
March 10, 2014

Photo: StockFood

I went over to a friend’s one Saturday night for an impromptu taco party. She’d walked to the new all-organic, all-artisanal, we-bag-your-groceries-in-hand-knit-sacks superstore to purchase ingredients for aforementioned fiesta. But you know what she couldn’t find amongst the purple potatoes and fiddlehead ferns?

Iceberg lettuce. Cool, crisp, crunchy iceberg.

This is not OK.

In the last ten years, iceberg has been rightfully displaced from the salad bowl by microgreens and local lettuces—who wouldn’t rather load up their fork with nutrient-filled baby spinach, mixed greens, escarole and arugula after decades of iceberg domination?—but now the poor chump is being ignored and unfairly maligned.

We’ve seen the enthusiastic embrace of the wedge salad at steakhouses and neighborhood bistros, and for good reason. If there’s one thing at which iceberg excels, it’s being a vehicle for fat, cream, and bacon-y unctuousness. But it has other tricks up its crunchy core. Let’s explore its unsung talents, shall we?

Nifty trick: Bang the core of an iceberg head on a cutting board and watch its outer leaves fall away and its core loosen, ready to be plucked right out.  

Iceberg Wedge with Blue Cheese

Photo credit: Everyday Food

The classic treatment, this is also delicious with ranch dressing, bacon, and tomatoes (as you might well imagine).

Iceberg Slaw

Photo credit: Everyday Food

Slice it thinly, and the broad leaves are perfect for a crisp, tendril-filled slaw, slick with buttermilk dressing.


Photo credit: Everyday Food

The “L” in the BLT must be iceberg. But everything else—turkey, avocado, hell, even blue cheese—is fair game for a creative cook.

Mom’s Pickled Lettuce Condiment

Photo credit: Food52

Leave it to Food52 to render humble iceberg into something exotic. Here, it joins forces with tart cherries, dill, and red pepper flakes in a quick-pickled salad.

Stir-Fried Lettuces with Crisp Shallots

Photo credit: Bon Appetit

This is exactly what we want to eat after a trying day: a big bowl of wholesome, humanity-restoring brown rice and fiery, stir-fried veggies. (We might even skip the sausage for a soft-poached egg.)

Lettuce and Pea Soup

Photo credit: Everyday Food

This is a breath of spring if there ever was one (and you likely have more than half the ingredients at home). Just sub iceberg for the recommended romaine.

Beef Tacos

Photo credit: Everyday Food

The cool crunch of iceberg on the top of a rich, spiced ground beef taco is absolutely non-negotiable.

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