10 Most Popular Types of Lettuce & Their Uses
Lettuces are more versatile than you think, and there are so many of them! Here are the types of lettuce and how to cook with them.
Lettuces are one of the most versatile leafy greens on the planet. There are many types of lettuce out there, and they can all give color, flavor, and texture to your food.
Not all types of lettuce are created equal, so knowing them pays off. Here is a list of lettuces and how to use them.
What Are The Different Types of Lettuce?
Lettuces are a family of annual plants. Their leaves are edible and nutritious, and although lettuces are mostly water, they add color, flavor, and texture to food, from tacos to burgers.
Lettuces might have been first cultivated in Ancient Egypt, as the leaves are an excellent food source and the seeds are oily. Lettuces, on the other hand, come in all shapes and sizes, and they're now grown and consumed all over the world.
These leafy veggies are versatile as well, and although they’re the main ingredient in most salads, they have many other uses. These are the most familiar types of lettuce.
10 Types of Lettuce & How To Use Them
Commonly known as "rocket," this leafy plant is easy to spot. It has dark green leaves and an addictively bitter flavor. Although not technically lettuce, rocket is used with or instead of lettuce in salads and other dishes, from sandwiches to wraps.
Arugula is also a fantastic pizza topping, and people in Italy even use it to make pasta sauces. Arugula can do it all, and it’s definitely one of the most flavorful lettuces in the world. Not everyone loves its bitterness, though.
2. Belgian Endive
Endives are part of the cichorium family, and yes, they’re related to chicory. These are leafy vegetables known for their bitter and meaty leaves. Belgian endives are the most common type of endive, which are easy to spot for their pod-like shape—the leaves are tightly packed!
Cooking endives is no easy feat, as they take a lot of time to cook. Still, once cooked through, they are tender and buttery; they’re the perfect side dish for holiday meals. Steam, boil, roast, or stir-fry endives, and season them with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
3. Summer Crisp
Also known as Batavia Lettuce and French Crisp, this lettuce has curly leaves, often with purple tones and always with a mild flavor that’s not too bitter. Summer crisp is often used as a filler in salads, as the leaves are pleasing to the eye. Also, this type of lettuce rarely overwhelms other lettuces and leafy greens, so it’s an excellent lettuce to combine.
As you can unquestionably imagine, these lettuces are at their peak during the summer, which means refreshing salads to stay cool during the warmest months of the year.
This one’s also known as the curly endive, and it’s related to the Belgian endive. Frisée has small, curly leaves with a bright lime-green color, and they are incredibly refreshing. You might also know this type of lettuce as chicory, but that can be confusing — chicory is a different plant.
You have surely seen frisée in salads and baguettes; it’s commonly used in Mediterranean food, particularly French. This is amongst the most filling (and crunchy) types of lettuce, but the volume can make it look like more than it really is.
5. Butter Lettuce
This type of lettuce has been gaining popularity in the last few decades, and it’s because it’s just gorgeous. Butter lettuces have smooth, thick leaves bundled loosely, unlike tighter lettuce heads.
Butter lettuce is mildly flavorful, not bitter at all, and not all that crunchy, but it looks good, and it tastes even better, especially in salads tossed with other leaves and lettuces. Avoid rich and creamy salad dressings since they can easily overwhelm the delicate flavor of butter lettuce. Instead, use a vinaigrette.
Romain is, without a doubt, one of the most famous lettuces. This one’s also called Cos lettuce, and it has a tall head. The stalky lettuce is the crunchiest as well, and it has a lot of moisture.
Romaine lettuce is also one of the oldest in the books; people cultivated it at least 3,000 years ago. This lettuce is slightly bitter but not off-putting. It’s its texture, though, that makes it so appealing. Use romaine for Caesar salads. When shredded, it’s fantastic for tacos and burgers.
Watercress is an aquatic plant from the cabbage family, so it’s not properly a lettuce. Still, watercress is a common ingredient in salads, wraps, and pizza. The leafy vegetable is also related to radishes and mustard!
Watercress has a unique peppery and slightly citrusy taste, making it a lovely addition to many raw dishes. This type of leafy vegetable might not be the crunchiest, but it has the flavor and looks to be taken seriously. This one’s best enjoyed in subs, sandwiches, salads, and even as a garnish on hot dishes.
Radicchio is a unique chicory with a bright red color. This is one of Italy’s most common leafy vegetables, and it is enjoyed raw, roasted, or grilled. Radicchio is a typical crop from Treviso, Northern Italy, but it’s now cultivated worldwide. You can use the colorful lettuce in risotto, pasta, and even in desserts and drinks. Radicchio has many uses, and they’re all exciting!
For color, no lettuce beats radicchio. As for the flavor, radicchio is mildly flavorful, slightly bitter and earthy. Grilled radicchio is a beautiful side dish for grilled meat.
The famous iceberg lettuce is also known as "crisphead," and it’s the most consumed lettuce in America. This is also the wateriest of lettuces, so it’s not very flavorful or bitter; in fact, it’s more of a textural ingredient than a flavoring one.
Iceberg lettuces are gorgeous when fresh, but they wilt quickly in warm climates. This lettuce comes in a tight head, and the leaves are crispy and moist — they have an attractive light-green color as well.
When shredded, iceberg lettuce is the ultimate topping for tostadas and wraps. If you have ever tried a classic wedge salad, you already know about iceberg lettuce.
10. Loose Leaf
Sometimes called just "leaf," loose leaf lettuce has loose leaves, of course, and it’s commonly used for packaged "instant" salads. This bunching lettuce is one of the most consumed worldwide, although it’s not particularly crunchy or flavorful.
Along with romaine lettuce, this is one of the most common for shredding or chopping. There are several types of looseleaf salads, and they can have different colors and leaf shapes.
This might just be the lettuce you think of when someone mentions a salad, and you would be right. Looseleaf lettuce is everywhere. What is your favorite lettuce?
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