Best Types of Lettuce for Salads

Lettuce gets a bad wrap as a tasteless, nutrition-less leaf. I’m here to tell you that is not true.

different types of lettuce

Lettuce is full of vitamins and helps hydrate your body when you eat it. It’s low in calories and can fill you up without making you feel bloated.

If you’re already a fan of leafy greens but tired of eating the same plain salad every day, lettuce mix it up for you!

There are more kinds of lettuce out there than you can imagine, and they all have unique flavors for your tastebuds to explore. There’s so much to explore in the world of lettuce.

Romaine Lettuce

Romaine lettuce is one of the most nutritious leaves that you can eat. It contains 82% of the Vitamin A you need in a day.

Romaine lettuce

It also has Vitamin C, iron, and calcium but in smaller amounts. Its crunchy dark green leaves grow in a tall head. 

The taste of Romaine is a bit more bitter than iceberg lettuce, but not too much. It’s crisp, refreshing, and less grassy than spinach. You can toss it in a salad, top your tacos with it, and throw it into a green smoothie. It’s a very versatile leaf. 

My favorite way to eat romaine is a grilled salad with bacon and blue cheese. Romaine is crispy enough to hold its shape on the grill but not too crispy to where it won’t cook down.

If blue cheese is not your thing, there are plenty of other ways to dress a grilled salad. 

Iceberg Lettuce

Iceberg lettuce is a type of crispberg lettuce that got its name from the original method used to transport lettuce: on crushed ice.

Iceberg Lettuce

The Burpee Seed Co crafted Iceberg lettuce in 1894, and it has maintained its reign as the most popular lettuce ever since. 

There are healthier leaves on this list, but it’s still relatively healthy and an easier leaf to eat – thanks to its sweet flavor. It has Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, and Manganese. 

Though you can cook it, iceberg lettuce is most commonly eaten in a salad. It doesn’t have a strong flavor, so it works well with many different foods.

In the summer I love to eat iceberg lettuce with strawberries, pecans, and a nice vinaigrette. 

Frisée Lettuce

Frisée lettuce is a curly type of endive and is believed to have originated in ancient Egypt. It’s white or pale yellow at the center and light green at its leaf tips.

frisee lettuce

This color is achieved through blanching, a process where the leaves are tied up to keep the sun out.

The core of Frisée lettuce is mild in flavor and crunchy, while the darker leaf tips are slightly bitter and soft.

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This duality makes it a nice addition for many dishes – hot or cold.


Despite its appearance and application, Arugula is not technically lettuce. It’s a member of the Brassicaceae family – this makes it a cousin of broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts.

Arugula leaves

It’s packed full of nutrients as lettuce is, and gives you 20% of the Vitamin K you need daily. 

Arugula leaves are dark green with rounded or pointed tips, like oak leaves. Its taste is sometimes described as mustardy, sometimes mildly peppery, and nutty.

If I’m being honest, Arugula is my arch-nemesis. Finding it in a mixed salad is like finding raisins in a chocolate chip cookie

I much prefer my arugula liquidized in a smoothie. It pairs surprisingly well with citrus flavors, so if you wanted to eat it in a salad, it would go nicely with a citrusy dressing. Many people also enjoy it in salads and on top of pizza.

Mache or Lamb’s Lettuce

This leafy green is known by several names: mache, lamb’s lettuce, and common cornsalad. Cornsalad comes from the fact that it grew as a weed in cornfields.

Lamb's Lettuce

Lamb’s lettuce comes from the fact that lambs enjoyed eating it and it kind of resembles a lamb’s tongue in shape. 

It’s a small, rounded, and dark green leaf. The texture is soft and the flavor is nutty. It has three times as much Vitamin C as lettuce and has lots of beta-carotene, B6, iron, and potassium. 

You can eat it alone in a salad or pair it with other leaves. It matches the tenderness of Boston lettuce, compliments pungent mustard greens, and works with winter greens like Belgian endive. 

Little Gem Lettuce

Little Gem lettuce is the baby of Romaine and Butter lettuce.

Little Gem lettuce

It combines the crispness of Romaine with the sweetness of Butter lettuce – these little guys are a good serving of vitamins, calcium, potassium, iron, and fiber. 

They grow in miniature heads that are only about 6” tall and 4” wide at maturity. Their size is what makes them – so fun to eat.

They’re small enough yet firm enough that you can use them as a chip for dipping. 

You can swap them for Romaine or Butter lettuce in any recipe, but especially one that calls for Romaine hearts. That means these babies are great for grilling too! 


Watercress is another one that’s not lettuce – it’s in the same family as Arugula and broccoli.


Watercress most likely originated in Ancient Greece where it was used for its alleged medicinal properties. 

A serving of watercress is full of vitamins and minerals. Studies have linked it to cancer prevention, lowering blood pressure, and treating diabetes. You can toss them in a salad or some soup for a mega boost. 

The small, round leaves have a slightly spicy flavor, like pepper. Instead of forming a head of lettuce, they grow free in bushy colonies in the water. 

Oak Leaf Lettuce

Oak Leaf lettuce is a variety of Butter lettuce that first came from France. It produces semi-frilled, loose-leaf leaves that resemble an oak leaf, hence the name.

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green and red oak lettuce

These curly leaves have a tender, smooth texture and a mildly sweet, nutty flavor. 

Oak Leaf lettuce is a versatile green and can pair well with many dishes.

It’s most commonly mixed into salads with other lettuces but can just as easily top tacos and be added to stir fry. 

Butter Lettuce

Now we’re on to the beautiful Butter lettuce. It doesn’t taste like butter, but it does have a similar texture to butter. Its leaves are silky-soft, tender, and smooth.

Butter Lettuce

Butter lettuce comes in bright green, deep purple-red, or a mixture of both. 

These leaves are lightly sweet with a hint of floral flavor, which means they taste good with cheese and citrus fruits.

That’s what makes this salad with a lemon vinaigrette and parmesan cheese so delicious. That’s also why it’s a popular ingredient in Mediterranean meals

Bibb Lettuce

Bibb lettuce is a variety of butterhead lettuce, and it’s closely related to Boston lettuce.

A lawyer in Kentucky named John Bibb crafted this variety in 1860. It grows in heads, and its leaves are small, light, and springy. 

Bibb lettuce has a richer flavor that’s not unlike butter.

It’s also slightly sweet and a bit crunchy – this is the perfect lettuce to make a wrap out of or replace the bun of your burger with. 

Loose Leaf Lettuce

Loose-leaf lettuce is a variety that doesn’t grow a compact head; its leaves are loose – this is the most widely planted type of lettuce and the most used in salads.

loose leaf lettuce

Its green leaves are crunchy, mild, and sweet. 

This variety of lettuce works well with most other types of lettuce, thanks to its mild flavor.

You can toss it into any salad to help fill out the greens. One of my favorites is a walnut and goat cheese salad with a simple vinaigrette. 


Mesclun refers to a mixture of different baby greens and herbs that originated in France.

red and green Mesclun

A traditional Mesclun blend will include Mache, Oakleaf, Chervil, and Arugula, but it can be made with other greens. 

You might see anything from Dandelion greens to kale, spinach, or radicchio. The one common trait between greens used for a Mesclun blend is that they’re all tender leaves.

You can control the overall flavor of this blend by adding different herbs for balance. Here’s how to make your own.  


Batavia lettuce is a type of summer crisp lettuce. There’s a lot of variety with the Batavia.

Batavia lettuce

You’ll find open and closed-headed ones in an array of resplendent colors. There’s green, red, magenta, burgundy, and every hue in between. 

Batavia leaves are wavy and crinkled and usually taste crisp and sweet. You can harvest them at any time from the beginnings of the baby leaves to their full size for varying flavor and texture.

Since Batavia is a summer crisp, you might like eating it in a refreshingly light salad that will keep you cool as temperatures rise. 

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The Endive is a member of the chicory family. There are a few different kinds– the wild endive and the common chicory– that often get confused with one another.


The endive we want has thick, bushy leaves that are pale yellow. It’s jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. 

Endive is mostly eaten in green salads, but you could saute it with onions or toss it into a creamy soup.

It’s not as popular as other lettuces yet, but you can also add this to a green smoothie for a mega boost of Vitamin K. 


Purslane is a common succulent that most people think of as a low-growing weed.


This hearty green grows naturally everywhere in the United States and can easily overrun a summer garden if left unchecked.

It has flat, green leaves that are spoon-shaped and that taste like spinach. 

Purslane is rich in Vitamin E and Vitamin C and has iron, manganese, magnesium, and potassium.

It’s low in calories, which makes it a superfood. It can be difficult to cook well, so it may be best to serve it raw in a salad, a smoothie, or a chimichurri. 


Radicchio, despite its appearance, is not a red lettuce.


It’s a member of the chicory family. It has deep reddish-purple leaves that make a round head, like cabbage and white veins.

This purple pleaser is rich in Vitamin K, minerals, and antioxidants. 

Radicchio has a strong bitter, yet spicy taste that can be diluted by cooking.

Thanks to its sturdy constitution, you can grill Radicchio, throw it in coleslaw, or top a pizza with it.

Boston Lettuce

Boston lettuce, like Bibb lettuce, is a type of butterhead lettuce, so it has soft, tender leaves that will almost melt in your mouth.

Boston Lettuce

The flavor is mild, nutty, and a little sweet. It’s not as rich in flavor as Bibb lettuce or butter lettuce.

You will usually find Boston lettuce – and its brothers Bibb and Butter – being sold at the grocery store with their roots still attached.

It helps to maintain their freshness during transport. 

Sometimes it is best to keep things simple. A plain salad with minimal add-ins will let the Boston lettuce speak for itself.

The pepper, parmesan, and vinaigrette only serve to enhance the naturally sweet flavors on display here. 

Eating salad every day only in an attempt to become healthy will get boring quickly. No law says you have to eat only one kind of salad.

You can add new ingredients to the salad you’ve been enjoying, or you can branch out and try something completely new. 

 I know change is scary, but it doesn’t have to be as scary now that you know about these 17 different types of lettuce. You learned their health properties and how to pair them with other lettuce leaves and other kinds of food.

I know you’re ready to get out there and start salading! Don’t forget to add plenty of salad toppings or check out the most popular dressings for salads to top it all off.

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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