Planning a big family feast and you’re all out of lettuce ? Worse, is your supermarket out of lettuce ?! Now what ? Well there’s a few options you have when it comes to lettuce.
You see, the Lactuca sativa (plain ol’ lettuce) has many faces, and many siblings and cousins you can call on in your time of need. So there’s plenty to choose from. Below you’ll find the best lettuce substitutes, and you can choose whichever you like best for your recipe.
Best lettuce substitutes
The best lettuce substitutes are endives, escarole, radicchio, Boston lettuce, kale, arugula, iceberg lettuce, romaine, bok choy, Chinese lettuce, spinach, and yes, cabbage.
That may sound like a long list and it is. Lettuce’s role is easy to fill with other, similar leafy greens so finding a substitute will never be a problem.
Lettuce is means to provide a bit of crunch, color, and nutrients and vitamins to whatever dish it’s added to. Unfortunately most of the time it has no real taste, meaning it can easily be replaced with another leafy green. So let’s take a look at the substitutes you can use for lettuce.
Whether you need them for a salad, soup, plating something nice or just as a garnish, all of these will do. Feel free to use several of them at once. This way you’ll get a very colorful and textured dish.
Endives are part of the chicory family and they’re a little bitter. We recommend using the innermost leaves, because the outer ones can be tough and much too bitter.
Because of the way endives are shaped they’re good as edible appetizer ‘plates’, and can be chopped into thin strips and added to soups or salads.
Escarole or frisee
Closely related to endives, frisee is definitely something you’ve seem before in the greens section. It looks like a cross between arugula and lettuce, with thin and spiky looking leaves.
You can also find the curly leaf version, which is more similar to endives. These are better in a salad or soup, since the leaves are too thin and long to be used as garnish or to dress a platter.
Radicchio is an amazingly delicious lettuce, also similar to endives. It’s got more of a bitterness than other types, but as long as you don’t use too much of the lower stem you should be fine.
Boston lettuce is that big, leafy green head of lettuce. It goes with pretty much anything and will wilt very fast. Because of those big, wide leaves it’s a great all-rounder. Soups, salads, and plating something nice all work well with Boston lettuce.
Kale is a little tougher to eat than the other lettuce substitutes. You can still use it as a substitute as it will provide plenty of nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants. It would hold up really well in a soup or as a a platter dressing.
Arugula or rocket
Arugula adds a very flavorful punch to any salad, and we recommend you use it sparingly, alongside other substitutes. It may remind you of the ‘aged’ flavor in prosciutto or Parmesan, and it works better when it’s not warmed.
Despite being mostly water, iceberg lettuce is amazingly easy to find and provides such a satisfying crunch it’s hard to resist. It will wild immediately if exposed to heat so it’s best to use it as a garnish or in salads.
One of the most common lettuce types, romaine is easy to find and works just as well as the Boston lettuce. A great all-rounder yet again.
Easy to find, interesting to pronounce, bok choy is kind of a cross between a lettuce and a cabbage. It’s also known as Chinese cabbage and may remind you of romaine lettuce. Being a form of cabbage it will be tougher, so be sure to tenderize is with a salt and vinegar rub.
And coming to actual Chinese lettuce you may confuse this one with bok choy. Chinese lettuce is almost an exact twin of romaine lettuce, except it’s a much lighter shade of green and is crisp like iceberg.
On the other hand bok choy has a thick white stem like celery and dark green leaves like romaine. It’s a very striking veggie.
You could also use spinach leaves if you like. We recommend you use them along with another substitute since they will wilt very, very fast after adding vinegar or salt.
Plain ol’ cabbage
Ah yes, cabbage. Much tougher than lettuce but very delicious. If you focus on chopping it into very thin strips, then rub them with salt and a bit of vinegar cabbage can be very tender. We recommend using a glove when doing this because the salt and vinegar will nick your skin and you’ll end up with a red, itchy hand.
By salt and vinegar rub we mean more of a knead. Yes, just like kneading regular dough. Take a handful of chopped cabbage, fold it in on itself, and press it into the rest. Take another handful and do the same.
We’re aiming to break down that tough cell wall, and we need tome elbow grease.
Read Also:Can You Eat Rutabaga Raw ?
What lettuce is not bitter ?
If you’d like a lettuce that’s not bitter there’s a few options you have.
First would be to get a specific lettuce type, like romaine or iceberg. These are very tender and crisp and won’t really turn bitter.
Your other option would be t only use the top half of the leaves of any lettuce. You know those stalks/ribs that go up the middle of the leaves ? Rip or cut out those parts and you’ve removed most of the bitterness.
Except if you’re dealing with radicchio, endives, or escarole. Those are naturally bitter, so it might be best to avoid them in this case.