How to Make Grilled Romaine—and Why It’s the Best Way to Eat Lettuce

Forget raw salads: Grilled romaine is where it's at!

The idea of grilling lettuce might sound kind of… icky. We’ve all experienced a salad topped with a hot piece of chicken or steak that wilts the tender greens underneath, turning them into a slimy mess. But we’re here to tell you that grilled romaine is different.

Romaine hearts are hearty enough to toss on the grill, and with proper cooking time, they develop a perfect charred flavor and a slightly softened texture. So forget raw salads this summer; build your favorite salad on a bed of grilled romaine instead.

What Is Grilled Romaine?

Grilled romaine is exactly what it sounds like: Heads of lettuce that have been lightly cooked on the grill. Cutting the romaine hearts in half creates a flat surface to achieve beautifully charred grill marks in about two minutes. That’s not enough time to cook the lettuce all the way through, but it does caramelize the exterior, adding a pleasantly sweet, bitter and smoky flavor.

Once you master the technique, you’ll love how easy it is to amp up the flavor of summer salads. If you’re grilling steak, chicken or vegetables, you’re already set up to grill lettuce. The contrast between the crisp insides and the softened exterior is a delightful replacement for regular lettuce on Caesar salads. Or try drizzling your grilled romaine with a tasty chive-buttermilk dressing for a fun twist on a wedge salad.

How to Make Grilled Romaine

You’ll need:

  • Romaine hearts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil per romaine heart
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Step 1: Prepare the grill

Our first step for any grilling activity is preheating the grill. For a charcoal grill, build a fire in the middle of the grill. When the coals are covered with gray ash and you can hold your hands five inches above the coals for about five seconds, the grill is ready to go. For a gas grill, turn the burners to high and close the cover. After about 15 minutes, turn the burners to medium.

This guide will help you decide between gas and charcoal grills.

Step 2: Ready the romaine

Halve each romaine heart lengthwise, leaving the stem end intact so the leaves don’t fall off. Then, brush each half with a tablespoon of olive oil.

Step 3: Hit the grill

When the grill is preheated to medium, place the romaine halves cut-side down on the hot side of the grill. Grill the romaine, uncovered, for 1 to 3 minutes, until grill marks form and the leaves are lightly charred. Remove the romaine from the grill and season them with salt and pepper to taste. Then, drizzle the halves with your favorite salad dressing.

Once you master the technique, you won’t want to stop grilling lettuce! Give it a try with other hearty greens, like kale, bok choy, endive and radicchio.

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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.