Grilled Romaine Hearts: How to Grill Lettuce

Learn how to grill lettuce for an unexpected and delicious way to dress up a main dish or side salad! Grilled romaine hearts have a wonderful smoky, charred flavor while remaining fresh and crisp on the outside. You can use these as the base of a Greek, Caesar, or wedge salad, or just drizzle with a simple vinaigrette to really let the flavor shine through! Ready in under 10 minutes!

Grilled romaine hearts on a gray platter.

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I recently came back from spending a week in the mountains near Asheville for my family’s annual summer get-together. Spending time with my mom and stepdad, my sisters, and their families is always so special, and one of the highlights of the trip is that each of our families takes over a night of cooking for everyone — all 18 of us!

Not only is it delicious, but it helps get me out of whatever cooking routines I’ve been in lately. This year, my sister Jessica and her husband made homemade pizza in the pizza oven, grilled vegetables, and grilled romaine lettuce. The whole meal was delicious and memorable, but the grilled romaine hearts made a big impression on all of us!

Grilled heart of romaine on a gray plate with gold fork.

Since coming home a couple weeks ago, I’ve been throwing some romaine on the grill whenever I make a grilled entree for dinner, which, in the summer, is quite a bit.

If you’re already firing up the grill for some blackened salmon or turkey burgers, grilled lettuce is an easy thing to throw on in the last couple minutes of cooking or immediately after for a side dish you hardly have to think about.

I take that back. You won’t have to think about it beforehand because there’s almost no prep, but I promise you it’s so delicious you’ll be thinking about it for weeks afterward!

Grilled romaine hearts on serving platter with one on a salad plate.

  • AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS – Seriously, who would think to grill half a head of romaine lettuce? Lettuce is not something you usually think to cook. But that smoky, charred flavor combined with the crisp, fresh lettuce is to DIE for.
  • CRAZY EASY – I’m talking four ingredients (including salt and pepper), five minutes or less to prep, and two minutes to grill.
  • A GOURMET DISH FOR A NOT-GOURMET PRICE – Hey, food prices are going up. But a $4 three-pack of romaine hearts will make a grilled salad for six people, where I usually use one $5 bag of butter lettuce for two servings (we like salad a lot). So that’s like 1/3 of the price and feels even fancier.

Ingredients

Only four simple ingredients for this recipe!

Ingredients for grilled romaine hearts.
  • Hearts of romaine lettuce: Plan on half a head of lettuce per person. Be sure to get just the hearts, rather than the larger heads.
  • Olive oil: Extra virgin. You’ll brush it on the cut surface of the lettuce for best grilling flavor, and some will make its way in between the leaves. So use a good olive oil you’ll want to taste!
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked pepper

Okay, you might say there are five ingredients if you count your dressing of choice. You can drizzle on some homemade creamy honey balsamic vinaigrette, some Olive Garden dressing, or Greek salad dressing.

Or you can even go as simple as squeezing a fresh lemon or a sprinkle of vinegar over top, since the grilling adds a lot of flavor to the lettuce on its own.

Choosing your romaine hearts

You want the romaine hearts rather than the whole heads of romaine. The whole heads (and even some hearts of romaine, as you can see below) have a lot of floppy leaves around the edges, whereas you want a nice tightly-packed heart so it will stay together on the grill.

Comparison of two bags of romaine hearts showing how to choose firm, compact heads of lettuce for grilling romaine.

Choose good romaine hearts by gently squeezing the lettuce head: it should feel relatively firm rather than airy, meaning there are a lot of densely-packed leaves in there.

That said, if you can only find romaine hearts with lots of floppy leaves, go ahead and get them anyway. It just won’t be quite as compact and pretty when you’re done grilling.

Grilled hearts of romaine on a gray platter with gold serving utensils.

How to grill lettuce

First you’ll want to slice your romaine hearts in half lengthwise, leaving it attached at the base. Remove any floppy outer leaves or leaf fragments that aren’t hugging the head of lettuce after the cut.

Rinse each half under some water, gently encouraging the water in between the leaves. Romaine hearts can get a little dirty especially around the base of the leaves, so focus around that area when rinsing. Turn the halves cut-side down and pat them dry with a kitchen towel, or leave them to dry while you prepare your other food.

Brushing romaine hearts with olive oil.

Brush the cut sides liberally with some olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and some freshly cracked pepper, and preheat your grill to medium high or high. You just want to sear the cut side, not cook the whole head of lettuce, so the hotter the better. But if you’re cooking something else on the grill on medium high that’ll work too. 500 degrees Fahrenheit or more is ideal.

Romaine halves sprinkled with salt and pepper.

After the grill is preheated, just lay down your romaine hearts on the grill, cut side down. You’ll want to put them on perpendicular or slightly diagonal to the grill grates for the best grill marks. Close the lid and grill them for about a minute and a half to 2 minutes, and then remove them from the grill.

Romaine heart halves cut-side down on a grill.

That’s it! Now just drizzle with a little of your favorite dressing, fresh lemon, or vinegar, and enjoy that delicious charred flavor and crisp texture!

Variations

Grilled wedge salad

A classic wedge salad uses a wedge of iceberg lettuce as a base. Just grill your romaine hearts instead of using iceberg lettuce and top with bacon crumbles, grape tomatoes, and blue cheese dressing. Outstanding!

Grilled Caesar salad

After grilling the lettuce, top with shaved parmesan, croutons, and Caesar dressing. Throw in an anchovy or two if you’re feeling really gourmet!

Grilled heart of romaine on a gray plate with a bite on a gold fork.

What goes well with grilled romaine?

Eat this grilled salad with anything else you make on the grill!

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5 from 2 votes

Grilled Hearts of Romaine

Print Recipe
Course: Appetizer, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4
Prep Time:5 mins
Cook Time:2 mins
Total Time:7 mins

Equipment

  • Grill

Ingredients

  • 2 Romaine hearts choose firm, bright green heads without a lot of floppy leaves
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly cracked pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat your grill to high heat.
  • Slice the romaine hearts in half longways. Don't cut off the base/core, since you need that to keep each romaine half intact.
  • Wash the romaine heads by running them under water and gently encouraging the water between the leaves, especially around the base. Pat dry with a clean kitchen towel or leave them to dry on a towel, cut-side down, while you prepare other dishes.
  • Brush the cut side of each romaine half with a tablespoon of olive oil, and sprinkle each one with a pinch of kosher salt and some freshly cracked pepper.
  • Place romaine hearts cut-side-down onto the grill, perpendicular to the grill grates so you get nice char lines. Grill for about 2 minutes and remove to a serving platter.
  • Drizzle with your favorite salad dressing or a squeeze of fresh lemon, and enjoy with a fork and knife!

Notes

Serving size is one romaine half per person.
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