Butter lettuce, aka butterhead or Bibb lettuce, is a tender leafy green that’s ideal for salads! Here’s what to know about this variety.
There’s nothing more eye-catching than the bright green of a head of butter lettuce, and does this tender green deliver when it comes to flavor! If there’s a leafy green we love most for salads, it’s this one. It’s a category that includes Bibb lettuce and Boston lettuce, and it makes the loveliest of salads. Here’s more about it, what to know about buying and storing it, and a few of our favorite recipes.
What is butter lettuce?
Butter lettuce, aka butterhead lettuce, is a variety of green lettuce that has a soft, delicate texture reminiscent of the creaminess of butter (hence the name), and a mild, sweet flavor. This category of lettuce includes both Boston and Bibb lettuce. It’s often sold as a small head with the roots still attached to keep it from wilting, or in boxes of separate leaves. You can often find butter lettuce at farmers markets, especially in the spring when tender greens are in season.
- Bibb lettuce has a small head and bright green leaves, and is the more common of the two types. Its size makes it ideal for using as cups for lettuce wraps. Bibb lettuce was developed from Boston lettuce in the early 1900’s by a man named John Bibb in Kentucky.
- Boston lettuce has a larger head than Bibb, with soft, loose leaves. This variety is a bit harder to find. If you find something labeled butter lettuce at the grocery store, it’s likely Bibb.
What’s a butter lettuce substitute? Try a mild lettuce like romaine. It’s a bit crunchier, but the flavor is similar.
Buying and storing butter lettuce (including Bibb & Boston)
What to look for when you’re buying butter lettuce at the store? Here’s what to know:
- Look for lettuce with solid, compact head and crisp leaves. Avoid limp or dull lettuce with discolored or yellowed parts.
- If the lettuce comes with a root attached, leave it on until serving. Place it in the refrigerator in the container it came in, or wrap it in paper towels and place in a plastic bag. Butter lettuce lasts 3 to 5 days refrigerated.
- Some lettuce comes with detached leaves in a container. This way it lasts for about 5 days refrigerated. Wait to wash and dry the greens until immediately prior to serving (or they may come pre-washed). A salad spinner makes quick work of drying.
Butter lettuce nutrition
Is butter lettuce good for you? Yes! Butter lettuce is very low calorie food that’s packed with vitamins and nutrients. Here’s an outline of butter lettuce nutrition:
- It’s very low in calories. One cup of chopped romaine has only 7 calories (source).
- It has no fat, cholesterol or sodium. However your salad dressing might, so keep that in mind when preparing this vegetable.
- It’s a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin K, and folate. (source)
Butter lettuce recipes
Butter lettuce is ideal for salads because of its silky, tender texture and mild flavor. It’s ideal tossed with a creamy dressing and a sprinkle of other veggies. Or, use it for lettuce wraps or as a tortilla alternative. Here are a few recipe ideas:
More quick guides? Try Quick Guide to Endive, Quick Guide to Romaine and Quick Guide to Frisee.
This crisp butter lettuce salad is simple and fresh! Dress this delicate lettuce with Parmesan dressing, chives and breadcrumbs.
- 5 ounces butter lettuce (Bibb lettuce or Boston lettuce)
- 1 shallot
- 1 handful cherry tomatoes (or radishes)
- 1 handful fresh chives
- ¼ cup Italian panko*
- ½ cup Parmesan Peppercorn Dressing (recipe below)
- Parmesan shavings, for garnish (optional)
For the Parmesan Dressing
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon water
- Wash and dry the lettuce (a salad spinner makes quick work). Then tear it into pieces.
- Thinly slice the shallot. Slice or quarter the cherry tomatoes or thinly slice the radishes. Finely chop the chives.
- Make the Parmesan dressing: whisk together the mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, grated Parmesan cheese, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, salt, black pepper and water until a creamy dressing forms.
- Place the butter lettuce on salad plates or a large platter. Top with the sliced tomatoes or radishes, shallot, chives, and Parmesan cheese shavings. Drizzle with about ½ cup of the dressing and sprinkle with Italian panko.
*Panko is a Japanese-style breadcrumb mixture that is airier and lighter than traditional breadcrumbs. It has a crunchy texture which is more satisfying on salads (breadcrumbs are much finer with almost a sand-like texture). “Italian” means herbs and salt are added. You should be able to find Italian panko or plain panko easily at your local grocery store (often they also sell gluten-free). If all you have is plain panko, you can season it: mix ½ cup panko with ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt and ½ tablespoon Italian seasoning (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano and ¼ teaspoon each dried basil and thyme).
- Category: Salad
- Method: Raw
- Cuisine: Salad
- Diet: Vegetarian
Keywords: Butter lettuce, Bibb lettuce, butterhead lettuce