Butter lettuce is becoming more and more popular--and accessible--these days across the United States. Butter lettuce originated in the Mediterranean from an older variety of lettuce called Silesia, which has been cultivated since at least 1744. However, the two most popular types of butter lettuce were primarily cultivated in the United States.
What's the difference between it and its green leaf cousin? Known for its creamy leaves and mild taste, butter lettuce is easy to store and can be deployed in the kitchen in a number of ways. But has this tender, delicate leafy green made it into your kitchen yet?
What Is Butter Lettuce?
Butter lettuce is a type of lettuce that includes multiple cultivars you've probably heard of, namely Bibb lettuce and Boston lettuce. With soft leaves and held together in loose, round-shaped heads, butter lettuce has a sweet but mild flavor that makes it an excellent go-to green for simple everyday salads, especially ones topped with a light vinaigrette. Although the leaves are often bright green, they may sometimes also have a purple-reddish hue.
These little guys are often sold with the roots still attached for the sake of freshness. This means that butter lettuces are a great grocery choice when you're not sure when you plan to make that salad. This is also important for freshness as the leaves are much more delicate than other salad greens, including radicchio and romaine.
How To Use
In addition to providing an excellent base for myriad salads, butter lettuce lends itself to many dishes because of its texture and the size of its leaves. Although the green doesn't actually taste like butter, the leaves are soft enough that it might feel like they're melting in your mouth. This texture means the lettuce will pair well with anything that creates contrasts, like a crunchy texture or big dynamic flavor.
Although butter lettuce is an excellent leafy addition to any sandwich, its large, wide leaves and their curved scoopable shape mean that butter lettuce should be a go-to choice for wraps and scoops. Whether filling the greens with ground beef, pulled pork or short ribs, butter lettuce is a great low-carb replacement that won't overpower the seasoned meat inside.
Purchasing and Storage
As with other delicate greens, always purchase brightly colored greens without any visible signs of wilting on damage. Because butter lettuce typically comes attached to a head, purchase in that form unless there are no other options.
Once home, keep the roots intact and do not wash until you plan to use the lettuce. Pre-washing the lettuce can cause bruising, accelerating its deterioration. Store in the refrigerator wrapped in a damp paper towel inside a partially open zip-top bag. If only using part of the head, cut off what you need but leave the rest intact.
Butter Lettuce Substitutes
If you're feeling adventurous and would like something similar, but more flavorful, we recommend giving Little Gems a try. However, if these options are unavailable, the best replacement--as always--depends on the dish you intend to make. For example, the soft leaves in salad may best be substituted with Baby Spinach, but something larger and heartier such as Red Leaf Lettuce or Romaine would be better for lettuce wraps of any kind.