Grilled romaine salad with flavorful smokey char marks. The barbecue is an unexpected yet delightful way to enhance the taste and texture of lettuce. I serve this quick appetizer with a simple tangy dressing, lemon wedges, and savory Parmesan cheese.
Searing romaine on the grill creates a stunning contrast of bright green colors with dark char marks. It’s a fast and easy way to add more flavor to a mundane head of lettuce. If you haven’t tried cooking leafy greens on the barbecue before, you’re going to want to give this new technique a try.
Robust romaine hearts are ideal for a quick sizzle on the grill. Just like preparing vegetables or meats, simply slice, brush with olive and season. I keep it effortless with a tangy vinegar dressing to drizzle on top, but if you want to get fancy, add blue cheese or caesar dressing. Love grilling? Give this method a go, it’s game-changing summer salad.
How to grill romaine
- Make a dressing by whisking together vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt, and pepper.
- Slowly whisk in the olive oil until dressing is thickened.
- Cut the romaine hearts in half.
- Brush both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat grill to medium heat (350 to 400ºF/177 to 204ºC).
- Add lettuce and lemon, cut side down on the grill, cook 2 to 3 minutes.
- Flip lettuce over and cook 1 to 2 minutes.
- Serve with parmesan cheese, dressing, and lemons.
Romaine lettuce hearts are great for grilling because the sections stay together nicely when sliced down the center. This type of lettuce is known as loose leaf, due to those broad long leaves and crispy spines that run down the middle. If the heart is on the larger side, it can be quartered instead of halved.
The seasoning ingredients
Brush a good quality olive oil on both sides of the romaine halves. This adds a slightly bitter flavor, but a robust olive note. A little bit of salt and pepper further enhances the flavors of the mild lettuce when grilling.
The romaine leaves are only being cooked for a few minutes. The grill should be on the hotter side so that browning happens almost instantly. I shoot for about 400ºF (204ºC) before adding the greens.
There is a lot of moisture in the cells of the lettuce leaves, so those cut edges need to be pressed down to drive off the water quickly. Let the lettuce sear without moving so the grill marks appear. You’re targeting a light char, with tips toasted, and the center slightly wilted but still crisp.
Add a dressing
Grilled romaine lettuce has a wonderful nutty flavor, similar to roasted brussels sprouts. It also pairs well with citrus or different types of vinegar, like balsamic vinegar. I made a light and bright red wine vinegar dressing for this salad recipe.
A little bit of aged parmesan cheese is grated on top for a little indulgence. Even a squeeze of lemon juice that is grilled with the lettuce is a lovely complement to the side dish.
What if I don’t have a grill?
No problem! Sear the lettuce on a stovetop grill pan. Use the same preparation as grilling. Heat the pan over medium-high heat and sear until the lettuce begins to brown on the cut side. Flip and briefly cook the other side.
Ways to enjoy grilled romaine
- Make it a caesar salad
- Add grilled chicken for a heartier entree
- Turn it into a cobb salad with blue cheese dressing
- Add some homemade croutons on top
- Drizzle on some chimichurri sauce
More grilling recipes
Protect the romaine lettuce with olive oil
To prevent the tender greens from completely burning on the grill, brush a little bit of olive oil on both sides. This protects the leaves and prevents it from sticking to the barbecue grates.
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon (4 g) minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
Grilled Romaine Salad
- 3 hearts of romaine lettuce, cut in half lengthwise (6 halves)
- extra-virgin olive oil, as needed for brushing
- kosher salt, as needed for seasoning
- black pepper, as needed for seasoning
- lemon, cut in half
- ¼ cup (10 g) parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- In a small bowl whisk together the red wine vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt, and pepper.
- Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and whisk until a smooth, emulsified dressing is formed.
- Lightly brush olive oil on both sides of the cut romaine lettuce.
- Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides.
- Preheat grill over medium-high heat, about 350 to 400ºF (177 to 204ºC).
- Clean the grill and then carefully grease the cooking grates with tongs using a paper towel dipped in oil.
- Once the grates are hot, place the Romaine and lemon halves cut side down on the grill. Press the lettuce down so it creates direct contact with grates.
- Cook until lettuce is lightly charred, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Flip and cook 1 to 2 minutes until slightly wilted.
- Transfer lettuce and lemon halves to a serving plate.
- Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top of the grilled lettuce.
- Drizzle the dressing on the grilled romaine and squeeze the lemon on top.
- Larger romaine hearts can also be cut into quarters.
- Make sure to sear each cut area for 1 to 2 minutes. If the sections are slightly wilted and charred, do not flip over. Grill the uncut side since the sections are smaller.