How to Cut Romaine Lettuce

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Here are the best tips and tricks for cutting romaine lettuce like a pro, from the right way to wash your lettuce to the perfect knife technique. I’ve got you covered with a step-by-step guide to take your salads to the next level!

Learn how to cut romaine lettuce like a pro.

Grabbing a bag of pre-cut leafy greens at the grocery store is easy. However, learning how to cut romaine lettuce for salads is simple and will save you money. Purchasing heads of lettuce provide more yield so that you can meal prep a healthy salad for the week or make a big batch for a crowd.

A head of romaine may be a little intimidating to break down because of its large leaves and elongated shape. I’ll show you how easy it is to cut and slice into bite-sized pieces. Plus, don’t miss the tips for storing it to keep it fresh and crisp. Romaine has a more rigid ribbed structure and extra crunch towards the center, making it the ideal base to toss with salad dressings or as a topping.

The difference between a head of romaine and the heart

When purchasing romaine, you can buy the whole head with dark outer leaves and crunchy inner leaves. Alternatively, they come as romaine hearts, where the producer removes the outer softer leaves, leaving just the light green pieces. They have just the right balance of slightly bitter and sweet taste. This is the part most often used in a Caesar salad for its refreshing crunch.

Romaine lettuce is a popular choice in cooking because of its texture contrast. Unlike iceberg lettuce, which is crisp throughout, romaine has soft dark green outer leaves and a crunchy ribbed center. It delivers fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals like vitamins A, C, and K, iron, and calcium.

How to cut romaine for salads

A quick method for slicing the small pieces used as a topping or in a salad. This involves halving the head, cutting it into long strips, then slicing it into smaller fork-sized pieces. It gets a rinse after cutting to make it easier to spin.

Step 1: Cut in half

Person cutting a head of romaine in half.

To make cutting the large romaine head easier and more manageable, use a chef’s knife to cut it in half lengthwise. This will create two pieces. Working one at a time, place the lettuce cut side down on the cutting board. If making grilled romaine, leave them in halves.

Step 2: Cut into strips

I prefer to leave the root end attached to the lettuce head while cutting so it doesn’t fall apart. However, you can make an angled cut that looks like a triangle to remove the core for slightly more yield if you like the taste of the white ribs. Cut the lettuce lengthwise into strips about 1 inch wide.

Step 3: Cut into pieces

Person cutting a head of lettuce into smaller pieces.

Cut the strips crosswise, starting at the darker leafy green area. Slice the lettuce into thin shreds between ⅛ to ¼ inch thick. This size is great as a burger topping or taco. Cut larger pieces about ½ to ¾ inch thick, ideal for salads. The size is dependent on how you plan to serve the romaine.

Step 4: Wash the lettuce

Small pieces of romaine in a salad spinner being rinsed with water.

Add the chopped lettuce to a salad spinner. Rinse well with cold water, then spin it to remove the excess moisture. Now you’re ready to use or can store it few several days for meal prep.

Storing romaine lettuce

Simple methods can be used before and after cutting to prolong the shelf life of romaine lettuce.

  • Whole Heads of Lettuce: Wrap the lettuce head in a damp paper towel. The moisture will keep the leaves from wilting—place them in the plastic bag from the store or a large resealable plastic bag. Leave a small opening at the top for air circulation and for ethylene gas to escape. Store it in the crisper drawer to control the humidity level to keep it crunchy. The heads of lettuce will last about 10 to 20 days.
  • Chopped Lettuce: Place a lightly damp paper towel on the bottom of a storage container or in a large resealable plastic bag. Add the chopped leaves and cover, leaving a small opening. If using a bag, seal it, leaving a few inches open to allow air circulation. You could also store it in the salad spinner covered with a damp paper towel on the top and bottom. The lettuce will last about 3 to 7 days.

Preparing larger pieces

Rinsing a large leaf of romaine with water inside the sink.

Larger pieces are best for a sandwich, burger, or low-carb wrap. Pull apart and separate the leaves of the romaine lettuce head. They should snap off easily until you reach the heart. Rinse the individual leaves well to remove any dirt and debris.

Shake off the excess moisture, then use a clean kitchen towel or paper towel to absorb the water. Keep the leaves whole or cut them down further.

Serving suggestions

Romaine lettuce is an ideal leafy green to add to your meals as a side dish or topping. The contrast of soft and crisp leaves makes each bite exciting! Here are some delicious ways to enjoy the healthy ingredient:

Frequently asked questions

Should I remove the stem of the romaine lettuce before cutting it?

The small white-colored root end of the lettuce head is more bitter and slightly tough, so it’s typically trimmed. The stem end holds the leaves together, making it easier to cut when chopped. It can be removed before, but it’s not required.

Will romaine lettuce regrow in water?

Yes! You can trim off the stem end leaving about 2 inches. Add it to a shallow container filled with water, and place it near a window. Change the water every few days. Regrowth happens from the center of the heart. It will start to regrow in a few days, and about 2 weeks to have larger leaves. No waste!

What is the white stuff coming out of the romaine when cutting?

If you see a milky white, sappy fluid when cutting, especially at the base of the steam, it’s a harmless fluid called lactucarium. 

Pieces of lettuce in a white bowl.

Recipe Science

Is it okay to eat romaine lettuce that is turning pink?

When stored for an extended period of time, you’ll notice a pinkish-red color on the outer pale ribs of the leaves and stem. This is referred to as “rust.” When cut and exposed to oxygen, enzymes are released that cause the rusty color change. This can also occur if stored near ethylene-producing fruit like apples. As long as the leaves are still crisp and fresh, it is okay to consume or can be cut away. Romaine is no longer good to eat when there are black spots, and it has an off odor or a slimy film forms.

How to Cut Romaine Lettuce

Learn how to cut romaine lettuce in a way that is easy and efficient. You'll be able to prepare crisp and beautiful greens for your salads and dishes with confidence.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time0 minutes
Total Time5 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Course Salad
Cuisine American

Ingredients  

  • 1 head romaine lettuce, or romaine heart

Instructions 

  • Prep the Lettuce – Remove any outer leaves that are bruised or browned. Trim off any leaves from ribs that have a pink color.
  • Halve – Place the lettuce head on a cutting board. Cut in half lengthwise, yielding two pieces.
  • Slice – Place the halves cut side down on the cutting board. Slice lengthwise into 1-inch thick strips. Leave about 1 inch of the stem end intact to hold the leaves together.
  • Cut – Cut each half crosswise to make smaller strips. Make ⅛ to ¼ inch thick cuts for shreds. Make ½ to ¾ inch thick cuts for salad.
  • Wash – Add the shredded or chopped lettuce to a salad spinner. Rinse well with cold water. Spin until the leaves are dry. Cover and refrigerate if not using immediately.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Yield: About 5 to 6 cups for a head of romaine. About 2 cups for romaine hearts. 
  • Cutting Large Pieces: Separate the leaves, wash them with cold water, and dry them well. Leave whole, or follow the above cutting instructions for shreds or chopped. If needed, dry again in a salad spinner.
  • Storing: Wrap a whole head in a damp paper towel and store it in a plastic bag with an opening for 10 to 20 days. Cut lettuce can be stored in a container or large plastic bag with a lightly dampened towel, leaving a small opening for about 3 to 7 days.
  • Reviving Wilted Lettuce: Place the leaves whole or cut in a container of ice water for about 15 to 30 minutes. This should help it absorb some moisture if the leaves have dried out.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 6 servings
Calories 1kcalCarbohydrates 0.2gProtein 0.1gFat 0.01gSaturated Fat 0.002gPolyunsaturated Fat 0.01gSodium 0.4mgPotassium 12mgFiber 0.1gSugar 0.1gVitamin A 406IU (8%)Vitamin C 0.2mgCalcium 2mgIron 0.05mg

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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