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Red Leaf Lettuce Adds Big Flavor to Salads, Stir-Fries + More — 5 Tasty Meal Ideas

This storage trick keeps the sweet and nutty lettuce crisp all week long

Giving your salads or sandwiches a flavor kick is surprisingly simple — just switch out the lettuce you use. Red leaf lettuce is a produce pick bursting with more flavor and color compared to green varieties. You can easily find it in the produce aisle or farmer’s market. Plus, storing it correctly maintains its freshness so you can use it for hot or cold dishes. Read on to learn more about red leaf lettuce along with meal ideas that maximize its taste!

What is red leaf lettuce?

This vegetable is a type of lettuce known for its leafy red or purple tips. Though it boasts a sweet, nutty flavor, some leaves may have different taste. “Larger mature leaves will carry slightly more bitter notes due to this lettuce’s bolting natural tendencies,” Olivia Roszkowski, chef-instructor of Plant-Based Culinary Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education, says. Still, the lettuce’s flavor lends itself to being used in a variety of dishes. (Learn about the benefits of dark leafy greens for insights on how they’re packed with nutrients.)

The availability of red leaf lettuce

Along with its flavor and versatility, red leaf lettuce is beloved because it’s available year-round. So, you can buy it from in your local store or farmer’s market to dress up everyday meals.

What to look for when shopping for red leaf lettuce

To shop for the best head of lettuce, look for these three characteristics shared by the experts at Specialty Produce.

1. Color

The leaves should have a glossy and vibrant color.

2. Texture

Tender and sturdy, not limp and wilted, leaves are a good sign that the lettuce is ultra-fresh.

3. Size

Red leaf lettuce heads are typically small to medium in size.

How to store red leaf lettuce

After buying this lettuce, Marissa Stevens, owner and blogger at Pinch and Swirl, suggests thoroughly rinsing the leaves in cold water before drying them. Removing that excess moisture is necessary to keep the leaves crisp and prevent wilting. Then it’s ready to store in the fridge.

“Store the dried lettuce leaves in a loosely sealed plastic bag or container lined with paper towels,” she says. “The paper towels absorb any extra moisture, helping the lettuce stay fresh for up to a week.” Your crisper drawer is an ideal spot to store the lettuce as it maintains a high level of humidity to preserve its freshness.

3 ways to enjoy red leaf lettuce

To use red leaf lettuce in your favorite meals, start with these three ideas from Roszkowski.

1. Make lettuce wraps.

Create a tasty lunch wrap by filing the leaves with meat, vegetables or other ingredients before rolling into a pouch.

2. Toss it in a stir fry.

Adding sliced red leaf lettuce to a stir fry during the last 45 seconds infuses the dish with extra sweetness.

3. Lightly grill the leaves.

Cooking bunches of this lettuce on a medium-high grill or grill pan for around 2 minutes, or until it’s tender and lightly charred, adds a smoky flavor to the veg. (Here’s more pointers on grilling lettuce.)

2 bonus recipes to use red leaf lettuce for

Our test kitchen also shares two recipes where you can use red leaf lettuce instead of green varieties for a sweet and nutty kick. (Read about leeks, purple sweet potatoes and dandelion greens for more versatile veggie guides.)

Prosciutto and Mozzarella Hoagies

Prosciutto and mozzarella sandwiches that contain leaves of red leaf lettuce

Cucumber slices and leaf lettuce add crunch to this upgrade on a deli favorite.


  • 1 (12 oz.) loaf crusty ciabatta or French bread
  • 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 2 leaves red leaf lettuce, torn
  • 4 oz. sliced mozzarella cheese, halved
  • ½ of 1 seedless cucumber, sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 (4 oz.) pkg. sliced prosciutto


  • Active: 10 mins
  • Total time: 10 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings
  1. With serrated knife, slice bread in half lengthwise. Using zester or microplane, grate ¼ tsp. zest from lemon. Reserve lemon for another use. In small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, basil, lemon zest and pepper. Drizzle over cut sides of bread. Transfer to cutting board.
  2. Place lettuce on bottom half of bread. Dividing evenly, top with cheese, cucumber, tomato, and prosciutto. Add bread top, cut side down. Cut crosswise into 4 sections. Transfer to plates.

Steak ’n’ Salsa Salad

Steak salad containing red leaf lettuce, sliced tomatoes and a vinaigrette
Claudia Totir/Getty

Juicy store-bought fresh salsa adds zip to quick-cooking steak served over lettuce with creamy avocado.


  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. boneless sirloin steak, sliced ¾-inch thick
  • ½ of 1-lb. head red leaf lettuce, quartered
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 avocado, pitted, peeled, cut into ¾-inch chunks
  • 1 cup fresh salsa + additional
  • Lime wedges (optional)


  • Active: 10 mins
  • Total time: 10 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings
  1. Coat 12-inch nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. While skillet heats, mix chili powder and salt in small bowl. Rub chili powder mixture over both sides of steak.
  2. Add steak to skillet; cook, flipping once, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare or until desired doneness. Transfer to cutting board and thinly slice.
  3. Arrange lettuce on plates. Arrange steak over lettuce; top with salsa and avocado chunks. Dollop with sour cream. If desired, serve salad with lime wedges for squeezing over steak, plus additional salsa on the side.

Continue reading for more yummy vegetable recipes!

This Creamy Spinach Casserole Recipe Is Perfect for Busy Weeknights — Oven-Ready in 10 Minutes

Instant Pot Brussels Sprouts: Speedy Recipe for Sweet + Tender Veggies in 2 Minutes

This Cauliflower Steak Recipe Is So Simple + Satisfying — And It’s Ready in 25 Minutes

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