Grilled Romaine Lettuce is easy to make and tastes incredible with some fresh tomatoes, basil, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. This is a delicious grilled salad or perfect side dish with a smoky flavor that can be made year-round.
Our grilled romaine salad is inspired by a classic fresh tomato bruschetta. For an alternative romaine lettuce recipe check out our Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad with a savory homemade Caesar dressing.
We came up with this recipe years ago visiting some friends in California, while trying to cook on someone else’s (very old and used) grill. We wanted to show our friends some easy ways to cook food on even the simplest of grills.
And while some celebrity chefs scoff at the idea of grilled lettuce, we believe it has great texture if you make sure the grilled lettuce is the right variety and the grill is hot. Try it yourself and find out!
- Romaine Hearts or Whole Head of Romaine – We like romaine hearts because they are firm and hold shape when you are putting them on a hot grill grate versus other leafy greens. If you want an appetizer version you can substitute the romaine with endive lettuce.
- Seasoning – For the lettuce we like to season with good extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper.
- Dressing – We mimic the fresh flavors of a bruschetta toast. The most important ingredient is a fresh tomato. We use beefsteak but any fresh dense tomato will do. Try to avoid tomatoes that are overly watery. We then add fresh garlic, aged balsamic vinegar, fresh basil, and more salt and pepper. Just mix together in a small bowl.
- Acid – Unlike a Caesar with a creamy dressing, this dish is great when balanced with acid. In addition to good balsamic we like to use lemon and squeeze the fresh lemon juice over the romaine once it’s grilled and topped with the tomato dressing.
- Cut the hearts of romaine in half lengthwise. Then rinse and dry the lettuce using paper towel. It’s important that the lettuce is completely dry before seasoning with oil and pepper (otherwise you run the risk of it steaming, and not crisping up). We typically let the romaine dry for an hour before using in a baking sheet lined with paper towel.
- Season the lettuce by brushing on olive oil with a pastry brush so that it gets thoroughly dressed on both sides, especially the cut side (or flat side). Then sprinkle the romaine with the salt and pepper.
- Make the tomato salad mixture while the grill is coming up to temperature. Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix to combine. Set aside until ready to top the grilled lettuce.
How to Grill Romaine Lettuce
For grilling it’s important to choose a sturdy green like romaine because it can handle the heat without falling apart. When you grill lettuce the grill grates should be clean.gr
- Preparation: Prepare grill for direct grilling targeting 500 degrees F in the cooking chamber using lump charcoal. Brush both sides of romaine with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Grill: Grill the romaine hearts on each side until lightly browned on both sides (about 2 minutes each side). While the romaine is grilling place the lemon halves on the grill about 4 minutes (until you see grill marks).
- Serve: Remove grilled romaine hearts from heat, and top with the tomato basil mixture and a squeeze of fresh grilled lemon and a drizzle of aged balsamic.
On a gas grill turn on two burners to medium-high heat or about 500 – 550 degrees on the thermometer in the grill.
We do not recommend making this on a pellet grill unless it has a direct grill feature and can reach 500 degrees F. Otherwise the lettuce will wilt. The better alternative is to use a large cast iron skillet with grill grates over medium heat.
What to do with Grilled Romaine Lettuce
If you’re serving this as a meal then plan on one half romaine heart per person. Or if you’re feeding a crowd and there are other vegetable options then just cut each half into smaller portions. Toss the grilled romaine into a large bowl with the tomato salad mix and then toss around. Guests can take as much or as little as they’d like.
That’s it. Seriously. Grilled Romaine is that easy, and incredibly delicious. You can also serve as an appetizer in endive cups.
Main Dinner Ideas
If you want this as a side here are a few grilled recipes that cook quickly as a main dish.
- Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Horseradish Compound Butter
- Grilled Flank Steak with red wine marinade
- Salmon on the Grill
More Salad Recipes for the Grill
You can explore all of our grilled salad recipes or scan some of our favorites for inspiration.
- Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad
- Grilled Chicken Salad with Candied Pecans and Balsamic
- Black Bean Salad
- Grilled Buffalo Chicken Salad
- Flank Steak Salad
- Grilled Beet Salad
Mary (a certified sommelier and recipe developer) and Sean (backyard pitmaster) are co-authors of the critically acclaimed cookbook, Fire + Wine, and have been creating content for the IACP nominated website Vindulge since 2009. They live in Oregon on a farm just outside Portland.
This post was originally published in April, 2017, and updated in June, 2023, with updated details. The original recipe remains the same.
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Lindsay Ingalls says
I wish we had a grill because this salad sounds amazing!
Marlynn | UrbanBlissLife says
Oooh I love grilled romaine!! And with a tomato basil topping? Sounds like summer!
It felt like summer in Southern California too. I’m sooooo ready for some nice weather here in Portland!!!
Renee @ The Good Hearted Woman says
We’ve only recently discovered the wonders of grilled romaine – it’s so good! I love the simplicity of this salad, too.
After having grilled romaine, regular romaine just doesn’t cut it for me anymore… I’ll still eat it with Caeser, but wish it was a grilled salad instead and think about how much less dressing I would use because it would have so much more flavor
I’m with you exactly! The flavor of grilled is fantastic, and yes it provides it’s own profile of flavors, making you need less dressing than you would if you just chopped up some cold romaine and tossed it with a dressing.
That all looks so fun!! I’ve *never* tried grilled lettuce but if you say it’s good, I love the idea!! I don’t like cold food making my hot food too cold so this would be a great base for other grilled food!
If you wanted to skip the cold toppings, grilled romaine is also excellent with a warm dressing on it as well. You can just heat up your favorite dressing and drizzle it over. Also think about it with some warm blue or goats cheese! Mmmmmm.
Erin (Platings and Pairings) says
Look at you – Even working while you’re supposed to be on vacation!!! This looks absolutely fabulous and the perfect way to break in my grill for Spring!
If we see a grill, especially a neglected one, we have to cook on it and give it some love 😉
This has me SO excited for summer! Grilled romaine may be half of my diet come June.
You have no idea how ready and excited I am for summer! This winter has nearly tortured me. Bring on some sunshine and warm temps!
This sounds so easy, healthy and delicious! I’m starting to collect grilling recipes for the summer and am adding this to the list!
Awesome! It’s all three of those things; easy, healthy, and very delicious!