What is the best lettuce for burgers? Well, it depends! From crispy iceberg lettuce to peppery arugula, this list compares 20 different types of lettuce and the best ways to use them on your next burger.
When it comes to choosing which leafy green will adorn your juicy and delicious burger, the options are seemingly limitless.
A classic cheeseburger calls for shredded iceberg or crispy romaine lettuce. On the other hand, a teriyaki chicken burger would taste divine with a little sautéed mizuna. Or how about a black bean veggie burger with a handful of fresh watercress?
Each type of lettuce on this list has unique characteristics and flavors that make them better suited for different burgers. Keep reading to see which is the best lettuce for your next burger.
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Why Put Lettuce on a Burger?
While a cheeseburger is certainly good all on its own, half the fun of eating burgers is dressing them up with toppings and condiments. Fresh lettuce adds a bright flavor and nice crunch to burgers, which helps cut through the richness of the meat.
- Flavor- Bold, peppery, lemony, bitter, and sweet are just some of the flavors lettuce can bring to the table.
- Texture- Lettuce adds a crispy, crunchy element that contrasts nicely with the soft burger and bun.
- Nutrition- Generally low in calories, most types of lettuce are good sources of water, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- Color- They say we eat with our eyes first. Why not make our burgers beautiful with different shades of green?
Best Types of Lettuce for Burgers
Here is a list of the 20 best types of lettuce for burgers.
- Alternative Names/Varieties- Crisphead lettuce, crisp head lettuce
- Characteristics- Pale green, round heads, crispy texture, crunchy leaves, high water content
- Flavor- Mild, slightly sweet
- How to Prepare- When you purchase shredded lettuce, it’s typically iceberg. A big pile of shredded iceberg lettuce is a fantastic way to add crunch to a cheeseburger without adding too much flavor.
- Verdict/Serving Suggestions- Great all-purpose lettuce that pairs well with a classic cheeseburger.
- Alternative Names/Varieties- Cos lettuce, little gem lettuce
- Characteristics- Dark green, leafy tops, crunchy center stem, tall heads
- Flavor- Mild, slightly bitter
- How to Prepare- Use the whole leaf raw or shred it like you would iceberg lettuce. Romaine lettuce can also be lightly grilled.
- Verdict/Serving Suggestions- Another all-purpose lettuce that works well on most burgers.
- Alternative Names/Varieties- Looseleaf lettuce, green coral lettuce, “Lollo Bionda”
- Characteristics- Wide, wavy-edged green leaves, crunchy stem
- Flavor- Mildly sweet, slightly bitter
- How to Prepare- Use whole, chopped, or shredded raw leaves
- Verdict/Serving Suggestions- Similar to romaine lettuce, green leaf lettuce is another all-purpose lettuce to consider when making burgers. Its cup-like shape makes it an excellent option for lettuce-wrapped burgers.
- Alternative Names/Varieties- Looseleaf lettuce, “Lollo Rossa”
- Characteristics- Wide, wavy-edged, tender leaves with red coloring
- Flavor- Mildly sweet, bitter flavor
- How to Prepare- Use whole, chopped, or shredded raw leaves
- Verdict/Serving Suggestions- Mix with green leaf lettuce and add it to a classic cheeseburger or use it as a lettuce wrap.
- Alternative Names/Varieties- Butter lettuce, Boston lettuce, Bibb lettuce, Mignonette
- Characteristics- Loosely formed, round heads, soft, velvety leaves, buttery texture
- Flavor- Very mild, slightly sweet
- How to Prepare- Grown hydroponically, butterhead lettuce is often sold with roots still attached. Use the leaves whole or make burger wraps with them.
- Verdict/Serving Suggestions- A wonderfully mild, soft textured lettuce. Ideal for lettuce wraps.
Mesclun (Spring Mix)
- Alternative Names/Varieties- Spring mix, mixed baby lettuce
- Characteristics- A variety of baby lettuce leaves, often including lettuce, kale, and arugula. The mix differs depending on the brand.
- Flavor- Varies, but typically mild with slightly bitter notes.
- How to Prepare- Leave plain or dress lightly with a vinaigrette dressing to add a bright, acidic element to any burger.
- Verdict/Serving Suggestions- Mesclun pairs beautifully with homemade veggie burgers. Try a lemon vinaigrette-dressed spring mix salad on top of a chickpea burger.
- Alternative Names/Varieties- Batavian lettuce, French crisp lettuce
- Characteristics- Loose heads, wavy, green leaves, slightly crunchy
- Flavor- Sweet, nutty, earthy
- How to Prepare- Use the leaves whole or tear them up into burger-sized pieces
- Verdict/Serving Suggestions- Perfect for someone who prefers sweeter varieties of lettuce. Pairs well with turkey or chicken burgers.
- Alternative Names/Varieties- Oak leaf lettuce, salad bowl lettuce
- Characteristics- Soft, delicate leaves with deep lobes that resemble the leaves of an oak tree
- Flavor- Mild, lightly sweet
- How to Prepare- Excellent as a salad green. Toss oakleaf lettuce with a vinaigrette and enjoy it on top of a veggie burger.
- Verdict/Serving Suggestions- Can be used on a classic cheeseburger, but is better suited for a lighter burger, such as a turkey burger or veggie burger.
- Alternative Names/Varieties- Broad-leafed endive, Bavarian endive, Batavian endive
- Characteristics- Short, wavy leaves, crunchy texture, sold in bunches
- Flavor- Slightly bitter, inner leaves are milder and more tender
- How to Prepare- The tender inner leaves are best for adding to burgers.
- Verdict/Serving Suggestions- Escarole pairs well with boldly flavored food, such as anchovy, chutney, or gorgonzola cheese.
- Alternative Names/Varieties- Endive, witloof chicory
- Characteristics- Mildly bitter, slightly sweet, and nutty
- Flavor- Crunchy, boat-shaped outer leaves, pale yellow-white in color
- How to Prepare- Can be eaten raw, sautéed, or grilled.
- Verdict/Serving Suggestions- This chip-like lettuce is fun to eat with dips. So, why not use it as a vehicle for a deconstructed cheeseburger dip?
- Alternative Names/Varieties- Curly endive, curly chicory
- Characteristics- Shaggy, frizzy green and yellow leaves, crunchy stem, dramatic appearance
- Flavor- Slightly bitter, peppery notes
- How to Prepare- Best enjoyed raw or lightly warmed, which is perfect for a burger.
- Verdict/Serving Suggestions- Like other endives, frisée can stand up to bold flavors.
- Alternative Names/Varieties- Red chicory
- Characteristics- Crispy, red leaves, tight, round or oval heads
- Flavor- Sharp, bitter, spicy
- How to Prepare- It’s more bitter when raw, but can also stand up to sautéing and grilling.
- Verdict/Serving Suggestions- Pairs well with acidic and briny ingredients, such as balsamic vinaigrette or capers. Try it sautéed on a balsamic caramelized onion turkey burger.
- Alternative Names/Varieties- Cress, curly cress, upland cress
- Characteristics- Small, rounded green leaves with long, thin stems, sold in bunches
- Flavor- Peppery, tangy, slightly bitter flavor
- How to Prepare- Watercress can be used raw on burgers to add a spicy, bitter note.
- Verdict/Serving Suggestions- Pair it with a bacon and blue cheese burger to cut through the richness.
- Alternative Names/Variations- Mâche, corn salad, field lettuce
- Characteristics- Small, dark green, spoon-shaped leaves, herbaceous, delicate
- Flavor- Tangy, slightly sweet, mild
- How to Prepare- Wash and enjoy raw as a mild salad green or lightly steamed
- Verdict/Serving Suggestions- Dress lightly in a vinaigrette and serve atop a beetroot burger.
- Alternative Names/Variations- Common dandelion
- Characteristics- Long, thin, deeply-lobed, dark green leaves with a crunchy center stem
- Flavor- Earthy, bitter
- How to Prepare- Rinse and serve raw or sautéed
- Verdict/Serving Suggestions- Eat raw dressed with a light vinaigrette or sauté with a little olive oil and garlic. Dandelion greens pair well with turkey, lamb, and veggie burgers.
- Alternative Names/Variations- Japanese greens, spider mustard, potherb mustard
- Characteristics- Small, jagged-edged leaves, often sold in salad mixes
- Flavor- Peppery, slightly bitter, mildly spicy
- How to Prepare- Sauté in oil with other seasonings.
- Verdict/Serving Suggestions- Pairs well with Asian-inspired burgers. Try it sautéed on a teriyaki chicken burger.
- Alternative Names/Variations- Rocket, roquette, Italian cress
- Characteristics- Small, tender, lobed green leaves that resemble an oak leaf
- Flavor- Earthy, peppery, spicy, slightly lemony
- How to Prepare- Best eaten raw and paired with bold flavors
- Verdict/Serving Suggestions- Try it on a caramelized onion and goat cheese burger.
- Alternative Names- Baby spinach
- Characteristics- Dark green, tender leaves that can be sold in large bunches or in containers as smaller, baby spinach leaves
- Flavor- Slightly bitter, mild flavor
- How to Prepare- Spinach can be sautéed or enjoyed raw, although the delicate leaves are likely to wilt when added to a hot burger.
- Verdict/Serving Suggestions- Spinach is fantastic on top of or mixed into a burger for added nutritional value.
- Alternative Names/Variations- Curly kale, lacinato kale, Tuscan kale, dinosaur kale
- Characteristics- Thick, hardy, deep green leaves with a tough, fibrous stem
- Flavor- Relatively mild, slightly bitter, earthy
- How to Prepare- Kale is a tough, chewy green vegetable that benefits from an olive oil massage if you’re planning to eat it raw. Roasted or sautéed kale is also delicious.
- Verdict/Serving Suggestions- Mix kale into the burger itself or add roasted kale to the top of a sweet potato veggie burger.
- Alternative Names/Variations- Green cabbage, red cabbage
- Characteristics- Tight, round heads, pale green or purple leaves, thick, crunchy
- Flavor- Earthy, mildly peppery
- How to Prepare- Shred the cabbage thin to enjoy it raw. Cabbage also does well when sautéed.
- Verdict/Serving Suggestions- Turn red or green cabbage into slaw and add it to any burger for a creamy and delicious crunch.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Lettuce for Your Burger
- Burger Flavors/Cuisine- Classic cheeseburgers, teriyaki chicken burgers, BBQ turkey burgers, or Southwest black bean burgers all pair well with different types of lettuce.
- Texture- Are you looking to add tons of crunch to your burger? Or maybe you prefer lettuce that’s a bit more tender. Experiment to see which texture works best with your favorite burger.
- Heat Tolerance- If you’re eating a burger fresh off the grill and don’t want to end up with soggy lettuce, pick a lettuce variety that can stand up to the heat. For example, romaine lettuce is less likely to wilt than baby spinach.
- Freshness- Of course, you want the lettuce you choose to be fresh. Signs of spoilage include slimy, wilted leaves, brown spots, and a rotten smell.
- Availability- Common varieties of lettuce, like romaine and green leaf, can almost always be found in any grocery store. However, some types, such as dandelion greens or lamb’s lettuce, may be seasonal or harder to find.
Quick Tip: Soak wilted lettuce leaves in ice water for 30 minutes to help them crisp up again.
How to Prepare Lettuce for Burgers
Always clean lettuce before eating it to help remove any dirt, bugs, and pesticides.
I recommend cutting the lettuce (if necessary), then placing it in a colander or salad spinner and rinsing it under cool, running water. Once the lettuce has been thoroughly washed, pat it dry with a paper towel before adding it to your burger.
How to Cut Lettuce for Burgers
How you cut lettuce for your burger will depend on which type of lettuce you choose.
Iceberg lettuce is often shredded or torn into large, burger-sized pieces. Romaine lettuce and looseleaf lettuce can also be shredded or torn. Some types of lettuce, such as spinach or spring mix, do not need to be cut at all.
Frequently Asked Questions
While it’s really a matter of preference, many folks claim that the lettuce should be the first ingredient placed onto the bottom bun. Yes, even before the burger patty. Using the lettuce to create a barrier between the patty and the bottom bun helps prevent the bun from becoming soggy.
When making low-carb burgers, lettuce is often used in place of a traditional hamburger bun. Lettuce wraps for burgers should be cup-shaped and sturdy without any overpowering flavors. Iceberg lettuce, green leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, and butterhead lettuce are my top choices for burger wraps.
McDonald’s only lists “shredded lettuce” under the ingredient list on its website for its Big Mac burger. Based on my research, it appears that this shredded lettuce is likely iceberg lettuce.
As you can see, there are many different types of lettuce you can put on a burger. Which one is the best depends on the type of burger you’re eating, your taste preferences, and what is locally available to you.
For most burger lovers, iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, and green leaf lettuce will be top picks. But, if you’re feeling adventurous, maybe give radicchio or dandelion greens a try.