The best way to take a few hearts of romaine and turn them into an impressive, hearty salad? Grill them. Cooking romaine over a flame transforms the light leaves into a smoky, almost-meaty vegetarian steak. Top them with lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, and garlic-butter breadcrumbs, and you have a super-satisfying summer meal that’s ready in minutes. Here’s how to do it.
What’s the Best Oil for Grilling?
All-purpose, high-heat varieties are best for grilling. Grapeseed and sunflower are my favorites, but canola or vegetable oils work, too. Avoid olive oil when grilling, as it has a low smoke point and can leave off-flavors on your food — especially an ingredient as delicate as romaine lettuce.
How Do I Prepare Romaine for the Grill?
First, heat the grill for direct, medium-high heat. In order for the lettuce to sear and then cook through, you need it to be piping-hot. Cut the romaine hearts in half lengthwise, keeping the core intact. The core will hold the lettuce together after it wilts in the cooking process. Brush the all-purpose oil all over the romaine and season with salt.
Before you start cooking, you’ll also want to prep your toppings. The romaine takes just a few minutes to cook, so having the other ingredients ready is essential so you can enjoy the romaine while it’s still warm from the grill. For this recipe, I went with an easy, classic preparation of grated Parmesan cheese, a squeeze of lemon, extra-virgin olive oil, and garlic-butter breadcrumbs.
Grilling and Serving Romaine
Grease the grill, then place the romaine hearts on the grill cut-side down. Press the romaine gently onto the grill surface and let cook until charred and starting to wilt. Flip and cook for a couple minutes more. Transfer to a platter cut-side up and top with your prepared toppings, and serve warm.
Grilled romaine is a great blank canvas for whatever flavors you want to play with, so don’t feel limited to cheese and breadcrumbs. Drizzle Caesar dressing or tahini on top, or dollop on Calabrian chili paste. Take it back to the ’90s and serve it with strawberries, blue cheese, and a balsamic reduction. Give it a classic Italian chopped salad vibe and serve it with Italian dressing and chopped soppressata and cheese. Or, just eat it plain with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Smoky grilled romaine hearts are topped with Parmesan cheese, a squeeze of lemon, extra-virgin olive oil, and garlic-butter breadcrumbs.
Prep time 5 minutes to 10 minutes
Cook time 5 minutes to 10 minutes
- 1 ounce
medium romaine lettuce hearts (7 to 8 ounces total)
- 2 tablespoons
vegetable oil, plus more for the gril
- 1 teaspoon
- 1/2 teaspoon
freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons
extra-virgin olive oil
garlic-butter breadcrumbs (optional)
Heat the grill. Heat an outdoor grill for direct, medium-high heat. Meanwhile, prepare the ingredients.
Prepare the ingredients. Halve 1 medium lemon. Cut one half into wedges and leave the other half intact. Finely grate 1 ounce Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 packed cup). Cut 2 medium romaine hearts in half lengthwise through the core. Brush 2 tablespoons vegetable oil all over the romaine, then season the cut sides with 1 teaspoon kosher salt.
Grill the romaine. Scrape the grill grates clean if needed. Oil the grill grates with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. Place the romaine cut-side down on the grill and press down lightly with tongs. Grill uncovered until the bottom is charred in spots and starting to wilt, about 3 minutes. Flip the romaine and grill until the second side is charred in spots, about 2 minutes more.
Dress the romaine. Transfer the romaine cut-side up to a serving platter. Squeeze the juice from the lemon half over the romaine. Season with 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, drizzle with 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with the Parmesan and breadcrumbs if using. Serve with the lemon wedges.