A Guide to Growing and Cooking with Butter Lettuce

When the global pandemic started, many sought ways to relieve stress as they stayed indoors and avoided non-essential travel. Many homeowners who were looking to pass the time turned to the garden. According to a report from EatingWell, more people are starting vegetable gardens due to the pandemic.

If you’re wondering what else to plant in your home garden besides flowers, consider planting veggies and starting a vegetable garden. This can save you money, as you won’t need to pay for veggies in the supermarket or grocery store.

One of the veggies you can plant in your garden is butter lettuce.

What is Butter Lettuce?

Photo by emilee rader via Flickr Creative Commons

Butter lettuce is a variety of butterhead lettuce. Butterhead includes lettuce, such as Bibb, Victoria, Tom Thumb, and Santoro. This particular lettuce originated from the Mediterranean, though two well-known varieties were cultivated in the United States.

The heads of butter lettuce will typically have thick, loose, and tender leaves, be uniformly green and be somewhat big. Despite the name, this lettuce doesn’t taste like butter. Instead, it has a slightly sweet and mild flavor. The flavor profile of butter lettuce makes this vegetable ideal for wraps, salads, and sandwiches.

Butter Lettuce History

We are talking about an incredible plant if the Egyptians had previously worshiped it. Ordinary lettuce was first grown in ancient Egypt, where the lettuce seeds were used to produce oil, and it wasn’t until much later that the Egyptians cultivated lettuce for the edible leaves. 

Lettuce cultivation was discovered as early as 2680 BC, and it was one of the sacred plants dedicated to the God of reproduction, Min. Lettuce was commonly used in festivals or placed near religious artifacts devoted to Min. 

The butterhead lettuce originated from the Mediterranean and was quickly adopted in the US for its delicious, juicy leaves. Kentucky, Arizona, and California have plenty of butter lettuce plant harvesting.

The butter lettuce is directly related to an old variety of lettuce called Silesia, which was cultivated back in 1744. There are two types of butterhead lettuce: the Boston and the Bibb lettuce. We can also find some less-known variants that are equally tasty. 

The butterhead lettuce is characterized by being larger than usual and having very bright green colors. The leaves are loose, flowy, and thick, so it was nicknamed “buttery.” Butter lettuce is commonly green, but you can also find red butter lettuce in some other places. Red butter lettuce or Yugoslavian butter lettuce is also filled with vitamins and minerals. 

Many gourmets also love the butter lettuce’s flavor. It’s mild yet slightly sweet, unlike usual cabbage or lettuce. Because the flavor is so distinctive, the butterhead lettuce leaf is added to sweeten a burger’s buns, wraps, salads, and much more!

Butter Lettuce Plant Varieties

Butter lettuce has two well-known variants, the Boston and the Bibb butter lettuce. You can differentiate the Boston and the Bibb through their size. As the name suggests, the Bibb is relatively smaller than the Boston. The Boston lettuce, on the other hand, has soft, supple leaves and looks fluffier than the Bibb. 

Boston and Bibb butter lettuce look great when paired with rainbow corn, ground chicken, and shrimp! 

The Boston Lettuce 

The Boston butter lettuce is recognizable by its soft, loose leaves that break easily. The leaves are broad and light green, and the lettuce head is medium-large. 

The Bibb Lettuce

The Bibb butter lettuce is much smaller than the Boston lettuce but is the most used in sandwiches and wraps. It’s sweet in flavor and small in stature. You will be able to recognize a Bibb butter lettuce if the head is the size of your fist. The Bibb butter lettuce is also one of the priciest types you can expect to find on food stands. 

Now, let’s look at some of the other less-commonly known varieties of butter lettuce.


Buttercrunch lettuce is a tender type of butter lettuce that fairs well in a warmer climate. It’s popular for its crunchy, thin leaves. 

Four Seasons 

Four seasons is a butter lettuce type with pink and red highlights on the outer and inner leaves. There are also hints of creamy colors on the sides of the leaves. 


Dynamite is the bomb of the butter lettuce family, recognizable for its sweet flavor. It’s a great source of beta-carotene; the leaves are some of the softest and most rounded lettuce types. They also overlap like cards, making them aesthetically pleasing to look at and taste. 

Yugoslavian Red 

Yugoslavian red is one of the easiest choices when harvesting butter lettuce because it can be ready in just 55 days. It’s known as one of the most beautiful lettuce types, with bright-green cupped leaves splashed with rosy-red highlights. 

Some of the best butter lettuce recipes are made using the Yugoslavian Red. Scrumptious to behold in a salad bowl, the Yugoslavian red is harvested for its fast growth and size. Usually, Yugoslavian redheads can grow up to 12 inches across, and the taste is buttery and mild. 

Bronze Mignonette 

One of the oldest butter lettuce types on our list, the Bronze Mignonette is recognized through its frilled leaves. The heart of the lettuce is cream-colored, and the leaves mix bronze and green. It’s great if you live in constant hot weather, and it does not take up much space. 

Tom Thumb 

This mini variation of the butter lettuce has heads the size of a baseball. They are the right size if you are making a salad for two. Kids love the Tom Thumb for its miniature size, and the dark green leaves have a yellow interior. The Tom Thumb and the Bibb are known as baby butter lettuce types. 

These butter lettuce types can vary in flavor, but you can scratch the leaves to predict the taste. If the scent emerging is sweet, the flavor will be sugared. If the butter lettuce leaf smells bitter, it will probably taste bitter. 

Nutritional Information Of Butter Lettuce

All you need to know is that the butter lettuce nutrition levels are nothing like other vegetables in a salad! If you are worried about butter lettuce calories, you can loosen up! The best thing about this lettuce is that it has only seven calories (7.2 kcal)! This means you can eat all the butter lettuce in your garden and still won’t fulfill your daily calorie intake! The butter lettuce is also filled with healthy fibers and protein, all components that improve your well-being. 

Butter lettuce has healthy carbohydrates (0.33g) and sugars (0.14g). These carbs and sugars are natural and healthy for you. Besides those, here are some other butter lettuce nutrition facts. There are 1.5 grams of protein in lettuce. Not all vegetables have protein, but lettuce is another protein-based vegetable with eggs and tuna if you are into working out. 

Butter lettuce also has 1g of fiber and 8% of iron, which helps with immunity. Other butter lettuce components include manganese 8%, potassium with 5%, lots of vitamin A 18%, and 85% of vitamin K! Butter lettuce also contains folates, 18% of which help neural tube development in babies and immune deficiencies. So, is butter lettuce good for you? Yes, butter lettuce is a healthy meal and snack you can munch on guilt-free whether you are on a diet or not! It has all the natural ingredients to improve your immune system and keep you hydrated and energized.

Health Benefits of Butter Lettuce

Butter lettuce is rich in nutrients. A cup of cut butter lettuce contains 91 micrograms of vitamin A per serving. Vitamin A has antioxidant properties that help protect your body from damage from free radicals and environmental toxins. Also, this vitamin is necessary to produce and maintain healthy bones, teeth, mucus membranes, soft tissues, and healthy skin.

Butter lettuce is also great if you’re trying to lose weight. A single cup serving of cut-up butter lettuce has only 21 calories. It also has less than half a gram of fat, 1.53 grams of sugar, and 3.63 grams of carbohydrates. If you’re looking for a low-calorie, low-fat and nutrient-rich vegetable, this type of lettuce may be needed.

Don’t compare the nutritional value of butter lettuce to other similar vegetables. Why? Because it’s jam-packed with high concentrations of potassium, calcium, vitamins C, K, A, and magnesium. Butter lettuce has other health benefits besides being an excellent source of necessary vitamins. First, butter lettuce is a great source of water. Eating butter lettuce will keep you hydrated as the plant is 95% water. Since lettuce helps with hydration, you will feel more energized and shed a few pounds! 

We mentioned that this type of lettuce contains a lot of vitamin A, which helps calm bodily inflammation. Vitamin A reduces inflammation throughout the body and can even improve your vision. Besides vitamins, sweet butter lettuce has plenty of omega-3 acids, boosting weight loss and improving overall well-being. Unlike many other vegetables, butter lettuce also has lots of calcium which helps strengthen the bones. Butter lettuce is also rich in potassium, which aids in promoting good cholesterol and maintaining healthy blood pressure. 

Besides protein and dietary fiber, butter lettuce is high in iron. It’s also the best snack for pregnant women because it is a natural source of folate that aids babies in utero. The folate also helps with immune deficiency and calms symptoms of fatigue, anemia, headaches, sore skin, and nausea. So, is butter lettuce healthy? Yes! Besides helping babies in utero and keeping them hydrated, it’s an amazing source of antioxidants that can prevent oral cavity and lung cancers.

How to Grow Butter Lettuce

Let’s first establish the growing conditions of butter lettuce. This lettuce likes cool weather. This means it grows best in the moderate temperatures of autumn and spring.

If you live in an area with mild summers, you could grow butter lettuce in late or early summertime. Be warned, though. Lettuce will bolt to seed or wilt if the temperatures are too hot.

Butter lettuce grows best in cool, loose, and well-drained soils. The pH level of the soil should be somewhere between 6.2 and 6.8. If you want to enhance the flavor of this particular lettuce, ensure that the soil has a lot of organic matter.

Planting Butter Lettuce

You can plant this lettuce indoors or directly into the soil outside your house. If you plan to grow butter lettuce inside your home, sow the seeds into cells an inch deep for about three to four weeks before transplanting the seedlings outdoors. Remember to space the lettuce 6 to 10 inches apart when you transplant.

When planting butter lettuce directly outdoors, start when you can work the soil in the early spring. Make sure to plant the seeds shallowly, approximately an eighth of an inch deep in the soil. Space the seeds an inch apart.

Butter Lettuce Plant Care

Before the butter lettuce seeds sprout, remember to keep the soil moist. Lightly water them every day to maintain moisture. You can promote quick growth and enhance the flavor of the butter lettuce by watering the seeds a little bit every day or every other day.

Butter lettuce, unfortunately, is susceptible to many different pests. These include whiteflies, vegetable weevils, slugs, snails, nematodes, grasshoppers, flea beetles, armyworms, and aphids. You can stop these critters from wreaking havoc by performing appropriate pest control strategies, such as making homemade natural pesticides and introducing natural predators (that won’t harm your butter lettuce or other plants), and removing the pests by hand.

Harvesting Butter Lettuce

This plant takes about 60 to 70 days to mature. If the butter lettuce forms seed stalks harvest the plant immediately. Try to do this during cool mornings to prevent wilting.

Butter Lettuce Companion Plants

To know how to harvest butter lettuce properly, remember that it needs certain companions in your garden. Some vegetables like to have their space while growing in the fields. If you plan on planting butter lettuce seeds, you need to know which plants it might like as neighbors and which it won’t. 

In general, lettuce is easy to grow. Because it’s 95% water, the plant requires lots of sprinkling and water intake. Among the first plants to await the spring, butter lettuce gets along with only a few other vegetables. 

Sometimes, lettuce can benefit from having other vegetables near it. Lettuce usually fares well under a mulberry tree, besides garlic, chives, and marigolds. The mulberry tree will keep the butter lettuce in the shade when the temperatures get too high, while the other plants work well to repel pests which are the butter lettuce’s biggest enemy. 

Butter lettuce also goes well with vegetables like carrots, strawberries, onions, asparagus, cucumbers, tomatoes, coriander, radish, parsnips, eggplants, spinach, a serrano pepper plant, and much more. Some of these companion plants improve the lettuce’s texture when they are nearby. For instance, the radish helps the lettuce remain soft throughout the summer, regardless of the hot temperature. 

So, if you are wondering how to grow butter lettuce properly, keep it away from its similarly-looking cousins. Butterhead lettuce does not get along well with vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. 

Storing And Preserving Butter Heads

Growing butter lettuce is much easier than storing and preserving it. To preserve your butterhead lettuce, you need to store it properly. This does not mean cutting it all into a salad at once. These butterhead lettuce leaves will make you feel full, regardless of their few calories. 

First, you should not cut the entire lettuce when preparing a meal. Cut only a section you plan to eat and leave the rest unwashed in the fridge! The lettuce heads also need to be intact until you use them.

Suppose you want to maintain the lettuce’s perfect moisture level and temperature. Here are a few tips on storing and preserving butter lettuce to follow:

  • Store the lettuce in a loosely closed plastic bag or crisper drawer in the fridge.
  • Store the butter lettuce leaves unwashed. 
  • Check the butter lettuce leaves every day or two to see if some leaves have gone bad, and remove the bad ones to prevent spoiling the remaining leaves.
  • Try not to store your lettuce at the back of the fridge as it could easily freeze. 
  • Don’t shove other goods against it because it could break the leaves. 
  • Avoid putting other foods on the lettuce because it could squish, losing its mild and crispy flavor. 
  • Lastly, use a storage container instead of a bag because a bag can easily be pushed toward the back of the fridge. 

Cooking with Butter Lettuce

Make a healthy salad using butter lettuce as your main ingredient. Source: Pinterest

You could whip up a healthy salad using butter lettuce. Making a butter lettuce salad is easy. Mix butter lettuce with other ingredients, such as olives, chives, apple cider vinegar, and panko.

If you’re looking to use this lettuce for dishes other than salads, take note of these butter lettuce recipes:

Grilled Butter Lettuce with Buttermilk-Chive Dressing

This involves cooking the butter lettuce on a charcoal or gas grill for two to three minutes. Then, mix the cooked lettuce with salt, pepper, lemon juice, chives, mayo, crème fraîche, and buttermilk.

BLT Sandwich

Just follow any recipe for a BLT sandwich. You just need to use butter lettuce as one of your main ingredients.

Pickled Vegetable Lettuce Cups

Consider making this handy recipe if you want to introduce more green into your diet. Combine half a cup of water, a tablespoon of kosher salt, white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, radishes, beet, shallot, and fennel using a large bowl. Then, drain. Add this mix on top of a butter lettuce leaf.

Next, make a dressing using lemon juice, yogurt, and buttermilk in a small bowl. Season the dressing with pepper and salt. Finally, spoon some dressing on top of the leaf.

Butter lettuce is a great veggie you can grow in your garden and make simple, everyday salads. You can enjoy the vegetable’s mild flavor and sweet leaves without ruining your diet.

Final Words 

To conclude, butter lettuce is a delicious addition to any dining table. It’s both aesthetically and palate-pleasing, so this is why many restaurants include it in their menus. 

It originated in Ancient Egypt, but you can expect to find it growing on farms worldwide. The best way to grow butter lettuce is to do it yourself in your garden! Butter lettuce needs certain companions, and it does not like to grow around similar vegetables like cabbage. If you grow it yourself, you will know that your sweet butter lettuce is free from pesticides or other preservatives. Butterhead lettuce is an amazing vegetable with tons of minerals and vitamins to optimize your well-being. It has practically no calories, so you can eat as much as you want. Butter lettuce will also keep you hydrated and energized throughout your day. 

Butter lettuce is a great meal you can cook and eat raw! You just need to remember to store it properly and not wash it until you are ready to put it into a meal!

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