The Underrated Lettuce Martha Stewart Prefers For Salad

Lettuce appears on dinner tables across the globe, finding its way into sandwiches, wraps, smoothies, spring rolls, tacos, and even grated for soup toppings. It holds star billing in favorite foods such as the BLT sandwich and Asian lettuce wraps, but the most illustrious lettuce claim-to-fame by far is its central role in salads. In fact, some would say there's no such thing as a "real" salad without lettuce. Celebrity chefs like Martha Stewart may take issue with that claim, based on her website's array of salads made with noodles, potatoes, eggs, cabbage, and crunchy vegetables-sans-lettuce. But when it comes to basic or gourmet lettuce-centric salads, she does have some opinions.

Recipes from Stewart and many chefs featured on Stewart's website over the years have called for lettuces ranging from romaine to iceberg, butterhead, red-leaf, green-leaf, and their myriad sub-varieties. Noting how lettuces and accompanying greens vary widely in flavor and texture, chef and food stylist Sheila Jarnes says it's all about layering for flavor and visual appeal.

With so many lettuce contestants in the crunchy culinary parade, potential concoctions seem endless. But there's a particular soft, petal-shaped head of lettuce Stewart places in her own "preferred" category.

Sweet tender leaves

In a YouTube video for Martha's Cooking School, Martha Stewart, the beloved home and cooking guru, singles out an often-overlooked type of lettuce for salads: butter lettuce. Calling it one of her favorites, she notes the sweet and tender quality of the leaves, especially when paired with citrus or yuzo and ginger vinaigrette dressings. Stewart chooses the small, light-colored inner leaves for her stacked butter lettuce salad recipe, dipping each leaf in dressing and layering atop hidden slices of avocado.

Stewart is not alone in her admiration for butterhead lettuce, the common versions being Bibb and Boston lettuce, per Healthline. The tender, buttery leaves harbor high amounts of Vitamins A and K and carotenoid antioxidants that help prevent vision loss. They provide a boost of iron, though Healthline recommends eating butter lettuce with foods high in Vitamin C for better iron absorption. Business Insider calls butter lettuce the most nutritious of 12 healthy lettuces, noting the high amounts of folate, potassium, and iron.

The most recognizable butter lettuces have green leaves, but red-leafed butterheads do exist, explains MasterClass. The seven crimson-hued butter cousins hold catchy names like Carmona, Speckles, Skyphos, Yugoslavian Red, Four Seasons, Blushed Butterhead, and Flashy Butter Oak Leaf. Due to rounded, petal-shaped leaves, butter lettuce often serves as the defining ingredient in lettuce wrap recipes. In fact, seven of the nine MasterClass butter lettuce recipes offer eclectic wraps stuffed with ingredients such as turmeric tilapia, Korean grilled beef, Mediterranean lamb meatballs, and smashed chickpeas.