Lettuce wraps are a perfect alternative to tacos and tortillas. They are light and fresh and lower in calories. But there are so many lettuce varieties to choose from.
What is the best lettuce for lettuce wraps? Butter lettuce is the perfect choice when it comes to making wraps. The leaves have the right texture and shape to hold the filling. Additionally, the taste is mild and goes with any filling.
Read on to learn all about the best lettuce to make wraps as well as alternatives that will work just well if you don’t have our best pick at hand.
What Makes Lettuce Good for Wraps?
Lettuce comes in a diversity of shapes, sizes, and tastes. To choose the best lettuce for wraps, you need to pay attention to certain properties.
These include the flavor, sturdiness, or flexibility of the leaves, and how the leaves are shaped to be able to hold the filling.
Some lettuce types have more crunch to the leaves than others. Iceberg lettuce, for example, is well-loved for the crispiness it gives to the lettuce wrap.
Other types, such as the butter lettuce, are less crunchy. The leaves are soft which makes it easier to wrap the filling inside.
Depending on what you want the final result to be, you can choose between a few options that are good for lettuce wraps. These include butter or Boston lettuce, iceberg, Romaine lettuce, etc.
There are lettuce varieties that have a flavor more distinct than others. From mild and buttery tasting to ones that have a slight bitterness to them, there is a lot to choose from.
If you want the lettuce to not interfere with the overall taste of the wrap, choose a variety that has a neutral taste.
For some varieties, such as Romaine lettuce, a slight bitterness is quite natural. However, lettuce may turn bitter no matter the type.
Unsuitable temperatures and malnutrition make lettuce bitter-tasting. In fact, lettuce is considered to be a cold season green. Thus, if you get bitter lettuce in the hot summer, you shouldn’t be surprised at it.
If you taste bitterness in lettuce that shouldn’t naturally taste so, you should consider leaving lettuce wraps for another occasion. Too much bitterness may interfere with the taste of the filling and affect the overall flavor of the dish.
Shape and Size of the Leaves
One of the key points that the lettuce should meet to be good for making wraps is the size and shape of the leaves.
Lettuce leaves come in a diversity of shapes, from large rounded leaves to elongated ones.
Rounded leaves are best for making wraps. The larger rounded leaves are suitable if you want to make good-sized wraps with a good amount of filling.
If you want to make mini lettuce cups to serve as an appetizer or a snack, you can use mini-sized lettuce heads.
No matter what size the leaves are, it is important that each of them has a durable rib. This will ensure that your lettuce wrap holds well.
If you remove the ribs from the leaves, your lettuce wrap will fall apart, no matter how light the filling is.
However, if you have leaves large enough to roll around the filling to create a few layers, do cut the thick ribs out. Sturdy ribs will break if you apply too much pressure when making lettuce-wrapped burritos.
Butter Lettuce: The Best Lettuce for Wraps
Butter lettuce, also referred to as Boston or Bibb, is loose-headed lettuce.
It comes in many shades, from bright green to reddish and pink.
Butter lettuce is the best option to use to make lettuce wraps.
Broad and Rounded Leaves
The leaves of butter lettuce, unlike many other lettuce varieties, have a round shape. The leaves are also quite broad. These are two qualities of lettuce leaves that make butter lettuce the most suitable option for lettuce wraps.
You can put a good amount of filling and wrap it so that nothing falls out.
Strong but Flexible Leaves
The leaves of butter lettuce are strong enough to hold both a heavier meat filling or a light vegetable one. However, they are also pliable enough for wrapping.
The leaves of butter lettuce are quite delicate to touch and feel somewhat creamy. Hence the name butter. Thus, as much as they are durable, you need to be careful not to tear them.
Butter lettuce has a very mild flavor. It has a slight sweetness and a little bitterness. Its taste is neutral enough to go with any filling.
Easy to Separate the Leaves
Unlike iceberg lettuce, which requires more effort to separate the leaves, butter lettuce is fairly easy to handle.
It is loose-headed lettuce, which means that the leaves don’t hold together tightly as hard-headed lettuce leaves do.
How to Pick Butter Lettuce
When picking butter lettuce for wraps, we highly recommend you buy whole-head lettuce. Skip on double or triple-washed lettuce leaves sold in plastic bags.
There is nothing wrong with pre-washed lettuce leaves. However, nothing compares to the freshness of the leaves still attached to the core.
Pay attention to the color. While butter lettuce comes in a variety of shades, the leaves shouldn’t be yellow or brown.
If your goal is to make lettuce wraps, you also need to make sure that the leaves are firm and have their shape.
The outer leaves may be slightly damaged. But make sure not all of the big outer leaves are torn or have holes in them. To make good-sized lettuce wraps you will need the larger leaves which are the outer ones.
How to Prepare Butter Lettuce for Lettuce Wraps
When making a dish using butter lettuce, it is recommended to buy the lettuce not earlier than a day before. It is a highly perishable green that won’t last long in the fridge and will lose its freshness and wilt.
Being lose-headed lettuce, separating butter lettuce leaves to make wraps is quite an easy task.
Follow these steps to prepare butter lettuce for lettuce wraps and store them in the fridge for later use.
- Take a whole head of butter lettuce and snap off the core.
- Make a cut around the core to remove it entirely.
- Once you remove the core, the leaves will start separating from one another. Unlike iceberg lettuce that needs water to be run through the leaves to separate them, butter lettuce does this on its own.
- Gently separate any leaves that are still stuck together. These are mainly the smaller leaves close to the center of the lettuce head.
- Pu the leaves in a bowl of water. Rinse several times until the water runs clear.
- Put the leaves in a salad spinner to get the leaves somewhat dry.
- As the salad spinner doesn’t dry the leaves completely, put them on a paper towel to soak up the excess water.
- If you are planning on using the leaves a few days later, spread the leaves on a paper towel and gently wrap. Put the leaves in a sealable plastic bag.
- Use within 3 to 4 days.
Other Options: Iceberg, Romaine, and Baby Gem
Butter lettuce may sometimes be hard to find. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t make lettuce wraps. Lettuce wraps, as such, are quite versatile when it comes to both filling and the lettuce itself.
Here are other lettuce varieties you can use to make wraps.
Iceberg lettuce is one of the most popular options for lettuce wraps.
The leaves are nicely shaped to make the wrap. They are also sturdy to hold the filling.
Iceberg lettuce, unlike the soft butter lettuce, has a crunch to it. So, if you are looking for a lettuce variety that would add little taste but a lot of crisp to the wraps, then iceberg lettuce it is.
Romaine lettuce leaves are narrow in comparison to iceberg or butter lettuce. However, you can use the outer leaves that are larger to make lettuce wraps.
The thicker ribs may snap when folding the leaves. But still, romaine lettuce is a good choice considering taste and crispiness.
Baby gem lettuce is a perfect choice if you want to make mini-sized lettuce wraps. Baby gem leaves are durable and make a nice lettuce cup.
With baby gem, you can serve the filling separately surrounded by the lettuce leaves to serve as cups.
What to Put in Lettuce Wraps?
Once you choose the right kind of lettuce for making wraps, you may stumble across a question. What can you put in them?
Such varieties as iceberg and butter lettuce have a mild flavor that works well with any filling.
Here are some ideas for your lettuce wraps:
- Ground beef/pork
- Pan-fired chicken
- Thinly sliced steak
- Goat cheese
- Potato salad
- Spicy chickpea
Whatever filling you decide to put in your lettuce wraps, make sure it is not hot. Otherwise, the leaves will wilt and you will lose the crunch and freshness of the greens.