18 Lettuce Substitutes to eat all year round
It’s no secret in Australia and New Zealand that the price of lettuce has lost the plot.. $7.50 – $12 for a whole lettuce or $7 a bag 150gram mixed leaves. Now, obviously, this varies from place to place but these 18 substitutes for lettuce will allow you to have salad and sandwich greens all year round! You may already have some of these growing in your garden.
Many of these 18 lettuce substitutes have more nutrients and multiple uses so you can get more out of the food you grow. Lettuce is often used in sandwiches and salads so for today’s lettuce alternatives I will share which ones are best for these two main uses.
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18 Substitutes for Lettuce
Calendula is an edible flower and the leaves are also edible. Calendula leaves do have quite a strong flavour but you can add a few of these to your salads or sandwiches. Calendula flowers also have many healing qualities as well as attract pollinators to the garden. An amazing multi-use plant to add to your edible garden.
Nasturtiums thrive well in most soil types and you will often see them spilling out onto the street from gardens or popping up in the wild. They have quite a weed-like growth because they are so easy to grow and self-seed. The whole plant is edible including the leaves, flowers, and seed pods. Nasturtium leaves are great for salads and are also the perfect size and shape to add to sandwiches. With a natural peppery flavour, Nasturtiums are a great substitute for lettuce.
3. Baby Beetroot Leaves
Baby Beetroot leaves can be harvested a few off each plant to use in salads and sandwiches. Beetroot leaves can have beautiful red veins or be entirely red depending on the variety. A beautiful and nutritious substitute for lettuce.
4. Rocket / Arugula
Rocket or Arugula is a popular substitute for Lettuce. Rocket has a distinct peppery taste and is delicious in salads, sandwiches and served on top of pizzas. Rocket grows quickly so if you plant both Rocket and Lettuce seeds you will have Rocket ready to eat while you wait for the lettuce to get established.
Kale is a popular substitute for lettuce and can be grown all year round in many climates. Kale comes in many varieties some are better than others for salads and sandwiches. My favourite is the Tuscan Kale as it has a softer texture. Choose the smaller leaves and chop Kale up finely to add to salads and sandwiches.
Purslane is an edible weed that has succulent-like leaves. Purslane thrives in dry climates and is often popping up in my gardens in Perth. Purslane is a great addition to salads and sandwiches as an alternative to lettuce.
7. Sweet Violet
Sweet violets are known for their delicate purple or white flowers and beautiful fragrant scent. The sweet violet leaves are also edible and can be added to salads and sandwiches. They do have a bitter flavour so it can be a good idea to mix a few with other greens.
8. Rainbow Chard
Rainbow chard is a fantastic versatile green to grow during the colder months of the year. Baby rainbow chard leaves can be picked and used in salads and sandwiches. Larger leaves contain more oxalic acid so it is recommended to blanch them first.
Celery is a fresh, crunchy and hydrating vegetable just like lettuce. Celery leaves and stalks can be used in both salads and sandwiches.
Cabbage is a great all-around vegetable that has many culinary uses. Finely sliced cabbage is a deliciously fresh and crunchy substitute for lettuce. A little bit of Cabbage goes a long way so it is a very economical vegetable.
11. Asian Greens/ Bok Choy, Tatsoi, Choy Sum
Asian greens such as Bok Choy are great additions to your edible garden because they grow fast, can be harvested multiple times from each plant and are versatile in the kitchen. Use the softy leafy ends in salads and sandwiches and the thicker stems in soups or stir-fries.
12. Dandelion Greens
Dandelions are another edible weed. Choose young dandelion greens to add to salads and sandwiches as a substitute for lettuce. Always make sure you identify weeds correctly and only forage from places you know have not been sprayed with chemicals.
13. Sweet Potato Leaves
Sweet Potato Leaves are abundant green in the garden. Use the young leaves in a salad or blanch or stirfry the larger leaves.
Spinach is another popular substitute for lettuce and is a versatile plant to have in the garden. Baby spinach leaves are best for raw salads or sandwiches due to the oxalic acid contained in the plant.
Chickweed (Stellaria media) is an edible weed that grows in abundance during winter. Chickweed has small delicate leaves and flowers and loves to grow in moist shady spots during winter. Chickweed has a mild fresh flavour similar to sprouts and makes a delicious lettuce substitute. Chickweed is also a popular feed for chickens.
16. Carrot & Radish Tops
Carrot tops and Radish tops can be finely sliced to add to salads. The younger leaves will be more tender than the older larger ones. Finely slice and drizzle with salad dressing. They can also be wilted down in the pan to soften first. The tops also go great in a Garden Pesto to dress your salads.
Watercress grows in abundance during the winter months and is a great substitute for lettuce. Watercress does have a strong peppery flavour so it can be good to mix a little with other more mild greens and a dressing. Watercress is also good for soups and stir-fries. Watercress can be foraged but always ensure you have a safe source with no chemicals contaminating it.
Parsley is a common herb that is often under-utilized. Parsley can be delicious chopped up fine in a salad or added to a sandwich! Flat leaf parsley is my favourite variety for this.
Sustainable Living Alternatives
The great thing about growing food is you have access to so many parts of the plant that are often discarded. Learning what parts of the plant are edible and how to use them can help you double your food supply overnight!
There are many more options than this so let me know in the comments if you use any of these or if you use other plants as lettuce substitutes in your garden. That will help others that find this post and are looking for more ways to expand their food source.
Of course, grab yourself some lettuce seeds too, and get your own little salad bar growing. I like to grow mixed loose leaf varieties and then I pick one or two leaves of each plant. Combined with other greens from your garden you can make your salad greens go a whole lot further.
NOTE: It’s important to note that some greens from the garden do contain higher levels of oxalic acid than others. This can block the absorption of some nutrients. Oxalic acid is reduced by cooking which is why many leafy greens such as spinach and chard are cooked first. This is mainly only a problem if you eat a lot of that plant. So by chopping up a little from each and choosing the younger leaves you can reduce the amount of oxalic acid consumed.