From romaine to iceberg, learn how to store lettuce properly.
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Lettuce is the foundation for many great salad recipes, from a Basic Green Salad with Vinaigrette to twists on classic recipes like our Salmon Caesar Salad or Chopped Cobb Salad. Whether you use a mix of lettuces or stick to a single variety, it's crucial to keep your greens crisp and fresh (because no one likes a slimy, wilted piece of lettuce). Learn how to store lettuce, plus get tips on what to look for when buying lettuce.

different types of lettuce sitting on a table and in a bowl and a cup
Credit: Helen Norman

What to Look for When Buying Lettuce

There are many varieties of lettuce, so understanding the different options can make it easier to shop for exactly what you need. Lettuces are categorized by growing form—in heads of varying shapes and sizes. The three main types are crisphead, butterhead and loose-leaf. Crisphead lettuces—of which iceberg is the most familiar—grow in very tightly clasped round heads. Romaine lettuce grows in elongated heads, while butterhead lettuce appears in loose round rosettes. Loose-leaf lettuce varieties, like red and green oak leaf, grow in open layers with very loosely formed heads and often have ruffly leaves.

When shopping, choose dense, heavy head lettuces with bright color and no browning on the outer leaves. For loose-leaf lettuces, choose ones with crisp leaves with no signs of wilting. If you're buying precut lettuce in a bag, look for ones where the leaves show no yellowing, wilting or sliminess.

How to Store Lettuce in the Fridge

How to Store Lettuce Heads

Regardless of variety, lettuce heads should be stored in a plastic bag (we like this reusable one from Stasher, buy it: Target, $27). Many lettuce heads come wrapped in plastic at the grocery store, so you can leave it as is. Place the lettuce in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Crisphead and romaine lettuces can be stored for up to seven days. However, more delicate butterhead and loose-leaf lettuces can only be stored for up to five days.

How to Store Loose Lettuce

When storing loose leaves, you can opt to wash them beforehand, but be sure to thoroughly dry them with paper towels or in a salad spinner, as wet leaves will easily wilt or turn slimy. Once dried, wrap the lettuce leaves in a paper towel before placing in a plastic bag (the paper towel helps absorb any extra moisture, so your leaves stay crisp). Then, store the plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. These loose lettuce leaves should be consumed within three days of storing.

Lettuce has a short life, so it's best to use it within the specified time frame. However, if you find yourself with less-than-stellar leaves, try this trick for reviving wilted lettuce so nothing goes to waste.