This isn’t a groundbreaking idea but it’s a great thing to have in your arsenal, a fresh version of the classic iceberg wedge. Little Gem lettuce drizzled with buttermilk dressing, buttery bread crumbs, and sliced radishes. Perfect.–Rosie Daykin

A little gem salad with bread crumb croutons and sliced radishes on a white plate with a bowl of dressing nearby.

Little Gem Salad with Bread Crumb Croutons

5 / 2 votes
This Little Gem salad with bread crumb croutons is an elegant starter or side made made from Little Gem (or baby romaine lettuce), a creamy buttermilk dressing, buttery bread crumbs, and sliced radishes.
David Leite
Servings6 servings
Calories221 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Total Time20 minutes


  • 2 tablespoons (1 oz) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a little more for seasoning
  • 3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk, preferably full-fat
  • 1/2 cup crème fraiche
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 6 heads Little Gem* lettuce, baby romaine, or romaine hearts, halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup finely sliced radishes, preferably French breakfast


  • In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the panko bread crumbs and stir to coat. Continue to stir until the bread crumbs begin to turn golden brown, 1 1/2 to 3 minutes. Empty pan onto a plate and lightly sprinkle with salt. Let cool.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup buttermilk, crème fraîche, lemon zest, chives, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper. If desired, stir in additional buttermilk until the desired consistency is reached. (You can make the dressing in advance and stash it in the refrigerator for up to a day or so)
  • On a large platter, arrange the Little Gem or romaine lettuce halves cut side up and slightly overlapping.
  • Spoon the buttermilk dressing over the lettuce, sprinkle with the buttery bread crumbs, and top with sliced radishes. Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper on the radishes and serve immediately.


*What is Little Gem lettuce?

Small, compact lettuce that looks like romaine (after you’ve removed all those outer layers), Little Gem is a salad lover’s dream come true. It’s tender yet has enough sturdiness to stand up to some time on the grill if you’re so inclined. Like romaine, it has crinkly leaves that love to hold on to dressing, allowing it to be filled with flavor. This also means that hearts of romaine make a perfect substitute.

Adapted From

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 221 kcalCarbohydrates: 27 gProtein: 10 gFat: 11 gSaturated Fat: 6 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 2 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 24 mgSodium: 325 mgPotassium: 1663 mgFiber: 14 gSugar: 10 gVitamin A: 54947 IUVitamin C: 30 mgCalcium: 283 mgIron: 7 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2019 Rosie Daykin. Photo © 2019 Janis Nicolay. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

One of the best things about springtime menus is the colorful salads! This Little Gem salad was no exception. A fancy take on a classic wedge salad is individual heads of Little Gem lettuce halved lengthwise and paired on a plate with peppery radishes. The dressing has the bright taste of lemon zest and a combination of fresh herbs. Thyme and chives are a great combo, but I can see dill, tarragon, or basil doing well here, too. All of the parts of this salad worked together very nicely!

The real surprise of the salad that really elevates it to spectacular is the toasted panko bread crumbs that have soaked up the taste of melted butter (swoon). A tiny bit like adding croutons to a salad, this modern take really adds just the right amount of crunch and modernity to the salad. We adored this beauty of a salad!

I had leftover dressing so I am keeping it in a Mason jar in the fridge to use on other salads this week. Each element of the salad I would use again in a heartbeat; the slicing of the individual heads of lettuce makes for a lovely presentation and the dressing I will be using on other salads as well as the toasted bread crumbs idea.

This salad is simple and elegant. It’s a combination of flavors that most people will love. It’s visually very appealing and is as tasty as it looks with well-balanced flavors. I like that it included some ingredients that made the salad feel special but was still easy and quick to prepare. It’s refreshing that this recipe uses minimal ingredients but the combination is greater than its parts!

We enjoyed the thinly sliced radishes and bread crumb “croutons.” The dressing is also a nice change from everyday dressings and complements the salad ingredients. Lemon, crème frâiche, and buttermilk provide tang and the herbs add subtle flavor. The consistency of the dressing is ideal as it drapes nicely on the salad leaves and provides the perfect amount of dressing for each bite.

We really enjoyed the bread crumb dust as it added a pleasant flavorful crunch. Again, something a little different that was easy but tasty and makes this salad something special. This salad would also make a delicious main salad with protein added on the side. I rarely find Little Gem lettuce in my area anymore so I used baby romaine.

I refrigerated the leftover portion and used it the next day. It was still excellent with good consistency and flavor.

The stars kind of lined up for me to make this salad. I had everything I needed in my pantry, fridge, or garden, except for the crème frâiche, which was easily obtained at my local Trader Joe’s. Let’s do this!

The dressing isn’t unlike the creamy dressing we all know as “ranch.” But that’s a good thing because I enjoyed this dressing guilt-free knowing that it contained quality ingredients and fresh herbs. I added a few slices of pepperoncini on top of the salad along with the radishes as I really enjoy a pickled element to my salads as well.

I was also happy with the bread crumb “croutons.” It’s a nice alternative to croutons and since I don’t always have bread around to make croutons, but I do always have bread crumbs or panko around, this worked for me!

I have plenty of dressing and bread crumbs leftover since I only made this salad for 2 people, and I’m looking forward to using the dressing in other ways. I’ve got some lentils and roasted tomatoes that I think would be lovely companions for this creamy dressing for tomorrow’s lunch!

This is the perfect salad for a spring day. I made this salad to take to a friend’s place for Sunday brunch and it was perfect. It looked just like the picture and the dressing was fantastic. I wasn’t sure at first, because I tend to use vinaigrettes instead of creamy dressings, but this recipe won me over.

I didn’t have Gem lettuce so I used baby butter lettuce pieces and it was perfect and pretty because the baby butter lettuce pieces are different colors. I used salted butter but next time I’ll definitely use unsalted as it was on the side of being a bit too salty. I used regular radishes as I couldn’t find French Breakfast radishes. I kept the dressing in the fridge and took it with me to brunch where I dressed the salad. I made the salad again the next day at home and the dressing was even better.

This is a simple, quick salad that’s complex and out of the usual. The magic comes with the combination of crunch from the little gem lettuce, spicy radish, and bread crumbs coupled with the cool, tangy dressing. We all enjoyed it immensely. Serve this to guests!

Each component can be prepped ahead. I used plain bread crumbs, regular radishes, sea salt, and chives.

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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