This sautéed romaine side dish isn’t your everyday lettuce salad. Not that we’ve got anything against salad, but we’ve got a soft spot for these gently wilted lettuce leaves in our hearts as well as our weekly rotation of quick and easy side dishes. The lettuce softens till it turns almost but not completely limp and still has a trace of crunch. It’s lovely as can be especially with lettuce that’s fresh from the garden or farmers market. Go on. Try it. And then let us know what you think in a comment below.Renee Schettler Rossi

An iron plate with a pile of sautéed romaine lettuce topped with toasted pine nuts

Sautéed Romaine

4.87 / 15 votes
Sautéed romaine is a quick and healthy side dish that's gonna upend your notions of what purpose romaine was meant to serve on this planet. Bye bye, salads.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories113 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Total Time15 minutes


  • 1 large head romaine lettuce, outer leaves discarded
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons homemade chicken stock or homemade vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh pine nuts, toasted


  • Place a large, heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat. Gather everything you need for the recipe and have it measured out because once you start, things happen quickly. While it heats, cut the romaine head in quarters lengthwise, leaving the stem end intact. (Alternatively, if you prefer, you can remove the stem end and very roughly chop the lettuce.)
  • Place 1 tablespoon butter in the pan and when it’s done foaming, add the lettuce and cook, turning frequently with tongs, until nicely browned, about 3 minutes. Season the lettuce with a few pinches kosher salt and then carefully add the chicken stock and lemon juice. When the stock hits the hot pan it will immediately start reducing, and when it’s reduced by about half, add the remaining tablespoon butter and stir well to create an emulsion between the butter and the stock. Add the pine nuts and cook just until everything is warmed through.
  • Arrange the sauteed romaine on a platter, spooning the stock and the pine nuts over the top. Deliver to the table and make people happy.

Adapted From

The Broad Fork

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 113 kcalCarbohydrates: 6 gProtein: 3 gFat: 10 gSaturated Fat: 4 gMonounsaturated Fat: 2 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 15 mgSodium: 24 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 2 g

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

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Recipe © 2015 Hugh Acheson. Photo © 2015 Rinne Allen. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Who knew a warm, wilted salad could be so satisfying? This sauteed romaine recipe with pine nuts recipe comes together quicker than tossing a salad and is much more satisfying. The ingredients are readily available and complement one another very well. My lettuce weighed 24 ounces and took about 5 minutes to brown. After adding the lemon juice and stock, the liquid took about 45 seconds to reduce by half. The pine nuts are a wonderful garnish to the finished dish, adding both texture and a bit of sweetness. This recipe took a total of 10 minutes to get on the table, and everyone really enjoyed it. This is a simple yet unique way to serve romaine.

I never thought that lettuce could be cooked, but, boy, was I wrong! It was amazingly easy to find the produce, prepare the ingredients, and cook this sauteed romaine recipe! A very nutritious, easy to prepare, and tasty side dish. I served it with kasha and German sausage—the whole meal was very good and the two of us (my husband and I) shared the whole plate of lettuce.

This recipe is so simple and straightforward that I almost want to apologize for any cautions lest you misunderstand my enthusiasm for how good this turns out. First, do not step away from the pan when you are toasting pine nuts. It seems I have managed to scorch almost any kind of nut, on the stovetop or in the oven, when distracted, although it seems to happen with the more highly priced ones (pine nuts and hazelnuts are excellent candidates). Just toast over not-too-high heat until you see a little color (do this in a dry pan, and just before you see the color changing to a toasted tan, you may also notice that a tiny film of oil is being expressed from the nuts). I did this in the large skillet that I would cook the lettuce in, so maybe a tiny bit of nuttiness gets passed on, but mostly I was keeping it simple.

You want to choose a large skillet that doesn’t crowd the lengths of romaine, and I tried this in a large French skillet as well as a heavier sauté pan, which was flatter. I think the heavy pan helped in that using a small amount of butter (1 tablespoon) doesn’t quite cover the bottom before it foams and you add the lettuce. If you rinse your romaine and shave off the very bottom (root end) of the bunch just enough to look pretty and clean, removing any bruised outer leaves, be sure and drain it and blot gently on a tea towel before cooking. I used vegetable broth and added the freshly squeezed lemon juice to that liquid to simplify my mise en place. Everything is going to happen very quickly, and when you add the stock and lemon juice, it will vaporize if your pan is on the hot side, leaving very little to emulsify with the remaining butter. Nonetheless, each time I made this, it turned out lovely. The only thing I would add might be some freshly zested lemon lightly sprinkled on top to reinforce the lemon flavor without adding too much acid. This has completely won over my skeptical spouse who never imagined he would love cooked lettuce! I made a half-batch the first time, but we greedily could’ve eaten a full recipe between two people, and it was trickier to work with the size of the romaine and less butter in the pan. Subsequent times, we did a full recipe and made it part of the main course as a stunning supporting role under sous-vide duck breast, sliced thinly after a brief pan searing. A third time, I yielded to my love for lemon and deglazed the pan after plating, with just half a Meyer lemon, which I loved, but may have been too lemony for my spouse. I kept mine vegetarian but not vegan.

This sauteed romaine recipe is a quick go-to recipe for a weekday salad. I enjoy romaine seared on the grill but never really thought about doing it on the cook-top. I liked using the butter instead of olive oil and used organic chicken stock. The stock disappeared almost as soon as I put it in the pan. Too hot, I guess! Had to add another 1 to 2 tablespoons. I added the lemon juice and it took less than a minute to reduce by half. After adding the last tablespoon of butter, I took it off the heat, swirling it to create the emulsion. The nuts went in, and it was ready to serve. Really good, quick, and tasty. The lettuce was tender yet still a little crunch in the veins. The lemon juice added a nice, subtle tang to the butter/chicken stock mixture. And the pine nuts were the icing on the cake, uh, lettuce. They had such a great flavor and complemented the romaine and dressing very nicely.

I think I like this salad. It’s unusual but tasty. I cooked the lettuce for 3 full minutes, turning it frequently. I added the stock and lemon juice, and it took about 4 minutes to reduce. I added the last tablespoon butter to the pan and allowed it to just melt into the sauce, as the lettuce made stirring a bit difficult. We all liked the taste but found it difficult to cut and eat since the lettuce was very soft at this point. I will make this dish again, but I think next time I’ll brown the lettuce for a couple minutes and remove it from the pan to make the sauce, then pour the sauce and pine nuts over the lettuce before serving. I think we might have enjoyed this dish even more if the lettuce had retained some of the lettuce crunch we like.

This sauteed romaine recipe was a tasty and easy-to-make dish. I’ve made a similar dish with lettuce and sautéed peas and also cooked all sorts of other greens in a similar sauté fashion. So I’m predisposed to liking both the style of cooking and the flavors. Everything goes faster than one would expect. So I got my mise en place ready first, as usual. I used vegetable broth rather than chicken broth.

As a (most of the time) vegetarian and a lover of light and fresh vegetable dishes, I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting ways to eat lettuces that are not salads. This recipe fulfills everything that I was looking for. The searing brings out the fresh and crisp flavors of the romaine but also mellows the lettuce. The sauce is simple and tastes just of butter and lemon, but it somehow doesn’t feel like you’re just eating butter or lemon juice. And the whole dish itself is flavorful enough that I didn’t even want to add salt or pepper. It is also easy. The total time for this recipe—prep included—was just 10 minutes. That, plus the fact that I had all the ingredients on hand, makes this recipe perfect for a nice dinner when you don’t want to make an extra trip to the grocery store. I will definitely be incorporating this into my set of go-to recipes for weeknight dinners as a side dish or for light lunches. I was really pressed for time this week, but being able to make something delicious and fresh in such a short period of time really lifted my mood.

I like that this is a different approach to a salad that’s easy to execute and impressive. I think a lot of people associate seared lettuce with old wilted lettuce, when searing it just adds a whole new realm of possibilities to this fridge staple. In order to get a good sear, I had my stove on high, and things happen very quickly in this recipe so I found a very hot pan to be necessary in achieving nice char before everything overcooks. On the flip side, the stock and lemon juice reduced WAY too quickly, almost instantly, requiring me to add another couple tablespoons in order to have a sauce to spoon over at the end. In the future I may take the pan off the heat for a bit and return it to a low stove during this step. I chose the largest head of romaine I could find and a 1/4 head of lettuce was enough for one person as a side. This took about 15 minutes total, including toasting the pine nuts, making this a weeknight-friendly dish. I’d recommend giving this a try just to introduce people to the world of seared lettuces; it’s an eye-opener.

There is a simple elegance in cooking lettuce—a simple French elegance, to be specific. Ever since I first tried petits pois à la Française (the classic French side dish of green peas, wilted lettuce, onions, and bacon), I’ve been hooked on cooking lettuce as a unique side dish. The first time you cook lettuce, the idea is as surprising as cooking something like radishes or cucumbers, but it really is incredible. I love this recipe for the taste the melted butter gave to the cooked lettuce, as well as the bright lemon addition and the buttery pine nuts. (I could see adding some sliced green olives to this dish as well.) The only thing I did differently was that I used 4 small heads Little Gem lettuce instead of 1 large head romaine. The halved Little Gem lettuce fit nicely in my pan and allowed for better portions for four people. It was easier to serve 2 halves of the smaller lettuce to each person instead of a large piece of a head of romaine. The cooking times were the same for the smaller lettuce heads. After I added the stock to the pan, it only took about 2 minutes for the liquid to reduce, seeing that it was such a small amount. A perfect warm-weather dish. The author was correct: serving this lovely dish to the table did make people very, very happy!

This sautéed romaine recipe is simple, delicious, and requires ingredients easily procured year-round and familiar to most. The searing takes the familiar to unfamiliar turf, and the pine nuts add a special touch to the simplicity of this dish. The long leaves of romaine heads also make for a striking presentation, which adds to the appeal. I had some difficulty locating a nice large head of romaine, so I used two good-sized hearts instead (totaling 12 ounces or 340 grams). These were long hearts and would not comfortably fit together inside of a large sauté pan, so I used 2 pans. One was a grill pan and the other cast-iron. Both pans worked just fine, but I especially liked the grill marks from the grill pan and would definitely use this again next time. I split the butter, stock, and lemon juice equally between the 2 pans. I used vegetable stock in place of the chicken. It took longer than 3 minutes for my romaine to become nicely browned, and I wondered if I should’ve started with hotter pans. It was difficult for me to determine when the little bit of stock had reduced to half, but it certainly was quick! When I added the butter, there was not much stock left, and when I plated the lettuce, there was only a negligible amount of stock to spoon over the top. I thought the finished dish could use more lemon and spooned a bit more juice atop. There was, with just 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, a generous ratio of pine nuts to lettuce. While the pine nuts are tasty and create a luxurious feel, I think one could simplify further and use the more workaday almond in place of the fancier pine nuts, without losing the essence of this dish. I am a big vegetable eater, but my other diners I think are more on the average side, and based on this sampling, I would expand the range of servings from 4 to 4 to 8. Additionally, I’d echo the author: closely watch the pine nuts while toasting since they do turn from golden to burnt very quickly. For this reason, I recommend toasting in a skillet on the stovetop, as opposed to on a sheet tray in the oven.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also 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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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I chose this recipe because it does not use garlic. I mixed in some Swiss chard with my romaine, and I absolutely loved it! Saving this as favorite.

    1. Really nice modification, Monica. Love Swiss chard and can see that going so nicely here. Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know.

    1. You are so very welcome, Wendy. So glad you feel exactly the same about the recipe as we do! Looking forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try next…