10 Salad Greens Better Than Iceberg Lettuce
Salads don't have to be ho-hum, the secret is to build them with good greens. Iceberg has a time and a place (who doesn't love a blue cheese wedge?) but a host of other choices await you. Each of our selected greens boast their own unique nutritional makeup, flavor, and texture, to make your salads as delicious as they are healthful.
Purple radicchio is a feast for both the eyes and the palate. This relative of chicory and endive has just 10 calories per cup and is high in vitamin K. It boasts a pleasant bitter bite, which stands up wonderfully to funky crumbled blue cheese and a zingy mustard dressing in this Blue Cheese, Walnut, and Chicory Salad. Grilling the radicchio before assembling a salad brings out even more of its natural sweetness. Try this technique in Grilled Radicchio and Plum Salad, where it's paired with sharp goat cheese and sweet aged balsamic.
Whether you love it or hate it, kale boasts a whopping 684 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin K in a one-cup serving. A member of the brassica family, this leafy green has a sweet flavor reminiscent of cabbage or Brussels sprouts, but its ancestry also means that it can be a bit tough when consumed raw. Luckily, there's a fix for that! First, remove the thickest ribs from your kale leaves; then cut it into small, bite-sized pieces. Finally, massage the dressing into the kale for at least 45 seconds, which will help soften it and make it easier to chew and digest. Try it in Chef John's Raw Kale Salad, which pairs the slightly bitter green with sweet persimmon, apple, and orange; this Kale and Feta Salad with apple, currants, and toasted pine nuts; or this Creamy Kale Salad with a Greek yogurt dressing and crunchy sunflower seeds.
Peppery arugula may not be as rich in vitamins and minerals as some greens, but what this low-calorie (only five per cup) veggie lacks in nutrients it more than makes up for in flavor. Arugula's zippy bite is perfect when paired with sweeter ingredients like fennel and orange in this Arugula, Fennel, and Orange Salad or a Fig and Arugula Salad with pine nuts, Parmesan, and a honey-balsamic dressing. It's also a phenomenal base for larger meal salads like Grilled Chicken, Peach, and Arugula Salad with its blend of sweet, sour, and savory flavors.
Mâche, also known as lamb's lettuce or corn salad, is an under-rated green that offers a tender texture and almost nutty flavor. It also boasts three times as much vitamin C as lettuce. This green is more uncommon than some on this list, but seek it out at farmers' markets, and you'll be rewarded by its delicate flavor. Use it alongside arugula in this Roasted Beet, Peach, and Goat Cheese Salad, or anywhere you might be tempted to use baby spinach, for a new play on a favorite.
Popeye's favorite green is a great choice for more reasons than one. Spinach contains hefty amounts of iron and protein, not to mention plenty of magnesium, potassium, calcium, and folate. But in addition to its mineral content, spinach also delivers on flavor, with an earthy aroma that can even tend towards a slight sweetness, particularly when young. Enjoy it with strawberries, almonds, and poppy seeds in this Strawberry Spinach Salad, or pair it with bacon and eggs for a heartier Wilted Spinach Salad.
When you buy a bunch of beets at the market, don't even think of throwing out those greens! Rich in both potassium and magnesium, the hardy greens are delicious raw or cooked. Consider pairing them with roasted beets in this warm salad of Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese and Walnuts, or use them anywhere you'd use fellow hardy greens like kale or Swiss chard.
Crisp romaine lettuce is naturally high in minerals like calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and potassium. While it doesn't boast much flavor of its own, this lettuce nevertheless remains a fan favorite thanks to its crisp texture and ability to carry a wide variety of creamier dressings. A perennial favorite for Caesar Salad and Cobb Salad, romaine also plays well with bacon in this BLT Salad with Basil Mayo Dressing. With its hearty texture, romaine even stands up to grilling, as in this Grilled Romaine, halfway between salad and cooked vegetable side.
Bitter Belgian endive isn't just low in calories; it's also high in flavonoid kaempferol, which some studies have shown may inhibit cancer, not to mention potassium, folate, and fiber. Its bitter notes stand up equally well to sweet and piquant flavors, making it the ideal choice in an Asparagus, Orange, and Endive Salad or an Apple-Cranberry Salad with funky blue cheese. Its shape also makes for fun presentation, as in these Endive Boats with Apple, Blue Cheese, and Hazelnuts.
Rich in vitamins A and C, watercress boasts excellent antioxidant benefits. It's a member of the brassicaceae family, with cousins like arugula, horseradish, and wasabi, so it boasts a peppery flavor. Watercress pairs wonderfully with sweet fennel in this Fennel and Watercress Salad, but it also stands up to hotter flavors like pepper flakes and hot sauce in this Spicy Watercress Salad.
You might think of Brussels sprouts as a vegetable best served cooked, but these little crucifers are wonderful in salads too. Like other members of the cabbage family, Brussels sprouts are rich in sulforaphane, a phytochemical widely recognized as an anti-cancer compound. Brussels sprouts are also rich in fiber and vitamin C. In salads, they're best thinly sliced on a mandoline and paired with sweeter flavors. Try them in this Chopped Brussels Sprout Salad, where they mingle with dried cranberries and apples, plus almonds and sunflower seeds, which bring out their natural nuttiness. But Brussels sprouts can also stand up to richer flavors: this Shaved Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad pairs the baby cabbages with bacon, Parmesan, and a mayo-based dressing that's to die for.