If you're looking for lettuce varieties, we've got you covered. “Lettuce” can mean many things. It all depends on the context.
In botany, lettuce is any plant within the genus Lactuca. In culinary terms, the word lettuce is often used to refer to any and all salad greens (regardless of taxonomy).
To make matters even more complicated, countless plants’ colloquial names include the word lettuce even though they have zero relation to the genus!
Most lettuce you find in the grocery store or grow in your garden belongs to a single species: Lactuca sativa. Within Lactuca sativa you’ll find broad lettuce types like romaine, butterhead, crisp, and loose-leaf.
Narrow down these types of lettuce even further and you’ll get into specific, cultivated varieties like Lactuca sativa ‘Freckles’ or Lactuca sativa ‘Little Gem.’
Ready-to-eat lettuce is rarely labeled with such specificity. But such varieties are important to keep in mind when selecting lettuce seeds or starters for your garden!
- Butter Lettuce
- Green Leaf Lettuce
- Romaine Lettuce
- Oak Leaf Lettuce
- Boston Lettuce
- Little Gem Lettuce
- Belgian Endive
- Iceberg Lettuce
- Red Leaf Lettuce
- Lambs’ Lettuce
- Bibb Lettuce
- Batavian Lettuce
- Mizuna Lettuce
- Bitter Lettuce
- Indian Lettuce
- Freckles Lettuce
- Deer’s Tongue Lettuce
- Salanova Lettuce
- Miner’s Lettuce
21 Lettuce Varieties For The Garden, Kitchen, And Beyond
1. Butter Lettuce
Also known as: Butterhead lettuce, cabbage lettuce
Butter lettuce is one of the varieties nearly all gardeners and salad lovers are familiar with.
This lettuce grows in moderately tight heads — it’s looser than romaine but tighter than leaf lettuce. The leaves are soft and almost reminiscent of flower petals.
In the kitchen, butterhead lettuce is most often used for salads and sandwiches. It’s also a go-to choice for lettuce wraps and bunless burgers, largely thanks to its large outer leaves.
2. Green Leaf Lettuce
Also known as: Loose-leaf lettuce
Green leaf lettuce is fairly easy to identify because it doesn’t form a head as it grows. Instead, the leaves are loose and more-or-less upright, originating from a stem at the plant’s base.
Leaf lettuce comes in a range of colors. Naturally, green leaf lettuce includes varieties that are almost exclusively green in color.
Green leaf lettuce varieties are crisp and earthy without the wateriness found in other popular salad greens (no offense to any iceberg lettuce fans out there!). It’s a great all-around lettuce for salads, sandwiches, and more.
3. Romaine Lettuce
Also known as: Cos lettuce
Romaine lettuce accounts for around 30% of lettuce eaten in the United States. It’s easy to see how, since this leafy green is featured in a number of popular dishes like Caesar and chop salads.
You’ll sometimes see romaine lettuce called cos lettuce (or, simply, cos). This comes from the Greek island of Cos, which is where romaine lettuce was reportedly first cultivated.
Romaine lettuce offers a similar hydrating crispness to varieties like iceberg but with a denser nutrient profile.
While romaine lettuce is most often green, there are also a few subvarieties with red- and purple-tinged leaves.
4. Oak Leaf Lettuce
Oak leaf lettuce is aptly named since its leaves closely resemble the leaves of a white oak tree. While you won’t see this lettuce variety featured in many grocers or restaurants, it’s a favorite among home vegetable gardeners.
Oak leaf lettuce is easy to grow and tolerates summer heat well, even when other types of lettuce would turn unbearably bitter.
You can use this unique lettuce for salads, sandwiches, and other green dishes. But the leaves are too small and soft to be used as a lettuce wrap or for a wedge salad.
5. Boston Lettuce
Boston lettuce is a variety of butter lettuce. In culinary terms, the two are remarkably similar and are often swapped out for each other.
Compared to other types of butter lettuce, Boston lettuce has large leaves that tend to be light green. The leaves share the distinct softness seen in other varieties within the butterhead family.
If your local grocery store offers whole heads of lettuce with the roots still attached, there’s a good chance they’re selling Boston lettuce. It’s a favorite variety in highly efficient hydroponic farms, as well.
6. Little Gem Lettuce
Little Gem lettuce is a variety of romaine that can be grown for mature heads or baby greens. It’s one of the smallest lettuce types available for home gardens.
Little Gem Lettuce is also quite popular in the restaurant world — the leaves of this lettuce are often compared to the more desirable inner leaves of head romaine.
Despite its size, Little Gem lettuce is surprisingly adaptable. It’ll survive heat and frost (within reason) and is ready to harvest within 50 days.
You can use this miniature lettuce variety anywhere you would full-size romaine. Its size makes it ideal for wedge salads.
7. Belgian Endive
Belgian endive is a unique salad green that is not actually green at all. It’s also not a true lettuce.
Botanically speaking, Belgian endive is actually in the chicory family. It’s related to radicchio, a red, cabbage-like vegetable.
Belgian endive gets its pale yellow color by being grown underground. This prevents the plant from producing green chlorophyll (the same process is used to create white asparagus).
You’ll see Belgian endive referred to as lettuce more often than not because it is essentially used as one in the kitchen. Separate the structured leaves for use in a salad or as an edible serving dish for dips or appetizers.
Also known as: Curly endive
Frisée is yet another member of the chicory family that moonlights as a type of lettuce. Because of the bedhead-like texture of its leaves, this salad green is also lovingly known as “frizzy lettuce.”
Though it’s technically incorrect to call this plant a lettuce, it’s grown and harvested in the exact same way as the latter. Frisée is occasionally grown as an ornamental plant, as well.
Frisée works well raw or cooked. You can use it in place of a crispy lettuce like romaine or iceberg, as a substitute for sauteed spinach, or even as a milder alternative to arugula.
9. Iceberg Lettuce
Also known as: Head lettuce, crisphead lettuce
At first glance, the compact head of iceberg lettuce is easy to mistake for cabbage. But, rest assured, this leafy green is 100% a type of lettuce!
Iceberg lettuce has an undeniable crispness and tends to hold a lot of moisture. As a result, many people believe this type of lettuce isn’t nutritious.
Yes, it’s true that iceberg lettuce is less nutritionally dense than many other greens. Yet it still contains a noteworthy amount of fiber, vitamin K, and folate.
10. Red Leaf Lettuce
Also known as: Loose-leaf lettuce
Many lettuce varieties come in colors aside from green. The most common type you’ll see in your grocery store produce department is red leaf lettuce.
On average, red leaf lettuce tends to be more flavorful than its green counterpart. However, that flavor leans bitter. But few people will notice a difference between the two when paired with salad dressing or added to a sandwich!
You may reach for a head of red leaf lettuce because it contains anthocyanins (antioxidants unique to red- and purple-colored vegetables). Growing red leaf lettuce is also a great way to add some diversity to your veggie patch.
11. Lambs’ Lettuce
Also known as: Mâche, corn salad, field salad, lambs’ tongue, field lettuce
There are several unique facts worth sharing about lambs’ lettuce, not least of which is that it belongs to the honeysuckle family. So, no, it’s not related to lettuce or corn!
Another interesting fact about this plant is its history in the Western World as a farmland weed. It became a source of fresh leafy greens in winter when European farmers noticed lambs’ lettuce thriving when all other plants had died off.
Wild lambs’ lettuce can be found in many areas — as with any type of foraging, proceed with caution. It’s also available in some specialty produce stores. Less commonly, this lettuce imposter is grown in the garden.
Lambs’ lettuce has very small leaves that grow close to the ground. Combined with this plant’s tendency toward a peppery flavor, the leaves work best in place of arugula or mustard greens.
12. Bibb Lettuce
Also known as: Limestone lettuce, Boston Bibb lettuce, Kentucky Bibb lettuce
Bibb lettuce is a variety of butterhead lettuce. Together with Boston lettuce, this variety makes up a majority of butter-type lettuces grown and consumed in the United States.
In contrast to other butterhead lettuces, including Boston, Bibb lettuce boasts small leaves that are a grassy shade of green.
Bibb lettuce is unique in that its history is well-documented. The variety was first cultivated by John Bibb, an amateur horticulturist in Kentucky, in the 1860s. At the time of conception, it was known as limestone lettuce.
13. Batavian Lettuce
Also known as: French crisp lettuce, summer crisp lettuce
Batavian lettuce is an umbrella term for several varieties, similar to butterhead lettuce. While you can source specific seed varieties for your garden, this distinction is rarely made for lettuce sold in grocery stores.
Depending on the variety, Batavian lettuce may have leaves that are flat or curly, loose or closed, and green or a range of other colors.
Batavian lettuce varieties are perfect for the home garden because the leaves regrow after harvesting. These greens are also more heat-resistant than many other types of lettuce.
14. Mizuna Lettuce
Also known as: Japanese mustard greens, shui cai, California peppergrass, spider mustard
Mizuna is a close relative of arugula that somehow earned the label of lettuce in Western culture.
In Japan, this leafy green’s name translates to “water greens.” This is a nod to the plant’s tendency to flourish in flooded fields. Notably, mizuna is one of the only vegetables native to the islands of Japan.
While this peppery green is often sold as a type of lettuce, you should use it in the kitchen as you would arugula and other leafy members of the Brassica family.
Also known as: Stem lettuce, Chinese lettuce, asparagus lettuce, celery lettuce
Don’t be fooled by the odd shape of this vegetable. It is, in fact, a type of lettuce! But, unlike nearly all other lettuce varieties, it is not grown for its leaves.
Instead, celtuce is prized for its stem tissue. While the tough exterior must be removed, the stem’s interior boasts a refreshing taste and texture.
The leaves of this lettuce are indeed edible but are not the best-tasting. Oftentimes, celtuce leaves are actually removed before the vegetable makes it to market.
You can eat this lettuce in several ways, including raw or cooked. Use it in a salad as you would sliced cucumber or experiment with adding it to your stir-fry.
16. Bitter Lettuce
Also known as: Wild lettuce, prickly lettuce, opium lettuce
You’re much more likely to find bitter lettuce, or Lactuca virosa, growing wild in a field than you are to see it in your local produce section. Beware growing it in your garden, also, as it is a weed in many regions!
This weedy plant is also sometimes called opium lettuce. When cut, the stems of this lettuce secrete a milky sap reminiscent of an opium poppy.
Though the leaves of this lettuce are edible, it’s rarely used for food. However, the sap is sometimes harvested for its sedative properties.
17. Indian Lettuce
Also known as: Tropical lettuce
As a colloquial name, “Indian lettuce” is used to refer to many, many plants. In this instance, however, we’re talking about the species Lactuca indica.
Indian lettuce is a large variety that grows as a shrub. Some plants can reach over 6 feet tall! But the leaves and stems are just as edible as the smaller lettuce varieties we are most familiar with.
This lettuce variety is grown as a standard vegetable in countless Asian gardens. The plant itself is native to China and was spread across the continent via immigration and trade.
18. Freckles Lettuce
Also known as: Flashy Troutback
Have you ever seen a head of lettuce that was covered in red-brown specks? At the time, you might have thought that lettuce was in need of a good washing. But it may have been a head of freckles lettuce!
Freckles lettuce is an heirloom variety of romaine. It’s most commonly seen in home gardens but can also be found in some grocery stores.
While this variety is a subtype of romaine, its semi-open shape is reminiscent of leaf lettuces. You’ll get the most out of this unique green by using it raw in a salad or wrap.
19. Deer’s Tongue Lettuce
Also known as: Matchless lettuce
Deer’s Tongue lettuce is a somewhat rare variety of leaf lettuce. It forms a loose, triangular head with leaves that connect in a distinct rosette at the base. Its origin can be traced back to English immigrants circa 1740.
Deer’s Tongue lettuce was quite popular up to the 20th century. Unfortunately, it’s just too delicate of a plant to hold up to modern machinery and transport.
Today, you’ll only find this heirloom lettuce in gardens and very small farms throughout North America.
So if you want to try this lettuce for yourself, you’ll likely need to grow it yourself or scour local farmers’ markets. It’s a great option if you’re looking for a salad green that is ready to harvest in early spring.
20. Salanova Lettuce
Also known as: Eazyleaf lettuce, Multileaf lettuce
Salanova lettuce is an exciting new type to keep an eye out for at your local grocer or garden supplier.
The main appeal of this family is that its members yield 40% more produce than other lettuces. And, because of the way the leaves grow, it can be fully prepped with a single cut at the stem.
The Salanova line contains many individual varieties. Butterhead, oak leaf, Batavian, and crisp Salanova lettuces are available in red and green versions.
21. Miner’s Lettuce
Also known as: Indian lettuce, claspleaf lettuce
Botanically speaking, miner’s lettuce, or Claytonia perfoliata, is not a member of the lettuce family. But it is an interesting groundcover plant that has been foraged in parts of Canada and the United States for several centuries.
The leaves, stems, and flowers of miner’s lettuce are fully edible. This plant is an awesome addition to salads but can also be cooked before consumption.
In the wild, miner’s lettuce is typically found in shady, forested areas. In the garden, it can be grown almost anywhere and will take to any soil conditions.
Note that this plant spreads aggressively in warmer climates (USDA zones 6 and above). It’s not invasive, but should be monitored to ensure it doesn’t overtake other parts of the landscape.