A Recipe for Keeping Lettuce Fresh and Crisp

Salad Spinner

Good Intentions. I’m full of them! There are so many tips, tricks and recipes that I’ve been meaning to share with you. So many photos that have been sitting patiently on my hard drive, waiting to be paired with recipes, with stories, or at the very least a few words of explanation. So many recipes that have been written, tested, and tasted that are just waiting for that perfect photo.

I never write what I plan on writing when I plan on writing it. It just doesn’t work that way. I don’t work that way. I can tell myself that I want to share my mom’s Potato Leek Soup recipe, I can take photos of it, I can even begin to write about it. But it just won’t be posted until it’s ready to be posted! I really can’t even explain how my process works. Some days I just feel like writing about certain things.

But when I have ideas, I try to at least put them down on paper (you should see the piles of notepads that are scattered throughout my house!) so that someday, when I’m good and ready, I’ll get around to it.

Well, back in June, I decided that I had to talk to you about lettuce. There are a few things that I think everyone needs to know about how to wash, dry, and store lettuce. I thought it was so important that I actually took a series of photos so that I could show you exactly what to do with your lettuce. But, instead of sharing my tips about lettuce, I ended up writing about the lime and mint salad dressing I made that same day. And then I just sort of moved on and the lettuce photos have been sitting and waiting ever since.

So now it’s October and the food blogs are soon to be filled to the brim with pumpkin cheesecakes and apple pies but here in Sicily, summer is still hanging on. And today, finally, I’m going to talk about lettuce. So you can file this away until next summer or you can keep eating salads all year long. Either way, I hope it’s helpful!


The Problem: Not Enough Salads Eaten at Home

How often do you eat green salads at home? Is it a rare occasion? Do you buy lettuce at the store with the intention of making salads, forget about it, and then find a wilted mess in your veggie bin a week later? Do you try to solve the problem by buying the expensive pre-washed, bagged lettuce? Are you disappointed with the quality of that lettuce?

Ok, that’s a lot of questions. But I know that many people like to eat green salads with dinner but don’t. There could be many reasons for this but it’s usually related to time (or the lack of it). “Who has the time to wash and dry lettuce,” you might say, “and why bother? It wilts before I have chance to use it anyway!” You might have solved the problem by buying the pre-washed stuff and realized that not only is it expensive but the quality isn’t always that great. So, increasingly, it seems that dinner salads are more of something to be enjoyed at restaurants.

Not at my house!

Washing and drying lettuce doesn’t have to be that difficult and if you do it correctly, it can stay fresh and ready to be used for up to two weeks! That means that if you’re willing to give up maybe 20 minutes, once a week or every two weeks, you can have a ready supply of crisp, fresh lettuce that is ready to throw in a bowl at a moment’s notice.

The Secret Weapon Against Wet Lettuce

I have a lot of kitchen gadgets, some get used, some just take up space. Most are convenient but not essential. But the one thing in my kitchen that I really don’t want to live without is my salad spinner. A salad spinner is simply a contraption that dries your lettuce for you. But I really don’t think there is a quicker, more effective way to dry lettuce. And if you want to make a salad, there’s nothing worse than wet lettuce, except maybe wilted lettuce but we’ll get to that part soon!

I can’t stress this enough. If you don’t own a salad spinner and you enjoy eating salads, you need to buy one. That’s it. I don’t say things like this very often but I feel like it’s worth the money. There are different brands and different types, I don’t care which one you get. Watch out though because some of them are designed so that the water drains out the bottom and can only be used inside the sink. I prefer one that can be used wherever I want to use it.

I’ve had the OXO Good Grips Salad Spinner for about six years now and it’s been wonderful. Don’t spend an exorbitant amount of money on a salad spinner, it doesn’t need to be stainless steel like the $50 version I just saw on Amazon. You should spend about 20 bucks for a quality salad spinner that will last.

So, after you go out and pick up the greatest kitchen gadget ever invented, you will need only two more things to keep your lettuce fresh and extend it’s life longer than you could ever imagine: gallon-size plastic bags (preferably zippered) and paper towels. That’s it!

How to Wash, Dry, and Store Lettuce

So this is how I wash, dry and store my lettuce so that it is fresh and ready for salad whenever I need it! I use this method for all types of lettuce (except iceberg, see the end of this post for information about cleaning and storing iceberg lettuce) and it also works for other types of greens and hearty herbs such as parsley.

1. Fill a sink with cold water, separate all the leaves of lettuce, place them in the water and swirl them around. If the lettuce is a bit limp, let it soak in the water for 30 minutes and it will miraculously come back to life.

2. Drain the water, turn on the faucet, and briefly rinse each piece of lettuce as you remove it from sink and place in the basket of your salad spinner. If you use organic lettuce, just give each piece a quick once-over to check for clinging bugs and dirt. As you put the lettuce in the spinner, you can tear the leaves in half if they are large (such as full-size romaine).

3. When the spinner is full but not tightly packed, spin the lettuce until dry.

4. Spread two paper towels (still connected) on the counter and pile the dry lettuce in the middle. Wrap the paper towels around the lettuce and slide into a gallon-size zippered plastic bag. Squeeze the air out and close the bag.

5. The lettuce can now be stored in the fridge and should stay fresh for at least a couple of weeks. You can take out what you need whenever you want to make a salad or sandwich and then just reseal the bag. The plastic bags can also be reused!

Lettuce on Paper Towels

Lettuce Wrapped in Paper Towels

Lettuce in Plastic Bag

Air is Squeezed Out

Ready for the Fridge

A Word about Iceberg Lettuce

Notice I said that the above method works for all types of lettuce besides iceberg? That’s because I don’t separate and wash the leaves of my iceberg lettuce. They are so tightly wrapped that the dirt doesn’t have a chance to get all the way inside.

For iceberg lettuce, remove and discard the outside layer of leaves, rinse the whole head of lettuce well under running water, shake it dry (water can work it’s way inside when you rinse it) and wipe excess water off with a towel. Wrap the entire head in a paper towel, place in a plastic bag, and store in the fridge. Pull off leaves or cut off chunks of lettuce as you need them, rewrap remaining lettuce in paper towel and return to plastic bag. Iceberg will keep fresh for a very long time if you store it correctly!

Make Some Salad!

Now that you have this nifty new way of storing lettuce, what should you do with it? Make salads, of course! I usually buy two or three types of lettuce at once to add a little variety to my salads. If you wash and dry the lettuce as soon as you get home from the store, you’ll find that it’s simple to throw together a side salad to go with dinner anytime you want.

Salads don’t have to be fancy to be good. Just by using a couple different varieties of lettuce (even just a mixture of green leaf and iceberg), you’ve already got a good start towards an interesting salad. My standard dinner salad is lettuce, shredded carrot and cucumber. How hard is that? From there I might add a little red cabbage, corn, chopped apple, raisins, and/or sunflower seeds. Sometimes I throw in some cherry tomatoes. It just depends. Once you have the lettuce ready to go, the hard part is over. Have fun and be creative!

Here are some ideas for green salad additions:

  • shredded cabbage (I love adding a touch of red cabbage for color!)
  • carrots (chopped or shredded)
  • radishes
  • mushrooms
  • cherry tomatoes
  • red onion
  • cucumber
  • zucchini
  • fresh broccoli or cauliflower
  • jicama
  • corn (defrosted frozen kernels or drained, rinsed canned corn)
  • avocado
  • olives
  • fresh herbs
  • chopped apple
  • strawberries
  • orange pieces
  • raisins
  • cranberries
  • chopped dried apricot
  • drained and rinsed canned beans (black beans, garbanzos, kidney beans)
  • sunflower seeds
  • pecans
  • walnuts
  • pine nuts
  • sliced almonds
  • crumbled blue cheese
  • crumbled feta
  • goat cheese
  • shredded sharp cheddar
  • crumbled bacon
  • chopped ham
  • shredded or chopped cooked chicken or turkey
  • tuna

These are just a few of the many, many possibilities. It only takes a few ingredients to make a great salad but you can add as many as you want. The only rule I try to stick to is the more color, the better!

Dress for Success

Just like the salad, dressings can be as simple or as complicated as you want them to be. Sometimes all a salad needs is a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and freshly ground pepper.

If your salads of the past have been little more than a vehicle to get more ranch dressing in your mouth, try putting together a salad that has flavors of it’s own and you’ll be less likely to want to drown it. Ranch dressing is great, but save it for a once-in-a-while treat (try making it from scratch when you do eat it). There are plenty of tasty and healthy options!

Experiment with different vinegars and use good olive oil, soon you won’t miss the bottled stuff from the store. But if you do have a particular bottled brand you like (I love Girard’s Champagne dressing), by all means use that!

Just eat more salad!

Other Salads/Salad Dressings:

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  1. Bonnie N

    @Darrin…..I use the green bags for fresh produce that will keep them fresh for over a week. I’ve even used them for meats when I’ve had to split packages. They do work.

    12:19 pm  Dec 27th, 2012
  2. Isabel

    Thanks for this post– it’s my first time on your site and I’m so glad I found it! I love eating salads but it’s such a pain to have to wash lettuce everyday. I have the salad spinner but I find it doesn’t completely dry the lettuce; is that okay or does it need to be 100% dry? I’m interested in trying your method but I just want to make sure I’m doing it right! Thanks again, Nicole! 🙂

    10:40 am  Jan 10th, 2013
  3. Longer Lasting Lettuce Contest

    […] number one was Lettuce in a Ziploc Bag with a paper towel wrapped around it.  This came from Pinch My Salt.This method was very efficient. It didn’t take up much room in the fridge, and there was very […]

    2:40 pm  Mar 13th, 2013
  4. Cindy

    😀 I am tickled that you have affirmed this process. I started using this exact process a couple of years ago. Figured it out all by my lonesome! What fun to find this!
    A couple of thoughts. 1. I do indeed buy other dark greens for our salads….loose turnip greens, sometimes collard greens (yes, I am from the south), spinach (don’t forget spinach! It doesn’t keep as long so I buy it more often), parsley, the greens off of fresh radishes, other fresh herbs….. I grow greens in the spring. The babies are great for salad! Often we will just eat a mix of greens for salad. Talk about simple simple simple. And full of plenty of vitamins. 2. I have a question. Once, at someone’s house I noticed that she had torn her romaine lettuce and put in in a bowl of ice water in the fridge before serving. It was so crispy! Any thoughts on this trick? Thanks so much…

    2:40 am  Mar 25th, 2013
  5. How to Wash, Dry, and Store Lettuce via @pinchmysalt | Eco Green Love

    […] the full original article here, gives a lot of other tips including salad additions and dressings, totally worth […]

    4:45 am  May 24th, 2013
  6. Mel

    Thank you for that fantastic information about how to keep lettuce fresh. My dad just brought over some fresh rocket, spinach and butter lettuce straight from his garden and I had no idea how to store it. I too have a salad spinner and I agree, everyone has to have one of these. It is definitely the best tool in my kitchen!

    3:06 am  May 27th, 2013
  7. ber7

    I followed these instructions to a T and yet when I opened my lettuce this morning (I washed and dried them last night) they were already wilting and gross. How dry is the salad spinner supposed to get the lettuce? Because mine didnt get it completely dry no matter how long I spun it for. Help please!!!

    6:15 pm  Jun 16th, 2013
  8. Erin

    Any suggestions for someone who does not use paper towels? Will a regular kitchen towel be a good substitute?

    1:02 pm  Jun 29th, 2013
  9. Nicole

    Hi Erin, I haven’t tried it myself, but I would think that a clean dish towel would work fine. Please let us know if you give this a try.

    11:49 am  Jul 1st, 2013
  10. Happy 4th of July!

    […] 1. Fill sink with cold water, separate all the leaves of lettuce, place them in the water & swirl them around. If the lettuce is limp, let it soak in the water for 30 min & it will come back to life. 2. Drain the water, briefly rinse each piece of lettuce as you remove it from sink & place in your salad spinner. Tear the leaves in half if they are large. 3. When the spinner is full but not tightly packed, spin the lettuce until dry. 4. Spread two paper towels, still connected, on the counter & pile the lettuce in the middle. Wrap paper towels around the lettuce & slide into a gallon size zippered plastic bag. Squeeze the air out and close the bag. 5. The lettuce can now be stored in the fridge & should stay fresh at least a couple of weeks. You can take out what you need whenever you want to make a salad or sandwich & then just reseal the bag. Read more: http://pinchmysalt.com/a-recipe-for-keeping-lettuce-fresh-and-crisp/ […]

    11:47 am  Jul 3rd, 2013
  11. Trish

    I spent most of my life hating salads and anything that had lettuce on it because 99% of the time the lettuce in question was iceberg: ugh!

    A few months ago my best friend recommended that I try green leaf lettuce and I am in LOVE! I buy 1-2 heads a week and eat a salad almost every day, but I still end up throwing some out. I guess a salad spinner is the answer!

    Anyone have some recommendations? I’ve started looking around online and keep seeing comments about strings and gears breaking so I’m wary to just go out and buy the first one that I see.

    10:56 am  Jul 5th, 2013
  12. Cindy

    Trisha…….I recommend buying one at Bed Bath Beyond. Their return policy is fantastic. I have had something break a year after purchase and they take the return….even without a receipt….and let you exchange! There is an Oxo with a stainless steel bowl. Mine has a plastic bowl instead of the steel one they have now. Looks the same otherwise. What I like is the push knob on top. I have had mine a couple of years…maybe 3… and it still works like a charm. It does cost more, but worth it to me. It gets great reviews on their website, for what that’s worth. Good luck!

    11:35 am  Jul 5th, 2013
  13. Andrew

    This is SO helpful! I have been trying to eat healthier and I do like salads but I could not for the life of me figure out how to keep my lettuce from dying! Thanks for the tips!

    7:30 pm  Jul 17th, 2013
  14. mike

    Loved the info and will try it! Seems I jusr get it home and it crawles out of the bag under its own power!

    10:45 am  Jul 29th, 2013
  15. Tahan

    Thank you!

    9:51 pm  Aug 31st, 2013
  16. Richard

    This is all fine and good but all the rinsing and spinning in the world wont get off the green worms or aphids. They hold on tight. Only thing that I’v found that works is a soak in salt water or maybe vinegar water.

    9:45 am  Nov 11th, 2013
  17. Brooke

    Thank you so much for this. Growing up we rarely had salads. Unless you count fruit salad smothered in sugary this, that, or the other. Needless to say I was a bit clueless about salads when moving out but I found I love salads. What I don’t love is buying a head or bag of lettuce and having it wilt and get gross within a day and a half.

    I have started to grow as much as I can in containers, but in the winter it’s not quite an exact science yet. So store bought will have to do. Now it’ll actually last!

    1:16 am  Jan 11th, 2014
  18. Krista

    We have the OXO spinner and only used it once in a long while when we made a proper salad for two or more. I used your tips more than a week ago and except for the outer leaves and small edges, the head of romaine lasted over a week which is unheard of since normally it’s just nasty by that time. Now we’re out and I’m using the iceburg method for the buy one get one free heads we just bought today. Thanks! Also it was so nice throughout the week to just grab what I wanted and to eat it right away!

    1:23 pm  Jan 25th, 2014
  19. Terry

    I’m really stoked that I found your site.I’ve had a spinner in my kitchen cupboard for years, the make is a Zyliss which has a pull cord that makes it spin.
    Thank you for your advice. Another tip I found was how to keep Celery for at least 3 weeks was to cut the base (root end) off and trim into sticks you have to cut the leaves off. Take the sticks and wrap in aluminium foil. I put 3 in at a time (I’m a single guy)
    and it really works.
    Once again thanks a mil for the tip
    Kind Regards,

    9:51 am  Jan 26th, 2014
  20. Lettuce Leaves - Usage and Storage tips please - IndusLadies

    […] a salad or sandwich and then just reseal the bag. The plastic bags can also be reused! Source – A Recipe for Keeping Lettuce Fresh and Crisp – Pinch My Salt How long we can store Lettuce leaves? If dried the way mentioned, she says two weeks! […]

    3:06 am  Feb 8th, 2014
  21. Takumi

    Thank You!!

    3:02 pm  Feb 9th, 2014
  22. Bryan

    Wonderful post, and great advice! We just stopped buying “bagged lettuce” and have switched to your method and are loving the fresh difference!

    11:59 am  May 7th, 2014
  23. DNoe Scott

    When you guy iceberg lettuce, never cut the core out with a knife, hit the core on the cabinet or something hard, then work it out. I have found that a knife is a culprit to any kind of lettuce. it makes it turn dark. hope this has helped.

    8:28 am  Jul 25th, 2014
  24. Michelle

    You have great information…..but your blog is just to darn long. If you could cut out all your conversation and just put the facts. It’s just to long to read all that. So I just looked at the pictures….:)

    6:30 pm  Jul 29th, 2014
  25. Vance

    Thi? post provides clear idea designed fo? the nnew
    people of blogging, t?at truly ho? to do running a blog.

    5:39 am  Aug 3rd, 2014
  26. I discovered how to keep lettuce crispy... - Diary of a Newbie StrongWomen

    […] A recipe for keeping lettuce fresh and crispy […]

    12:54 pm  Jan 4th, 2015
  27. denise

    Oh my I love this and I love your style of writing. Thank you, you make me feel so much better because I too have note pads and thoughts about certain things I would like to write about but can never get to them until I want to! 🙂
    Can’t wait to read more 🙂

    1:42 pm  Jan 5th, 2015
  28. The Hype on Greens - Seacoast Eat Local

    […] http://pinchmysalt.com/a-recipe-for-keeping-lettuce-fresh-and-crisp/ […]

    7:17 am  Apr 9th, 2015
  29. anon

    I use a salad spinner to wash the lettuce and dry the leaf lettuce on the counter with paper towels for a few minutes, and enclose the lettuce inside a zipper baggie with paper towels. Just as you described.
    However, within 3 or 4 days, I start to get black spotting on my lettuce and I don’t understand why this happens.
    I have always cleaned my lettuce this way and it never lasts as long as you post. Is there something else that can be done to make it stop with the black spotting and the edges of my lettuce collecting this black type mildew???

    3:20 pm  Apr 28th, 2015
  30. Freida

    Just found this site. OMG its a life saver for me. Thanks

    1:19 pm  Jun 19th, 2015
  31. Lettuce - Produce Made Simple

    […] We recommend you wash and store lettuce soon after you get it home. See details in “How to Prepare” (below), and then store lettuce leaves wrapped in two squares of paper towel in an airtight bag. Try to remove as much air as you can without pressing or damaging the leaves. The paper towel will help wick away any moisture from the lettuce to keep it crisp. For a step-by-step photo tutorial, we love this one from Pinch My Salt! […]

    5:04 am  Jun 22nd, 2015
  32. 10 Genius Paper Towel Hacks - The Realistic Mama

    […] 2. Keep Lettuce Crispy and Fresh Using Paper Towels — from Pinch My Salt […]

    8:50 pm  Aug 16th, 2015
  33. Tim

    This worked so well so I wanted to say thanks. Here in Spain we were finding that the lettuce that we purchased from the local market was only lasting a few days. With your tips, although I did dry the lettuce by hand as we do not have a spinner, the lettuce was good to eat a week later. I didn’t waste a single leaf!

    8:12 am  Oct 6th, 2015
  34. Lisa

    PLEASE dont rinse lettuce in the kitchen sink. Bacteria in the sink can make you sick. Wash it in a colander or clean bowl!

    6:20 am  Feb 27th, 2016
  35. Susan

    You can keep celery for a long time by wrapping it in aluminum foil. It will stay crisp for several weeks. Just upwrap and take off what you need and rewrap.

    2:12 pm  Mar 30th, 2016
  36. Ladies campus

    Very useful and interesting…

    10:30 am  Apr 18th, 2016
  37. Diane

    Just confirming that no salad spinner I’ve tried gets it completely dry, even after 3 sessions. If yours does, do tell. I try to reuse the paper towels too, there’s nothing wrong with them. Pure, thin cotton kitchen towels work well if you don’t like paper towels. Tim in Spain: I’ve heard of “spinning” lettuce to dry by whipping it around inside a cotton pillowcase! Good way to get kids involved in the kitchen.

    3:11 am  May 25th, 2016
  38. Lynn

    I like to store my salad in the spinner. I have a Zyliss. I just move 2 gallon containers from the top shelf to the door to make room. Then I can get a quick salad snack easily. Stays nice and fresh. Sometimes I cut up tomatoes and put in Baggie and store on salad in spinner, so I grab some lettuce and tomato.

    11:35 am  Jun 18th, 2016
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