Why Is Butter Lettuce Called Butter Lettuce?

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What exactly does butter lettuce have to do with butter? If you’re confused about this, we’ll tell you why butter lettuce has this interesting title and give you some tips for the kitchen.

Let’s check it out…

Why Is Butter Lettuce Called Butter Lettuce?

Quick Answer: It has to do with the texture of the lettuce. Butter lettuce is famous for its rich, smooth texture that melts in your mouth. Find out what kind of lettuce this is (and is not) below.

Does Butter Lettuce Have Butter?

Close up of fresh butterhead lettuce isolated on white background

With a name like that, you might expect butter lettuce to be smothered in butter. But it’s not a recipe like grilled lettuce—it’s the name for the variety.

The name tells you everything you need to know about this lettuce. It’s just about as smooth and creamy as butter, at least as far as lettuce types go.

Any butter lettuce is going to have a velvety texture, which is very different from the firmness and crispness of romaine. The leaves tear easily and feel soft to the touch, and the flavor is on the sweeter side. 

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What Kind of Lettuce Is Butter Lettuce?

Hailing from the Mediterranean basin, butter lettuce, or butterhead lettuce as it’s often called, is one of the most popular types in the U.S. along with romaine and iceberg.

You may know butter lettuce as Boston or bibb lettuce, two types that fall under the butter lettuce category.

You can spot butter lettuce easily by checking out the leaves and growth patterns. The large leaves tend to grow somewhat loosely around the heart, and the whole thing looks a bit like a blooming flower.

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butter lettuce growing on a table

Is Butter Lettuce the Same as Iceberg?

They look a bit similar, but iceberg and butter lettuce are different varieties. You can usually tell them apart by looking at the way the leaves grow.

Iceberg lettuce resembles cabbage in its closed leaf pattern and rounded shape. Butter lettuce, on the other hand, has a more open appearance.

Iceberg is also not soft like butter lettuce. It’s quite crunchy and even watery in comparison to the supple texture of Boston or bibb.

Iceberg lettuce tends to be on the cheaper side, too. Check out the Produce Price Index from the Western Growers Association to see what the market for iceberg is like in comparison to other popular lettuce types. 

Related Article: Why Does Lettuce Turn Brown?

What Can I Substitute for Butter Lettuce?

a bunch of butter lettuce growing

No butter lettuce for your salad at home? The best thing to do is to look for another soft lettuce with a mild flavor.

A nice spring mix or a head of green leaf or red leaf lettuce can do the trick. If you want a similar texture but a different flavor, you can try baby spinach. This is a great way to vary your nutrient intake.

What about romaine, iceberg and other lettuces with a snap to them? Sure, you can use any lettuce that you’d like, as long as you understand that the texture may be significantly different.

Butter lettuce also makes a brilliant lettuce wrap. If you’re out of butter lettuce, though, go for something like green or red leaf lettuce as these are large and strong enough to hold the fillings.


Butter lettuce (a.k.a. butterhead, Boston or bibb) is a common lettuce variety that people know by the look and texture. The lovely softness of the large leaves makes it ideal for salads, but try it for lettuce wraps, too.

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