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Little Gem Salad is an unsung hero in the world of salads. It’s the answer to those days when you’re craving something light, but entirely satisfying. Perfect for those who love delicate salads with a good crunch, Little Gem lettuce leaves are the ideal blend of tender and crisp.

Little Gem Salad served on a round white platter and photographed from overhead.

The key to this salad lies in its simplicity. Tossing it in a bright, creamy Champagne Vinaigrette provides just enough flair without overshadowing the dish’s star ingredient. And a final sprinkle of crunchy, buttery walnuts elevates this basic salad to gourmet status in mere minutes.

Ingredients You Need to Make Little Gem Salad

Little Gem Salad Ingredients on a white marble board.
  • Little Gem Lettuce: Look for lettuce heads that are vibrant in color, with no signs of wilting or brown spots. They should feel firm to the touch and have a fresh, earthy aroma.
  • Champagne Vinegar: Choose a high-quality brand with clear, light gold coloring. It should have a crisp aroma and not be too overpowering. 
  • Dijon Mustard: Look for a smooth, creamy texture with a consistent color. Brands from Dijon, France often offer an authentic taste. 
  • Honey: Use raw honey for the best flavor. It should be thick and have a rich golden hue. 
  • Shallot: Look for shallots with smooth, taut skin. They should be firm when pressed and not have any green sprouts emerging. 
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Opt for cold-pressed varieties in dark glass bottles to protect against light. Fresh oil is best: check the label to check for a recent harvest date. (Extra-virgin olive oil should be used within 18 – 24 months of harvest.)
  • Walnuts: Look for whole, unbroken walnuts that are plump and light in color, without any shriveling.
  • Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

FAQ

What is Little Gem lettuce?

It’s a small variety of lettuce that’s a cross between romaine and butter lettuce, offering both tenderness and a mild crunch.

Can I make this salad vegan?

Yes, just replace the honey with agave nectar or maple syrup.

Can I make the Champagne Vinaigrette dressing ahead of time?

Absolutely! The dressing can be made up to a week in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Just give it a good whisk before using (you may need to let it stand at room temperature for a few minutes for the olive oil to liquify after being refrigerated).

Little Gem Salad served on a round white platter.

Recipe Options

  • If you can’t find Little Gem Lettuce, use baby romaine or butter lettuce instead.
  • Instead of Champagne Vinegar, try white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Fresh lemon juice would also work well here.
  • If you’re out of Dijon Mustard, substitute whole grain mustard or honey mustard.
  • As a replacement for honey, maple syrup and agave nectar are good alternatives.
  • If you don’t have a shallot on hand, substitute a mild red onion or green onion.
  • Try a different oil like walnut oil or hazelnut oil for added flavor.
  • If you don’t care for walnuts or just don’t have them on hand, pecans or hazelnuts add a nutty crunch.
  • Garlic lover? Add a small, minced garlic clove to the dressing.
  • Embellish the salad with fresh herbs like basil, thyme or mint. 

If you’re searching for a salad that feels both classic and modern, that offers both texture and taste: look no further. Little Gem Salad is the answer to your culinary conundrum, a dish that is as easy on the eyes as it is delightful to the palate.

Serve With

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How to Make Little Gem Salad

Trim lettuce heads and separate into leaves. Wash leaves in cold water, letting dirt settle, then dry with a salad spinner or clean towel. Place leaves in a salad bowl. In another bowl, whisk dressing ingredients together until emulsified.

Gradually add oil, whisking until blended. Season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over lettuce, toss with hands or servers, then plate. Top with walnuts and serve.

Little Gem Salad

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Calories: 215
Servings: 4 people
Made in minutes, but unforgettable, this salad is like no other. A symphony of crisp lettuce, tangy dressing, and crunchy walnuts, it's an elegant dish for any occasion.

Ingredients  

  • 4 medium heads Little Gem Lettuce
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Instructions 

  • Cut stems from lettuce heads and remove any wilted outer leaves. Separate leaves and add to a large bowl of cold water; agitate leaves to let dirt drift to the bottom. Lift leaves out of the water and transfer to a salad spinner or clean kitchen towel; spin or pat dry. Transfer clean, dry leaves to large salad bowl.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard, honey and shallot until combined. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Drizzle dressing over little gem leaves and toss with clean hands (my preference) or salad servers until evenly coated. Arrange dressed leaves on a large serving platter or divide between 4 individual salad plates. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts and serve.

Nutrition

Calories: 215kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Sodium: 9mg | Potassium: 81mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 499IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 14mg | Iron: 1mg

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

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2 Comments

  1. David @ Spiced says:

    5 stars
    I’m not sure that I’ve come across little gem lettuce, but you better believe I’m keeping my eyes open for it now! I do enjoy a good champagne vinaigrette, and this salad sounds quite delicious!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Thank you, David! It can be a bit tricky to find and I always wonder why when it’s so darn good!