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Salmon Grilled on Romaine Lettuce

Kaili loves to cook—from comfort food to fine cuisine—and was the recipient of a silver medal in a food and wine matching competition.

I know it sounds a little crazy, but grilling salmon with lettuce is great!

I know it sounds a little crazy, but grilling salmon with lettuce is great!

Salmon Cooked on Romaine Lettuce

What is more perfect on the barbecue than salmon? I’m not even sure.

Salmon just lends itself so well to a variety of cooking methods and flavors, and a barbeque provides a fantastic way to cook this wonderful fish. Salmon prepared this way is very juicy and flavorful because the high heat of the barbeque seals the outside of the fish and cooks it evenly and quickly, meaning that more of the natural juices remain.

The only tricky part about cooking salmon on the barbeque is determining exactly when it is done. It should be opaque all the way through, especially at its thickest point. If it is still translucent at all, it isn’t cooked. You will learn what the optimal grilling time is on your own barbeque through a little experimentation.

This recipe has its origins on both the east and west coasts of North America, where salmon is plentiful and the locals sometimes cook it on top of seaweed that is also readily available. Not living on the coast means having to find an alternative to seaweed, and romaine lettuce does the trick nicely. And, since you are probably whipping up a Caesar salad tonight anyway, you now have a use for the tough outer leaves of the romaine.

Cooking the salmon on top of the wet romaine leaves means that the fish remains nice and moist; it will be steamed instead of grilled. And the salmon takes on a lovely, light lemony flavor from the lemon slices on top. The bonus is that cleanup is a snap!

Ready? Let's get cooking . . .

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

5 min

15 min

20 min

Serves 2 people 6 to 7 ounces of salmon each


  • 2 salmon fillets, 6 or 7 ounces each
  • 4 romaine leaves, the tougher the better
  • Several fresh basil leaves, stems removed
  • 1 lemon sliced into 8 thin slices


  1. Tear or cut the tough outer leaves from a head of romaine. It is best if the leaves don’t have large tears or holes in them, but you will be overlapping them on the grill so they don’t need to be in perfect shape. Rinse under cold running water and leave the water on them.
  2. Rinse your salmon fillets under cold water. Rinse the basil leaves, and slice the lemon into 8 thin slices.
  3. Place the basil leaves along the length of each piece of salmon, overlapping them slightly, then top with the lemon slices, overlapping them slightly too if you have to.
  4. If using gas, preheat the grill to 500°F then reduce heat to medium. If grilling with charcoal, wait until the coals turn gray.
  5. Place the romaine leaves on the pre-heated grill, overlapping them to create a nice bed of lettuce for the salmon. Place the salmon fillets on top of the lettuce toward the center, being careful not to let the lemons slide off.
  6. Close the lid and keep it closed for the duration, so the steam and heat do not escape. Cook for about 15 minutes (exact time will depend on the thickness of the fish and the temperature of your grill). I usually check it at about the 12-minute mark, and I know it is done when the edges of the lemons are just starting to turn a little brown. The edges of the lettuce may be burnt; don't worry as this is normal.
  7. Remove the salmon from the lettuce by sliding a long barbeque spatula lengthwise under the salmon, between the salmon and its skin. Most of the skin will probably remain stuck to the lettuce, and cleanup is easy. Just slide the spatula under the leaves, or pull them off with tongs.
  8. Enjoy!


  1. Prior to lighting your grill, you may want to spray or brush on a little oil to make cleanup even easier.
  2. For this recipe, the idea is to keep everything a little wet; the lettuce as well as the salmon. This helps create steam inside the barbeque that cooks the fish and keeps it moist and juicy. Don't dry the romaine leaves after you wash them, just leave the water on them.

Wine Pairings

Pinot Noir is always fabulous with grilled salmon, but this dish also works very well with Sauvignon Blanc because of the slight lemon flavor in the fish. An ice-cold Rousanne is also very nice with this.

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© 2012 Kaili Bisson