How to Cut Lettuce for Tacos

How to Cut Lettuce for Tacos (Image: LauriPatterson/E+/GettyImages)

Perfectly shredded pieces of lettuce add a cooling touch to your spicy tacos. Large chunks fall off your taco and take up too much space. Sure, you can buy preshredded lettuce at the store, but shredding it yourself gives you the freshest toppings for your tacos. You'll also save money by buying a head of iceberg lettuce and shredding it yourself.

Types of Lettuce for Tacos

Iceberg lettuce is the go-to lettuce for tacos. It's crisp without a strong flavor, so it adds a nice crunch without being overpowering. It's also inexpensive and easy to shred. One head of iceberg lettuce makes about 12 cups of shredded lettuce.

Romaine is another lettuce that doesn't have an overwhelming flavor. It adds a bright green color to your tacos.

If you want to switch it up a little, try shredded cabbage in your tacos. You can shred cabbage the same way you do iceberg lettuce, or you can go the easy route and use a coleslaw mix.

Prepare the Lettuce

Get rid of any damaged or limp leaves from the outside of the head of iceberg lettuce. Rinse the head of lettuce under cool water. Pull the leaves back to let the water reach the inner leaves. Let the water drain off the lettuce before cutting it.

If you opt for romaine lettuce, use a similar prep method. Remove damaged leaves, cut away the core and rinse the leaves well. Let them dry fully or use a salad spinner to get rid of extra water.

For iceberg, slam the core on the bottom of the head of lettuce onto the counter. This helps break it up and makes it possible to pull it out so you don't have to cut around it. Cut the head into quarters for easier cutting.

Cut the Lettuce

Shredding lettuce with a knife gives you the most control over the pieces. You can cut them any width you want.

Place one of the quarters on a cutting board with the cut side down to keep it from rolling. Hold the lettuce quarter carefully with one hand, keeping your fingers out of the way to avoid cuts. Slice across the lettuce using a sharp cleaver or chef's knife. A good width is about 1/8 to 1/4 inch, but you can adjust the pieces to your preference.

If you're using romaine or other leafy lettuces, using a knife is the best way to cut them, as the loose leaves don't work well on a grater. Layer the leaves in a pile on your cutting board. Hold the stack with one hand while cutting across them with the same type of knife. Use the same width of cuts to get fine shreds of lettuce.

Use a Grater

If you have a vegetable grater on hand, grab it to make small, even shreds. Shredding lettuce with a grater is usually faster than using a knife.

Prepare the lettuce the same way you do for shredding it with a knife, cutting it into quarters for easier shredding. Put the vegetable grater inside a large bowl to catch the lettuce. Slide your pieces of iceberg lettuce over the grater openings to cut it into small pieces. Repeat with the remaining lettuce pieces.

Shred in a Food Processor

If you want to make quick work of the job, shred lettuce in a food processor. Fit the appliance with a shredding blade designed for shredding vegetables. Put small sections of the lettuce into the food processor. Putting too much in at once can make the shreds uneven.

Pulse the lettuce for a short time, just a few seconds at a time. You don't want to overprocess it. When it reaches the desired shred size, pour it into a bowl and work on the next small batch.

You can use a blender in the same way, but it tends to make uneven cuts. It's also very easy to go from shredded to pulverized lettuce that's not usable.

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