Maroulosalata, sometimes called psilokomeni, is a classic Greek lettuce salad made of finely chopped lettuce, some spring onions, cucumber and the most delicious herb vinaigrette. It is the perfect side to almost everything. This light, fresh and incredibly flavourful salad is sure to become a favourite once you try it!
Μαρουλοσαλάτα. When my siblings and I were teenagers, and decided that we knew everything, we would get into heated discussions with our parents over this salad. We had heard that when a knife is used to cut lettuce, as was the case in our parents’ kitchen, there is a chance that lettuce cell boundaries will be damaged. For reasons we never really understood, this resulted in sub-par lettuce leaves. Because of this, we explained to our parents that lettuce had to be torn, by hand, into large, bite-sized pieces; this was necessary to preserve its integrity. It was also the way most of our non-Greek friends ate their salad, and frankly, we wanted to be a little like them. Our parents gave the hand-torn lettuce a try (once), and quickly deemed the non-uniform, large-ish pieces of green, to be too cumbersome to eat. Back to the cutting board.
This great lettuce debate apparently continues to be active in some circles, but not in our homes. We’ve come to realize that the neat and tidy little strips of romaine or curly lettuce that our parents end up with in their maroulosalata are easy to eat, and mess free. Regardless of what happens to the cell boundaries, we’ve accepted that the lettuce itself remains perfectly healthy and delicious. This is also the way that most of our Greek friends (and their parents) eat their salad, and frankly, we want to be a lot like them.
Why this recipe works
This Greek maroulosalata is the perfect way to add a healthy side to your meal. The simple ingredients and their freshness offer such an amazing flavour. The homemade dressing, loaded with fresh herbs, extra virgin Greek olive oil and other aromatics cannot be beat. You will never get anything as delicious out of a bottled salad dressing.
This salad goes well with everything! So, it is a perfect addition to any meal, and is a welcome addition to any buffet table.
The best part of this maroulosalata recipe is how easily everything comes together. You can even prepare your lettuce and your dressing in advance, and assemble your salad just before serving to keep it fresh.
Everything you need to make the most amazing maroulosalata. It is a simple salad, but trust me, it is full of flavour!
Lettuce: The star of this salad is the lettuce. I use garden fresh curly lettuce when I can. The leaves are so tender and delicious. If you cannot find curly lettuce, no worries. Romaine lettuce works really well too. The leaves or Romaine are a mix of tender and firm, which adds a nice variation in every bite!
Cucumber: For added flavour and texture, nothing beats fresh cucumber in this salad. I like to cut it into half circles or chunks, depending on the size of my cucumber.
Greek onions: Also called spring onions, these fresh onions add a mild heat, lovely flavour and texture to the salad. I like to add both the white and green part of the onion.
Garlic: There is plenty of garlic in this homemade vinaigrette! Don’t worry about using raw garlic. The flavour is not overpowering, but it is amazing!
Herbs: I have had plenty of bland Greek lettuce salads, and I know it is because there are not enough fresh herbs in the dressing. I add plenty of chopped parsley and basil, along with a generous amount of dry oregano.
Olive oil: You cannot have an amazing vinaigrette without an amazing olive oil base. Good quality olive oil tastes fruity and rich.
Vinegar: Red wine vinegar adds a perfect zing to the vinaigrette
If you don’t have the exact ingredients on hand, you can make some substitutions.
In place of fresh herbs, you can use dry herbs. As a general rule of thumb, you would use half the amount of fresh herbs when replacing them with dry. So, for example, instead of using 3 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh parsley, you would use 1 1/2 tablespoons of dry parsley.
You can use white wine vinegar in place of the red wine vinegar. You can also use plain white vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
How to make a Greek maroulosalata or lettuce salad
Maroulosalata translates to lettuce salad, and this is perfect because lettuce is not only the main ingredient, but it is also one of the few ingredients. In the summer months, our parents pick the curly lettuce that they grow in their garden for their salad. The rest of the year they purchase either a head of romaine or curly lettuce.
How to prepare the lettuce
The key to any maroulosalata is the way that the lettuce is prepared. After washing it thoroughly in cold water and draining it in a salad spinner (ideal), or in a colander, you are ready to chop. The lettuce should be cut cross-wise into strips which are each about a couple of centimeters wide. This of course is not meant to be exact, and your pieces will vary in size. That’s fine…it’s only salad!
Place your prepared lettuce, cucumber and green onions in a large bowl.
Prepare your vinaigrette by combining all of the ingredients in a jar with a lid. Shake well so that your dressing is emulsified. Alternatively, you can combine all of the ingredients together in a bowl and whisk together.
Pour the dressing over the greens and toss well. I like to use either tongs, or my clean hands.
Frequently asked questions
Can I prepare your maroulosalata in advance?
You can prepare your salad in advance and store it in the refrigerator. You can also prepare your vinaigrette in advance and keep that in the refrigerator for a few hours. However, you should dress your salad right before you plan to serve it.
How long does the vinaigrette keep in the refrigerator?
The vinaigrette will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. I don’t like to keep it longer than that because of the fresh garlic and herbs.
Use a fine chop on your lettuce
There is a reason why this salad is also called psilokomeni in Greek. This means cut into small pieces. You really want to make thin strands with your lettuce. I love preparing my lettuce this way. The smaller pieces make the salad easier to eat, and the dressing gets everywhere!
Be sure to dry your ingredients well
All of your fresh salad ingredients should be washed. It is incredibly important to dry everything every well. If you don’t, your maroulosalata’s flavour will be diluted with water, and your lettuce runs the risk of being soggy. I use a salad spinner to dry my lettuce really well, and I also use paper towels to make sure that my fresh herbs are as dry as possible.
You can definitely make this salad your own by making a few simple changes.
I often serve my salad with some feta on the side. People can then choose to add some to the top of their salad or not. However, if you know that everyone will love the addition of cheese, you can crumble 1/4 – 1/2 cup of feta either onto your greens, or add it directly to your vinaigrette.
Although not traditional, you can certainly add some more veggies to your maroulosalata. The trick would be to keep the chop on these similar to what is already in the salad. Grated carrots, julienned zucchini or slivered cabbage would work well.
What to serve with
Maroulosalata or Greek lettuce salad is so straightforward and simple, it actually goes really well with so many things.
This may seem like an odd choice of side, but trust me! If you serve your maroulosalata on the same plate as a pile of fresh homemade fries, the vinaigrette ends up mixing in with the potatoes and this is divine! I love this combination so much, and it is enough to fill me up for a complete meal.
My chicken souvlaki recipe is so simple, you will never want to order souvlaki in a restaurant again! The chicken is marinated with simple ingredients and cooked to perfection. The souvlaki, served with my maroulosalata and maybe some homemade pita and tzatziki is a perfect Greek meal.
These simple pork medallions made with pork tenderloin are prepared simply and pan-fried. If you are looking to get a meal on the table quickly and easily, this pork, along with the maroulosalata and maybe a side of vegetable rice are all you need.
In the refrigerator
If you are going to be making your maroulosalata ahead of time, store the greens and the vinaigrette separately. The greens will keep fresh, in a large bowl for several days. I like to add a paper towel to the top of the greens so that any moisture gets collected and they stay fresh longer. The vinaigrette will stay fresh in a jar for up to 3 days.
Related Greek salad recipes
If you are looking for more salad recipes that are eaten all over Greece, and in Greek homes around the world, try some of these favourites.
This potato salad with oranges and fennel is popular in the Mani region of Greece, where oranges and potatoes grow beautifully. I love this hearty and unique maniatiki salad!
A popular salad in various parts of Greece, and perfect when the fresh greens might not be available. Roasting the beets brings out an amazing sweetness that goes so well with crumbled feta or even goat cheese. I love to serve this roasted beet salad with skordalia, a garlic mashed potato.
Horiatiki, or Greek village salad
This tomato, cucumber and feta salad might be the most well known Greek salad there is. I eat this salad almost every day in the summer when the tomatoes are ripe from the garden. The one thing you will never find in a horiatiki, or Greek village salad? Lettuce! Keep the lettuce for your maroulosalata!
This recipe will make enough salad to serve 4 people as a side. You can very easily double, triple or even quadruple the recipe! You can even half it if you need a smaller portion.
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Maroulosalata, a Greek lettuce salad
- Salad spinner
- 1 large head curly lettuce, you can use romaine if you prefer
- 1 large cucumber, washed, and cut into small chunks
- 4-6 spring (green) onions, chopped
For the vinaigrette:
- 3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 3 tbsp finely chopped, flat-leaf parsley
- 1 small basil leaf, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup Greek olive oil
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- Wash your lettuce thoroughly and remove any brown or wilted leaves. Drain your lettuce. A salad spinner is very helpful here.
- When your lettuce is dried, you are ready to chop it. Using a sharp knive, take a few lettuce leaves at a time (piled on top of each other) and start to cut the lettuce into bite-sized strips, a few centimeters wide. Place in a large bowl.
- To the lettuce add your cucumber pieces and your chopped green onion.1 large cucumber, washed, and cut into small chunks, 4-6 spring (green) onions, chopped
- In a jar with a well-fitted lid, combine all of your vinaigrette ingredients. Shake well until combined and right before you are ready to serve your salad, pour as much of the vinaigrette over it. Mix well.3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced, 3 tbsp finely chopped, flat-leaf parsley, 1 small basil leaf, finely chopped, 1/2 teaspoon dried Greek oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup Greek olive oil, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- Enjoy, and serve with feta if desired.