Korean lettuce salad is light, and refreshing and is a delicious blend of sour, salty and sweet, making it perfect to serve alongside meat dishes. It may not look fancy, but it's not something to be overlooked! All you need are a handful of ingredients and a few minutes to whip up this salad, showing that sometimes simple is the best!
Why You Need to Make Korean Lettuce Salad
This is one of those dishes where you look at it and think that it's so simple that it can't be that good. But it is! I was introduced to this while dining at Korean BBQ restaurants in Seoul and I have to say, it was the best thing to balance the meat we were eating.
The lettuce is simple and light, and the dressing is the perfect combination of sour, salty, and sweet. It goes fabulously with Korean BBQ or Korean meat dishes, but it also pairs well with plenty of other meat dishes!
You really can't get any simpler than this:
- Leaf lettuce
- Thinly sliced onion (optional)
- Rice vinegar
- Light soy sauce
- Sesame oil
- Sesame seeds
- Gochugaru (Korean chili powder...optional)
How To Make the Lettuce Salad
To prepare the dressing, combine the rice vinegar with the sugar first and stir well until the sugar is completely dissolved (this will take about a minute).
Add the light soy sauce and sesame oil to the rice vinegar-sugar mixture.
Add the sesame seeds to the dressing and the gochugaru chili flakes, if desired, and stir well. Place the dressing in the refrigerator to chill and to allow the flavors to develop.
Rinse the lettuce leaves and then rip into bite-sized pieces. Place the leaves in a bowl of cold water and set aside until you are ready to serve.
When you are ready to serve, drain the lettuce leaves and either shake off the excess water or use a salad spinner.
How To Serve Korean Lettuce Salad
Place the leaves in a salad bowl or individual dishes and top with thinly sliced onion (optional). Drizzle the dressing over the lettuce leaves and serve immediately.
Alternatively, serve the dressing separately so it can be drizzled on the salad at the table when ready to eat and to taste. Store any leftover dressing in a bottle or jar in the fridge.
Dishes to Serve with Korean Lettuce Salad
As I mentioned earlier, the Korean lettuce salad partners well with heavier dishes. Korean BBQ is always a delicious option, but you could also serve the lettuce salad with Korean dishes like Kalbi Short Ribs, Korean Sweet Potato Noodles (Japchae), or Korean Stir-Fried Rice Cakes.
This salad does not have to be limited to Korean dishes, of course.
Other possible options include:
- Roast Asian Pork Tenderloin
- Dry Rub Roast Pork Neck
- Asian Pork and Shrimp Meatballs
- Slow-Roasted Dry Rub Ribs
- Prime Rib Roast
- Crispy Crunch Cornflakes Chicken
- Chicken Skewers with Thai Curry Dipping Sauce
- Crispy Shake N Bake Chicken...there are many options!
It would even go deliciously with Pan-Fried Crispy Enoki Mushrooms!
Commonly Asked Questions
If you have had lettuce salad in a Korean restaurant, you will see that they use leaf lettuce which has "softer" leaves. You could use stiffer lettuces like Romaine or iceberg, but I think the red or green leaf lettuces also taste best for this salad.
Leftover lettuce salad will not keep because the dressing will make the leaves wilt. Only make as much salad as you intend to eat at the meal.
Yes! White sugar is more of a neutral sweetener, but having the taste of honey is okay, too! Using honey or another liquid sweetener will also eliminate the step of stirring the sugar until it is dissolved.
Regular chili powder is stronger than Korean gochugaru, so I would recommend sticking with gochugaru if you can. If you can't find gochugaru, but still want spice, I would suggest using less chili powder and tasting the dressing before serving.
So the next time you need a quick salad to serve with your meal, consider making this Korean lettuce salad! It's super easy, delicious, and it gives the perfect light balance to meat dishes. It's also a refreshing change from the typical boring side salads!
Korean Lettuce Salad
- Thinly sliced red onion
- ½ teaspoon gochugaru chili flakes
- Wash the leaf lettuce and rip into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
- In a measuring cup or bowl, combine the rice vinegar and sugar and stir with a spoon until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 1 minute.
- Add the water, light soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds and stir well. Add the gochugaru chili flakes, if using.
- Top the lettuce leaves with thinly sliced red onion, if desired.
- Serve the dressing on the side so people can dress their own leaf lettuce salad at the table when they are ready to eat.
- This recipe makes about ¼ cup of dressing.
- Store leftover dressing in a bottle or jar in the fridge.
- Soft leaf lettuce (like green or red leaf) works better with this recipe than "harder" lettuces like romaine or iceberg.
- Honey or other liquid sweeteners can be substituted for the granulated sugar.
- Serve the dressing at the table so people can drizzle as much or as little as they want on their own salads.
- Leftover salad does not keep well; it is best to eat the salad immediately at the meal.
- Adjust the ingredients depending on your taste preference
- More rice vinegar for more tang/sourness
- More soy sauce for more saltiness
- More sugar/honey for more sweetness
- Add gochugaru chili flakes for spice