Why Does Lettuce Turn Red? (& How To Prevent It)


Led lettuce on a farm ready to be gathered.

Lettuce comes in many varieties, sizes, and colors. Some lettuce species are crispier than others when some can have a darker color, whereas others are tastier. The common nominator is that all lettuces are mostly green. Therefore, what does it mean when common lettuce species such as iceberg or romaine turn red or brownish?

Lettuce can turn red when they are cut or processed because the leaves are now damaged, and when they contact with oxygen, enzymes are released, creating red areas on the lettuce. In addition, ethylene gas produced by ripening fruit can turn certain lettuce species red, such as romaine and spinach.

Think about it, when did your lettuce turn red, and in what circumstances. What were you doing just before? Here are some common reasons why lettuce might turn brown:

  • You cut the leaves with a knife
  • You damaged leaves by hand
  • The lettuce was resting near ripening fruit
  • The species ethylene gas sensitive, such as romaine and spinach

If your lettuce has recently turned red, the chances are it was one of the four reasons above. Worst case scenario, you chopped up some romaine salad that was flattened on the grocery bag and stored it near ethylene gas-producing ingredients such as bananas or apples.

Now that you know why lettuce turns brown and/or red, it’s important to understand whether it’s ruined.

Related: What Do Restaurants Use To Keep Lettuce Fresh?

Is Lettuce That Has Turned Red Bad?

Lettuce that has turned red doesen’t look as appealing as fresh, bright green, and crunchy lettuce. That being said, not everything that doesen’t look the best isn’t bad. Is lettuce?

Depending on how red the lettuce has turned, it might be bad or edible. If the lettuce has only small spots of red, it might still be as good to eat as one without. However, lettuce with red spread all over has lost its flavor, texture, nutritional value, and appearance. Thus, red lettuce isn’t good.

Often you will know the difference between edible lettuce that has just begun turning red and lettuce that has been red for days. For example, if you can hold a leaf of lettuce from the bottom without it flattening out, it’s still crunchy, meaning it’s still good to eat.

However, weak and slimy lettuce that is red isn’t good to eat anymore because the nutritional value is gone, and with that, its flavor, texture, and appearance.

Next, let’s see if it’s safe to eat lettuce that has turned red.

Can You Eat Lettuce That Has Turned Red?

If your lettuce is on the border of being good or bad, you might still decide to eat it. However, red lettuce is a sign of spoilage, and it’s only natural to ask whether it’s safe to eat or not.

Eating lettuce that has turned red is perfectly fine to eat and has no threat to your digestive system. However, eating reddened lettuce isn’t pleasant to eat because it has a diluted flavor, a slimy and loose texture, an unpleasant odor, and it has lost a significant portion of its nutritional value.

That being said, lettuce that has turned mostly red won’t be enjoyable to eat anymore. If you have lettuce with slightly brownish parts and still would eat it, feel free to do so without fear of anything bad happening! This is also stated by Thrive Cuisine.

Read also: Do You Really Need a Salad Spinner?

How to Prevent Lettuce From Turning Red?

It’s important to understand why lettuce can turn red, what happens, and whether it’s safe to eat. But do you know what’s even better? Never have lettuce that turns red or brown! Now, let’s take a look at preventing lettuce from turning red.

You can prevent lettuce from turning red by tearing the leaves by hand instead of cutting them with a knife and storing it at a cool temperature with preferably a wet tablecloth over them. Also, don’t store ethylene gas-producing ingredients such as bananas and tomatoes near lettuce as it is sensitive.

Chilly temperatures, tearing the leaves by hand, so the tears follow the natural leaf veins, and keeping it away from ripening fruit and vegetables will produce 80% of the results.

If you want to prepare a lot of lettuce, so it’s always ready and processed, I have a trick that I learned when working as a chef.

When you have cut or torn your lettuce, wash them properly in cold water. Next, place them in a container, preferably one made from metal. Wet a clean tablecloth with cold water, cover the container and store it in a refrigerator. This makes the lettuce last a long time, even when pre-cut.

Taking care of lettuce is an easy task if you know what to do. Remember the little things, and you will never see a day with spoiled lettuce again.

Here You’ll Find My Favorite Kitchen Equipment.

Thanks for reading this article! I hope that it brought you real value that you can benefit from in your personal life! Here is my top kitchen equipment that I seriously couldn’t live without, and I think they could ease your life as well as they do mine.

  • Knife set: As a chef, I can’t stand dull, poor-quality knives without any design. My absolute favorite kitchen knife set is the Gangshan 3-Piece Knife Set. It comes with a handcrafted 8″ chef’s knife and a 3.5″ paring knife. What I love even more than these flawless knives is the walnut knife block which is incredible and unique.
  • Skillet: In addition to knives and my unwillingness to bargain with its quality is the cookware. My favorite skillet is Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Skillet. This particular skillet is 9″ in size, it is heavy, it gets very hot, which is what is required to get a good sear, and it is just beautiful, as are all Le Creuset products. Le Creuset doesn’t need an introduction as a brand, as it is one of the world’s rated brands.
  • Food processor: I remember when I hadn’t a food processor at home. It wasn’t easy! But now, when I use my Ninja BN601 Food Processor, I can make anything super fast, which saves me many hours per week. This food processor has 1000 watts of power and four options, including chopping, slicing, dough, and purees. I also like the middle-sized 9cup (2.1l) bowl as it is big enough yet not too big to look unfitting in my kitchen.
  • Tweezers: Dalstrong Professional Cooking Tweezers are like tongs but much more elegant, thin, and easy to use. They are great for virtually anything, but flipping, turning, and grabbing with them is easy and makes cooking much more fun! These Dalstrgon tongs are titanium coated and very durable. Also, I like the black color instead of the everyday steel.

Interested in how this website was made or how to make your own? Start Here


Omar Abdalla

I’m the owner of JRS. While I love writing about food, I also enjoy peaceful and relaxed cookouts at home.

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