This refreshing, bright and flavorful Lettuce Dill Salad with feta cheese, scallions and freshly squeezed lemon juice is the perfect side dish to a Mediterranean meal. The vibrant flavors, crisp lettuce and fragrant herbs will make you feel like you’re dining out in the shores of the Mediterranean.
I grew up in Albania and we often made this salad at home with some variations depending on availability of produce. This is the basic recipe but you can add olives, cucumbers or any ingredients of your choice on top.
I have lived in Florida for several decades now and anytime I miss food from home (that I don’t have to cook myself), I tend to find either Greek or Mediterranean style restaurants that have very similar food to the one I grew up with. Usually this salad is found under the Greek name Maroulosalata in the menu. The Greek version is slightly different from my recipe below but still very similar when you want to order it out.
Let’s talk about the ingredients and then how to make the salad. There are very few ingredients in this salad and for good reason. They balance each other perfectly and they also build such an amazing side dish for hearty dishes.
- Lettuce – Green romaine lettuce is the star of this recipe. I urge you to not go cheap on this ingredient, buy the best lettuce money can buy. Believe me that in this salad, it will make a huge difference. The deeper the green color, the better.
- Dill – have you seen those recipes where you sprinkle a tablespoon of thinly chopped dill on the whole dish? Well, this is not it!! You need the whole bunch of dill for this salad. If it looks like you are overdoing, you’re maybe just getting it right:).
- Green onions (scallions) – the flavor of these onions pulls the salad together, you need both the green and white parts of the onion.
- Lemon juice – you need freshly squeezed lemon juice for this salad and from good quality lemons too. Please don’t use bottled lemons juice, it won’t taste the same. If you don’t have access to fresh lemon juice, it’s better to use red wine vinegar.
- Feta cheese – While I love to add lots of feta in every dish, go slow with feta in this salad. You need just enough but don’t overdo it because it will overpower the salad.
- Dressing – I don’t do a separate dressing for this salad, I add the lemon juice as seen below with all the ingredients and towards the end, right before serving I add the olive oil.
Step by Step Process
Ok once you make this salad once or twice, you don’t need to look at the recipe again. But there are some steps I learned from my mom and grandparents when making this salad that I think make the whole difference. Follow them once and you’re good to go!!
1. Wash lettuce carefully and then chop leaves in very thin strips
So once you are ready to make the salad, get the head of romaine lettuce, strip the leaves and wash them under running water carefully. Organically grown romaine lettuce tends to accumulate a lot of dirt in between the leaf itself and the part that attaches to the romaine head.
Once the lettuce leaves are washed, place them in a colander to air dry or use a salad spinner to remove the water. Then chop them very thinly and add them to a salad bowl or large deep platter.
2. Chop/ Dice scallions (green onions)
This step is easy, but if you’ve never dealt with green onions you need to know that there’s a little process involved before you can slice them. First, chop off the green onions head. Then removed one outer layer by hand, peel from green side all the way to white.
Finally wash carefully then you can slice them together in a bunch in the cutting board. Then add them over the lettuce in the bowl.
3. Chop dill
Rinse dill well then hang upside down so it air dries. Then chop off about a whole cup of fresh dill. Usually I chop off the the whole bunch. It doesn’t need to be obsessively thin, but don’t just roughly chop it either.
4. Add little salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice
The reason we don’t want to add too much salt is that feta cheese usually is very salty. Also, the salad volume will go down so the salt will seem like it will concentrate. Then squeeze a fresh lemon over the salad. Usually I squeeze about half a lemon to start then add more to adjust for taste as there is some variability in lemon sizes and how much juice they carry.
5. Massage the salad
Yes, we massage the salad and it might seem weird to some, but this is what makes the whole difference in this salad. Once massaged, the flavors are all fused together and volume of the salad has gone down. That’s why you want to use a lot of lettuce to start with.
6. Finally add olive oil and feta cheese
After step 5, if you’re not ready to serve the salad yet, you can let it chill in the refrigerator until ready to set the table. Then you can get it out of the refrigerator, add olive oil and crumbled feta cheese.
Pro-tip: use block feta and crumble using a fork. Use the best extra virgin olive oil you can find.
How to serve this Lettuce and Dill Salad?
Traditionally we served this salad with casserole dishes. During Easter or Ramadan times, we served this lettuce dill salad with a roasted lamb dish, either the baked lamb and rice dish or the slow roasted lamb leg.
Sunday meals were big in my house too. We usually had my grandparents over and this salad was normally served with either baked drumsticks and potatoes dish or baked chicken and rice casserole.
On a weekday, we’d normally serve it a Leeks and Ground Beef casserole or with Braised Cabbage and Beef.
I even serve this salad with any protein that I have available like in this meal I made with chuck steak. I added green olives over the salad in this occasion.
Lettuce Dill and Feta Cheese Salad
- 1 salad bowl
- 1 Salad mixing utensils
- 1 romaine lettuce head about 1 pound (half a kilogram)
- 5 green onions
- 1 cup fresh dill
- 1 lemon
- pinch salt
- 2 ozs feta cheese
- 4 tbsps olive oil extra virgin
- Wash lettuce leaves carefully to remove any impurities hiding in between the leaves. Let air dry in a colander or use a salad spinner to remove the extra water. Chop lettuce in very thin strips and add to salad bowl.
- Chop the top off of green onions, remove one outer layer. Rinse carefully then chop green onions. Add the chopped scallions over lettuce.
- Make sure dill is rinsed before using. You can rinse a bunch of dill then hang it upside down in your kitchen to let it air dry before using it. Chop off a cup of dill (usually 1 bunch as sold in my grocery store yields about 1 cup). Add dill in the salad bowl as well.
- Add a pinch of salt and squeeze half a lemon over the salad (if lemon is on the smaller size, squeeze the whole lemon). Use your hands to massage all the ingredients together by squeezing slightly. All the flavors will fuse together and salad volume will go down considerably. If you are not ready to serve the salad yet, at this point refrigerate it.
- As soon as you are ready to to serve the salad, add feta cheese crumbles and olive oil over the salad bowl. I use block feta cheese and crumble it using a fork. Mix salad and serve with your favorite Mediterranean meals:).
- Check for salt before serving, it’s easy to go over with salt in this salad so less is always better initially. Also keep in mind that feta cheese usually has a lot of salt as well.
- I tend to add sliced English cucumbers and olives to this salad. Also, you can experiment with more herbs and see if you like the flavor (add mint and oregano, even parsley). But the star of the salad is dill.
I tend to use butterhead lettuce or green-leaf lettuce in the absence of good quality romaine lettuce.
Yes you can, but be careful because certain flavors can overcome the rest and this salad it’s all about balance. Greek salad dressing or vinaigrette are the best options for this salad.
If you would like to save this recipe for later, please pin the below image to your boards in Pinterest so you can easily access the recipe for later. Please let me know if you have any questions in comments or if you make this same salad differently.
Feel free to tag me in social media with your pictures of this recipe:). Thank you!!
Additional Mediterranean Recipes
Feel free to check out some of my other Mediterranean cuisine recipes:).
- Baked chicken drumsticks with potatoes
- Chicken in sun dried tomatoes sauce with feta cheese
- Mediterranean potato salad with dill