The Meatwave

Grilled Romaine Salad with Spicy Ranch, Tomatoes, and Fried Onions

Grilled Romaine Salad with Spicy Ranch, Tomatoes, and Fried Onions View Recipe

I'm fresh off a four day trip to Decatur, Alabama, where the folks at Kingsford invited me down to learn the ropes of competition 'cue with pitmaster Chris Lilly and then compete in the annual Riverfest event. Needless to say, on a barbecue press trip run by Kingsford and the man at the helm of Big Bob Gibson, I was extremely well fed with endless grilled and smoked goodies along with biscuits, gravies, and pies. Now I can't complain at all about this, but it did undo a bit of my work I've been keeping up for most of the summer to bring in the waistline. I'm not quite ready to give in to fall and winter gluttony quite yet, so I'm going into rebound mode, which calls for a salad or two, but that doesn't mean I have to shy away from the grill.

Grilled Romaine Salad

I got the idea for this particular grilled salad from another trip that had me and the wife stopping at 12 Bones Smokehouse in Asheville just a couples hours off of a huge breakfast. It was no challenge for me to indulge in ribs and pulled pork on a full stomach, but my wife wasn't of the same mind and I finally found out who orders the salad in barbecue restaurant.

To her credit, the salad did come with a side of ribs, but the main attraction was a giant iceberg wedge dressed with spicy Ranch, tomatoes, fried onions, and bacon. This combo had her raving, and I admit, it was pretty damn tasty (for a salad).

Grilled Romaine Salad

So thinking along those lines, I decided to put together something similar, but swapped out that chunk of cold lettuce with grilled hearts of romaine.

Grilled Romaine Salad

A sturdy leaf lettuce like romaine actually works fantastic on the grill. Halved, oiled, and lightly seasoned, the cut side is taken to the flames where it develops a slight char along the outer edges of the leaves closest to the fire.

Grilled Romaine Salad

In contrast, the top of the lettuce stays rather cool and remains nice and crisp. This creates a variety of texture, while the onions, tomatoes, and spicy ranch deliver on a bold and satisfying flavor. It's one that makes salad agreeable to me, which in turn will help me lose some weight gained in Decatur, which will then make me feel better about letting myself go once again come winter.

Print Recipe

Grilled Romaine Salad with Spicy Ranch, Tomatoes, and Fried Onions

  • Yield 4 servings
  • Prep 15 Minutes
  • Cook 5 Minutes
  • Total 20 Minutes


  • 1 cup ranch dressing
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo
  • 2 hearts of romaine, rinsed and dried
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12oz grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup French fried onions
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a medium bow, mix ranch dressing and adobo sauce to make the spicy ranch. Set aside.
  2. Split hearts of romaine in half lengthwise. Brush each cut side with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place romaine on the grill, cut side down, and grill until leaves start to soften and char, about 5 minutes. Remove from grill.
  4. Place each heart of romaine on its own plate. Drizzle with dressing, then top with tomatoes and fried onions. Serve immediately.

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  1. Chris Josh,

    I was so completely disappointed that I didn't get to meet you there. I was so looking forward to hanging with you guys. Next time!


  2. Josh @Chris Our paths will cross someday, I'm sure. Hope you and the family are doing well.

  3. yl when grilling the romaine, is it done over the direct side or indirect side? and do you cover the grill?