Cool and crunchy, Little Gem Salad with cucumber, radish, avocado, pickled onions, fresh herbs, and pepitas, tossed in a creamy, tangy, Dilly Ranch Dressing. Vegan-adaptable- see notes. 

Little Gem Salad with avocado, radishes, cucumber, pickled onions, pepitas, sunflower sprouts, in a Homemade Dilly Ranch Dressing.

No matter how difficult and painful it may be, nothing sounds as good to the soul as the truth. ~Martha Beck

Hello, salad of my dreams! We have been loving the Santa Barbara Farmers Market this time of year- and one of my favorite veggies as of late has been Little Gem Lettuce.

Here Little Gems are tossed with radishes, cucumbers, pickled onions, pepitas, avocado, sunflower sprouts, and lots of fresh herbs in a creamy, homemade Dilly Ranch Dressing.

Cool, creamy and crunchy, this Little Gem Salad satisfies!

Little Gem Lettuces on the counter

What are Little Gems?

If unfamiliar,  Little Gems are little heads of lettuce usually under 4 inches in length when fully grown. They are a cross between romaine and butterhead lettuce. Also called Sucrine (French for sugar), Little Gem lettuce is known for its slightly sweet flavor, with a beautiful crunchy texture.

It’s a good option for those who are sensitive to bitter flavors- Little Gems have no bitterness to speak of.  So perfect for kid’s palates, or salad newbies.

little gem lettuce in a bowl

This Little Gem Salad comes together easily. Just layer the ingredients, separating the leaves- taking care to wash and spin them dry to help remove any tiny critters within the leaves.

What you’ll need:

  • Little Gems lettuce- or sub romaine hearts
  • Radishes or Watermelon radishes
  • Cucumber- Turkish, Persian, or English
  • Pickled onions or pickled shallots (or sub fresh red onion)
  • Avocado
  • Pepitas– or sunflower seeds
  • Sunflower Sprouts or Microgreens
  • Fresh Herbs- dill, tarragon, flat-leaf parsley – a combo is nice or any of the three.
  • One Batch Dilly Ranch- or see notes for a vegan option.

Little Gem Salad with avocado, radishes, cucumber, pickled onions, pepitas, sunflower sprouts, in a Homemade Dilly Ranch Dressing.

Make the Dilly Ranch Dressing by whisking everything in a bowl, refrigerating it.

dilly ranch dressing

When ready to serve, toss the salad.  You can make everything ahead, and toss right before serving.

Toss the little Gem Salad with the creamy dill dressing

The creamy, herby, lemony, Dilly Ranch Dressing compliments the crunchy Little Gems perfectly!

Little Gem Salad with avocado, radishes, cucumber, pickled onions, pepitas, sunflower sprouts, in a Homemade Dilly Ranch Dressing.

A delicious spring salad that will pair with many many things.

More salad recipes you may enjoy!

Little Gem Salad with avocado, radishes, cucumber, pickled onions, pepitas, sunflower sprouts, in a Homemade Dilly Ranch Dressing.

Enjoy playing with little gems, they are such a joy in the kitchen!

xoxo

Sylvia

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Little Gem Salad with avocado, radishes, cucumber, pickled onions, pepitas, sunflower sprouts, in a Homemade Dilly Ranch Dressing.

Little Gem Salad with Dilly Ranch


Description

Little Gem Salad with avocado, radishes, cucumber, pickled onions, pepitas, sunflower sprouts, in a Homemade Dilly Ranch Dressing. See notes for a vegan option. 


Ingredients

Scale
  • Little Gem Lettuce- 3-4 heads, leaves separated, washed (or sub 2 romaine hearts, torn)
  • 1 cup cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup radishes, thinly sliced (watermelon radish is nice here)
  • 1 avocado, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup sunflower sprouts (or microgreens)
  • 1/4 cup pickled red onions, or pickled shallots (or sub thinly sliced red onion)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds)
  • 1 tablespoon tarragon leaves, optional
  • optional additions: thinly shaved fennel, thinly sliced kohlrabi or salad turnips, matchstick carrots, grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, blanched green beans

Dilly Ranch Dressing (you won’t use all) see notes for vegan

  • 1/3 cup mayo
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 12 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons parsley chopped- optional
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cracked peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon white or Apple Cider vinegar

Instructions

  1. If making the quick pickled onions or pickled shallots, start these first.
  2. Make the dressing, by whisking the mayo, buttermilk, and sour cream in a bowl until smooth, stir in the remaining ingredients, and place in the fridge- you want this cold!
  3. Separate the little gem lettuce leaves. Tear any extra-large ones in half, but leave any smaller ones whole. Wash and spin dry or pat dry ( or spread out on a towel on the counter and let air dry.
  4. Place the lettuce leaves in a big bowl, and add the remaining ingredients. At this point, you could refrigerate until serving. Right before serving toss with a little cold dressing- a little at a time- you will not need all. Just enough to coat each leaf generously.
  5. Taste!  Season the salad with a little salt and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste. You want the salad to taste “punchy”, to balance out all those fresh herbs.

Notes

Substitutions: Yes, you can substitute full-fat plain yogurt for the sour cream– but I would add a teaspoon or two of olive oil to the dressing.

For a Vegan Version: Add fresh dill to this Vegan Ranch Dressing or try this Herby Hemp Dressing here.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 313
  • Sugar: 5.6 g
  • Sodium: 268.8 mg
  • Fat: 22.8 g
  • Saturated Fat: 4.2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 24.3 g
  • Fiber: 12.7 g
  • Protein: 10.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 8.3 mg

Keywords: Little Gem Salad, Little Gems, Little Gems salad recipe, Little gem recipe

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  1. This salad was delicious tasting, easy to make, and beautiful to look at. It’s only recently that we have been able to get little gem lettuce, and I have been waiting to make this salad. It was definitely worth the wait and will make an appearance on our table often. Thanks so much for this recipe!

    1. Glad you enjoyed Vivian, little Gem’s are so special! Glad it was worth the wait.

  2. How long will the dilly ranch last in refrigerator? It was excellent but we did not use it all and I want to save it for later!

  3. Yummy! A crispy fresh salad is just what I have been craving! Wish we had little gems here in the frozen north…not time yet, but a mix of romaine and butter lettuce worked fine. Added radish sprouts since they grow indoors easily and are less work to prep than radishes. For the dressing, I’ve been using 6% Balkan yogurt in place of mayo/sour cream/buttermilk and adding a tbsp or two of olive oil–and much as I like the fresh dill, it works deliciously with just garlic/lemon and salt and pepper. Cheers, and thx!

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Hi, I'm Sylvia!

Chef and author of the whole-foods recipe blog, Feasting at Home, Sylvia Fountaine is a former restaurant owner and caterer turned full-time food blogger. She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest and shares seasonal, healthy recipes along with tips and tricks from her home kitchen.

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