Grilled Romaine with Avocado Tomatillo Dressing


Up your salad game with this Grilled Romaine with Avocado Tomatillo Dressing topped with chunks of lump crab, charred corn, and heirloom tomatoes. A quick char takes ordinary lettuce to a whole new level of smoky depth you didn’t know it was capable of, making it the perfect foundation for summer’s bounty.

Avocado Tomatillo Dressing

Avocado, tomatillos, jalapeño, shallot, garlic, and cilantro come together deliciously in this flavorful, creamy, gluten- and dairy-free dressing.

Avocado Tomatillo Dressing Ingredients

Start by simmering the tomatillos, shallot, garlic and jalapeño so they get nice and tender. Strain and puree with the avocado, extra-virgin olive oil and a good splash of lime. Blend until smooth and thick, at least 30-45 seconds.

Avocado Tomatillo Dressing Ingredients in PotAvocado Tomatillo Dressing Ingredients in Blender

This velvety dressing is so full of flavor it’s lick-the-plate good. It pairs perfectly with the grilled romaine, and quite frankly, practically anything else coming off the grill. It can also double as a chip or crudite dip. Enjoy!

Avocado Tomatillo Dressing

Grilled Romaine

The grilled romaine becomes a super tasty summertime main course when topped with lump crab, charred corn and fresh heirloom tomatoes. The crisped edges and softened center of the charred romaine hearts can be the base to any toppings you’re craving. Keep it vegetarian by omitting the crab. I’m a Jersey girl, and as you might’ve guessed, have quite an affinity for corn and tomatoes.

Cooking the lettuce is actually the last step since it grills so quickly. I first prepped the crab and corn. Below, the crab is simply tossed with lime juice, zest, salt, pepper, and a dash of Cajun seasoning. Old Bay would be a good choice, too. For the corn, you can’t go wrong grilling, just coat the ears with a bit of oil so they don’t burn. The caramelized sugars concentrate the corn’s flavor and crisp the kernels’ skin just enough to get a slight crunch.

Grilled Romaine with Avocado Tomatillo Dressing and CrabmeatGrilled Corn

Dressing made. Check. Crab ready. Check. Corn grilled. Check.

Now it’s the romaine’s turn. Halve the hearts lengthwise and brush the cut side well with vegetable or canola oil. Olive oil tends to burn more quickly. Sprinkle with kosher salt and black ground pepper, and they’re ready to go. So easy!

It’s Go Time

Place the romaine hearts cut-side down first. Set your phone or timer for one minute. Do not leave the grill! If you leave, you probably won’t make it back in time for the buzzer, and you’ll have burnt lettuce instead of nicely charred lettuce. You’re in the home stretch. See this winning dish to the finish line. Thirty seconds on the other side, and voila! You just won gold.

Romaine on GrillGrilled Romaine Charring

When serving these beauties up, keep in mind romaine hearts vary in size. Bigger eaters will easily handle two, or even three, small halves. I wrote the recipe assuming two halves per person, but use your judgement on what your gang will polish off. I ate one large one piled high with the aforementioned cast, the featured picture! 🙂

Grilled Romaine Overview

Grilled Romaine Close up

After firing this up last night, all I can say is, going back to un-grilled salad will be a challenge. Cheers!!

Grilled Romaine with Avocado Tomatillo Dressing and Crab Close up


Grilled Romaine with Avocado Tomatillo Dressing

Add smoky depth and a glossy finish to corn and crisp romaine hearts with a quick char. A super tasty, gluten- and dairy-free summertime main topped with crab and a creamy avocado tomatillo dressing. 
Course Main Course, Salad
Cuisine American, Seafood
Keyword entree salad, grilled romaine, healthy dinner, quick and easy recipe
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 4
Author Kim Peterson



  • 1 large shallot, coarsely chopped
  • ½ lb tomatillos, 4-5, husks removed and rinsed
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • ½ an avocado, peeled and cubed
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  • 1 lb lump crabmeat, picked over
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon Cajun seasoning or Old Bay
  • teaspoon black ground pepper
  • 3 ears corn, husked
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 4 large romaine hearts, halved lengthwise
  • 8 ounces heirloom cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced or quartered
  • Salt and pepper



  • Bring shallot, tomatillos, jalapeño, garlic, and 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until onion is very tender, 7-9 minutes. Let cool slightly. Drain, reserve cooking liquid.
  • Puree onion mixture with avocado, cilantro, 2 tablespoons reserved liquid, lime zest and juice in a blender. With motor running, gradually add oil and blend until thick and smooth, about 45 seconds. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 2 cups. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)


  • In a medium bowl, combine crabmeat, lime zest and juice, salt, Cajun seasoning, and ground pepper. Set aside. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
  • Heat grill over medium heat. Coat corn with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Grill, turning every few minutes, until charred on all sides, about 12 minutes total. When cool enough to handle, cut kernels from the cob and place in a bowl. Set aside.
  • Brush remaining oil evenly over cut sides of romaine hearts. Sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Place lettuce cut-side down on grill. Grill until charred but not burned, about 1 minute. Turn romaine hearts and grill other side for 30 seconds. Place romaine halves on a large platter or individual plates. Top with crabmeat, corn, sliced tomatoes, and Creamy Tomatillo Dressing.

*Recipe was inspired by a combination of Cooking Light, July 2017 and  Bon Appétit, September 2014