Burnt Romaine Salad with Grilled Avocado, Tomatillos, and Cotija Cheese


Looking for an interesting summer salad? Try this Burnt Romaine Salad with Grilled Avocado, Tomatillos, and Cotija Cheese. 

Burnt Romaine with Grilled Avocado, Tomatillos, and Cotija Cheese. Summer salads just got more interesting!

Let me start this post by saying that this salad is a lot tastier than the photos might suggest. Like…a lot tastier.

It also happens to be totally appropriate for that little holiday coming up otherwise referred to as Cinco de Mayo. That was a total coincidence, because I would have shared this salad recipe either way but hey, I’ll take it!

Burnt Romaine with Grilled Avocado, Tomatillos, and Cotija Cheese. Summer salads just got more interesting!

You know that fried chicken dish that I waxed poetic about a week or so ago? The one that inspired me to make the fried cauliflower steaks with honey and hot sauce? Well…the exact same restaurant inspired this dish as well.

It had to be done. I couldn’t help myself.

Burnt Romaine with Grilled Avocado, Tomatillos, and Cotija Cheese. Summer salads just got more interesting!

This salad has a lot going for it.

It starts with the  grilled romaine (I used a grill pan, but I highly suggest doing this on an actual grill, because the higher temperatures will yield an even tastier result). It gets this smoky flavor which is unparalleled. Try it! Romaine lettuce has never tasted so good.

To go along with it, I made a roasted tomatillo sauce made with fresh tomatillos, onion, garlic, and a little bit of olive oil and lime juice. The acidity of the sauce balances the entire dish out.

Burnt Romaine with Grilled Avocado, Tomatillos, and Cotija Cheese. Summer salads just got more interesting!

Since the romaine lettuce is fairly sturdy, it can hold up very well to the high heat. It becomes just tender enough, but still retains just enough crunch and texture.

And then you top the whole thing off with grilled avocado slices, sliced green onions, and cotija cheese–which I shaved extremely finely with a microplane. The combination of the slightly bitter charred romaine lettuce, creamy avocado, salty cotija cheese, and slightly sweet, yet acidic sauce work so well together.

This might just be one of the most exciting salads I’ve made in a long time. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Burnt Romaine Salad with Grilled Avocado, Tomatillos, and Cotija Cheese

Yield: 4 Servings

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Print Print Recipe


Roasted Tomatillo Sauce:

  • 3 large tomatillos (roughly 3/4 lbs), husks removed and sliced into quarters
  • 1/2 small onion, cut into 1/4" slices
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • salt
  • pepper

Burnt Romaine Salad:

  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 lime
  • olive oil
  • 2 heads of romaine lettuce, rinsed and dried thoroughly
  • 2 large green onions, sliced thinly
  • cotija cheese, grated finely with a microplane


Prepare Sauce:

  1. Preheat your broiler to high. Place the sliced tomatillos, sliced onion, and garlic on a foil-lined small baking sheet. Toss them with the olive oil. Roast mixture under the broiler for 10-15 minutes, tossing occasionally, until they are charred evenly and the tomatillos are soft.
  2. Remove and allow to cool slightly before processing in a blender. Depending on your preference, you can either choose to make the sauce slightly chunkier or puree it until it is smooth.
  3. Set the sauce aside to cool at room temperature. Add the lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare Salad:

  1. Cut the avocado into 1/2" slices. Sprinkle them lightly with lime juice (to prevent oxidation). Brush the avocado slices with a small amount of olive oil (so they do not stick to the grill). Using a grill pan, grill the avocado slices on high heat for roughly one minute on each side. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, trim the top leaves of the romaine hearts and set aside (you mainly want the crunchy interior leaves, not the outer soft leaves). Slice the romaine hearts lengthwise. Brush the romaine hearts with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Using an outdoor grill (preferably) or a grill pan on very high heat, grill the romaine hearts until browned on both sides. Depending on the heat of your grill or grill pan, this will take approximately 2-3 minutes per side.
  3. Smear a large spoonful of the roasted tomatillo sauce on each serving plate. Place the grilled romaine heart on top of the sauce, and then top it with the 2-3 grilled avocado slices, a sprinkle of green onions, and a hefty dose of grated cotija cheese. Serve immediately.

Inspired by Rose's Luxury.

33 Responses to “Burnt Romaine Salad with Grilled Avocado, Tomatillos, and Cotija Cheese”

  1. #
    Meagan @ A Zesty Bite — May 1, 2014 @ 8:41 am

    I love grilled romaine fresh from the grill!

  2. #
    Stephanie @ Cookin' Cowgirl — May 1, 2014 @ 8:53 am

    Laura, this sounds amazing!! I’ve only grilled romaine one time and it was fantastic!! So excited that it’s finally getting warmer out again because I want to try this!

    • Laura replied: — May 1st, 2014 @ 11:31 pm

      Thanks so much Steph! And so glad to hear you had an amazing time in Napa!

  3. #
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar — May 1, 2014 @ 8:55 am

    haha, I think the photos in this post make the salad look awesome!! I love all the flavours in this – yum!

    • Laura replied: — May 1st, 2014 @ 11:30 pm

      I hate to say this (because it sounds obnoxious haha) but I hated all of these photos!!! I had the hardest time editing them. But thank you! :)

  4. #
    pippa@popovertopippas — May 1, 2014 @ 9:30 am

    really fun recipe!

  5. #
    Nicole ~ Cooking for Keeps — May 1, 2014 @ 12:52 pm

    Gorgeous Laura!! Light and refreshing — a nice change from all of the heavier Cindo De May recipes floating around.

  6. #
    molly yeh — May 1, 2014 @ 2:45 pm

    char marks are THE SEXIEST!

    • Laura replied: — May 1st, 2014 @ 11:29 pm

      soooooo true.

  7. #
    Shelley @ Two Healthy Kitchens — May 1, 2014 @ 3:12 pm

    Oh, wow! This must be seriously fantastic if it’s even better than the photos suggest … I nearly had to dislodge the tines of my fork from my computer screen just now! 😀 I adore grilled salads (and, well, avocados and cotija cheese, too!), so this is truly my kinda Cinco de Mayo (or any other day!) grub! Delicious combination of flavors!!!

    • Laura replied: — May 1st, 2014 @ 11:32 pm

      Haha!! Thanks Shelley! I was not a fan of these photos at ALL. Oh well! You win some, you lose some.

  8. #
    Crystal | Apples & Sparkle — May 1, 2014 @ 4:22 pm

    Yum! This looks delish! : )

  9. #
    Norma | Allspice and Nutmeg — May 1, 2014 @ 6:03 pm

    I love grilled romaine. Can’t go wrong with all these grilled veggies going on. Yum!

  10. #
    MB @ Bourbon and Brown Sugar — May 1, 2014 @ 8:37 pm

    You have me dreaming of Cinco de Mayo… love the salad!

    • Laura replied: — May 1st, 2014 @ 11:31 pm

      One of my favorite holidays ever. And it’s all because of the food. Thanks MB! 😉

  11. #
    Simone — May 2, 2014 @ 12:58 am

    Lol…. Some salads do work better in your mouth than they do on paper right? But it sounds totally delicious and I love grilling romaine!

    • Laura replied: — May 3rd, 2014 @ 4:57 pm

      Oh man, that is so true. I wish everything always looked good behind the lens! :)

  12. #
    Sonja — May 2, 2014 @ 9:18 am

    I can’t believe you didn’t like these photos- I think they’re gorgeous! I haven’t tried grilled romaine yet but it sounds quite tasty. Maybe this will be a weekend project for me to try 😉

    I’ve heard a lot of great things about Rose’s Luxury and I can’t wait to check them out. Their menu looks quite inventive, and so do your recipes inspired by it!

    • Laura replied: — May 3rd, 2014 @ 4:57 pm

      I think it was because everything was so GREEN. Haha! And for some reason, the light when I took the photos was pretty awful. I’m stop complaining now…. Thanks so much Sonja! You DEFINITELY need to try Rose’s Luxury (although be prepared for a long wait)!

  13. #
    Mom — May 2, 2014 @ 4:59 pm

    This looks absolutely wonderful! I think you should come over, use the grill, and maker it for all of us!

  14. #
    Mary Frances @ The Sweet {Tooth} Life — May 2, 2014 @ 6:00 pm

    All you had to say was avocado and grilled salad. Trust me, that is enough! And I think your photos are lovely … even if they aren’t what you wanted, I would never know any different! :) I just am drooling all over my keyboard, thinking about how jealous I am that you got to eat this. I need this asap!

    • Laura replied: — May 3rd, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

      Haha! Thanks so much Mary Frances! I have to say, the fact that you were drooling over this salad is a huge compliment :) Hope you have a great weekend!

  15. #
    ashley - baker by nature — May 2, 2014 @ 7:55 pm

    Holy gorgeous, mama!!! This is pure food beauty.

    • Laura replied: — May 3rd, 2014 @ 4:54 pm

      Thanks girl! :)

  16. #
    Allie | Baking a Moment — May 4, 2014 @ 10:15 am

    Ooh I love grilled romaine! I always just put a Caesar dressing on it but I love your idea! Especially the cotija part 😀

    • Laura replied: — May 4th, 2014 @ 4:04 pm

      I love Caesar with grilled romaine too! Thanks Allie!

  17. #
    ATasteOfMadness — May 4, 2014 @ 11:42 pm

    This looks so good!! I have never grilled romaine lettuce before. What a good idea!

  18. #
    kelly @ livelovepasta — May 5, 2014 @ 10:43 am

    I have gone back and forth for SO long about trying grilled romaine. This looks amazing and now I’m persuaded to try!

  19. #
    Joanne — May 5, 2014 @ 3:41 pm

    Romaine salads don’t usually get me that excited but all of these ingredients are so fun! I know it would be a party in every bite.

  20. #
    Isadora @ she likes food — May 7, 2014 @ 1:29 pm

    I’ve been really intrigued by grilling both avocados and romain lettuce recently, and you just combined them into one dish! I was a little hesitant because I didn’t know how each one would stand up to the heat, but trust you and this looks delicious! I just broke out the grill, so I’ll have to try these soon :)


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