Puerto Rican Green Salad with Red Onion

salad Puerto Rico

A simple green salad with minced red onion and sliced tomatoes—so easy, so light—is my family’s favorite side dish for famously hearty Puerto Rican dishes. Like arroz con pollo, mofongo or crusty pernil.

Olive oil plays a leading role, yes. But red vinegar is the star of the vinaigrette show here. When you mix the two condiments together—and add a lush pinch of salt—the entire meal is elevated.

That’s why so many Puerto Rican home cooks like my mom Marisa serve a lettuce and tomato salad almost single night. She know its welcome acidic hit will cut through and brighten the delicious but oh-so-starchy traditional rice dishes and meaty mains, which are usually marinated and seasoned heavily.

And by heavily I mean perfectly.

Some Puerto Rican cooks swear by white vinegar, but Mom exclusively uses red wine vinegar in her ensaladas verdes. I am pro red vinegar, too. Honestly, a simple green salad dressed in any kind of vinaigrette that doesn’t use red wine vinegar usually just tastes wrong—to me. Mom also adds a small amount of (very) thinly sliced cabbage for crunch and texture, and now I do too.

Try it. You’ll taste why this is the salad you want on the side of your plato at your next Puerto Rican comida criolla feast.

Puerto Rican Green Salad with Red Onion

Recipe by Marisa Jiménez Caviness
3.7 from 13 votes
Cuisine: Puerto Rican

4 to 6

Prep time




  • 1 small head lettuce, such as lechuga del pais or green leaf

  • 2 tomatoes, medium size

  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 2 Tbsp red onion, minced

  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

  • 1/3 cup cabbage, thinly sliced, optional


  • Wash and dry the lettuce.
  • Tear into bite-size pieces. Place on a serving platter or in a salad bowl.
  • Wash the tomatoes. You can seed them if you wish. Mom doesn’t, but she scurries off their extra seeds and liquid before adding to the lettuce.
  • Slice the tomatoes into medium-thin wheels, about a quarter-inch thick each or chunks. Add to the lettuce.
  • Mince the red onion and add to your salad. Add the finely sliced green cabbage, if using (recommended!). Toss it all together a few times to make sure the red onion tiny bits mix throughout the lettuce and tomatoes.
  • In a small container, whisk the vinegar and oil together. Add the salt and whisk again. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
  • Drizzle the oil-vinegar mix over the salad. Taste and adjust again. Mom usually adds a hint more salt and tosses the salad one last time. Bring the platter or salad bowl to the table and invite everyone to serve themselves.


  • Lechuga del pais—which means lettuce from the country—is soft and much like U.S. green leaf lettuce. It’s widely available in Puerto Rico and in Latino markets. Mom also uses romaine.
  • Mom only uses Spanish olive oil. She says it tastes the best: the strongest and most “olive-y.”

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