Arugula is a leafy green vegetable with a strong peppery, spicy, and sometimes bitter taste. It is also known as garden rocket, Mediterranean rocket, and salad rocket; it is a popular salad green native to the Mediterranean region. Some love it, and some hate it, but there’s no denying it’s highly nutritious.
Arugula in league with other cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli. Cruciferous vegetables have been getting a lot of hype these days due to their anti-inflammatory, detox, and potential cancer-fighting properties. A great source of phytonutrients, antioxidants, calcium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K.
But what happens if you are out of arugula or it just isn’t your jam? Whether you are using it as one of your favorite salad greens or adding it to your favorite dishes, I’ve got an arugula substitute below that is sure to work for you!
Let’s first start with baby arugula. While I’m not technically counting this as a substitution, as it’s still arugula, it’s worth noting that baby arugula is the best go-to alternative for regular arugula. Baby arugula is harvested earlier than regular arugula for its young leaves, which are much more delicate and mild tasting than the mature, older leaves which are much spicier. Baby arugula will still maintain that mature arugula taste you are looking for, which provides a great arugula substitute if regular arugula has too much spice for your taste or the dish you are making.
The 7 Best Substitutes for Arugula
Watercress is one of the best alternatives for arugula, as its taste is the most similar to any leafy green vegetable. It has a similar mustard-like flavor, peppery taste Watercress does not hold up as well as arugula in cooking though, and can quickly turn to mush, so it’s typically treated more like an herb. Watercress works best raw in salads, smoothies, sandwiches, soups, and garnish.
Using spinach leaves instead of arugula is a great alternative for a milder taste than arugula. While spinach and arugula have similar nutritional qualities, what you will miss with spinach is that peppery bite- but maybe that’s what you’re looking for! Spinach and baby spinach leaves go great in salads and most dishes that you would use arugula for.
3. Dandelion greens
Dandelion greens are packed full of nutrients, also known as a medicinal herb. They are believed to help support the liver, heart, and eye health; while also packed full of vitamins and nutrients that benefit the entire body. Dandelion greens will also have a bitter green taste; younger plants will be less bitter than older plants- just like arugula. If you like dandelion greens, this is an excellent substation for arugula as the nutritional benefits are outstanding!
Radicchio is a great substitute because it also has an earthy, spicy, bitter flavor. Some say its bitter quality is similar to that of dandelion greens. When cooked, radicchio becomes less bitter and sweeter while still maintaining some bitterness. The strong, tough leaves will be more similar to that of cabbage, so texture-wise, radicchio will be different from the delicate arugula leaves. Radicchio can be a good choice because it is high in vitamin K while also being a purple vegetable- we want to eat the rainbow!
Escarole, related to radicchio, will have some bitterness to it but not as strong as radicchio. Escarole works great in soups, stews, and sautéed. The inner lighter green leaves will work better in salads as they are sweeter and not as bitter. Loaded with vitamins A, K, and C, it’s a winner!
Frisée is a good substitute, a great leafy green that can bring great texture to any dish with its curly light green leaves. Its taste is mildly bitter, peppery with crunchy leaves. Frisée will be great for a bold salad that compliments its unique bitter leaves such as cured meats, nuts, dried fruits, and creamy dressings. One thing to note is frisée cooks fast, so if you decide to use it in a soup or a cooked dish- add it last and be sure to keep an eye on it.
While kale or baby kale will have a much different taste than arugula, depending on your dish, it can still be a good option, especially if arugula isn’t your thing- or if you’re scrambling. Kale is highly nutritious, right up there with arugula. It’s a much milder flavor without the spice or peppery green flavor that arugula has. Kale is fairly versatile, a great addition to many sauces, salads, and even a great way to top off your favorite pizza; from raw to boiled to a sautée, it holds up well.
Arugula and these great arugula substitutions-all provide numerous health benefits also go great in smoothies!
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Karla Kueber is a Certified Evidence Based EFT Practioner and Health Coach, with a double Masters Degree in Education. She works with people to overcome emotional eating, curb cravings, and overcome resistance to eating new healthy foods. You can learn more about coaching with her here.